One-And-a-Half Chances

I find the news of wide receiver Josh Jarboe’s dismissal from the Sooners kinda sad, but it has nothing to do with the fact that he’ll never catch a pass at OU.

Obviously, Jarboe’s previous legal problems rightfully had him on a short leash with Bob Stoops and the OU administration. A two strike policy certainly was merited. 
Still, I can’t help but ask, Is this really a second offense? What changed Stoops’ opinion between Thursday and Friday?
Here’s an 18-year-old kid who was recorded rapping for roughly a minute about guns and hos. My guess is that hundreds of similar performances can be found all over YouTube. Also, keep in mind that Jarboe wasn’t the one who posted the video online for the whole world to see, and I’ve seen no evidence that he intended for it to be there.
Given his history of gunplay, the subject matter of Jarboe’s impromptu freestyle might have been unfortunate. Yet, one of the foundations of our society today is our belief in the freedom of expression. In that sense, even if you abhor what’s being said, restricting or punishing speech should be a measure of last resort. And this doesn’t even begin to address our reverence for privacy.
So, in essence, it seems that Jarboe is being punished this time for his own private thoughts. Even worse, we’re punishing him for words that might not even reflect his actual beliefs or intentions. Sorry, but even if you found Jarboe’s lyrics offensive or upsetting, this just doesn’t seem to qualify for excommunication.
Of course, none of this means that the arguments for booting Jarboe aren’t there. It’s OU’s prerogative to pull scholarships and dismiss players as Stoops and university officials see fit. What went on behind the scenes in the discussions between the coach and Jarboe is still an unknown at this point, as is the involvement of Stoops’ higher-ups. The university certainly has a right to protect its reputation and image. The recent dust-ups with the NCAA make that even more important for OU.
Also, it could be argued that Stoops read the tea leaves and decided both he and Jarboe would be better off cutting their losses and moving on. After all, Jarboe is now free to go to another program and start with at least a cleaner slate. Ask Les Miles and Ryan Perrilloux if they both wish the LSU coach had acted more decisively after the first signs of trouble.
In that sense, I can’t really fault OU for the dismissal. However, what role did our collective obsession with catching even marginally public figures in the even marginally scandalous act play in this case? (I’ll confess to having bought an issue of US Weekly at a newsstand this morning.) Did the fact that the video drew interest from a New York Times blogger have any influence on the decision?
I just can’t shake the feeling that Jarboe somehow fell victim to the media’s new de facto role as public agitator. It’s not enough anymore for journalists to serve as a social watchdog. Now, we get Twitter-ish updates on Brett Favre and T.O. and Michael Vick, as enquiring minds squeeze every last drop from a story. Just the idea that Jarboe might become some kind of media distraction might have been enough to send Stoops and OU administrators running. If Jarboe had remained part of the team and later committed a truly serious offense, the media scrutiny and questions of a “renegade program” probably would have been suffocating.
So, it’s a decision that I understand. Still, it’s tough not to feel like Jarboe was the victim of forces way beyond his control, not his own recklessness.

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