If the Razorbacks ever make it to the SEC Championship football game in Atlanta under Bobby Petrino, I hope there's someone on his staff with head coaching experience. That's because I'm not sure officials will let the former Falcons coach back into the city.
I've lived in Atlanta for just more than 10 years, and rarely - actually, probably never - have I seen its sports fans so thoroughly pissed at someone. He is, without a doubt, Public Enemy Number One right now. And if I gave something resembling a sh*t about the Falcons, I'm sure I'd think he's a big 'ole jerk too. I may not feel Falcons fans' pain - but I understand it.
Having said that, the intensity of the reaction has been, at times, amusing. On talk radio, that noted bastion of restrained language and balanced perspective, a local host called Petrino "a despicable human being." One of his co-hosts, foam presumably circling his mouth, remarked that the new Hog coach is "not a stable man." Callers echoed similar sentiments.
The city's biggest daily newspaper didn't pull any punches, either. Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz writes, "Bobby Petrino. Not a man. He is running like a coward." Meanwhile, Schultz's colleague Terence Moore says, "Petrino ... is getting too much blame for this franchise threatening to drop off the face of the earth again. Petrino didn’t hire Petrino. [Owner Arthur] Blank and [General Manager Rich] McKay did. All Petrino did was [be] Petrino, and this is what Petrino does: He lies, and then he leaves."
Bobby Petrino's past and his departure from the Falcons certainly warrant much of the criticism aimed at him, and I am not without some misgivings about the hire. This is our Saban moment, in a way: We've brought in a big-name mercenary, and we should go into the next era of Razorback football with our eyes wide open. If/when Bobby leaves in a few years and doesn't show much regard for our feelings on the way out, we don't have any right to complain. (Now if he doesn't win, we most certainly have a right to complain.)
Still, having conceded that, much of the caterwauling, particularly on the part of national media outlets such as ESPN, seems over the top. This ain't finishing school, and I'm continually amused by people who treat it as such. Major college and pro sports are rough-and-tumble businesses, populated by big-time a-holes who'd don't often act in the classiest of ways. Call me cynical, but I have a hard time getting too worked up over coaches behaving badly.
Bobby Petrino may be a rascal, but he's our rascal now.