An Ugly Take on Athletes’ Ugly Behavior

Up to now, Homerism has tried to steer clear of the Justin Chaisson issue until the situation had reached some kind of resolution. Until I read Daily Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel’s twisted take on the predicament, that is.

(I’m not going to waste time rehashing the particulars of Chaisson’s plight, but, obviously, it presents a thorny problem for OU coach Bob Stoops and the University of Oklahoma administration.)

If you’re looking for a good indicator of the column’s overall lameness, Tramel uses a dated allusion to Father Flanagan throughout the article, likening Stoops–or at least Stoops’ aspirations–to the saintly priest known for his work with wayward youths.
Anyway, as best I can tell, Tramel reckons big-time football coaches like Stoops believe they can put troubled recruits back on a righteous path by offering them structure and discipline. In other words, it’s just a matter of changing their environment. He points to ex-Sooner recruit Josh Jarboe and Oklahoma State standout Adarius Bowman as examples of kids from troubled homes sent to D-I Boys Town with a chance to turn it around.
To Tramel, however, Chaisson is a different case from Jarboe and Bowman, because his problem is clearly a deep-seated issue of “anger management.” It’s a flawed part of his DNA that likely requires years of therapy to address. Therefore, Tramel concludes, Chaisson presents a bigger risk.
Where to begin?

Maybe it just happens to be a matter of coincidence, but I read Tramel’s column as a tacit endorsement of a shallow stereotype that seems to have been pulled out of Crash or some other hackneyed junk masquerading as pseudo-social commentary playing on Starz over the weekend. Namely, white guys like Chaisson know better than to have screwed up so badly; they have some distinct character deficiency and are an aberration to their species. Black kids, on the other hand, are just too dumb or unrefined to be expected to live up to the expectations of civilized society. Either that, or the parents–strongly implying “welfare princess single moms”–raising these children just aren’t capable of teaching them right from wrong.
Granted, Chaisson is alleged to have assaulted and kidnapped his girlfriend before driving her to the desert and threatening to kill her. The violent nature of the charges certainly is disturbing. Is it really so different from Jarboe carrying a pistol onto high school grounds, though? What, pray tell, did Jarboe need that firearm for? Had he decided to take a detour through the school en route to the firing range? (Note, by the way, that Tramel neglects to mention Jarboe’s latest troubles since leaving OU.)
Conversely, couldn’t it be that Chaisson is the product of his environment, a juiced-up meathead whose background taught him to settle his problems in the manner that he did? Steroids kinda being a hot button these days and all.
White or black, nature or nurture; people screw up. It happens for any number of reasons. It shouldn’t make a difference in how Stoops addresses off-the-field transgressions. Yet, in Tramel’s world, somehow it does.
Jarboe’s dismissal set the precedent for just how “zero” Stoops’ zero-tolerance policy is supposed to be in such cases. Whatever his reasoning, let’s hope he applies an equal standard to Chaisson. And let’s hope that standard doesn’t rest on the same kind of offensive nature-nurture presumptions that appear to underpin Tramel’s analysis.

2 Responses to “An Ugly Take on Athletes’ Ugly Behavior”

  1. DustinB Says:

    I agree with your comments on Tramel and his article, and that the “violent nature of [Chaisson’s] charges is certainly disturbing.” However, I’d like to add a few points.

    1. Jarboe had the weapons charge before he came to OU, then made an amateur rap video which contained lyrics about shooting people. While it may not be amenable to statistical analysis, there is clearly a trend present, one that Coach obviously wanted to nip in the bud; one, Jarboe was almost certainly at OU under the provision that he would steer clear of anything involving guns and, two, that OU doesn’t need that sort of thing becoming a part of the team identity.

    2. As far as I know, Chaisson has shown no such trend for his behavior. And, I think it’s possible that, should Coach Stoops allow him to join the team, Chaisson would redshirt at least as a punishment of sorts, which would also allow time for a trend to present itself should this behavior be “normal” for him.

    3. Does Jarboe’s recent run-in vindicate Coach’s decision to dismiss him (whether it needs vindication or not)? Because we don’t know the details, much less the outcome, at this point, it’s difficult to say. One could argue, perhaps not convincingly but nonetheless, that his dismissal from OU was a contributing factor to his most recent behavioral episode; possibly, in his mind, life matters a little less, now. I know it’s a stretch, and I don’t believe it myself, but ask enough people and someone will probably make that argument.

    4. None of this excuses their behavior.

    Just some thoughts.

  2. AK Says:


    Thanks so much for your feedback. I think you raise a number of good points.

    To be honest, my concern isn’t so much about how Stoops deals with the situation. Despite the apparent consensus that Chaisson will be at OU come June, I’m starting to have my doubts. If he does stay with the team, I’d assume he’ll be under a pretty strict no tolerance policy, so he’ll either sink or swim.

    My beef with Tramel’s article is that he seems to be presuming A LOT about the different recruits involved. At least, I don’t see much justification in his article for the whole nature-nurture comparison between Chaisson and Bowman and Jarboe. Instead, it seems like he’s playing up a bogus and offensive racial paradigm, whether he would admit it or not.

    Anyway, like I said, thanks for the feedback. Keep it coming!

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