I took a week off in protest of the Jameis Winston suspension as it was clear my view of events is far afield of what passes for normal these days. With a week’s reflection, here is what I got. Winston is a polarizing figure. Based on his body of work, he is generally immature and naïve off the field, and exceptionally mature on the field. His competency at quarterback seems at odds with his off field persona, and quarterbacks especially those that have been awarded the Heisman Trophy and/or otherwise pass as the Face of the Program/Franchise, carry pseudo-presidential responsibilities in terms personal conduct and comportment that Winston, at this point, seems to consciously disregard. Interviews ranging from clichéd to countrified incoherence, serial episodes of petit theft, inaccuracy with a paintball gun and public directions on the art of intercourse might be dismissed with little to no public outrage if Ray Rice hadn’t dropped his fiancé with the efficiency of a primed Joe Frazier on camera in an elevator, and Winston’s hadn’t become involved in a sexual assault incident. The Rice video ushered in an era of hyper-sensitivity to all matters of violence and sex, and Winston’s sexual assault incident defined him for a vast swath of the holier-than-thou populace, regardless of whether the incident warranted charges let alone a conviction.
To that swath, he did something he shouldn’t have, something that wasn’t right, and nothing he will do now or in the future will ever change that belief while every transgression, no matter how trivial, will incredibly affirm their belief of bad character, while every positive, no matter how magnanimous, will be trivialized.
On the field with Winston back in the fold, Florida State escaped NC State 56-41 in a bizarre game. The Wolfpack, led by Florida-transfer, Jacoby Brissett sprinted to a 24-7 lead behind some great offense and a couple of Seminole turnovers. Florida State showed great resolve in pulling back two scores before the half to trail by only three at 24-21. The teams traded punches in a wild third quarter that saw NC State lead 38-28 before succumbing to a three touchdown onslaught from which they never recovered.
The positives. Winston, despite three turnovers, makes an enormous difference which was evident early on when FSU stayed aggressive and threw for a touchdown on third and 20. Without Winston, that’s a draw or screen pass to salvage three points. The running game showed signs of life producing a 100 yard game for Karlos Williams. The offense was excellent on third down and in the red zone. The defense generated three turnovers and came up big when it needed to.
The negatives. Four turnovers from your two best offensive players. Crappy tackling and blown coverages all over the field for much of the game, and only sporadic control of the line of scrimmage on the defensive end.
The conclusion. Florida State is not playing championship caliber football. They are wildly inconsistent from possession to possession on both sides of the ball and special teams have been solidly unspectacular. The mantra of finding ways to win is a valuable commodity that the Noles are trading heavily on right now, but they must avoid deluding themselves into thinking that is enough. Substantive progress must be made throughout the team for this season to be remembered for anything more than its controversies.
After 13 years of exemplary service, the Carolina Panthers cut him. Smith signed with the Ravens a few days later, and vowed that playing his old team would result in “blood and guts everywhere”. Yesterday, Smith torched the Panthers for two touchdowns and 139 receiving yards.
Steve Smith is undersized and was never a blue chip recruit or a first round draft pick. He has a temper. He has been thrown out of practices, fought teammates in meetings and been suspended. He speaks the truth and can be a pain in the ass. He has no shortage of faults, but he is important because his self belief and competitive hunger never wavered through a 14 year career that should land him in the Hall of Fame.
There are events every day that wreak of injustice, cruelty or just plain bullshit, and make us ask “why?” If we endure enough of these events, enough of these days, we get to watch Derek Jeter hit a walk-off single in his final at bat in Yankee Stadium, and while it will never erase injustice, cruelty or bullshit, it makes us smile, laugh spontaneously, maybe even tear up in a dusty living room, and be glad for just a moment that we were alive to see it.