The longer you watch sports, you see that most any sin short of murder is eventually forgivable. Most every coach and player who screws up resurfaces somewhere, usually a place of lower stature.
When Bobby Petrino was fired by Arkansas in April 2012, most fans assumed he'd get to coach somewhere in 2013. The big fear is that it would be at an SEC rival like Tennessee or Auburn or Missouri back when everyone figured he'd be getting the axe.
When all those schools passed and he ended up at Western Kentucky, it seemed natural. They were a small, relatively insignificant Sun Belt school Arkansas wouldn't have to deal with. Even if he wasn't there for long, and someone bigger took a chance on him after he served his metaphorical sentence, fine. That's the accepted way things work.
But Louisville is different because Louisville isn't some school that's unfamiliar with him. They've seen Petrino first-hand and dealt with everything that comes along with him. They mired in ineptitude in the years following his departure. There were articles written about how badly programs suffer after he leaves. It's all something they're personally familiar with, and they're still giving him another shot.
In essence, they're forgiving him. And that's what scares me as an Arkansas fan.
While Arkansas kept losing in 2013 and Auburn kept winning, the chorus of "we shouldda hired Gus!" was loud and it was constant. Even though there wasn't anywhere near the outpouring of support for Malzahn's hire in 2012 as these people would like you to believe, the refrain was everywhere this year, whether Malzahn even would have taken the job or not.
However, in 2012, there was a lot of vocal support for Petrino. People sold t-shirts outside Razorback games. Message boards and twitter and radio shows were filled with people wanting to bring Bobby back. As we wrote when Petrino was initially fired and there was debate over who would give him another job, it's a lot easier to have integrity when you're 21-5 and expecting another good year than when you're sitting at home during bowl season.
People want to win. And they're not patient about it. How will Arkansas fans react if and when the Razorbacks continue to struggle while Louisville, who forgave Petrino for everything - including things done to them - wins?
If the "we should've hired Gus" people were loud in 2013, the "Bring Back Bobby" people will be even louder, putting more pressure on Bielema and making life miserable for Razorback fans everywhere.
Of course it will all be for naught. Jeff Long will never hire Petrino back. Whether he should rehire him or not, no one has gotten more mileage out of firing Petrino than Long, whose subsequent appointment to the chair of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, AD of the Year award, and considerations for AD jobs at bigger schools (and the salary bumps that followed) were all certainly influenced by the move.
None of that will stop the angry fans sick of losing.
And that's unfortunate for Bielema, who's spending his time trying to rebuild a football program left in the ditch somewhere off a highway in the Ozarks. Bielema spent much of 2013 speaking to Razorback fans, explaining what he was trying to do, making jabs at Petrino and the motorcycle incident, even showing that he would need to basically re-teach basic skills to the offensive line because their fundamentals were so flawed after being the previous system.
There will always be fans who believe 21-5 would've continued indefinitely, who think the stars on the 2010 and 2011 teams were mostly lightly recruited players that Petrino developed because he's a great coach, who didn't see 2013 would be a rebuilding year even if Petrino never left. I don't know if those are the same fans screaming about Malzahn, but the despondency all has the same effect.
We already knew Bielema was at a point where he needed good things to happen. Pretty soon, that may even be more so. It's always difficult for Razorback coaches to succeed when the fan base is split. The crying will only get louder with ever loss.
I don't know if Bielema or Long will actually feel any extra pressure if Petrino is forgiven and wins. But I have a hard time imagining the fan base will ignore it, at least if Arkansas keeps losing - and the Hogs won't be picked to be much better in 2014.
Ultimately, it's about our sanity. If someone else had wanted to give him a fresh start, fine. But for Louisville to give him his old job back, that makes things complicated. And we don't like complicated.
Please win, Bret.