By PAUL NEWBERRY, Associated Press
Bobby Petrino and Ozzie Guillen both have a history of foolish behavior.
That narcissistic lack of judgment finally caught up with them.
But the comparisons stop there. When the Scum-o-Meter is tallied, Petrino comes up the biggest loser in a faceoff against Guillen. That's why if you had pick which one would lose his job — the Arkansas coach or the Miami Marlins manager — it wasn't even close.
Guillen started a flippant lovefest with Fidel Castro while managing a baseball team that just happens to play in a city where the Cuban dictator is Public Enemy No. 1.
Petrino lied to those who employ him as a college football coach and supposed leader of young men after he crashed his motorcycle — specifically, the part about his mistress-slash-subordinate coming along for the ride.
He had to go.
Though Guillen made the "worst mistake" of his life, he is simply a motormouth, someone who lacks any discernible filter between the thoughts in his politically incorrect mind and the words that come spilling out. Sure, we understand the outrage in the Cuban-American community over the Marlins manager expressing his "love" and "respect" for Castro's survival skills, but his major crime was a staggering lack of sensitivity.
"It was a personal mistake of the thing I had in my mind and what I said," said Guillen, a native of Venezuela. "What I wanted to say in Spanish, I said in English in a wrong way."
Petrino, on the other hand, could offer no such excuses.
He got the heave-ho for a laundry list of deceit, deception and outright lying about his relationship with a woman half his age.
Petrino has a well-documented track record of looking out for no one but himself, leaving behind a trail of bitter feelings and broken lives from Louisville to Auburn to Atlanta.
Now, add Arkansas to the list.
"I've taken a lot of criticism in the past. Some deserved, some not deserved," Petrino said in a statement issued shortly after his dismissal at a hastily called evening news conference. "This time, I have no one to blame but myself."
Well, that's progress.
But it's going to take more than mere words for Petrino to repair the slimy reputation he'll carry into his next coaching job (and, rest assured, he'll get another chance, probably within a year).
This is a 51-year-old coach who was lugging more baggage than a bellboy even before he wrecked his motorcycle a couple of weekends ago, lied to both his athletic director and the media that he was alone on the bike, then came clean just 20 minutes before the police report revealed the ugly truth: a 25-year-old woman he had fast-tracked for an athletic department job was along for the ride.
Oh, and by the way, the two had been involved in an inappropriate relationship for a "significant" amount of time and Petrino, who is married with four kids, had given her a $20,000 "gift."
"The simplest response I have is: I'm sorry," Petrino said. "These two words seem very inadequate. But that is my heart. All I have been able to think about is the number of people I've let down by making selfish decisions."
His wife and children are at the head of the list, as they should be.
But there's plenty of carnage in his wake.
While coaching at Louisville, Petrino secretly interviewed for a job Tommy Tuberville already had at Auburn, leaving others to take the heat while he slipped away unscathed. Then, he abandoned the Atlanta Falcons with three games left in his only season as an NFL coach, bolting for Arkansas in the middle of the night while saying goodbye to his players with an oh-so-heartless form letter.
With whatever scruples he had sent into total hibernation, Petrino quickly turned the Razorbacks into a national powerhouse. A year ago, they might've been the third-best team in the country, their only losses to national champion Alabama and runner-up LSU. This season, led by returning stars Tyler Wilson and Kniles Davis, Arkansas seems poised to win it all.
Just one thing.
Petrino won't be along for this ride.
"That's karma," former Falcons defensive back Lawyer Milloy told the New York Times. "Just because he knows Xs and Os, that doesn't mean he's a nice person."
Guillen is much more lovable, even with a dubious track record that includes blurting out a homophobic insult and expressing his admiration for thorn-in-the-side-of-America Hugo Chavez.
Admit it, that's why we liked the guy.
Finally, someone who spoke his mind and seemed immune to any potential consequences. He was the anti-Michael Jordan, a sports figure who didn't stop to consider whether he was hurting his image or losing out on endorsements or potentially offending his employers.
He certainly wasn't thinking of the ramifications when he said to Time, "I love Fidel Castro," then, amending himself somewhat, added, "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still here."
Foolish words, to be sure, especially since he now works in a city where millions of Cubans fled to escape the persecution of Castro's often-brutal regime.
But Guillen doesn't deserve the same fate as Petrino.
The Marlins manager never said he agrees with Castro's policies or even delved into a touchy political issue: Whether a half-century of giving a cold shoulder to Cuba while dealing with countries that have done things as bad or worse to their own people is still a useful policy. This sounded more like amazement that a geriatric dictator has managed to hang on to power, even while faced with a stifling U.S. economic boycott, assassination plots that have bordered on the ludicrous, not to mention the fall of his Communist backers in Eastern Europe.
Actually, with a slightly different intro, Guillen could've been expressing the frustration of every U.S. president since Kennedy, not to mention those millions of Cuban expatriates who long to return to their homeland right across the Straits of Florida.
Here's hoping Guillen keeps his job while learning a valuable lesson about his adopted homeland: The First Amendment espouses a lofty ideal, but it's not a blank check.
As everyone from the Dixie Chicks to Rush Limbaugh has discovered, that clause they added to the Constitution works both ways. If someone doesn't like what we say, they have a right to take to the streets, demanding that we be fired or suspended or boycotted. Plenty of Cuban-Americans did just that, threatening never to attend another Marlins game as long as Guillen is the team's manager.
But those who shout the loudest should remember this: They left Cuba in the name of freedom, for the right to speak their mind without fear of persecution. Now, they're trying to get someone fired for doing the very same thing.
Seems a bit un-American, don't you think?
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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