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Monday, April 22, 2024

Garrett Tyler and Jack Berry appear to have nothing to do with Tony Joiner. But there are moral lessons to be learned from Gators athletes leaving their sport and a football player's run-in with the law.

More on that a little later.

In the meantime, I'm told there were death threats surrounding poor Stanley Forron, property manager of Watson's Towing, unless he dropped charges against Joiner. I knew people were upset about the incident before the Louisiana State University game, but threatening to kill someone over a football game? That's blackmailing.

What would have happened if someone other than Joiner were there on that fateful day? What if it were Percy Harvin? What if it were even, by happenstance, Tim Tebow?

I can see orange-and-blue-clad fans choosing the player over a possible 4-8 season. Hundreds of angry calls would swell to thousands. Angry mobs would run amok all over the city.

OK, since you're so nice, what if it were Florida State University quarterback Xavier Lee?

Oops, I forgot. Neutral, law-abiding Gainesville citizens would want the bad guys locked up. That's how the legal system is supposed to work. Sadly, The Gator Nation got exactly what it wanted from its collective whining. A captain no more, Joiner went onto the field for several plays, and the Gators still lost. In that regard, LSU's last-second victory can be seen as a fitting punishment.

The law and the media can tolerate the antics of celebrities to an extent. Michael Vick was in trouble throughout his time with the Atlanta Falcons, but when federal agents discovered he was a leader in a dog-fighting ring, his career took a dive. In the 1960s and '70s, OJ Simpson was a Heisman Trophy winner and a future Hall of Famer. But today, people remember him for his murder trial, not his sports career.

Tyler and Berry understood that there was a lot more to their careers than the Gators uniform. They selflessly gave up the opportunity to play not only because it was best for them, but also because it was best for the team. As seniors, they helped set a positive example for the younger players on the roster - a significant detail, given that Walter Hodge is the only other upperclassman on the team.

Even Danny Wuerffel understood his role outside of sports. He retired from the NFL earlier than normal to work full time for Desire Street Ministries, a charity devoted to helping the poor in New Orleans.

The lessons from this week and last must not be overlooked. Yes, winning is great, but sports are about much more than wins, titles and trophies. Even with back-to-back basketball titles and last year's football title, there will always be schools with more of one or the other.

One last thing must be remembered in the wake of back-to-back losses and dashed title dreams: A national championship is a reward given at the end of one season, not at the beginning of another one.

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Vincent Gagliano is a sophomore majoring in physics. His column appears on Wednesdays.

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