Morning Brew: Extra points on today's Venoy Overton column
Posted by Jerry Brewer
"Yesterday" by The Beatles
This song has been covered more than 3,000 times for a reason. It's a sad tune about a breakup, but it can also be taken as a loss of innocence or even hopefulness. It's nostalgic because it makes you feel the present will never measure up to the past.
My mood this morning is probably hidden somewhere in Paul McCartney's acoustic guitar ballad. I'm a naturally positive person, but it's still pretty sad when I reflect upon Tuesday's news about Venoy Overton's legal situation, how it has disrupted the Washington men's basketball team for months, how it put his coach in a can't-win spot and how it lingers as a disturbing, disgusting black eye for a program that otherwise acts in a first-class manner.
It's a sad day because, once something like this is revealed, there's no fixing it. The damage is done. The Huskies will recover, but it'll take time. Overton, who has been suspended for the Pac-10 tournament after being charged with furnishing alcohol to a 16-year-old girl, is a senior who will play his last game(s) in the NCAA tournament, provided the Huskies make it. Here's hoping that he takes this second chance and cleans up his act. I don't care if he plays well in the Big Dance or if he doesn't even score another collegiate point. Overton's mission is bigger than basketball now.
Whether or not he's found guilty, he has a long battle ahead of him in the court of public opinion.
Here is the column I wrote in today's newspaper about the Overton situation.
I came out strong, but I think I made my points in the most measured manner possible. I had three primary goals as I attempted to execute this column.
1. I needed to spell out exactly why I think what Overton is accused of is a disgusting act. There was a lot more righteousness in this column than what you're used to getting from me, but that's for a reason. This goes against my personal belief system, and as an opinion writer, that's going to be reflected in my tone. The city attorney has charged Overton with a gross misdemeanor in connection with a series of awful decisions he made on Jan. 8. Giving alcohol to a minor is the charge. But engaging in sexual acts with two 16-year-old girls is what came along with it. The sexual assault allegation has been thrown out, so I am not even going there with Overton. There are plenty of questions surrounding what happened that night, but if he's in the clear with the law, he's in the clear with me on the matter. But even if Overton had a night of drinking and consensual sexual activity with two girls he figured were older than 16, it was still an inexcusably bad series of decisions. I used to the term "morally corrupt" in the column. That's my opinion.
2. I wanted to disagree with coach Lorenzo Romar's decision not to suspend Overton for the rest of the season, but I didn't want to do so in a manner that made it sound like I thought the coach hadn't taken Overton's mistake(s) seriously. If I were the coach, I would've kicked Overton off the team. But if I were the coach, the Huskies would be 5-25 right now, not 20-10. Romar knows what he's doing. He is a man of great character and good judgment. Before he revealed it yesterday, I had heard rumors that he took some in-house disciplinary measures with Overton. So, Venoy didn't get to coast before the charge came down. Out of fairness to the player (because this was a sensitive issue that initially included a heinous allegation), Romar didn't want to announce any discipline until our officers of the law had finished their investigation and made a decision on what to do. Romar handled that part of the problem the right way.
But I do think the privilege of playing basketball at the University of Washington should have expired for Overton on Tuesday. I understand the counterviews about second chances and about keeping Overton close to help him reform. Those are valid points. However, you can still accomplish those things without including basketball. Overton would get to keep his scholarship and work on finishing his degree. And Romar could still allow him to be around the team and make it mandatory (to keep his scholarship) that the player and coach meet regularly to ensure he's staying on the right path. To me, that's giving a guy a second chance and an opportunity to reform even while punishing him severely. Sure, Overton could just opt to walk away, but he might do that as soon as the basketball season ends anyway.
I had to cut a few sentences cut out of my column today because of space reasons. I'll put them in bold. This is later in the column, when I talk about Romar's discipline.
His level of discipline was OK -- not acceptable, but OK -- compared to what other coaches would do. Some coaches would've suspended Overton indefinitely and then played him in the second half of the next game. Some coaches would've shunned public punishment and simply declared that the matter has been handled internally. Romar showed that he doesn't take this matter lightly. But he should've sent a stronger message.
I wish those three sentences could've gotten into the column. Taking them out didn't alter my point. But it did erase some of the evidence that I understand the difficulty of what Romar had to decide and respect that he didn't arrogantly brush off the issue, which many of his peers would do.
3. I didn't want to overwrite this column. This is a serious issue, and I took it seriously. I didn't want to write cute sentences or be snarky or sarcastic or turn a bunch of phrases. I have a fairly straightforward style anyway, but I wanted to make sure I was direct and focused on content over style even more than usual. Also, even while getting after Overton for putting this program in a negative light, I couldn't go too far with my criticism because he hasn't been proven guilty in a court of law. There's enough there to come out strong, but I couldn't take it to ridiculous extremes. It's not in my nature to do that, but I needed to remind myself of that.
I hope this gives you some insight into what was a very difficult column for me to write.
What I'm working on today
-- I'm writing another Huskies column for Thursday's paper. This one will be a lot more focused on the team's opportunity to move on and focus on basketball again.
-- Here's a reminder that there will be no This Week In Revisionist History feature this week. That normally runs today, but I'm scrapping it because, clearly, other things have gotten in the way. Also, we're moving what would have been Tuesday's feature -- N.I.N.E. (subject matter: what the Huskies have to do to make a tournament run) -- to Thursday.
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