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Friday, May 29, 2015

New rules for  The Marshall Plan

COLUMN: Feel free to express any and all opinions regarding the suspension and subsequent rumors swirling around Ole Miss shooting guard Marshall Henderson.

Much has and much will be said and written, and that’s certainly to be expected given the man’s character and exposure. However, the following are the ground rules in which I must insist you follow. If you want to carry on about Henderson, go right ahead, but these are the laws of the land:

You’re not allowed to be offended at the reaction, and neither is Henderson.

I understand the irony here: The same media that thirsted to elevate Henderson specifically because of his theatrics throughout the season are now relishing his present troubles. It’s not fair, but it is and was entirely predictable.

Erin Andrews makes jokes about you mocking people? Doesn’t matter. This is your path – it’s neither right nor wrong to me personally, but it’s the path you’ve chosen. I don’t feel like it’s all that unbecoming to be a heelish character (it’s part of sports) but you sure as hell can’t act hurt when you’re called out for it.

Henderson is currently suspended. Fans outside the Ole Miss bubble get to make jokes. That’s reality after you Gator Chomp your way down press row on national TV (even though I was there and enjoyed such thoughtless bravado immensely).

You are not Marshall Henderson. Marshall Henderson is Marshall Henderson.

I refuse to fall into the trap of a certain subset of sports columnists – the personalized empathy route. I too once ran around Oxford being young and doing shady business with shady people. I too bucked at authority, stared at a potentially squandered future and laughed, and then went to the bar. I too committed actions that created the perception that I was an insolent, ignorant young 20-something.

But I am not Marshall. My fade away is awful, his is not. I have not lived his life but merely shared a handful of notably important experiences in the same town. Just because I know how my story ended doesn’t entitle me to proselytize at someone else. Besides, everyone hates a reformed sinner around the punch bowl.

You can’t refer to Marshall as simply “good” or “bad,” nor is he a “kid.”

No one is purely good or bad. We’re a wonderful fabric woven from both nobility and pettiness. Rarely is acceptable to describe a person in such an extreme. For example, Aaron Hernandez could very soon be qualified as “bad” for actions light years out of the scope of what surrounds Marshall Henderson.

And while you may not yet fill out the suit of adulthood while in college, you certainly wear its freedoms and liabilities. Henderson is not a kid. I bristle when folks call him that. Call him an idiot if you so choose, but understand that he’s more of a man than a child, Recognize also that often-difficult transitory phase he’s currently in.

There are no innocent parties involved in this. That means you, too.

Fans like you want wins. Media members like me want narratives. Basketball players want routes to the NBA and colleges want rosters that churn up NCAA Tournament revenue. Henderson is a woefully undersized pro prospect with a rap sheet. Ole Miss is a woefully underfunded basketball program that until Henderson’s arrival boasted one of the longest NCAA droughts of any BCS program in the country.

Perfect fit

The two needed each other, and guess what? They still do. Don’t kid yourself: Henderson arrived as a liability. Ole Miss took on that liability because it had to, not because its current coach wanted to. This player was in a particular set of circumstances and this program was suffering a particular malaise that made them right for each other financially. That’s not to say the kid’s being paid, but that this was his best option to ever one day earn a legit dollar shooting a basketball.

Oxford has loved every flick and jerk and gesture of Henderson’s, without ever admitting how much venom they’d spit if he was in Starkville or Baton Rogue. This town has done its part in this situation, too – turning Henderson and other highly visible current student athletes into pampered celebrities.

I have no fault with Henderson. I like him fundamentally, but I’m not much of a pearl-clutching traditionalist. I like to think I recognize the irony of a media that whines about not having interesting personalities to engage with and then, when a unique or even remotely off-kilter character shows up, we immediately go about eviscerating them.

Your opinion is your own, and entirely valid. Just please observe these rules.

— (July 16, 2013, Page 6)

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