On the evening of Thursday April 28, 2016, a video of Laremy Tunsil smoking a bong appeared on the internet. The NFL draft began a few minutes later. Predictably, a great deal of hew and cry ensued--Tunsil was a dominant player at the University of Mississippi and was projected to be a top 5 pick but he "fell" (I use quotation marks because this guy would posit that his fall was much worse and more painful) all the way to #13 due to the video. Various talking heads stated that Tunsil lacked judgment, that he needed to get his act together, the he needed to get straightened out, that this would be a wake-up call for him, and myriad other cliches insinuating that Tunsil is a criminal ... despite the fact that smoking marijuana is legal in all of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, the District of Columbia, and the cities of Portland and South Portland in Maine and Keego Harbor, Michigan, and that possession has been decriminalized in 14 other states including Mississippi! In fact, first-time possession offenders (of 30 grams or less) in Mississippi are merely fined $100 to $250, roughly the same penalty as parking in a handicapped spot on the Ole Miss campus. Clearly the people of Mississippi and their legislators don't think this is a big deal.
In apparent accord, about 48 hours later the leader of the free world said this:
Everybody laughed. Probably because many other elected officials admit to smoking dope in the past, including Presidents Clinton and Bush 43; Vice-President and former Senator Al Gore; current Senators and Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz; former Senator/Democratic Party Presidential nominee and current Secretary of State John Kerry; former Senators Rick Santorum and John Edwards; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; current Governor Andrew Cuomo; and former Governors Jeb! "sorry mom" Bush, George Pataki, Sarah Palin, Howard Dean, Jesse Ventura, and Arnold Schwarzeneggar.
And, of course, George and Martha Washington.
So Tunsil's in some elite company. Literally millions of people voted for these guys despite the fact that they burn. Why the hell should anyone care if a fat college kid in Mississippi--again, where smoking dope is decriminalized--gets high from time to time? You mean to tell me that marijuana use and the potential resulting lack of mental acuity is more important when critiquing offensive linemen than potential Commanders-in-Chief of the world's most powerful military force? Stoners are qualified to have access to nuclear launch codes but not to play offensive tackle for one of the twelve worst teams in the NFL? Get the fuck outta here.
A few hours before President Obama started joking about toking, the New England Patriots drafted Malcolm Mitchell, a wide receiver from the University of Georgia. Mitchell made a name for himself off the field as well. ESPN.com posted a heartwarming story about him last year. Mitchell came to UGA "reading at about a junior-high level." When asked how he expected to survive academically at the flagship of Georgia's public education system, Mitchell said "It's not that hard [to get through]." Mitchell blew his knee out in the 2013 season opener, and with all the sudden free time on his hands he decided to learn to read at the adult level. He read some children's books and grew into more age-appropriate literature--his proudest accomplishment is reading all the Hunger Games books in two days. His love of reading was further nurtured and developed after he blundered his way into a book club comprising middle-aged women. Seriously.
Mitchell went on to write his own children's book, available at readwithmalcolm.com. Predictably, NCAA rules prevent Mitchell from promoting his book on any UGA-related website.
Am I the only person who finds this story troublesome? First, how did Mitchell manage to get into college? Second, how was he getting through UGA before he decided to learn to read at an adult level? Third, why wasn't anyone at UGA working with him to improve his reading skills? Fourth, would he have ever improved his reading if he never hurt his knee (i.e., if he had no free time to practice reading)? Fifth, would he have graduated if he continued to read at a middle-school level? Sixth, why did he have to join a club of elderly women to find people to discuss literature with--couldn't he have found this resource in an English class or with other students or maybe even his teammates and coaches? Seventh, why isn't there an NCAA investigation into all of the foregoing issues?
So Tunsil is a bad guy for engaging in a non-criminal recreational activity while in college (which the leader of the free world laughingly reminisces about doing in college), and the University of Georgia's complete failure to educate a student results in a feel-good story? I just don't get it.