“A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.”
The internet tells me these words were spoken by Charlie Chaplin. I have no idea if that is true, nor do I care. The truth is that I went in search of a cheesy quote on romance for this post, and these words are the perfect description for Bobby Petrino. From leaving Louisville high and dry, to leaving the Falcons with games left to play, Bobby Petrino has showed himself to have wandering eyes, always willing to be romanced by a new mistress. Knowing this, it should surprise no one that Petrino was caught with an attractive twenty-something blonde employee, who was all too eager to be swept onto the hog of a smooth talking man in power in search of her own romantic adventure.
This type of forbidden romance will create a path of destruction that will change lives. Petrino is a married father of four, and Jessica Dorrell is engaged and, at least until Monday, was scheduled to be married on June 9th. That is a sad story, but one that will be handled behind closed doors. I’m far more interested in the public fallout and how it relates to sports.
Two days ago Arkansas AD Jeff Long was living in his own blissful romance. As the overseer of a successful SEC football program, his career was as stable as it can be, and he was almost assuredly placing himself as a prime candidate for any Athletic Director opening at one of the elite college sports programs in the country. In a cruel twist of fate, one phone call put his career at a crossroads. Does he play it safe, keep Petrino and hope time and ten win seasons make this all go away? Or is the story too big, leading him to remove Petrino, knowing full well that a drop of two wins a season could cost him his job and effectively end his career? Perhaps the choice won’t be his, but his job most certainly depends on the outcome of a story created far outside what he could control.
It’s fitting that the Petrino story broke in perhaps the week where romance in sports is most prevalent. Opening Day in baseball (the real one, not the contrived Japan Series or the made for ESPN game) is an event that brings people together. Cincinnati is the unquestioned home of Opening Day, with schools closing and a parade winding through a revived downtown, but every baseball town has their own Opening Day tradition.
Baseball itself is a game of perceived romance, with generations of families taking in a game, Ken Burns documentaries, and the completely irrational adherence to traditions long since made irrelevant. Much of that romance is contrived and deceptive, that the game used to be better, that the smell of stale hot dogs and beer provides a magical awakening of the sense that cannot be found anywhere else. You and I both know that’s total bullshit. No, the true romance in baseball is the inherent boredom of the game. You go to a game and sit…and sit…and sit…watching grown men scratch their nuts more often than they run, hit, and throw. Attending a baseball game can be a tedious affair, but we do it knowing full well at some point, for a few brief seconds, magic will occur. I attended the Reds Central clinching win in 2010. I don’t remember the 8 innings of sheer nothing, I remember the three seconds between the time Jay Bruce swung the bat and the ball clearing the fence. That’s a pretty great act of romantic deception, something you only get at a ballpark, or with a mean case of blue balls at closing time at Tim’s.
This week also brings us perhaps the most romanticized sporting event of the year, The Masters. From all accounts, that should be bullshit. The Masters is an event put on by a comically elite group of people. Augusta National is the most selective club in America, and The Masters is its secret Skull and Bones initiation. They control what goes out to the masses, what is said, and the hype is completely driven by them talking about their own greatness. In just about any other aspect of life, we would laugh at those pricks and move on with our lives. But Augusta is different. The course may be the most visually stunning piece of inland property we have in this country, and the design of the holes creates brilliant theater that perfectly walks the fine line between risk and reward. There is nothing quite like the buzz created by the leading groups sweeping around Amen Corner and through the back nine on Sunday. Careers are made and broken, a simple “Yes Sir” can be transformed into the greatest broadcasting call of all time, and the world stands in awe of an ugly green colored jacket. The Masters is so delightfully romantic because year after year the hype is exceeded, and words rarely do it justice.
The Blackburn Review is a snarky, often times cynical site. But this week, go ahead and leave your cynicism at the door and enjoy the romance in The Masters and the start of baseball. On Monday we’ll get back to assholes getting hand jobs on motorcycles.