It's a bar room classic: A man who has been drinking for several hours abruptly vomits all over himself. "Man," he slurs shamefully while looking at the mess he has made, "my wife is going to kill me."
The bartender, complicit in the soiling of the man's shirt, offers his advice. "Take $20 out of your wallet and put it in your shirt pocket," he suggests, "and then tell her some sloppy drunk accidentally threw up on you and gave you money for dry cleaning." The man thinks the plan has potential, transfers the money to his shirt pocket and proceeds to stumble home.
His wife is waiting for him as he enters the house. "What on earth!" She shouts. "Look at you! You're covered in vomit!"
He quickly soothes her anger while reaching into his shirt pocket. "Honey, some sloppy drunk at the bar threw up on me," he says with his eyes closed as he struggles to be articulate, "and here - he even gave me $20 for dry cleaning."
She takes the money from his hand. "But there's $40 here," she says.
"Oh right," says the man. "He also shit my pants."
It's a funny joke mostly because it's someone else's pants. Had our bar room protagonist been your college acquaintance instead of an imaginary married man, he would be
Najeh Davenport one of the many drunken tales from your university years that you still tell today. Bad decisions make the best stories.
However, had he been a present-day college athlete he would receive less laughter and more scorn. Once the sun goes down, the high-profile sporty types aren't given quite as much latitude as their peers who wear their replica jerseys.
They can't just head out to bars, go to fraternity parties or indulge in a little social lubrication with friends and strangers without the strong possibility of being unfairly judged. That's their burden. It's the price of fishbowl fame.
Their behavior is not new, but our consumption of it and how it's handled has significantly changed: Forty years ago an unruly Buckeye would be quietly escorted by police directly to the home of Wayne Woodrow Hayes, largely because his punishment would be far more severe than whatever legal slap accompanied his misdemeanor.
Those transgressions used to happen in a vacuum but also afforded the same kind of anonymity that most everyone else enjoys when they're stupid, or even just inappreciably stupid.
Today Heisman winner Johnny Manziel can't even get turned away from a fraternity party without ESPN showing up to turn it into breaking news. He is unable to leave the Manning football camp early without getting the Taiwanese animation treatment.
Manziel exists at the confluence of our star-obsessed media and its annoying penchant for manufacturing stories. They can't wait to capture him in the act of finding trouble.
But as was the case with our bar room protagonist, he doesn't ride alone. His reliable sidekick is alcohol. In college?! Yes. In college.
Most of the player stories you dread hearing about during the offseason generally involve the college tradition of consuming fizzy fartwater. Carlos Hyde was at a bar when [muffled sounds; Internet shouting] happened two weekends ago. Bradley Roby was too.
Freshman Marcus Baugh was pinched on campus with a fake ID - an Ohio State football player with a fake ID, as if the average Columbus police officer doesn't already know his 40 time. Baugh was still not as ambitious as IU basketball starter Dane Fife back when he masqueraded as someone else in Bloomington, because no one is.
And last summer Jake Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort made terrible headlines for participating in the Pee n' Flee scandal of 2012. Ten years earlier Steve Bellisari was losing his starting job to Craig Krenzel right before Senior Day for driving under the influence. Fifteen years before that, alcohol almost derailed Cris Carter's Hall of Fame career before it started.
So what's changed? College kids definitely don't imbibe more now than they did in the past - in Columbus, students have been joyously drinking to old Ohio 'til they wobble in their shoes since 1906. Alcohol has provided a temporary and welcome departure from critical thinking for generations. This is not news. Our virulent obsession with it is new.
The business of college football specifically has grown exponentially, which has inflated our access to it, which in turn has shaped our scrutiny. Sports fans have become the lamest voyeurs this side of Hollywood, and that metamorphosis has only accelerated over the past decade. It isn't slowing, either.
Consider that Bellisari's arrest - at the height of the season - was dwarfed in news coverage by the arrests of Stoneburner and Mewhort in the darkest depths of their offseason. How will Urban respond? Will he send a message to his team? How could they have been so reckless to...pee like that?
First-year coach Jim Tressel faced a miniscule fraction of that scrutiny ahead of suspending his starting quarterback for the rest of the 2001 regular season, and it's not as though he hadn't just assumed the helm of a roster void of character issues either.
Mewhort and Stoney drank at a golf tournament, urinated near a building and ran from a cop. It made national news. Google their names over a year later and every one of the results on the first six pages is from that night.
It's easy to just attribute the Manziel obsession to ESPN manufacturing another Tebowesque reality show, and college football's caretaker is as complicit in making that script succeed as Manziel is: He has the audacity to be unsatisfied with just sitting on his couch playing video games. He goes places.
The narrative with Manziel is that he's a serial partier. Despite his "condition" he's going to be just fine, as are the vast majority of serial partiers that ESPN isn't obsessively covering. His crime is that he's trying to be normal when he's not.
Forty years ago an unruly Buckeye would be quietly escorted by police directly to the home of Wayne Woodrow Hayes.F. Scott Fitzgerald was already famous when he toasted alcohol as the 'rose-colored glasses of life'. That wasn't an endorsement for alcoholism or serial recklessness, nor is this. It's a plea to embrace social equilibrium that unplugs the rigors of academic life for a few hours every week.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't still appreciate when a player gets belligerently drunk, naked and arrested for trying to tackle police officers - because that peculiar brand of nocturnal brilliance earns its place on the marquee. It does mean - at risk of channeling Terrelle Pryor - that everyone gets kicked out of fraternity bangers, sleeps through their alarms, parties with you, parties with me, whatever. And that's the healthiest reaction: Whatever.
These kids are the same as they've always been. We are the ones who have shit our pants.