J.T. Barrett and the glass houses we often rent

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett isn’t Spider-Man, and neither are most of us.

“With great power comes great responsibility” is the famed Peter Parker quote when he realizes he’s part spider, but only the good things like walking on buildings or being able to sense danger rather than having a bunch of eyes, eight legs, and the desire to eat bugs.

Barrett was arrested this past Friday night for operating a vehicle while intoxicated before being picked up by fellow quarterback Cardale Jones. The 20-year-old will be suspended one game. Predictably, everyone went crazy.

No matter how often it happens, some in the media still have not come to grips with the fact that college students often drink, even ones who play sports or are on scholarship. The odds are that most of those demonizing the drinking and partying and calling for things like season-long suspensions either did the same thing in college or at least wanted to.

Look, for the most part, we place too much emphasis on sports and the individuals who play it. The larger-than-life narratives that come from guys or girls playing games as it relates to our own lives has made icons out of people who really don’t do iconic things.

Sports has the ability to unify those from wildly different demographics and backgrounds all under the guise of wearing the same colors, and so it becomes more important than it is. By the same token, when a guy like Barrett goes to Ohio State over, say, Tulane, he knows he’s going to get more accolades, more attention, more pretty girls, and more opportunities when he’s good.

He also should know that when he does something bad, the inverse is true. You cannot have one without the other.

For the rest of us, it seems sometimes the media wants some sort of example to be made in these situations, forcing the view that Urban Meyer isn’t “tough enough” if the hammer doesn’t come down hard for something not nearly as egregious as some claim it is.

Personally, my philosophy (not that anyone cares) is that taking the sport away from the person is not always the best idea. It removes a positive outlet for the individual that could be very useful, especially in the event he really has a problem.

For the rest of us, let’s not act like we’ve ever been where Barrett was in the past, or that we are where he is now, or that we will ever be where he’ll go in the future. Back when most of us were in college, if we wanted to blow off some steam over a few drinks and bad decisions, no one really cared.

The rules are different for Barrett, but it doesn’t make the temptations or the humanity different. We live in glass houses when we want massive consequences for things we clearly would have advocated for ourselves when we were doing the same things, just not under the specter of a few million more eyes.

It’s the same thing with Tiger Woods when the world found out he wasn’t nearly as White Picket Fence as everyone thought he was.

While it’s easy for us — in our normal lives, with normal money, and normal issues — to confidently say, “I’d never do such a thing,” none of us know how we’d react with a few hundred million dollars, or with a blank schedule other than to play a game. None of us know what it’s like to walk into every club in every town where every girl is a 10 and all of them want nothing more than to spend time with you.

The same is true of Barrett, who has been living as the biggest of big men on campus since taking the starting job of the defending national champion from the aforementioned Jones. Legally and probably ethically, underage drinking is wrong, but let’s not act like it’s some rarity that should be punishable by a lengthy suspension.

What you do is you make him run his backside off, and you make the team run its backsides off. We’re talking “if conditioning were a pack of starving Allosaurus hunting slow long neck dinosaurs, it would look like this” kind of conditioning. For the entire team.

You learn quick, fast, and in a hurry that your teammates won’t care for your actions very much when that happens. Meyer’s suspension is fine. It’s also the right call to not make it too long, nor is it a case of being lax toward a mistake.

Really, the world shouldn’t expect more out of folks who play games than they can probably expect out of themselves if they were in the same spot. At the very least, acknowledgment that a person doesn’t know how s/he would react to a situation until immersed in it is more reasonable than slamming the morality stick on the desk before flogging someone else with it.

Barrett, for his part, needs to get his stuff together and be a better leader. This isn’t the first time he’s been involved with an off-field issue, and the last one was far more “hit the road”-worthy than this one. He was involved in a domestic disturbance in 2014 after the regular season.

There are realities here, but they’re ones the masses want to make out to being more of a big deal than they are. College students drink, often underage. Playing sports doesn’t necessarily accelerate one’s maturation process. We tend to make sports, especially at the college level where the stars are young men trying to learn how to grow all at once, a little too important and representative of things they don’t really represent.

J.T. Barrett needs to make better decisions if he wants to fulfill his potential.

We live in glass houses when we pretend to walk a mile in a person’s shoes, without those shoes ever actually fitting or even being tried on.


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