Bobby Petrino is a dick. Not just for that reason. Or that one. Or even that one. Today, it's because he's making our lives as Razorback fans difficult. It's really easy to hate a guy. And in sports, that's supposed to be part of the deal. You love or hate someone for nothing more than the jersey he's wearing. That's enough. Sports is most fun when it's black and white. No thinking involved. When Arkansas scores a big touchdown I erupt in pure joy. I don't worry about what idiotic thing the player might have said on twitter or keep track of arrest records when they're on the field. I like to pretend every Razorback on the field is D.J. Williams.
When Petrino found himself in quite the pickle last April, I was just as mad as everybody else. I'd cuss him, make derogatory jokes about him, and some of it I'd even do publicly. The hatred did begin to melt as the process went along, but the fervent irritation never left. That all culminated when watching the ESPN interview Petrino did that aired Thursday. (If you haven't seen it, ArkansasSports360.com has this handy-dandy transcript and video clip) The interview is just as frustrating as everything else because as badly as I want to accept his remorse (and part of it I do) I'm also aggravated as hell by the obvious PR ploy and apparent refusal to understand why this all happened.
There was a theme to the obviously well-rehearsed interview. Petrino doesn't understand how he made the mistakes he made. "I'm not exactly sure how that happened...How could I do this? How could this happen?...I don't understand how I could do it...I'm trying to put my finger on why." When Schad asked him what was his biggest weakness as a person, Petrino paused and said, "That's a tough question right there" before reverting back to "How could I possibly do this?"
We all know the answer to those questions. We knew it in April. Jeff Long even referred to it in his press conference when he fired Petrino. Hubris. Arrogance. Believing he's bigger than the program. The whole reason Petrino, as the hands down most famous face in Arkansas, believed he could have an affair with a hot blonde former volleyball player for several months, was because he's BMFP. And even if he did get caught, they'd never fire him, right? They like winning, right? Hell, Houston Nutt would've held a press conference screaming "21 and 5! 21 and 5!" like his infamous "50 years!" rant at Ole Miss.
So, please, Petrino, spare us the whole southern belle complaining of a case of the vapors routine. "Why I declare, I just cannot believe I found myself in such an entanglement!" We all know exactly how this happened. Petrino was one of the most famous, powerful, wealthy, and popular people in the state of Arkansas. People are attracted to that regardless of what you look like. If Petrino is the head coach of another football-hungry school, he'll be the Big Man On Campus there as well. Even if he's able to resist the women that he's sure to encounter on any college campus he's coaching, he'll still have to resist the other various temptations that come with power and fame. And if he's not willing to recognize that's the problem, well, that's a problem.
I can see how Team Petrino Comeback would think "How could I possibly do this?" is a good tactic. It doesn't attempt to make excuses, and it implies "I'm really a good guy. I had a brain fart. I don't know how that happened. Oops. Let's move on." But it doesn't acknowledge the core of the problem. Petrino admitted he cheated on his wife. It's good that he did that. But he can't pretend he doesn't know why. Knowing why is what will save him next time he faces a similar temptation. If he doesn't know why, does he really know the line between right and wrong, other than cheating on his wife and hiring his mistress is wrong? Does he know that leaving his team by hanging notes in their lockers is wrong? Does he know secretly meeting with boosters from other schools about currently filled coaching positions is wrong? Does he know cussing opposing coaches from across the field is wrong? He has to understand that his arrogance is not just a sex thing. It can fully encompass his entire personality. That's what he needs to work on. And hopefully he is.
The other main talking point of the interview is acknowledging how badly it made him feel that he hurt is family. You'd have to be a pretty big cynic to not feel like this was legitimate. I don't think Petrino went to any acting classes in Montana to study crying on demand. I believe he is genuinely remorseful, and reliving the episode is clearly painful to him (Also part of the reason I don't think he'll go to Tennessee. He'd have to relive this any time the Vols played Arkansas. He doesn't want to deal with that.)
And that is what makes this hard. It's very rare for someone to be truly remorseful and not gain sympathy. There are a lot of Razorback fans that have no problem with admitting they are willing to take Petrino back. And if I'm being totally honest, there's a part of me that feels like that too. Even if I think, and I do, that Arkansas would've taken a dip after 2012 even if Petrino stayed on (I don't think he liked recruiting. And his hire of Jessica Dorrell in an important recruiting role is evidence he didn't do everything he could to help recruiting. That's an angle of this experience that doesn't get exposure enough.), part of me would like to see him out there. I understand he won't be back, for sure as long as Jeff Long is AD, and I have no problem with that. But I can't feel pure hatred for the guy. When Nutt was announced at Ole Miss the day or so after he was fired at Arkansas, I was really mad at him. It was simple and fun. With Petrino, that's not the case.
Ultimately, Razorback fans are left like the Lonely Island guys in the "Jack Sparrow" video. Things were going well, and it could've been really cool, but Petrino went and screwed everything up. Now we've just got to deal with it.
Doc Harper is the editor of ArkansasExpats.com and is a regular contributor to ArkansasSports360.com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow his thoughts and observations on Twitter @doc_harper.