Petrino was enjoying a ride through the scenic Ozarks prior to his incident
Yesterday The State of Arkansas held its breath when early in the morning it was reported Head Football Coach Bobby Petrino had been in a motorcycle accident on highway 16 in Madison County, Arkansas. Fortunately, Coach Petrino's injuries were not life threatening and while he was reported to be "banged up" it is believed he should be back at spring practice soon. Still, there are a few things I've heard from the media that bother me about this situation.
Last night I read a tweet from CBS' Brett McMurphy during the Kansas-Kentucky Basketball game that joked "Stay tuned at halftime as Bobby Petrino will jump his motorcycle over the fountains at Caesar's Palace". McMurphy's tweet angered many Razorback and sports fans and even got the attention of Arkansas Athletics Director Jeff Long who tweeted back to McMurphy "Classless Mr. McMurphy". If Long, a finalist for The 2012 SportsBusiness Journal and Sports Business Daily Athletic Director of the Year, was offended by this tweet then you can imagine how member's of Petrino's Family felt.
I contacted Brett McMurphy by email this morning letting him know that I found his tweet to be offensive and his response was this "Matt, I saw Monday where one of the Arkansas' players said Petrino would be back at practice Tuesday. I obviously wouldn't have tweeted that if he was involved in a life threatening situation. Believe it or not, Petrino is one of my favorite coaches in college football." I'll give McMurpy credit for responding to me within an hour, but does his response excuse his tweet? When South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore injured his knee and was announced out for the season against Mississippi State in October did that open things up for media members to mock his injury? Why should it be any different with Petrino? I don't know if McMurphy has a wife or kids, but how would he feel if his wife or kids saw a national media member mocking him while he was injured in a hospital?
Petrino wasn't doing anything that thousands of Americans don't do on a Sunday Evening. He was riding through a scenic stretch of highway in Arkansas through the edge of the Ozarks. I don't make it to Northwest Arkansas often, but when I do I take this exact stretch of road just to enjoy nature and the beauty of the area. Sure, it's not as quick as taking I-40 to I-540, but the scenic route of highway 23 and highway 16(known as The Pig Trail) does let you escape with nature and bring a peace to one's self. Petrino was doing nothing wrong in this instance, but unfortunately this area has lots of hills, curvy roads, and plenty of wildlife that could leap in front of a motorist. This accident could have happened to any of us.
Another thing I have heard often in the last twenty four hours is those questioning if The University of Arkansas should tell Petrino not to ride motorcycles any longer. I feel many are over reacting by saying this. Petrino is a 51 year old man who has been riding motorcycles for years. In a 2008 interview with Northwest Arkansas Media, Petrino said he has been an avid rider since he was 10. The Helena, Mont., native said at the time that he owned a Harley-Davidson and four other motorcycles. "It's relaxing to me," Petrino said then. "You get out and you get to see some good scenery, and I like to ride up to Beaver Lake. It's pretty up there. I've been around the outdoors. I grew up around the outdoors my whole life."
Petrino isn't racing crotch rockets with players up and down I-540. He's simply just riding his Harley Davidson through the mountains to take a break from a stressful job. One accident that could have happened to anyone should not cause the man to lose his rights to ride a motorcycle.
Ben Roethlisberger had a motorcycle accident in 2006 leading many to call for the Steelers to tell Big Ben to stop driving a motorcycle. The difference in Roethlisberger and Petrino is that Ben is paid to perform physically and must be in shape most of the year. If a NFL QB is injured and not able to play then it hurts the team. As Sean Payton and Joe Paterno have proved in the last few years, a coach that is injured can still win plenty of games. Media members probably should worry about Charlie Weis' health while waddling around on the sidelines, more than they should Petrino riding a motorcycle.
It also should be pointed out that Roethlisberger was driving without a valid Pennsylvania motorcycle license at the time of his accident. Big Ben's experience with bikes were nowhere near the level of Petrino's four decades of riding. There is an obvious difference in maturity and experience in these two cases.
Motorcyclists will point out that driving a motorcycle has its safety advantages over a car. A motorcyclist can see better when they drive, are capable of evading more road hazards, and isn't going to be distracted by things car drivers will be such as cellphones. In the event of a crash, a cyclist also isn't going to face the danger of being trapped in a car on fire. Certainly, there are plenty of disadvantages as well, but it's not enough to warrant a ban on Petrino riding a motorcycle.
This is Petrino's hobby. Would someone dare take away golf from Steve Spurrier? Of course they wouldn't. Taking away the right to drive a motorcycle from Petrino would be taking away a big part of his life. You would be removing stress reliever from a man that works in a stress-filled industry.
Bobby Petrino did nothing wrong Sunday when he went out for a ride in the Ozarks. There is no need to mock the man or over react by stripping him of his hobby. He was just taking the rare opportunity to be something that he doesn't get a chance to do that often, being normal.