Fan interference: in defense of the three stooges

Trying to justify recent glut of stooge-like behavior in sports

Published On: Apr 16 2012 02:38:22 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 23 2012 05:13:21 PM CDT

It’s appropriate that the Farrelly Brothers’ much-anticipated and long-in-the-works cinematic update of The Three Stooges just opened on Friday, April 13.

The coincidental timing has nothing to do with bad luck or superstition, but the fact that much of the past few days has been spent writing and talking about The Three Stooges of the sports world: Former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, former Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino, and current Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen.

But hey, everybody, no matter how distasteful they are or repugnant the acts are that they commit, is entitled to a defense. Isn’t that one of the rights, along with the right to stream episodes of Knight Rider on our iPhones and the right of each individual to pick and choose his or her favorite Kardashian sister, one of the principles this country was founded upon?

No one said it would be easy, but here goes, in order of least to most egregious offense:

1. Gregg Williams, not to be confused with Barry (“Greg” from The Brady Bunch) Williams. I admit I was a little nauseated when I heard the audio clip of Williams, then the Saints defensive coordinator, getting his squad all fired up prior to January’s NFC Divisional Playoff Game by profanely encouraging his players to “beat (49ers running back) Frank Gore’s head” and to “put a lick” on 49ers receiver Kyle Williams, a player who has had a history of concussion problems. It’s largely distasteful stuff. But, a bit like overcoming my initial skepticism of movie stud Channing Tatum, I’ve reluctantly come around a bit after hearing some former NFL players dismiss most of this as pretty routine stuff.

Hey, no matter how much Roger Goodell would like to change the NFL’s image, football is by its very nature a violent sport, and that undoubtedly contributes to much of its appeal. How many of us have said, as Williams does here, “knock the (bleep) out of him” or worse while watching football at home? Much of what Williams says in the contested clip can not only be dismissed as largely figurative language, but as hyperbole. Sure his speech is over the top, but what about professional football – the personalities, the salaries, and yes, the violence – isn’t?

If Williams is never allowed back in the NFL, it should not be because of his words, but because of his primary role in the Saints’ bounty system, which is not only banned by the NFL, but much more reprehensible. Like Adam Sandler. (Wait, has the NFL banned Adam Sandler? If not, it should.)

2. Ozzie Guillen. Look, the Florida – excuse me, I mean the Miami – Marlins knew what they were doing when they hired Guillen to manage their team. Ownership of the Marlins knew that Guillen could be counted on to say ridiculous crap, making the Marlins more attractive to the media and thereby making the largely irrelevant team – which has a new logo, new stadium, and high expectations not to completely suck (well, it’s high expectations for them) this year – at least appear more relevant to the casual fan.

(BTW, who understands the Marlins’ look-at-us moves such as hiring Guillen or agreeing to be followed by Showtime for its reality series The Franchise? It’s not like people buy tickets to watch the manager manage or come to the ballpark to celebrate reality TV stars. Unless it’s Hoarders bobble head night.)

Now, was what Ozzie Guillen said moronic, insensitive, and hateful? Yes, but this is someone who has said moronic, insensitive, and hateful things before, such as calling a local sportswriter “a fag” back in 2006 and MLB umpire Joe West a “(bleep)ing (bleep)hole” in 2010.

But in a strange way, despite the stupidity of saying “I love Fidel Castro” in the very city and to the very people that you most assuredly cannot say that too (I’m reminded of Basil Fawlty’s desperately failed attempts to “don’t mention the war” when entertaining a group of German guests), I can sort of buy Guillen’s defense – that he was showing admiration not for Fidel Castro the man or for Castro’s actions, but a sick sense of awe for the fact that the dictator has somehow managed to stay alive into his eighties despite being so hated and vilified by his people and by much of the world.

I can buy that somewhat lame excuse because Guillen has a history of not organizing or filtering his thoughts before he vocalizes them, and I’d rather buy that character trait than just accuse him of blinding ignorance.

However, if the Marlins’ front office thought that they could hire Guillen and get the headines without the controversy, then they are the ones guilty of blinding ignorance.

3. Bobby Petrino. If the Marlins were ignorant for hiring Guillen, then the University of Arkansas was downright stupid for hiring Bobby Petrino as its head football coach. Here’s a guy who has admittedly been an exceptional football coach, but who wherever he goes has shown remarkable selfishness, a brazen lack of loyalty, and massive inconsideration for his fellow human beings.

In 2007, when the Atlanta Falcons were suddenly without Michael Vick due to federal dog fighting charges, did first-year head coach Petrino rally his team to help them overcome nearly impossible odds? (Hey, when your quarterbacks are named Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich, those odds are generous.) Well, maybe for the first thirteen weeks he did, until he resigned in the middle of the night three-quarters of the way into the season, leaving behind arrogantly impersonal goodbye notes in each player’s locker.

But of course Petrino had already proven himself to not be a man of his word, having left Louisville just six months after signing a massive 10-year contract with the Big East powerhouse.

But breaking a business contract is good times and great oldies compared to breaking a marriage contract with a woman half your age after giving said woman a job plus a $20,000 cash gift while lying to not only your wife and family and the university about your relationship with said woman, but the police about the presence of said woman when a motorcycle accident you were involved with said woman suddenly and irrevocably ups your jig.

I’m sorry. I tried, but Petrino’s actions are indefensible. Just like Moe’s haircut.

Nyuk-Nyuk-Nyuk.