And Why We Should Care

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS –Before the first touchdown has even been scored in the upcoming season, football is in the news for all the wrong reasons.

In the last week, it was learned O.J. Simpson was granted parole for a robbery, Hugh Freeze resigned over escorts, Ezekiel Elliott is under investigation by the NFL for a bar room brawl and Lucky Whitehead got cut.

O.J. Simpson

So, why should we care here  in East Texas? The simple reason is football is still king in Texas and if a player or coach can help a program/organization win a few games, sometimes the powers that be have a tendency to look the other way.

That lesson begins early in life and begins to take hold when it’s realized certain rules don’t apply to everyone.

For what it’s worth, I think the jury got it wrong on the acquittal of O.J. Simpson for murder. O.J. did it, plain and simple. He was well-loved and people turned their heads when earlier rumors of domestic abuse came to light.

Eventually, he murdered two people and because the glove didn’t fit, the jury chose to acquit.

Ezekiel Elliott

When the jurors rendered their verdict, O.J. realized he could get away with murder. So, he committed a robbery.

This time, 12 people who were still shaking their heads over the acquittal, rendered a guilty verdict and sent him to prison. Now, he has been granted parole and rumor has it, he make take another stab at marriage.

Ezekiel Elliot was accused of assaulting his former girlfriend while he was at Ohio State. The NFL has launched an investigation into the allegations, but so far has not released its findings.

Last week, Zeke was involved in an altercation at a Dallas nightclub. In April, he was ticketed for driving in excess of 100 mph in a 70 mph zone.

Not to pick on the Cowboys – actually they’re my favorite team – but to put it mildly, they screwed up in the case of Lucky Whitehead.

Whitehead was a victim of mistaken identity. He was accused of shoplifting $40 worth of merchandise from a Virginia store. A suspect was arrested and gave the former Cowboys’ WR a back handed compliment by saying he was Lucky Whitehead, gave police Whitehead’s social security number and his birthdate.

Talk about hero worship!

Lucky Whitehead

It turned out, however, Lucky got lucky. He never committed the crime he was accused of and all the charges were dropped.

Whitehead is a good player but doesn’t have the skill set of Zeke, Dak or Dez. So, while charges of domestic violence still swirl around Zeke, the Cowboys’ brass has adopted a “we’ll wait and see” attitude for the star RB.

When the Cowboys learned Lucky missed a court date for a crime he didn’t commit, Whitehead was unceremoniously cut.

Moving to the college ranks, Hugh Freeze, to put it mildly, cheated. He paid players, created false stories about how they wound up at Ole Miss and allegedly broke 21 NCAA rules, all while holding himself up as a “good Christian man.”

Freeze blamed the wrong-doings on his predecessor. He won some games, beat the Alabama Crimson Tide twice and had his team ranked in the top five in the nation.

Eventually, his predecessor – former coach Houston Nutt – got tired of being dragged through the mud and filed a defamation of character lawsuit against Freeze.

His persona of putting God first and football second worked well at Ole Miss – all while leading a tawdry double life off the field. Freeze won games for a program starved for gridiron glory and those who knew about his exploits away from the game, turned a blind eye to it.

Hugh Freeze

It all came crashing down around his shoulders last week. Not the NCAA violations, but the fact Freeze was calling escort services on a university issued cell phone led to his resignation.

When his phone records were subpoenaed, it wound up being his own arrogance which caused Freeze to tumble from his pigskin pulpit.

O.J., Freeze and Zeke have all been allowed to get away with things the average person would be arrested or fired for without any questions.

Yet, because they were able to help their teams win a few games, people looked the other way for a long time.

It’s only a game. There is a lot to love about football and probably 99 percent of athletes and coaches are upstanding citizens who should be celebrated for their contributions to society.

It’s all boils down to that certain one percent, however. It’s not only those players who have a special talent and act like the rules don’t apply to them – it’s also those who look the other way for a win who tarnish the game’s image.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.