On Bobby Petrino, Internet Morality, and Coaching Wins

So long as your talent exceeds your problems, you’ll always be fine in America.

The latest example of this truism is Bobby Petrino, who, you might recall, just 21 months ago was involved in a motorcycle accident with his mistress, a mid-twenties blonde employee of the Arkansas football program. Petrino, who lost his job at Arkansas for employing his mistress and lying about the accident and the affair to his boss, spent the fall of 2012 out of coaching, and was hired by Western Kentucky eight months later, in December of 2012.

This year Petrino’s Western Kentucky Hilltoppers went 8-4.

Today news officially broke from multiple sources that Petrino had been rehired by Louisville.

Petrino’s career arc — failure ending in firing, apologizing for said failure, period of isolation during which he had time to contemplate his own life’s errors (also known as rehab if you’re an entertainer), and subsequent rehabilitation at a lesser job before ascending to the same level he’d previously occupied — was swift.

It took just 21 months for Petrino to go from social pariah to right back where he was beforehand. 

Why?  

Because Petrino’s a really damn good football coach.

In other words, his talent exceeds his problems.

If you can consistently win football games today, you have a skill set that few can match. While it’s great to graduate players, be a nice guy on and off the field, and keep your players out of jail, college football is really a zero sum business — someone wins and someone else loses.

The more you win, the more you can get away with. The less you win? Well, you better update your resume in a hurry. 

Name me the last big-time coach who kept his job for longer than four years for graduating all his players and keeping everyone from being arrested while simultaneously losing over half of his football games.

Newsflash, there isn’t one.

While we pay lip service to all these noble educational goals, the simple fact is that winning is all that matters. If you gave Jesus a whistle and a coach’s polo and told him to go forth and do football justice, He wouldn’t last three losing years unless he had one hell of a football class committed.

The Ten Commandants obeyed by all players? 

Please. 

Jesus better get ten wins by year three. 

Or else. 

I love college football because it’s the most quintessentially American of all our major sports — there’s lies and bravery, destructive capitalism — where else in America today can the people who earn all the money be injured forever while laboring to make others rich and receive nothing for it? — false morality, commitment, cheating, “student” athletes, not for profit colleges banking billions in profits, I mean college football is like a 19th century Charles Dickens novel rolled onto a leafy college campus down the street from your home.

America, a nation founded on delicious and absurd hypocrisies, is most alive in college football today. Because, after all, there is no more hypocritical sport in America today than college football. 

And the fans are the best of all, kings of moral equivalency and half truths when it benefits their own team, the most dogmatic Calvinists when it comes to analyzing the actions of a hated rival. Most fans are so busy equivocating about their own teams that they will forgive any transgression from their school so long as it makes it more likely that their team will win. All while denying that this is true while claiming it is true about the team they dislike the most. 

Don’t believe me?

Would you rather your favorite school have a starting quarterback who has a 50/50 chance of being charged with sexual assault during the season — but if he wasn’t charged would win the Heisman trophy and a national title — or a guaranteed 6-6 season with a quarterback who is a Rhodes scholar?

Do I even need to ask that question?

Just win, baby. (The first college coach whose slogan is, “Just read, baby,” as he mentors his functionally illiterate players will be fired inside of a year.)

Ain’t America grand!

Petrino’s return also reinforces a modern verity about our current society — if you’re talented we forget (or forgive, if you want to be generous) pretty much any transgression that doesn’t involve children or murder. (And if you ask Disney, murder is negotiable if you’re good enough at football analysis).    

Our moral outrage meters — or fauxrage as I call it — are hypersensitive and ever vigilant in today’s culture, but they’ve never been more vapid, shallow, short-lived, and inconsequential.  

Someone Tweeted a bad joke about AIDS in Africa?

That person has to be fired. And also, if you read her Twitter mentions, be murdered and maybe even be injected with AIDS herself and locked up in a hidden chamber so she can die a slow and painful death. The kind of death that’s reserved for the harshest criminals alive — those who would be too crass with their 140 character off-color jokes. HOW DARE SHE!!!!! (It’s a scientific fact that the more frequently you use capital letters and multiple exclamation points, the fewer IQ points you possess). 

Of course, the fauxragists don’t have any interest in doing anything actually productive — such as, you know, perhaps donating to Africans orphaned as a result of AIDS — no, they just want to extract their pound of Internet flesh for being outraged, make themselves morally superior — the entire Internet turns into a roiling mass of fury, a contest to see who can be the most outraged — and experience a resolution.

A firing.

A beheading.

Whatever.

Just so it ends with a “victory.” 

So someone gets fired or beheaded, the furor blows over — except on Google search, our own modern day tar and feathering device — and a new story emerges and whipsaws across social media, a tornado of technological tumult, a staccato beat of keyboard clicking outrage.

“Oh, I can’t believe what that person just did!” (Clutches pearls, fans face to avoid fainting of fauxrage).   

You don’t have to be perfect in America today, you just need someone else to be dumber than you are when you’ve done something stupid. 

And you need to pretty good at what you do too. 

Because if you suck at what you do, you’re expendable. That’s pretty much been the case for most of human history.

Evolution, and all.  

Which brings us back to Bobby Petrino, who is now the head coach of a major football program again, and is really good at that profession. 

Now will come the slings and arrows of derision, the acid opinions will rain forth, and, ultimately, subside, no more lasting or impactful than a slight breeze on a spring day.

Petrino, guilty of having sex with the wrong person, and of being too obvious in his attempts to climb as high as he can in our winner take all society — naked ambition, even while practiced by the vast majority of the most successful people in America, is a bad look —  will win lots of games at Louisville, the moralists will fume, the relativists will shrug our shoulders, and Kentucky, the school that hired the only man to be stripped of two Final Four banners, will puff its metaphorical chest indignantly and mutter a banal aphorism that someone involves the use of the word, “class.” (College football fans are obsessed with the world class. Do a Twitter search some day with whatever the news of the day is and the word class included. It’s like a new episode of Downton Abbey all day long). 

“How dare they try to win football games in this fashion!?,” Kentucky fans will shriek. “It’s so classless!”  

Until, you guessed it, somebody else does something “less classy.” 

And the college football morality police will snag the newest transgressor.

How dare he … ?!

Rinse and repeat

Such is life in the most hypocritical sport in America. 

Thank God that humor exists in college football. If it didn’t, we’d all go insane. 

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.