Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sutton's Trouble No Laughing Matter

I’ve made fun of Eddie Sutton thousands of times over the past few years while watching the Oklahoma State Cowboys play basketball. When trying to figure out how he could have possibly seen a play differently than the fans and refs I’ve piped, “He must be drunk!” as he is arguing with the refs. When he bowed his head in his hands I quickly noted that he looked hung-over. Being an avid Sooner fan I never passed up the opportunity to crack jokes at the man who faithfully sat on the bench for the orange and black.

Today Eddie Sutton will be officially charged by the Payne County Sheriff’s office in his DUI case stemming from his auto accident last Friday night. Suddenly I find myself feeling bad for the man I used to love to make fun of.

As the details of Sutton’s auto accident unfold and the mystery of what Coach Sutton actually consumed before getting behind the wheel solved, there are questions that need answered.

What was he thinking? It’s not like he coaches at one of the states smaller universities. Eddie Sutton is a legend in the state of Oklahoma. He is an icon everywhere including Norman. Everyone knew that Sutton’s time was limited in Stillwater but after leaving Fayetteville Arkansas and Lexington Kentucky under scrutiny this was his chance to go out a hero.

Eddie Sutton is a class act and the people of Oklahoma will always love him but this mistake is inexcusable. I don’t mean to belittle his back pain or ailments but poor judgment came into play here and it hurt more than Sutton and the lady he creamed with his Dodge.

Who bought the bottle for Eddie? OSU fans are fighting mad over this and everyone loves Eddie too much to take it out on him! However, in a town the size of Stillwater a man of Eddie Sutton’s stature and past doesn’t walk into a liquor store and buy a pint. If the Cowboys find the perpetrator they are likely to string him up from an oak tree and have Pistol Pete give him 39 lashes.

What was Eddie Sutton allowed to drive? Forget the fact that the man was in so much back pain he had trouble standing up straight. Witnesses actually saw him stumble and fall in the parking lot of Gallagher Iba Arena before he drove off. THEY SAW HIM STUMBLE AND FALL!!! Why did they not intervene there? Did they just stand around looking at the “drunk guy” and laugh at him? It would have been too easy to stop this accident before it even happened.

Why do Oklahoma State fans take Eddie Sutton’s troubles as a personal attack? I was driving with a buddy of mine Friday night when we heard the news of the auto accident on the radio. I immediately said to my friend, who is an OSU fan, “Man, you know he was driving drunk.”

He took it in stride knowing that I was joking and our conversation quickly went to hoping that Eddie was okay. The truth is that many people have speculated (more seriously than me) that something was wrong with Eddie and he was possibly impaired before the truth of the situation came out on Monday and Wednesday nights. There were just as many insults hurled out by loyal Pokes fans as there were speculations. How dare anyone suggest that this man had fallen off the wagon? What a horrible group of cold hearted, insensitive bunch of (fill in the blank) you guys are.

Why are some Sooner fans reveling in this man’s nightmare? Is it because you hate him so much? Is it because you can now take a new hurtful dig at the Cowboys? Newsflash this didn’t happen to a coach in Texas it happened in our state, the Sooner state. Eddie Sutton has done more for OSU and the state of Oklahoma than any other coach in school history. After personally calling every family of the victims of the tragic Oklahoma State plane crash in January of 2001 Coach Sutton earned tremendous amounts of respect and became an Ambassador of the state.

I never made it a habit to cheer for Coach Sutton but my heart goes out to him in this. I love to see my Sooners give the Cowboys a pounding but I don’t love seeing anyone’s life fall apart.

Finally, why are so few people not seeing the miracle in all of this? No one was seriously hurt in an accident that could have killed people and a coach’s dark secret was revealed. How was that a miracle you ask?

What is better, a wreck where no one is injured or a coach who is loved by the university students and fan base drinking his life away? The latter definitely could have happened to Sutton if the wreck didn’t happen to bring this all into light. As a result of the wreck Coach Sutton has acknowledged he has an alcohol problem and is checking himself into the Betty Ford Clinic.

Now Cowboys fans have a new reason to cheer for their coach. They’ll root him on as he recovers from his addiction and regains his health and surprising enough there will be plenty of Sooner fans, not laughing, but cheering for Sutton right alongside them.