Legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden called Heisman winner Jameis Winston "an embarrassment" during an appearance on the Paul Finebaum Show Tuesday. Courtesy of Paul Finebaum Show/SEC Network.
If you didn't know better, you'd think Bobby Bowden said Jameis Winston should be sent to Guantanamo Bay. If you've ever played "Telephone," you should know better.
That's the game where somebody whispers a message to the person next to them. It's then whispered through a line of people until the last one reveals the message to the group.
The final proclamation often sounds nothing like the original statement. Thanks to modern communication, the game can now be played on an industrial scale.
The only requirement seems to be a lack of regard for facts. In this case, Bowden's relatively benign comment on Winston somehow evolved into a righteous condemnation of all things Jameis.
I say "somehow" because I'm loathe to criticize the prime culprit. It was the media, of course, aided by countless FSU haters, fans and social media trolls who fell for the final whisper:
"Bobby Bowden Slams Jameis Winston: 'He Was An Embarrassment.'"
Speaking of embarrassment, that was the Huffington Post headline Wednesday. Like 1,000 others, it was based on the ever-provocative E word.
I saw the first one Tuesday afternoon and thought, "Wow. Did FSU's legendary coach really trash the school's most famous recent player?"
Bowden indeed said, "embarrassment," on Paul Finebaum's radio show. But if you actually listened to the interview or read the transcript, you realized there was less there than initially met the eye or ear.
Finebaum said many people felt Winston was an embarrassment to FSU and asked what Bowden thought. The 85-year-old guest chuckled and responded:
"Well, I think it's a consensus among Florida State fans and boosters that he was an embarrassment in a lot of ways to the university. He won a lot of ball games, probably one of the best football players that ever attended Florida State, but he hurt himself off the field.
"The good news is that he's young enough to get over that, ya know it, and he's gotta do that. He just can't make those junior high school decisions that he made while he was in college."
That was a slam?
Was any FSU fan or booster not embarrassed by some of Winston's antics? OK, dumb question.
There are always a few face-painters who would defend Kim Jong Un if he were their school's quarterback. But I'd guess 98.9 percent of FSU fans felt at least a tinge of embarrassment when Winston jumped on that picnic table and screamed those vulgarities or pulled the Publix heist or helped turn FSU into a sexual-assault punching bag.
Bowden merely stated the obvious. It certainly had some news value since no FSU official has ever publicly whispered a disparaging word about young Mr. Winston. But it hardly warranted the five-alarm social-media fire.
Technically, Bowden didn't even say he thought Winston was an embarrassment. He said most FSU fans and boosters felt Winston was an embarrassment in a lot of ways.
Real news would have been if Bowden said nobody at FSU was embarrassed in any way. But his statement had a faint whiff of controversy, however, which the 24-7 news cycle runs on.
Media could ignore the context and throw red meat to the masses. Everybody could use it as an excuse to expound on pre-existing grievances.
Winston is a scumbag. Bowden is a hypocrite (see: Free Shoes U, et al). Finebaum is a snake. The media hates FSU. FSU hates women.
CBS Radio: "Bowden went low on Winston. He just eviscerated him."
NBCSports.com: "Former FSU coach Bobby Bowden left a crater the size of Raymond James Stadium…."
Deadspin: "No One Cares What Bad Human Bobby Bowden Thinks About Jameis Winston."
Orlando Sentinel: "Bowden: Winston an embarrassment."
Hey, at least that last one was accurate.
What was wildly inaccurate was the contention that no one cares what Bowden thinks about Winston.
They obviously do.
They just don't care enough to find out what he really thinks.