If you have been around these parts for awhile, you know that KSR’s favorite writer is not Pat Forde. Beginning with the hiring of John Calipari at Kentucky, Forde has used every opportunity to come after the UK coach, a trend that resulted not only in numerous rants about UK’s mistake in the initial hire, but many follow-up shots in Calipari’s direction. His rants became so personal and unprofessional, that during his tenure at ESPN, he was forbidden to write about Kentucky or Calipari except in the most general terms (a fact he has never publicly acknowledged but one that is true). After a year of his nonsense, I wrote this blog post about Forde’s past, bringing to light what most people in the industry knew but would never say, mainly that Forde’s has an extremely checkered past himself, including two “ethics” suspensions. One of those suspensions was due to releasing private information to the NCAA (for unknown, likely personal reasons when the pre-Jurich regime was in Louisville), and the other for a personal reason that related to his coverage of a UL team. After writing that article, Forde contacted my employer (Clear Channel) and refused to ever appear on a Clear Channel radio program in Louisville again…a stance he held for a couple of years until he got tired of not having his voice heard in his home area.
I write all of that as a background to say that we have never been a Pat Forde fan in the KSR Compound. Whether it was his decision to buy the media in St Louis a round of drinks as they watched Calipari lose to West Virginia in 2010 (a fact he admitted on a Louisville radio show, but explained by saying it was “his turn”) or his decision to “cover” the Karen Sypher trial by writing articles “investigating” his drinking buddy’s antics, he has always struck me as the worst of modern media….biased in all regards, full of hatred towards those he doesn’t like while taking up for his friends, all while couching his viewpoints as being “objective” journalism. So while my lack of respect for Forde goes way back, I must admit that even I was surprised to read his latest article today, a fluff piece for Bobby Petrino that is explained by the phrase in its title, “The Path to Redemption.” (In order to discuss this article, I am violating my general rule about not linking or promoting such national articles, but in this case it is necessary in order to make my overall point…plus you ought to read it just to laugh).
The article discusses how poor Bobby Petrino, the oppressed soul who has now left four jobs in under 10 years, either for greener pastures (UL, Falcons, WKU) or because he was having an affair with a subordinate that led to a sketchy motorcycle accident/amazing neck brace photo, has now become a new man. How has he become this new man? Well by caddying for his daughter as she plays golf across the country of course. Forde writes,
For a football obsessive, taking time away from an all-consuming job does not come easily. But caddying for Katie is an avocation that means a lot to a man who put his family and himself through an embarrassing public ordeal when he was fired at Arkansas for having an affair with a woman he hired onto his staff. It has been a means to connect with one of his four children, and to show the entire family — and everyone else — that he’s not the same guy who wrecked a Harley and derailed his career on one disastrous April day in 2012.
Rebuilding that trust will take time. But those closest to Petrino believe what they are seeing so far.
Forde seems to believe that because he is pushing around a golf cart for his daughter, Petrino must be a new man that has changed his ways and is ready to be a model citizen. But wait you say…in the same article Forde noted that he has done this the past three years and this isn’t a new action by Bobby the Neckbrace. So the same Bobby that abandoned Western after one year (which by the way never gets brought up when discussing how he is no longer a “drifter”…but I digress), also caddied for his daughter. I guess that can’t be what is “new and improved,” So if not, what shows Bobby to be a new man? Forde explains:
Last month he started the Petrino Family Foundation and made a $1 million gift that will go to Kosair Children’s Hospital, a scholarship for Louisville students and the school’s marching band — and the foundation is being run by daughter Kelsey. Petrino has been more of a team player within the Cardinals athletic department, attending several baseball games during the school’s run to the College World Series. And Monday he talked about becoming more attentive to his players beyond the football field, saying he related some of his personal travails to the team during meetings.
One million dollars? That is a very nice gesture actually. One could argue that paying money isn’t exactly “doing” anything, but we should never blast someone for charity, especially in helping those in need. But his decision to give money to the Children’s Hospital is not a new one. He actually gave a large sum of money to the same hospital in 2007, even honoring the pledge after he left. Now don’t get me wrong. That was a great thing by Petrino then and it is noble that he did it before and will do it again. But considering the fact that he gave money while in the midst of “Old Nasty Bobby”, how does giving money now show he is different? In fact, when Pat Forde took his strongest shots at Bobby Petrino, it was right after he made his first payment to the Louisville hospital in 2007. That didn’t stop Forde then, so it wouldn’t be proof of a changed man now would it? And as for the other “proof”, is it really that he attended a few baseball games (that are steps from his office) and “talked” about being more attentive to his players? Well, I guess Forde’s standard of change must be quite low.
It is clear however that Bobby has made quite an impression on Pat in order for him to write such a glowing piece. This is especially true when you contrast today’s article with what Forde wrote about him just a few years ago. In 2007, he wrote an article that he called one of the meanest of his career in which he named Petrino the “disingenuous drifter” and mocked Arkansas fans for thinking he would care about them at all. Forde then wrote,
The disingenuous drifter doesn’t love you or any other fan base. He doesn’t love any school or any NFL franchise. He loves himself, his playbook and his bank account.
