As I’m sure we’ve all seen by now, Will Grier’s father, Chad, has come forward and written an impassioned defense of his son in Sporting News in the wake of Will’s season long suspension for PED use. Of course, it’s a defense of his son in the sense that “his mistake was one of naivety, not one of malice,” as the elder Grier writes, and not one that argues that he didn’t do anything wrong. Will’s father has seen him grow and develop much more than we as fans have. He knows his son better than I do, of course, and better than everybody else out there who’s been weighing in on the situation. He also loves his son more than anybody else in the world possibly could, so you’d expect to see such a from-the-depths-of-the heart defense from Chad (who also served as his high school coach).
But Chad Grier isn’t the only one who should be proud of Will.
We live in a day and age where denying, hiding and tampering with evidence of any wrongdoing has become the norm. Examples of this range from situations related to the one Grier is in, Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun’s adamant refusal to admit that he took steroids and simultaneous insinuations the sample was tampered with… when in fact he did take steroids and the whole thing with blaming the tester was total BS, to casual, everyday instances of a kid posting something careless on social media, realizing the stupidity of it, but trying to get away with it with the old “I was hacked” routine. And everything in between. It’s human nature to blame somebody else or cast doubt as to whether you did something wrong or not, and it’s admittedly not easy to shake off in favor of doing what’s right.
And when people do get caught doing something they aren’t supposed to, and they do express their remorse, they generally do so because they got caught, not because they necessarily regret doing whatever it was that got them in trouble in the first place. That’s also human nature; if someone does something wrong and has to pay a price for it, they naturally wish they hadn’t done it. But if they do something wrong and don’t get caught, they aren’t likely to ever have the opportunity to regret it, because why should they? They aren’t forced to face negative consequences for their actions, so doing something wrong in this case didn’t ever give them a reason to be remorseful in the first place. Sad, but true.
Yet in a world where this is the rule, Grier is an exception. The exact details of when he took the drug/what drug it was remain unclear, but watching the way Grier led his team through the first six games of the year, you could see how much directing this Gator team meant to him. And since he knew coming into UF that testing positive for a PED would result in having that privilege taken away (as all athletes do) it’s virtually impossible to believe that Grier took whatever PED it was with the clear intention of gaining an unfair advantage over his opponents. It is, however, totally believable that Grier suffered a momentary lapse of judgment, didn’t check with the UF medical staff to make sure whatever he wanted to take was OK, took whatever it was, and now has to pay a price that, I think, is far too harsh given the fact that it matches the severity of the punishment that would be doled out to future PED users with the intentions of Mark McGwire.
But in any event, Grier came forth and apologized profusely. He wasn’t putting on a show for cameras, as he gave an even more emotional apology to his teammates while nobody else was in that room. He truly, genuinely feels bad about what he did. Of course, the ridiculous length of time the NCAA is banning him from playing probably has a little to do with that, but the larger point is that he knows his teammates will now have to go on without him, and he poured his heart out to them about how much he wished that didn’t have to be the case, and only is the case because of one simple error in judgment.
After testing positive, and knowing that he’d messed up, Grier could have told his teammates a sob story about how he was a victim. He could have made up a story about how the NCAA is out to get him for whatever reason. He could have said the tester made a mistake. That is, after all, the example that was set by Braun three short years ago, and the common response when kids do something they know they shouldn’t have done just after it becomes too late to do something about it (which a quick search on twitter should prove within the first dozen tweets or so that contain the words “I was hacked.”)
But no. Grier put the blame squarely on himself, and for that, deserves some praise. Does he deserve a cookie and a hug for telling the truth? No, but he does deserve a lesser punishment and more gentle treatment throughout the appeals process because of it.
And he deserves to have a fan base that’s proud of him, loves him and supports him. In all kinds of weather.