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Patrick Hruby

Atlantic Sports Roundtable: Sapp, Petrino and falling from grace

The thing about cliches is that most of them are true. Otherwise, they wouldn't be cliched. To wit: the bigger they come, the harder they fall. See Warren Sapp. And Bobby Petrino. And whoever's caught in this week's sports scandal spin cycle. In this week's Atlantic Sports Roundtable, we discuss the heady mix of overt schadenfreude and subtle recognition that surrounds and fuels athletic falls from grace:

Hampton Stevens: ... the first gut reaction is to feel bad or these guys. Something deep in the fan's heart is offended by the thought of a broke former star, probably because being mega-rich is a big part of the dream of being a pro athlete—the fantasy that sacrificing youth and health to the game can win a big enough prize to sustain you for a lifetime.
Besides, most of the athletes who blow their vast fortunes come from terribly impoverished backgrounds. They have no experience handling money, and so make incredibly easy prey for unscrupulous friends or bad financial advice. But I don't feel sorry for Sapp, or most of the other guys who go broke. A bad childhood isn't enough to explain why Sapp's assets include a lion-skin rug and an Imedla Marcos-like 240 pairs of Air Jordans. More importantly, a bad childhood might explain, but can never excuse, Sapp's failure to care for his six children, two by a now-former wife ...


Jake Simpson: ...  let's not contain our head-shaking to the fiscally irresponsible, Hampton. What of Bobby Petrino, a real-life weasel coach (copyright Gregg Easterbrook) who was fired by Arkansas on Wednesday after allegedly hiring his mistress as an athletic department staffer and lying to the university about it? Petrino, who bolted for Arkansas midway through his first season as coach of the Atlanta Falcons and famously informed the players with a farewell note left in their lockers, deserves every bit of scorn we can heap on him. Hopefully, no college or pro team will call his number again ...

Patrick Hruby: ... There's something very familiar about the guys we're laughing at, something very old about their stories. Squandered riches. Cheatin' hearts. Foot-in-mouth disease. The classic stuff of self-destruction—not to mention country music—common to athletes and coaches and presidents alike. Shakespeare would size up the likes of Sapp in seconds; ancient Greek playwrights wouldn't find Petrino's saga the least bit surprising (well, maybe except for all the texting. And his inexplicable failure to use a motorcycle sidecar). These men are buffoons, sure—but hardly different from the rest of us, save the outlandish degree of their buffoonery. After all, who hasn't wasted money in moronic fashion? Screwed up royally in romance? Lied in a futile effort to stave off embarrassment? Held an unpopular opinion, and lacked the good sense to keep quiet about it? (Hint: even Jesus was guilty of the last one) ...

Read the full article at the Atlantic Online