My Thoughts on Jameis Winston: College Football’s Most Polarizing Player

In the spirit of full disclosure let me tell you this: I am a Florida State alumni. I am a huge Florida State football fan. However, I am able to put that aside and speak rationally about our teams leader… for the most part.

Lately, it’s gotten to the point that I can’t wear any FSU gear out in public here in Atlanta without some degenerate [insert SEC team here] fan yelling something about crab legs, or rape at me. It is beyond incredible the intensity of feelings Jameis Winston has been able to stir up in people. Everyone who is not an FSU supporter is so convinced that Jameis is the Anti-Christ of college football that a small antic like the referee incident from this past weekend, where Jameis ‘politely relocated’ an official, will often times over shadow the game itself. Twitter exploded literally (figuratively) seconds after that aired. The response was massive. Don’t believe me? Go to twitter and just type in his name. It was a Kardashian level response. But why? Why does he garner this much criticism? He generates way more interest than Johnny Manziel ever did, in fact, I’ll go so far as to say more than any football player in the last 10 years. The answer might not be as multi-sided as you may think. Regardless, we have to acknowledge that confirmation bias and the human need for a narrative are real things in today’s media culture.

Confirmation bias, also called myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, or prioritize information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses (thanks, Wikipedia). So for example, if the first time you ever heard Jameis’s name was attached to the supposed rape allegations, you are strongly inclined to view every following event as evidence to support your way of thinking and feeling about him. The media has picked up on this and in a stroke of marketing genius they have constructed a narrative around Jameis and FSU that would rival an episode of Law and Order. Jameis (the antagonist) protected by the Jimbo Fisher and the University (the conspirators), and then in a stroke of real true genius, they have given every team we play the chance end our reign of tyranny over NCAA Football (protagonist). I actually really have to applaud them for this. This is why every primetime FSU football game this year has shattered ratings records. Viewership is at an all-time high because every good story needs a villain or else it’s just pointless. Like when your father tries to tell you about his new lawn mower. You just don’t care, because it’s a damn lawn mower. Now make the guy who sold your dad the lawn mower a total jerk, and sprinkle in two or three people your dad had to fight off to get the lawn mower. Now we got ourselves a story!

With that being said, my argument for a new way of looking at this guy is simple. It’s a glass house/stone throw situation. If we can take a step back and remember some of the stupid things we did in college at 20 years old all of a sudden all this brouhaha around Jameis starts to fall into perspective. Did he walk out of Publix without paying for his crab legs? He sure did. Now think back to your college career. How many road signs did you have in your apartment? Did you ever steal beer from a party? Even more applicable, ever put something in the bottom part of your shopping cart and just plain forget it was there? I did that last week. In the scheme of things, nobody should really care, like, AT ALL. Did Jameis yell something vulgar in the student union? You bet he did. However, I dropped seven F-bombs while writing this column and I consider that a light day for me. I’ve cleaned up my speech pattern a lot since college and my mom still tells me I have potty mouth every time I see her. Did he sign those autographs? Who knows? Nobody’s ever wanted my autograph so I can’t really draw a comparison here.

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Now you are inevitably trembling, and wanting to scream into your monitor, “But he needs to be held to a higher standard!”, or whatever version of that retort you have. To that I say, bullshit. You cannot claim he needs to live above the noise and debauchery of college just because you see him on Sports Center every week. He is a college student and it should be expected that he will do all things college students do. News flash, those things aren’t always going to your liking up there in your ivory tower of judgment. I acted, crude, dishonest, carelessly, idiotically, and with total disregard for most other people in college. I am in no way proud of that, but I am also willing to bet you did the same. We all did. Payton Manning, the golden child of NFL players and pizza aficionado, pulled down his pants and put his bare ass and taint on a female trainers face (true story). Where was the media outrage then? Why didn’t people take to the streets in protest? For starters it was a different time, but also because everyone understood that college kids are one small step away from being declared mentally challenged when it comes to social graces. Kind of like how every picture of you from freshman year features the middle finger. It’s just part of growing up.

Jameis Winston supporting his teammate Sean McGuire during their 23–17 win over Clemson

Now we live in the age of Facebook and Twitter and even the lowest D-list celebrities can’t sneeze in public without someone trolling them. Whether you choose to believe it or not, we live in a click based society. The most controversial stories will always get pushed to the forefront of our news feeds. Think about this: He is twenty years old. He won a national championship AND the Heisman at 19, and he has never lost a game as a Florida State Seminole. I mean, shit, an accomplishment for me at that age was not getting arrested at spring break. Even after writing that, I can honestly say to myself, “Yeah maybe he does need to get taken down a peg or two”. But seriously, who better to personify as a villain than the seemingly invincible? It’s a tale as old as time, to quote Disney’s most beloved porcelain housekeeper. I will leave you with this, next time the conversation turns to Jameis Winston, will you judge him immediately, or will you think back to your college days and realize we are all cut from the same collegiate cloth?

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