Once upon a Christmas Eve, Taylor Lewan was in bed, drifting off to sleep, when two apparitions appeared before him.
"Wooooooooo!" said one, "Taylor Lewan, you're in trrrooouuubbbllleeee!" "Yeah," said the second ghost, "big time."
"Wh-who are you?!" stammered Lewan, clutching his starched nightcap in terror. "Well, I'm the ghost of Bo Schembechler, and this Fielding Yost. We're here to tell you that tonight you will be visited by three spirits, who will help you mend your evil ways." "Wooooooo! Yes, stop being a dooouuuuccchhhheeee!" howled Yost. Lewan yelped. "B-but I'm not such a bad guy! I'm misunderstood!"
"Probably nooooooooot!" "Yeah kid, the threats, your general demeanor, the way you play, this assault thing... seems like a big turd to me. Anyway, have fun with the other ghosts. Holy cow Yost, what a wiener." And with that, the figures vanished.
So apparently Taylor Lewan is a big ol' jerk. Or at least, is being investigated in connection with the possibility of someone being a big ol' jerk. This is operating under the assumption that you don't already consider him a big ol' jerk due to some of his comments, his general dirty style of play, or that he allegedly harassed a potential rape victim.
Someone's getting a lot of coal in his stocking, and although there are some people who might make apologies for Lewan's behavior, I don't. His actions have shown him to be the jerk we all think he is. And a jerk on Christmas is the worst thing to be.
The first spirit appeared to Lewan in a beige onsie, holding a candle in his hand. "Coach Carr?? Are you dead?" shouted Lewan.
"Only on the inside. Look, I'm the ghost of football past. Remember Taylor. Remember when you weren't such a douche. Remember when Michigan football wasn't just a means to an end. Remember when the term 'Michigan Men' stood for something real and important and upstanding and was in our hearts as we won victory after victory."
"Yeah but coach... what did you actually win? Are you talking about that '97 team? Because I'm pretty sure that Nebraska probably would've-"
"JESUS what a jackass!" interrupted Lloyd Carr, who vanished in an instant.
Lewan's track record speaks for itself. His play has been fairly categorized as dirty (more accurately categorized as "unbelievably dirty"), and this video from the Michigan State game speaks for itself. Not only was he not punished in any way for this behavior, but he's gone on to even greater recognition and notoriety.
That's frustrating. If you care about fairness and equity in any way, you've been begging for months to see the sword of Solomon to metaphorically chop this dude in half and be done with it. But that's not how football works. You can be a huge idiot, have a mediocre season, and still go on to win the B1G's offensive lineman of the year. So how does that work? How do we reconcile this with anything good and right and logical in this world?
The second spirit hovered above Taylor, arms folded and wearing a gigantic smile. "Devin?!?" "Yes, Taylor. It is I, your quarterback and the ghost of football present. The man you are entrusted with protecting. The teammate you swore to never let down. The friend you never wanted to do wrong."
Sobbing, Taylor dropped to his knees. "No... I-I thought that I was doing okay, man. If I've pissed you off, then maybe I really do need to change my ways. Maybe I really AM the jerk everyone says I am!"
Rolling his eyes, Devin Gardner laughed. "Nah, you're good dude. Don't sweat it." "Wait, what?" "Yeah, you're doing just fine. See ya!" And with that Devin vanished in a puff of Icy Hot.
The truth is that Taylor Lewan is probably an awesome teammate. It's depressingly easy to write off his comments about opponents, his dirty play, and even his stalking if you look through the lens of "protecting your team," and that's a problem.
Coaches might not want to see him after hours, but they love him on the field. He's indispensable, a tone-setter, the guy who announces your team's presence with a crazed, through-the-whistle style that is prized at every level.
Coaches chuckle among themselves: He might be a horrible human being, but he's our horrible human being.
I don't accept this. Football is great for a lot of reasons, and it's always been part of the mythos of the sport that it molds young men into actual human beings. It supposedly provides a framework of humility, kinship, and hard work that serve people later on in life. That can be true of any sport, but you generally don't see swimming coaches crowing about that idea to worried mothers of an 8 year old. Football, with all of its inherent problems in terms of injury risk, has a fundamental need to be a "moral" sport that teaches lessons to those who play it.
So the question becomes: can you play football and not be a raging asshole?
Suddenly, a towering shadowy figure appeared in front of Taylor. The ghost of football future. With a thin, eerie voice, it whispered "Look..." and outstretched a gaunt, bony hand, pointing toward a highlight reel of a fantastical wide receiver. "What's this crap?" asked Lewan, arms folded indignantly.
The figure continued to point. "This, Taylor, is Calvin Johnson. He is one of the greatest wide receivers of all time, and yet, he is doomed to suffer the indignity of fools for his entire career," said the spectre as Calvin Johnson jumped 75 feet in the air to catch an errant Reggie Ball pass. "Does he complain? No. Does he ever call attention to himself? No. Does he ever do anything but be a terrific human being? No. Hell, in college he developed solar-powered toilets for poor people in Boliva to make fertilizer with."
"Calvin Johnson is a rich man and completely deserves every penny of it. And guess what? Soon you will be very wealthy yourself. Because the secret, Taylor, is that as long as you're good at sports you can be a colossal douchebag."
The figure then leaned down close to Lewan and whispered "...but you don't have to."
We're taught from the time that we're very young that it's okay to be a little bit of a jerk as long as you're good at something. "Oh, he's just competitive" or "Well, that's just the attitude it takes to succeed."
I hope that Taylor Lewan wakes up tomorrow morning and understands that bullshit for the lie that it is. Christmas is a time of love, and understanding, and caring for your fellow man. The people that I look up to, the people that I think are important, are the ones who have never compromised between being good and doing good. In this life, it's possible to have both.
Merry Christmas everybody.
[Photos via MGoBlog]
Edit: It should be noted that Lewan was advised to cease contact with the potential victim, but was never charged with harassment or stalking. I should not have used the word "fact," and have replaced it with "allegedly," since it was an allegation.