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Monday November 28 2022
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Mayfield Haters Need to Calm Down

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Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy favorite Baker Mayfield made a mistake last week.

When the (former) Sooners' captain grabbed his crotch and spewed expletives at his Kansas opponents last Saturday, television cameras caught it and it quickly became national sports news.

His actions were crude, lewd and wrong. Baker Mayfield is acutely aware.

He quickly apologized for it after the game. He was punished, stripped of his captaincy and benched for this weekend's game against West Virgiina. Mayfield has paid a stiff price -- especially considering that his actions didn't really impact anyone.

Yes, of course they were wrong... which is why he apologized, even before he was punished. But was anyone really affected by his gestures? Sure, the Kansas players were the target of his actions, but the Jayhawks weren't exactly innocent in the events of the day. And if we really think that children were impacted by Mayfield's actions, well, it's time for us as adults to clean up our own acts. The examples the adults are setting are far, far worse.

More on that in a second. Let's get back to Mayfield's actions.

What he did -- what he actually DID -- is as understandable as uttering the occasional curse word when we get frustrated. His opponent opened the procedings that day by refusing to shake hands before the game... leaving Mayfield with his hand extended, as every captain does before every game every Saturday afternoon across the country. Despite the fact that Kansas had a couple of children present at the coin toss, mere inches away from Mayfield, the Kansas Jayhawks players made a point to refuse to shake his hand. Shaking hands with other humans is a simple show of respect. Refusing to do so is the ultimate show of disrespect.

Mayfield was also the victim of at least two cheap shots during the game. So while it's certainly understandable that he let his emotions get the best of him during the course of a college football game, his lashing out was clearly a move of immaturity. But is it really one that deserves the vitriol he's recieved? Personally, I'd be much more offended by someone refusing to shake my hand before a game than I would at someone trash-talking me during a game.

And again, it's worth noting that Mayfield apologized. As soon as the game was over. Apologies are as infrequent these days as, well, adults taking responsibility for... well, anything.

Listen -- full disclosure -- I've made a lot of mistakes, so I know what it's like to have to admit my bad. I've had to apologize plenty of times in my life -- to family, to friends, to co-workers, colleagues and strangers. I'm not proud of it, but it is what it is and the smart money is on me having to do so again at some point. But I've never apologized before a television camera with millions of people watching. That's something most of us have never done, so it's not something we should just shrug off as meaningless.

If only the adults in the college sports world did what Mayfield did after his screw-up. Of course they don't -- and of course fans and media pile on the kids, because they are the ones whose necks are sticking out there for everyone to attack.

In college sports in recent years, we've seen an entire administration at Penn State work overtime to cover-up acts of indecency so vulgar it's painful to think about.

We've had to watch as the University of North Carolina -- the entire institution -- whistled through a graveyard of fake classes and pushed responsibility off to the next guy again and again and again until the NCAA gave up and let the Heels off the hook.

We watched in horror as adults at Baylor made real-life decisions about life and death matters that were more shameful than the worst organized crime trials. Similar decisions were made at Notre Dame a few years prior.

We watched this past summer as a parade of former Vanderbilt football players marched to serve prison sentences despite following the advice of the adults who were in charge at the time of their crimes.

We're currently watching a story unfold at Arizona where the actors are giving magnificent performances, claiming everything is "just fine" while assistant coaches are indicted on federal charges; with the next shoe floating threateningly above the campus, waiting to crush the entire program.

So do we really need to paint Baker Mayfield as a villain? Really? Or should we do the opposite -- watch him take responsibility for his actions and tell our kids, "Ignore the adults at (insert name of program here). That's how you act when you screw up."

It's our call.

But since we're adults, I'm sure we'll screw this one up too.

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