Today we found out that Stephen Garcia violated the terms of his reinstatement to the Gamecocks football program. More specifically, he consumed some amount of alcohol (and possibly marajuana) which directly conflicted with the behavior he, himself, had agreed to as a precondition for his return to the team. Stephen Garcia willfully, and perhaps wantonly, exhibited behavior for which he fully understood the consequences. He has no one to blame but himself.
Why, then, has the Garcia saga resonated so powerfully with the college football world? It seems everyone has something to say on the subject -- especially those least familiar with its origins. Is it because in Garcia we see something of ourselves? Perhaps that's the answer for some, but I'd be lying if I didn't concede that my own psyche identifies more closely with the Tommy Beechers of this world.
For me Garcia was captivating for the myth he became. He was quintessentially Gamecock. His boundless potential always seemed to be stalled by some imperceptible impediment. His highs were Everestian, but his lows were Marianastian. He was alternatingly bold and humbled. He was heroic, and he was tragic.
In Garcia I saw someone who could have achieved everything that my mind's eye was convinced he would do. He should have played Perseus to my Zeus, but he fancied himself an Achilles. Ultimately, we had to let him go.
For some people the Stephen Garcia dismissal came too late. You know the type I'm talking about. They like to say how Steve Spurrier has gone soft. How Garcia would have been gone after the first incident if South Carolina had had a competant quarterback waiting in the wings. How, if they had been Head Ball Coach, they wouldn't have put up with Garcia's mischief. To which I say, "Bull. Shit."
The problem with Garcia has always been that he's been bad enough off the field to get in the news but not good enough on the field to get out of it. There's no reason not to take Spurrier at his word when he says that they didn't want to kick Stephen Garcia off the team for stupidity. Has Spurrier ever been anything less than forthcoming with his thoughts? The truth is the athletic department found itself halfway down a slippery slope before it even knew it was on a mountain. Garcia also benefited from the fact that his first transgression was his worst. I suspect Steve Spurrier struggled to dole out proper punishments for incidents that got sequentially less sever -- sort of like accelerating at a decreasing rate.
Anyone who actually would have yanked Garcia's scholarship after incident number one is a callous misanthrope. More than likely they're writing checks that they know their body will never have to cash. It's easy to say you'd kick a kid out of school until you actually have to think about what that means for his future. And please, spare me the conspiracy theories about the timing of the dismissal coinciding with the rise of Connor Shaw. If anything, it's the reverse.
Bizarrely, just as many people seem to come down on the other side of the Garcia fence. "Boys will be boys," they say. "Shouldn't a college student be able to have a beer in America?," they chide. I understand the sentiment, but I have a suspicion that they might feel differently if it were their team's championship dreams that hung by the thread of Garcia's sobriety.
I had hoped that Stephen Garcia would return to the team for a final season and then ride off into the sunset a champion. I was wrong, though. You can't hope away the trajectory of a tragedy any more than you can change the physics of a car accident.
After five years of talking about Stephen Garcia there's really only one thing left to say: the Garcia era is over. Love him or hate him, I think we're all ready to move on.