Ryan Black commentary: Dorial Green-Beckham latest example of 'second chances' run amok

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 11, 2014 

Oklahoma added one of the top receivers in the country to its ranks last week.

But this wasn't a prospect who has yet to graduate high school. Instead, it was the ultra-talented but oft-troubled Dorial Green-Beckham, who was considered the nation's top player in the Class in 2012. A dominant force at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, Mo., Green-Beckham elected to stay in state, signing with Missouri. It took him time to adjust to the college game as a freshman, catching 28 passes for 395 yards and five touchdowns.

But last year he showed what all the fuss had been about, exploding for a breakout season — 59 receptions, 883 yards and 12 scores — as Missouri won the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division. Sure, Missouri lost 59-42 to Auburn in a frenetic, pinball-like SEC championship game, but no one could blame "DGB." The 6-foot-6, 225-pound specimen torched Auburn's secondary for 144 yards (on just six catches) and a pair of touchdowns, and that was even as he battled a shoulder injury suffered in the first quarter.

Even as he was flashing brilliance on the field, as so often seems to happen, Green-Beckham repeatedly put himself in bad situations when away from the gridiron.

He had two arrests related to marijuana during his time as a Tiger. But the final straw came in April, when Green-Beckham was investigated after a fellow Missouri student said the star receiver had forced open her apartment door as he was searching for his girlfriend.

The student also said Green-Beckham pushed her down a flight of at least four stairs; no charges were pressed, however, as the victims feared retaliation for incriminating a high-profile athlete.

It didn't take long for Missouri coach Gary Pinkel to come to a decision on Green-Beckham's future, as he dismissed his top receiver less than a week after the incident.

"This decision was made with the best interests of all involved in mind," Pinkel said in a statement at the time. "Dorial's priority going forward needs to be focusing on getting the help he needs. As we have all along, we will continue to do everything we can to assist Dorial and his family. We care deeply about Dorial and his well-being, but hopefully he can benefit from a fresh start."

That start will come in Norman, Okla., under the watchful eye of Bob Stoops and an adoring Sooner fan base.

Sure, one could say Green-Beckham deserves a second chance. Americans are nothing if not forgiving — and coaches in college sports are near the top of that list. As a rule, they believe in redemption and relish taking on reclamation projects, especially if said player could be the difference in winning a few more games every year.

Whether Green-Beckham should be granted a second chance isn't the point. If another school offers him a chance to play and continue his career, he should take it and (try to) make the most of it.

But here's the ugly truth: If it doesn't work at Oklahoma, well, it won't signal the end of anything but his tenure as a Sooner. He'll simply move on to the next stop and the next coach with the belief that Green-Beckham will clean up his act — and the new coach might add, "Have you seen what he can do with a football?"

People are mesmerized by uncanny, God-given ability. Green-Beckham has plenty to spare. In doing so, it masks any other flaws. Forget the issues he's had off the field — don't you remember what he can do with a football?

So hem and haw all you want about this being another example of athletes being put on a pedestal. Of athletes getting a free pass that wouldn't be afforded to a "normal student" given the same circumstances. Of athletes and the value and admiration they inspire to the point that it reportedly led two women who were assaulted to decide against bringing charges, lest they put themselves in harm's way.

Yes, by all means make those points, salient all.

It won't change anything.

As long as college athletics exist, there will always be captivating players who can't seem to get things in order away from the field. Green-Beckham is just the latest. More than anything else, he's a placeholder.

Another innately gifted player will get in trouble and dismissed, and another school will be waiting to welcome him with open arms. Critics can construct the same argument once more, centered around the importance placed on athletics. The cycle begins anew and repeats on a endless, infinite loop.

Undoubtedly, there are determined coaches convinced they can end the cycle. They would be foolish to give up on Green-Beckham and others like him — don't you recall what they can do with a football in their hands?

Here's a better question: What can they do when it's not?

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service