During that dark period in Baltimore sports when we didn't have a football team, many people were forced to change their allegiances.
We had those that became Redskins fans, as it was the closest team in proximity for which they could cheer. There were others, still strong to this day, that went to the Dark Side and began to root for the team that has now become the Ravens' archrivals, that ugly black-and-gold team from western Pennsylvania.
I went really far south and followed my favorite football coach at the time to sunny South Florida and rooted for Don Shula's Miami Dolphins. But also during that same time, a friend of mine from high school had married a University of Maryland football player who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, and unless they were playing the Dolphins, I threw my support behind the Bengals and several times spend Sunday afternoons in "The Jungle" screaming "Who Dey."
Like the Dolphins before them, the Bengals managed to work their way through the playoffs and earned a trip to the Super Bowl. My friendship was good enough to get to The Jungle, where they displaced Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills, but I ended up watching the Super Bowl from home when they took on the Joe Montana-led San Francisco 49ers. Needless to say it was an exciting time for the Bengals coaches and players, their families and their fans as they headed south to Miami and Joe Robbie Stadium to seek revenge for a loss to the same 49ers earlier in the decade.
An opportunity like that only comes once in a lifetime for some.
If you don't believe me, ask one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Dan Marino, how many times he got to compete on the world's biggest stage. You would think that given the opportunity, players would be on their best behavior and their entire focus would be on the task at hand.
But the biggest game outside of the World Cup final brings with it quite a number of temptations that some players just can't seem to avoid. In the Bengals case, it was their premier fullback, Stanley Wilson, who during the last meeting of the offense to go over the game plan was found in a cocaine-induced stupor in a bathroom stall of the team's hotel. He was suspended for the game and the third-time violator was handed a lifetime ban.
He's not alone in dumb Super Bowl drama. Ten years later, Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson, a Bart Starr Achievement award winner for moral character no less, was caught soliciting an undercover female policewoman for paid sex.
He wasn't suspended, but his play on the field that night was less than stellar as they fell to the Denver Broncos.
The same has happened on the collegiate level when players choose to make their personal experience larger than that of the team's goals and make decisions that negatively impact their team's chances to be successful in their bowl game.
There was a time when the breach of team rules was minor like when Notre Dame's Lou Holtz sent Tony Brooks and Ricky Watters home prior to the big game against USC for ordering $150 worth of room service and being late for the team dinner. Now the stakes are much higher, as many players use their performances in rivalry games and bowl games to raise their NFL stock and yet the behavior seems to have been elevated as well.
Three players from the No. 1 ranked Clemson Tigers were sent home prior to their semifinal game against Oklahoma and thus miss an opportunity to play in Monday night's national championship game. Coach Dabo Swinney said the only distraction was that he had to answer questions about why three of their 100-plus players chose to break the rules, but I'm sure their teammates were a bit distracted.
And the biggest bonehead award of the 2015-16 bowl season goes to highly touted TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, who along with a teammate were involved in a bar fight that rolled into the street and landed him in jail, charged with assaulting a public servant as he allegedly struck a bicycle policeman, thus missing the anticipated showdown with Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.
If someone can just get these players to understand how their selfish behavior affects not only themselves and their own reputation but the enjoyment of their coaches and teammates around them, maybe we'd see less of this type of action on the world's biggest sports stage.
Because as Albert Einstein once wrote, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Let's stop the madness!
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