"You feel you've been rehabilitated?"
"Yes, sir. Absolutely. I've learned my lesson. I can honestly say I'm a changed man. I'm no longer a danger to society. That's the God's honest truth. No doubt about it."
-- Ellis Redding in his parole board hearing in The Shawshank Redemption before receiving another "REJECTED" stamp
After roughly four months off the grid, where the only indications that he was still alive were the repeated efforts to liquidate various assets, ousted Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino has emerged from hiding, joining ESPN
softball-chucker college football writer Joe Schad for an interview that can best be described as "woefully transparent."
If you'd like to take a look at the highlight reel, well, here you go:
Like a prisoner trying to dupe the parole board into reaching for the "ACCEPTED" stamp, Petrino hit every high spot on the Contrition Checklist:
1. The "How Could I Let This Happen?"
"How could I put what we had in jeopardy? This is what I wake up early every morning thinking about, what I lay in bed thinking about. Why?"
2. The "How Could I Do This To My Loved Ones?"
"Looking at the look in [his wife's] eyes. How I could possibly do something like this, to hurt her? The anger. The feeling of, 'How could you possibly do this to me?'"
3. The Empty Acceptance Of Responsibility 4. The Mixing In Of the "S" Word
"That's not how I was raised. That's not how I raised my children. I take responsibility for it and I am really sorry. I have played it over and over in my head a million times. How could I do this? How could this happen? And not just the hiring. Or that day. But my actions, my behavior -- for months it was just wrong."
5. The Empty Promise Of Using His Fuck Up To Help Others Who Fuck Up In The Future
"I've made mistakes and I'm going to be a better person for it. I'm going to keep my life in better balance. And I really feel I'll be a better coach because this happened, because now I know that I'm going to coach the person as much as the player and help the person who has made mistakes, help him understand that he is not going to be defined by the mistakes he has made but how he reacts to it and overcomes it."
All right, so let's be very clear about exactly what this interview was -- this is the first step toward Petrino rehabilitating his image just enough to give justification to an athletics director and a school president desperate enough to hire him, whenever that may be. If there were a match.com website for head-coaching candidates, this was the introductory video for the New Bobby Petrino, hoping desperately that an administrator somewhere will click PLAY and see the metamorphosis. Petrino 2.0 -- contrite, humbled, eager.
And still totally full of shit. At one point during the interview, Petrino says: "I'm working hard to save my marriage. I'm working one day at a time. I want to stay married. That's my main priority right now. Making things right with my family."
Now, I've never been a millionaire nor have a I been a major college football coach, so I cannot relate to the sense of loss that Petrino is probably still feeling monetarily and professionally. I have, however, been a married male adult in marriage counseling before and I can tell you that if saving your marriage is your "main priority," you're NOT rolling out the red carpet for Joe Schad and a bunch of ESPN camera jockeys to set up shop so that you can bare your soul on the afternoon edition of Sportscenter. You're just not.
If I had to guess, Petrino's main priority is landing his next $3 million annual paycheck, and if his marriage happens to get fixed along the way (or at least bandaged up to the point that it's functional and unintrusive), then so be it. This sham of an interview portrays Petrino as at least equally hellbent to get back on a sideline as he is to get back in his wife's good graces.
In the Shawshank scene that I quoted at the beginning of this post, Red is going through his own Petrino-esque one-act play with the parole board, hoping if he says the right things, acts contrite, plays the game, and looks them in the eye, his release will get the green light. (The difference is I'm fairly certain Red was actually sorry.) Red's approach was greeted with repeated "REJECTED" stamps.
It wasn't until Red decided to cease with the bullshit act, briefly acknowledge he was sorry, and curtly tell the parole board to get on with the business of stamping his rejection that the board gave him his release.
The ironic thing is that most college administrators who are desperate for a football winner deep down don't care one bit about the sincerity of Petrino's apology. The man is still a fabulous football coach. A fabulous football coach wrapped up in the body of a deplorable human being, but a fabulous football coach nonetheless. His won-loss record and his offensive output numbers speak for themselves.
In the grand scheme of violations that would be considered forgivable in order to get hired again, Petrino's transgressions are ridiculously within bounds. He will get hired again. With the money at stake increasing exponentially, Petrino's allure of ten-win seasons and relevance on the national landscape at some point will be too much for some athletics director and school president to pass up. (And then Petrino's cycle of job-hopping will begin once again, but that's another story for another time.)
Bad husband, bad example, great coach. Sadly, if the goal is to get hired again, that's probably a winning combo for Bobby Petrino in 2013.
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As for Petrino's crocodile tears and remorseful husband act with Joe Schad, somebody get me my "REJECTED" stamp.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.