That’s it. Don’t expect it to change.
Bobby Petrino will return your embrace, Hog fans. But while he’s hugging you he’ll be looking over your shoulder, scanning the terrain for his next hook-up.
Even in a profession rife with dishonest posturing, Petrino is singularly mercenary. Loyalty, allegiance, commitment and honesty are foreign concepts to him. It must be a sad existence.
Harsh words right? When Petrino was hired back in January, those words came back in Forde’s face as he now had to deal with the fact that his Daddy Jurich had hired a man that he once had annihilated (probably at his behest, since he had left Louisville before…but I digress). In the internet age, these words did not disappear, so how did Forde deal with them? Well he acknowledged them, but left open the possibility for change saying,
For now, those words are cheap. It will be all about actions for Bobby Petrino. He’s tasked with laying one brick of credibility on top of another in what will be a long and painstaking effort to rebuild his demolished reputation.
But the future must be a significant break from the past for Bobby Petrino, and he has to prove it with deeds that back up his words.
At the time, we commended Forde for holding Petrino to task and asking some difficult questions. While one could ask whether Pat would have given the same benefit of the doubt to Petrino had UK hired him the year before (hint…he would not have), it was at least on the surface, a line in the sand. Show us Bobby, then we will believe it. And now here we are seven months later and Forde is all-in on the “Bobby the Prodigal Son” narrative. After a few months caddying, some money, a day at the old ballgame and some kind words to his players, Bobby is a new man. Stand up and rejoice, the new Bobby Petrino has graced us with his presence! And Forde, a man who is so narrow-minded in his hatred of John Calipari that he famously gave up on him as a coach and wrote the “made your own bed” column right before UK engineered one of the most amazing turnarounds and tournament runs in college basketball history, is now back on the Petrino bandwagon, forgetting the words that once dissected the coach so sharply in the past. What is the difference? Only one, he is back with Daddy Jurich, Forde’s friend and purveyor of scoops.
Has Bobby Petrino “changed”? I don’t know, maybe. I tend to be the type of person who is forgiving to a fault, giving people multiple chances and trying to make it a point to do my best to judge their actions and not them as a person. I don’t know Bobby Petrino so I can’t say whether he is a good man or not or to what extent he has changed, if at all. And honestly, it doesn’t matter. I learned long ago that we don’t really even “know” the people that we deal with every day in our lives, much less a public figure that we only encounter at press conferences or on game day. Spending time trying to judge whether a coach or administrator is a “good person”, “classy” or the like is a waste of time. You spend your days deluding yourself in to thinking you know which people are good and which are bad, and I will just assume that as with virtually everyone, there is a little bit of both. At the same time Petrino was awful to his co-workers, abandoned all his teams and was cheating on his spouse, he was giving money to a hospital that was thousands of miles away from him, with few paying attention. Almost one is all good or all bad, no matter our society’s desire to put everyone into such an easy to digest box. Time will tell if Petrino was a hire worth the risk for UL, but one thing that is undisputed is that UL is one of the very few schools with such a low moral threshold that they would have ever even considered taking the chance.
But ultimately this isn’t really about Bobby Petrino. Had Petrino gone to another school, I have zero doubt that not only would Forde not have forgiven him, he would have bludgeoned the man again. He only loves you Bobby because Tom told him to, not because of your inherent goodness. The reality is clear. The National college sports columnist for Yahoo is a biased Jurich-man who will do whatever he can to make his friend look good. If that means taking up for a coach who has an embarrassing sex scandal and never at any point bring it up or criticize him, he will do it. If that means blasting the basketball coach down the road at every juncture in order to make Jurich’s coach/program look better, he will do it. And if that means eating his words, throwing away his self-respect and looking like a hypocrite by praising a man that he once considered to be one of the worst in coaching, well it looks like Pat will do that as well. Anything for Daddy Jurich and his UL barhopping buddies.
I am a biased homer who wants UK to win and am unabashed in my favoritism to all things Blue. I knew long ago that Pat Forde was essentially the same thing for UL, so long as Tom Jurich was running the Athletic Department. He has always been a wolf UL blogger in sheep Yahoo objective clothing, albeit one with great hair and the latest in stylish, hipster glasses. But today I also found out something I didn’t know, that Pat Forde is also a sellout, willing to take any stance depending on the situation. Bobby Petrino has gone from the “disingenuous drifter” who lived a “sad existence” to a new, changed man on a “Path to Redemption”…and all it took was one hire by his friend and pushing a golf bag around with his daughter a few days. Not a bad trade-off I guess. Hey Pat, remember what it was like to be a real objective journalist with self-respect, integrity and tremendous talent? Naw, we don’t either.