God, country, family, sports.
Such is the hierarchy of importance for many Americans since the first time we hit a baseball or threw a football.
The majority of us have been surrounded since childhood with the spectacle of organized sports and the hero status accorded to those who can run fast, jump high or throw a ball far.
So should we be that surprised that so many football players arrive at Georgia with sports as the main priority — disdaining their studies, disregarding team rules and ultimately breaking the law?
The most recent addition to this not-so-exclusive fraternity is running back Washaun Ealey, who was arrested Friday morning and charged with a hit-and-run and driving with a suspended license.
In Ealey’s case, the sophomore running back had a warrant out for his arrest two weeks prior for failure to appear in court for previous traffic violations.
Which begs the question: Why did Georgia coaches allow this issue to go unresolved for two weeks before it blew up over the weekend?
And does this lack of accountability extend past this one incident?
Richt, of course, claims there are methods of prevention in place for situations like Ealey’s.
The program will often acquire copies of players’ licenses and run checks to make sure they have no tickets outstanding, according to Richt.
And yet these measures in place have seen similar rates of success — which is to say, very little.
It’s become a joke — a gag reel in an otherwise uneventful sitcom.
Only, no one is laughing anymore.
I am as disgusted as many of you over the fact that my diploma will be worth just a little bit less every time one of these “role models” cuts loose with no responsibility to team or university, and once again disgraces Georgia in sports pages nationwide.
So what can we do to solve this problem?
For starters, we need to take a serious look at the place athletics have in our society.
As a certified sports nut, I am the last person who should be advising others to take fanaticism down a notch.
But it is still clear that elevating athletes to a god-like status isn’t healthy.
It distorts priorities and can give athletes the undue perception that they are above the law — a notion it appears Bulldog football players are presently struggling with.
The question now is whether leadership (read: Mark Richt) is doing enough to change this culture within the Georgia football program.
The jury is still out.
No matter what Richt claims about attempts to prevent this undisciplined culture, one fact remains: Georgia football still leads all collegiate programs in offseason arrests and this lack of accountability only perpetuates the problem.
And until coaches and fans can both put as much emphasis on actions off the field as on, education and discipline will never find their place in that hierarchy.
This column was originally published in The Red and Black student newspaper.