Fourth and Long

Published 2:38 pm Thursday, April 12, 2012

As a sports columnist, little makes me happier than when prominent sports figures say and do dumb things. It may be embarrassing for them, their family, their organization, their institution or their team but it sure makes for an interesting topic of conversation.

When it comes to giving sportswriters, sports radio hosts and television analysts something to talk about there are few better in the business that Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Petrino. Both gave me plenty to talk about this week.

Petrino has had a reputation that is… let’s just say less than pleasant, for quite some time. Few have described him as personable, but he coaches football for Arkansas in the SEC and he wins; that will give earn you quite a bit of rope as they say.

In Petrino’s case it earned him just enough rope to hang himself. Despite going 11-2 last season and finishing the year ranked fifth in the country, Petrino was fired for several reasons.

The former Razorback Head Coach was involved in a motorcycle accident last week in which his mistress was also involved. While cheating on your wife is universally frowned upon, it was the fact that he had recently hired the young lady to work in the athletic department and then lied to the media and the university regarding her involvement in the crash that got him fired.

The fact that he reportedly gave her $20,000 which may or may not have been school funds I am certain did not help his cause however, lying to your boss, embarrassing you employer and knowingly putting them at risk for a sexual harassment suit will get you fired almost everywhere, even in the SEC.

While Petrino’s comments were not extremely controversial they did lead to his termination. Guillen on the other hand made about the most controversial comments a man in his position can make. He said he loved and respected Fidel Castro.

That may not seem terribly offensive to those living in northeastern North Carolina however a large contingent of Cubans and their families live in south Florida. To these people any positive remarks about an oppressive dictator that wrongfully imprisoned and killed many of their families and countrymen are highly offensive and disrespectful.

If these remarks are made by the Latino manager of the Marlins based out of the little Havana section of Miami then they are certain to create a public relations nightmare. Guillen took responsibility and apologized in a press conference later in the week however, I don’t think an apology coupled with a five-game suspension is going to make this whole thing blow over.

Guillen should consider himself lucky he still has a job today. If you are the manager of the New York Yankees and you tell the media that you think Hitler was misunderstood and showed several characteristics of a strong leader then I imagine your employment in New York will quickly end.

Only time will tell if the population of Miami will ever forgive Guillen or if his time in Miami will be short lived. The only thing you can count on is that he will eventually open up his mouth again and give me something else interesting to write about.


David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publications. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at