The offensive coordinator appears complacent. It’s a rare sight. He’s smiling. Peacock postured, and certain. His pride is so pronounced that even the defensive coordinator – whose affinity for humanity seldom prompts insight – is able to immediately understand that something good has happened to his colleague.
“You’re in a good mood.”
The offensive coordinator doesn’t hear him.
“I said, ‘You’re in a good mood.’”
“What’s that? Sorry.”
“You look like you’re feelin’ good. What’s goin’ on?”
“Oh, yeah. I think I did it.”
“I invented the perfect play.”
The seeming lunacy of the statement doesn’t escape the defensive coordinator. He doesn’t know how to respond. He respects his colleague, but his claim is ridiculous.
“Oh yeah? Let me see it.”
Still dreamy, as though something mesmerizing is occurring in the distance, the offensive coordinator hands over his playbook. The defensive coordinator takes it, looks at the page, rests his finger on his mouth, twice stops himself from speaking and proceeds to not do anything for several seconds. The offensive coordinator continues his gaze toward the horizon.
“This is incredible.” The defensive coordinator can hardly believe what he’s seeing. “We have to run it. All the time.”
The two coaches call their players together. They line up. Even though the defensive coordinator knows exactly what the play will be, he can’t stop it. The offense scores a touchdown. It’s perfect.
“We have to try this again.”
They do, but a funny thing happens. As the ball is hiked, the right tackle slips and the defensive tackle is able to break through his block and sack the quarterback.
The offensive coordinator is disappointed, but he understands. Nothing can be absolutely perfect. It was probably a little bit foolish on his part to believe it was. The defensive coordinator is relieved. He’s proud of his colleague for inventing such an amazing play, but this first bit of failure means he’s not required to alter his worldview.
They run the play again. This time, a tight end fails to block a pass-rusher and the defense once again gets to the quarterback before he can fire the ball off. The next time, all the blocks work, but the quarterback mistimes his throw and it sails incomplete. On and on it goes. The defense begins picking up on ways they can interfere, and the offense doesn’t adapt due to the arrogance inherent to believing one’s operations to be foolproof.
You see, the success of a system is sometimes dependent on the success of every element within that system. When one offensive lineman fails, the entire play is busted. Likewise, when a receiver overruns his route or the quarterback is off his mark, even the best designed play will fall apart and not succeed in what it is designed to accomplish.
This season in Tallahassee, Florida, we saw a quarterback who seldom failed. The 19-year-old freshman for Florida State University who red-shirted last year and became starting quarterback this year, has led his undefeated Seminoles to the ACC Championship, and quite likely an opportunity to play in the National Championship game in the new year. He was named ACC Player of the of the Year. He is the first underclassman to receive the award in ACC history, and he’s been the most dominant player in college football this season. Referring to Jameis Winston as a candidate for the Heisman Trophy seems understated.
Up until recently, Winston also happened to be under investigation for sexual battery against a former classmate. On the night of December 7th, 2012, a woman called police and reported that she had been sexually assaulted, later identifying Winston as the culprit. Evidence gathered the day of the incident matched Winston’s DNA, but this wasn’t collected by the police until just last month when the investigation was reopened only when the accusation was made public.
Winston’s lawyer, Tim Jansen, said that his client had consensual sex with the accuser, a contention that the woman’s family vehemently denies. They also claim that a police investigator warned their lawyer that pursuing allegations against Winston would subject her client to public scorn. They were told that Tallahassee is a “big football town, and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.” The victim’s family went so far as to suggest that the local police – who didn’t immediately collect DNA evidence from the accused – conducted a halfhearted investigation because of Winston’s status at Florida State.
Meanwhile, authorities claim that they tried to work the case, but were met with constant resistance from the accuser, and on Thursday afternoon, after concluding their investigation, they announced that Jameis Winston would not be charged with sexual assault. According to State attorney William Meggs – who attended Florida State – the evidence that was collected wouldn’t result in a reasonable chance of conviction.
This explanation doesn’t exactly leave room for a whole lot of fist-pumps and high-fives among anyone with a conscience. Other details were released including the woman’s “foggy” version of what transpired, her blood alcohol level, the DNA of another sexual partner and evidence of multiple people in the room at the time of the alleged sexual assault. Depending on your bias, these details only serve to strengthen your opinion of what happened one way or the other.
We understand the assumption of innocence before the judgment of guilt to be a worthy value. It’s a mainstay in our system of justice. However, earlier this year, we saw in Steubenville, Ohio, how systemic bias and purposeful oversight can let the guilty get away without punishment. The system may look perfect in the playbook, but it’s flawed in as much as it relies on flawed individuals to operate it.
We accept this discrepancy more easily than we imagine, and that’s why the belief that all accused are innocent until proven guilty will forever remain in the realm of the ideal – like the perfect offensive play. Nonetheless, we can’t accept accusations as proof of crime even if – deep down – we don’t accept that the alleged perpetrator of a crime is innocent.
Balancing these two perspectives is incredibly conflicting. We’re simultaneously aware that factors beyond the truth can motivate accusations, and that the system for finding the truth is dependent on fallible individuals – all with motivations of their own. Yet, for our own sense of justice we attempt to navigate this imperfect playing field. The results in situations like this will never satisfy that sense.