Granted, there's not always fire, but odds are something is getting way too hot. And if the smoke keeps popping up in the same place, eventually people are going to investigate further to find out what the hell is going on.
Such would seem to be the case with Jameis Winston, star quarterback for Florida State. Winston was accused of a sexual assault, as in rape, a couple years back. Though never officially charged, the case hasn't been fully resolved to this day.
Some claim the local police themselves botched the investigation at best, or covered up incriminating evidence at worst. Sure, local cops and prosecutors in big-time college football towns are likely fans too, but if this is true, it could well explain some of Winston's actions since. And let's face it, if they were hiding evidence then, after almost two years it's likely buried so deep now Indiana Jones and Lara Croft couldn't find it with the entire US Army Corps at their disposal. It also certainly wouldn't be the first time corrupt cops and prosecutors played fast and loose with the evidence, but usually it's the other way around. They fabricate or hold back evidence in the pursuit of getting convictions -- not letting an alleged "perp" continue to "walk".
Perhaps Winston thinks he's above it all and can get away with just about anything because he's a star jock. In and of itself, swiping an arm load of crab legs from a supermarket wouldn't normally be considered a big deal. Nor would standing up on a table in a school cafeteria and yelling a vulgar sexual phrase. Lots of kids do dumb stuff like petty shoplifting and saying things they shouldn't.
But one would think that after someone "skated" on the very serious potential consequences of a sexual assault charge, they would learn their lesson and straighten up. Had that played out differently, some things would have happened that didn't, and others would not have happened that did.
This is not to assume guilt or innocence either way, but consider the hypothetical ramifications if Winston would have gone to trial and been found guilty of rape. Star prep QB or not, his butt would have been sent off to prison for many years. He would not have even played at FSU last year, let alone winning the Heisman. And without him, it's likely a fair statement to say the Seminoles wouldn't have won the national championship. In this scenario, when and if Winston got out of prison, the riches of the NFL would not await him (if indeed it does now -- opinions vary). He would have been a registered sex offender for life. Good luck getting a job and finding a place to live, let alone making millions and having a mansion.
Just recently, Winston has been associated with taking money for signing autographs. Again, in and of itself, who cares? It was always a dumb rule anyway. But added to all the other stuff, a pattern has seemingly emerged. A few words come to mind. Scofflaw. Incorrigible. Even habitual. But it's tough to justify any of those considering Jameis Winston has yet to be found guilty of a single crime. On the official record books, he remains clean as the proverbial whistle. Still, when you keep seeing the same guy walking away from smoke, it should come as no great surprise public perception will start associating him with fire.
That's the part Jameis Winston apparently still fails to comprehend. He knows he's a great quarterback, and a pretty good baseball player too. He also knows his Seminoles have a very good shot at repeating as national champions. As long as he's playing. What he doesn't get is how fast and far his own personal stock is falling in the eyes of many. Given the recent rash of "episodes" with NFL players, the league, and its constituent teams, are hyper-sensitive about taking on another player that has perceived character issues. Commissioner Roger Goodell has found himself on the hot seat from various quarters lately over how he handled, or didn't handle certain situations. And as a group, it's likely also a fair statement to say the NFL owners are a rather conservative bunch. Unlike the late Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders, the last thing one of these billionaires wants these days is to draft a player that has a past littered with red flags, only to see that smoke become a raging inferno that not only embarrasses their franchise, but they owe millions of contractual dollars to.
But for right now, Jameis Winston continues to skate along. And that's the thing. Since he arrived at FSU, the Seminoles have yet to lose a game, including winning the above-mentioned national championship last year. This Saturday they'll get a good test when #6 Notre Dame visits. But they'll be favored and likely win again.
And as long as the Seminoles keep winning, chances are the local yokels in charge of pursuing investigations that would land an average college student in big trouble will continue to look the other way.
In the opinion of yours truly, the best thing that could happen in the big picture is for FSU to not only get beaten, but soundly, and fall out of the national championship picture. You just KNOW there are many that vote on such things just itching for the chance to drop them down in the polls. Good grief, FSU still hasn't lost a game, and remain reigning champs, but the pollsters have already elevated Mississippi State -- that's right -- MISSISSIPPI STATE -- to the #1 spot. Unbelievable. That cowbell thing has gotten out of control.
Nevertheless, Jameis Winston is going to have to grow up sooner or later. Better for him to get knocked off his pedestal soon, and go about rehabbing his image, not so much as a football player, but as a man. There's still time, but it likely won't happen as long as the 'Noles keep rolling and he gets a free pass for his "indiscrepancies" along the way.
Or maybe he's one of those unfortunate few that will never grow up. If so, when he leaves the protective cocoon of Tallahassee, methinks he's in for a rude awakening in the real world.
And that could get very ugly for young Mr. Winston. Because in the real world, even if an NFL team gives him a shot -- no given -- he'll be just another number. Produce or you're gone. Straighten up or welcome to the wonderful world of the jurisprudence system.
And they don't care about Heismans.