Snake is down but shouldn’t be out

By Hunter Ford

My heroes have always been cowboys, you know, people who have an independent spirit and march to the beat of their own drum.

It’s hard to watch when one of them falls out of the saddle.

Such was the case last week when the news broke that Kenny Stabler got arrested for his third DUI.

The predictable feeding frenzy of sports talk radio followed, and Kenny was mangled a bit. He also had supporters, including Alabama football coach Nick Saban, who publicly said he wanted to see Stabler continue as color analyst for radio broadcasts of Alabama football.

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I also hope Stabler will continue to call Tide games this fall.

But the whole fiasco brings up some serious issues, and to me, conjures thoughts of other personalities like Stabler.

I can think of teams of people (mostly rock stars and entertainers) I admired for their talents, whose talent couldn’t save them from their excessive tendencies- the list is endless.

Stabler, known as “Snake” for his slithery athletic moves, gained his reputation as a hard-living playboy type a long time ago.

In college, Stabler was suspended by Alabama coach Bear Bryant. He paid his dues to Bryant and was allowed back on the team. In his pro career, Stabler was legendary for going straight from the saloon to the gridiron.

There’s something kind of supernatural about getting blitzed all night at a bar, then avoiding the rush of 250-pound linebackers and hurling touchdown passes with ease the next day.

That’s pretty cool….when you are 25 or 30 years old. When you are 62 years old, standing in an orange jumpsuit posing for a mug shot at the Robertsdale Police Department? Not very cool.

There are other talented people who go through life struggles and live to tell about them, in the process teaching and inspiring others.

Joe Namath preceded Stabler as an Alabama quarterback. Namath was also benched by Bryant. Namath guaranteed a victory for his New York Jets over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. He made good on the guarantee. Namath became “Broadway Joe,” one of the first pro athlete multi-media sensations. Namath was famous for liking his women blonde and his Johnny Walker Red. Pretty cool… in his time. But a couple of years ago an aged “Joe Willie” was snockered on the sideline of a nationally televised Jets game. He told the pretty sideline reporter that he could care less about the game. “I just wanna kish you!” Not very cool.

Namath profusely apologized for his indiscretion and humbly served as a role model for “what not to do.”

Stabler has the chance to do that. He can be humble, take his medicine (whatever that may be) and serve as a role model for “what not to do.”

On any given Saturday in Tuscaloosa there will be 90,000 plus in the stands. I would say (very conservatively) about ten percent of those people will be in extra “high spirits” if you know what I mean.

Stabler can say on the radio, with some authority, “Look folks, don’t make the same mistake I made.”

Most cowboy-type outlaw heroes have a dual persona. They like little warm puppies and children and ladies of the night. They like smoky old poolrooms and clear mountain mornings.

Stabler likes the high life, but he also has a reputation for lending his talents to community service and charitable causes.

The song says that cowboys aren’t wrong, they’re just different, and their pride won’t let them do the things to make you think they’re right.

Stabler will have to swallow some pride. This is his third arrest for DUI. Although he may not be convicted, he still has to admit he was wrong simply to have been in a position to get arrested.

But if he handles this situation the way he handled defenses during his playing days, he won’t have to limp off into the sunset just yet.

In the meantime…Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Or is that, don’t let your cowboys grow up to be babies?