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Doing things the right way

POSTED: February 22, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Larry Wynn/Barrow County News

Former UGA tight end Arthur Lynch stands with former defensive standout Christian Robinson, who joined UGA's coaching staff as a graduate assistant after the 2012 season, following the UGA win over Georgia Tech in late-November 2013.

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This week’s unseasonably warm weather, which nobody is complaining about, has some people forgetting what time of year it actually is.

Then again, a certain football player’s misdeeds reminded people rather quickly that it’s the offseason and this is Georgia.

It feels like this happens every year that another promising member of the Georgia football team loses his spot on the team for the upcoming autumn because he lacks the self-control to follow the rules.  This time around, the casualty of war was defensive star Josh Harvey-Clemons.

Harvey-Clemons’ “violation of team rules,” which in this case is likely code for marijuana use, caused quite a stir earlier this week when the story broke.

Now if you know me, you know two things about my feelings in these matters. First, you know how much I hate it when people refer to Twitter feeds as “news.” Second, you know that I usually adhere to a strictly moderate opinion on matter such as this.

Well…I’m about to break both of my rules. 

Of course, most people found out about JHC’s dismissal from the UGA football squad through social media (Twitter and Facebook, for those of you who have not yet learned what that term means), but so much has already been said about how traditional news media is becoming obsolete due to the instant dispersal of news through such means.

First, let’s all pretend you didn’t just read that last sentence and keep going here, shall we.

No, the most notable aspect of the Twittersphere Tuesday was how people reacted to the news. Most folks were about as surprised as they will be when next month is March. These things come as scheduled, right? Others went so far as to say that they “knew it was coming all along” because their crystal balls or Ouija boards or lucky rabbit’s foot told them.

Others vented their anger towards the young man, which is wholly unnecessary (although understandable…to a degree).

Others, though, actually have opinions that matter here.

Former Bulldog and aspiring politician Arthur Lynch (@alynch1788) said, “Just to be clear, those who decide not to do it the RIGHT way do not deserve to don the Red & Black. It is a privilege, not a right #GoDawgs.”

Yes, quoting the hash-tag was necessary.

Keep in mind here, this is not some random fellow offering his unrequested two cents. This is a man who spent time playing with Clemons. This is a man who, until mere weeks ago, was on the same team as Clemons.

These guys consider being teammates a bond for life in most cases. 

No matter your opinions of Lynch’s comment, I hope it puts this issue in perspective for you.  These are the words of a man who feels betrayed, and why shouldn’t he? 

His brother, his teammate, considered a hit off of a drug to be more important than anything else. Clemons clearly knew the risk. It’s not like he hasn’t seen other players get kicked off the team for their behavior, so he knew exactly what would happen to him if he were caught, and it was very likely that he would be caught.

I can understand if you disagree with the punishment. I think you’re wrong, but I understand. After all, marijuana is a substance that the country’s opinion of is rapidly changing. Maybe you personally see nothing wrong with the drug. Maybe you’re reading this from Colorado or Washington State.

Honestly, though, your opinion of marijuana is meaningless in this context. What matters is that the NCAA still forbids it, and UGA actually cares about following drug policies.

On that note, maybe you just think UGA is too strict. Perhaps the University of Georgia’s athletic program should let these things slide and let it be like other institutions do.

After all, it’s not like he beat someone to death or stole a car or was arrested with a gun on his person. It was just a little joint.

I could point to the kids who look up to Georgia’s athletes (my impressionable niece and nephew are two of them), but I won’t. I could point to the high school kids who still dream of being like these guys in just a short couple years, but I won’t. I could even point to the drug culture in America that is fueled by the idea that illegal substances are great. But I won’t.

I will, however, point back to men like Arthur Lynch who worked and strained to attain a spot on that Georgia roster. I will point back to Clemons’ teammates who counted on him. I will point to UGA for having a drug policy that requires accountability from their athletes.

See, the reason UGA has those policies in place is because they care more about the young men on the team more than they care about winning. They would rather teach someone that there are consequences for his or her actions, which often affect others more than themselves, than let someone slide by thinking they can do whatever they want because they have athletic talent.

The other men on that team will sacrifice their “right” to do drugs so that they can be there for their teammates because they care more about winning as a team than they do about getting theirs.

I’ve talked to quite a few student athletes this year who signed to play their sport at college, and two things really stood out to me. First, they are all so excited to be living their dream. Second, they all talk about how much work and sacrifice it takes to get to that point. 

Why would anyone want to throw away that dream and all of that work just for a moment’s enjoyment? Tell me again how there are no harmful side-effects of marijuana. That sounds like a pretty serious lapse in judgment to me.

Lastly, and a little off topic, there’s a common phrase many of you will hear in regards to this event, and there have been many versions of it over the years. My personal favorite was last Friday during the earthquake when people joked, “Mark Richt has lost control of the ground.”

There is an idea when these incidents occur that Coach Richt is no longer in control of his team, these 80 or more teenagers and young twenty-somethings.

When I was in college, a guy in the dorm next to me got busted for smoking marijuana and selling it out of his room. He was arrested and kicked out of housing. First, if other students get punished that severely for being caught with the drug, why shouldn’t athletes?

Second, this is something that college kids do. To say that anyone has lost control of the team because a player is caught smoking weed is a joke. This is what a lot of college kids do, they just don’t get caught or make national headlines. You know what else? They don’t have a whole team counting on them to do right.

On the other hand, just because we can expect this to happen occasionally does not mean that we should accept this when it happens.

Kudos to the University of Georgia for holding young men accountable for their actions. Good for you, UGA, for doing things the right way, and best of luck to all the young athletes out there who continue to do things the right way.

And congratulations, Auburn or LSU, a great new defensive back just joined your starting roster for the 2015 season, didn’t he?

 

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