Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 4/11/12

Sometimes it’s great to live in a country where Presidents forget the definition of is, Jimmer becomes a popular baby name, and the closest our children come to learning mathematics begins and ends with Octomom. But, sometimes the best part about tithing (and then some) to Uncle Sam with the prospect of getting peanut shells in return is the ability to somehow link an Arkansas football coach with a Venezuelan baseball manager all in one week filled with buffoonery.

I took a Sabbatical from this year’s NCAA basketball tournament focusing on what seemed like a fait accompli: me winning the Powerball jackpot. I went through the typical cycle. The delusions of grandeur. Telling all the superiors at my job where they could go — surprisingly they didn’t get the memo that the T.J. Maxx customer service department was my metaphor for Hades. Also, I had to decide which island in the South Pacific I would soon purchase and on which I would subsequently build an oasis made out of coconut shells and Twinkies. Alas, the dream died when I forgot to fork over the money for lottery tickets. Regardless, that prospect was about as likely as Vasser beating Kentucky in the final of the college tourney, but a nice dream nonetheless.

Thus, I wake up from my stupor to find that two coaches have failed to wake from theirs. Ozzie Guillen’s love-affair with Fidel Castro and Bobby Petrino’s relationship with a former school volleyball player half his age that should have, well, been spiked, have stirred the sports world from its early-April-induced haze.

As much fun as it would have been to use this column space to debate the merits of having Yu Darvish pose with a cowboy hat on media day, this seems to be eminently more interesting. Perhaps if Ozzie had just greeted the adoring public wearing a T-shirt with the image of Attila the Hun, this would have blown over by now. Had Petrino maybe just had a chat with Flo before getting on that motorcycle, he would have been able to maintain his surreptitiousness.

Such is the perk of covering sports: most athletes, coaches, and others will be able to craft feats of athletic brilliance and set themselves up for sports canonization, but most of them will never be mistaken for being the folks that help split the atom.

For Guillen, this was not the first flap, nor will it probably be the last. Whether ripping into Jay Mariotti using language that would never make it into haiku form, taking Sean Penn to task on — what else — Venezuela, or even his postgame imbibing following losses, the Oz-man has run into trouble intermittently throughout his managerial career. One would have hoped, following an on again, off again relationship in Chicago with Ken Williams, that he would have been able to not make any negative headlines for — I don’t know — at least the first 3 games of the season.

Maybe he thought commenting in a little-known, start-up publication like Time magazine on his respect for “Comandante” would have failed to register on any radar, seeing as how no one really feels too strongly about the Cuban dictator in Miami. Surely, any athlete or coach has been forgiven for being misquoted or “mis-remembering” one time or ten. But, just to make sure people knew how he felt, he apologized for the article comments by explaining why he admires a man who has spent the vast majority of the last six decades repressing freedoms and nearly pitching for the Yankees (the reason why Boston fans are probably angered by Guillen). The Marlins manager was given a five-game suspension, probably giving pause to any manager who might be thinking of voicing his awe of Vlad the Impaler.

Slick Willie certainly set the precedent for Arkansans, with his cigar and shtupping-the-intern policies. Well, the baton has seemingly been passed in the state. (Wait, not a baton; try to think of something that could not be construed as a phallic symbol, but I digress.) On Tuesday, it was confirmed that Bobby Petrino was fired after four years as the head coach of the Razorbacks. This followed an April 1 motorcycle accident which the 51-year-old coach blamed on the sun and wind. Ironic, since it was not the hot air that led to his accident but his firing.

Subsequent details led to his dressing down, ahem, about his dressing down of a former Arkansas volleyball player who was given an unfair advantage by the ball coach (can’t avoid the innuendo, sorry) and an illicit $20,000 payment. The episode embarrassed the program that he helped to restore with his 34-17 record over the last four seasons, including a 21-5 SEC record and No. 5 final ranking after last year’s Cotton Bowl victory.

Petrino’s exit from the Falcons was as ignominious as it was short: leaving behind resignation notes in the players lockers instead of addressing the team and, a short time later, taking the reins in Fayetteville. Ironically, less than five years later, he leaves that job shrouded in as much controversy as when he accepted it.

Conceivably arrogance gets the better of coaches. Sports has seen multiple cases of rules-flouting, from Bill Belichick’s spygate to the Saints’ recent bounty scandal, and every college recruiting misdeed in between. Maybe these figures feel like their importance to the institution or franchise is so great that they can do no wrong — sports’ answer to Teflon — or that there is some need to disobey authority that most of us abandon after the umpteenth time placing a “Kick Me” sign on the back of your homeroom teacher or, if you like, college professor.

This could be construed as a coachable moment for Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Petrino: Think before you act. That’s probably one reason why you haven’t seen Fidel riding a Harley any time recently.

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.


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