I doubt you’ll ever see this letter but as I watched the events unfold last night and thought about the situation more and more I needed to write this, maybe more than you needed to read it. I kept asking myself “why”. Why would a man that had a whole STATE wrapped around his little finger decide that an illicit, immoral few moments in the timeline of his life was worth the pain that everyone felt last night as they watched your life played out like a bad movie. There are no winners. At least in the movies the good guy usually wins in the end. But not this time. At least if today is the end. But, I don’t think it is and I’ll share why later but it sure feels like it today and I’m sure that’s where you are at, too. I guess I know why you could have made the choice. I mean she was/is a beautiful young woman. You saw her and were immediately attracted to her. I get that. Attraction, I mean. God was very creative when designing women (seemed to get it better after his first creation…man LOL). So, I’m not dumbfounded that you would be tempted. But YOU’RE A FATHER OF 4 CHILDREN! You are married to another attractive woman. I know…I know. Having worked on the staff of a marriage ministry for many years I get that sometimes marriages run into issues. I’m sure there were things going on at home that only you, your wife and those closest to you understand. And, as is (sadly) too often the case, those issues begin to eat away at your mind and you begin to entertain thoughts you never anticipated when you said, “I do” those many years ago. I sympathize with your struggle. Marriage is tough. But was it so bad that you would jeopardize it for those fleeting temptations? Apparently so. I mean, you had to know it would come out sometime and your wife would find out, didn’t you? I’m sure you never expected that it would be due to a motorcycle accident with your “fling” on the seat with you. But life throws us curves all the time and has a way of creating “opportunities” for us to be exposed to our foolishness. Maybe you just thought like so many do…I’ll just get a divorce and ride off into the sunset with my new love interest. The problem with that, Bobby, is that hardly ever works. Whatever issues you are facing in your marriage that you didn’t get help with would follow you into this relationship too! Were you going to buy the lie that “this one would be better”? So very sad.
Not only was your decision head-scratching when it comes to your marriage but what do you tell your children? I’m sure you’ve raised them to tell the truth, to honor commitments, to not take what isn’t theirs. I mean, those are standard plays from the Dad Playbook. I know you know about playbooks. And, now, what do you tell your children, “All those things I told you were for you but didn’t apply to me.”? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying your the first dad that ever told his children one thing and then did the exact thing you told them not to do or vice-versa. Guilty! I’ve been there and can certainly understand the situation you’re in. I am sure your children love you or at least assume they do if you spent any time being an intentional father. They’ll always love you but now you’re going to have to earn their trust. How sad to think that just a few moments of your life could unravel so much of what you built over so many years. Really sad.
Then, look at what God-given gifts you’ve been given to coach, organize and lead men into football battle and find success in your endeavors. Amazing. Most men would almost sell their soul to have that skill and opportunity. You had 80-100+ young men hang on your every word. Even words and life lessons that had nothing to do with the X’s and O’s of football. You had a role in shaping them FOR LIFE! Wow. But, apparently that wasn’t enough for you. You saw a beautiful, young blond woman and all reason went out the window. All those football sermons you must have given that challenged your young troops to “dig down” and “fight the good fight even when the odds were against them” are suddenly rendered just words and rhetoric. Pleas for them to be “faithful to their teammates” and “battle together” no longer had any real meaning behind them. Just mere words to a group of men that were trusting you to lead them to places they were told you could take them. Hopes and dreams evaporated into thin air and communicated in the letter from an Athletic Director addressed to you telling you that your conduct forced him to relieve you of these duties you so artfully and successfully carried out for four years. And, now a group of young men will wait for another “General” to take your place of influence in their lives. Very sad. Very sad.
Then, you had an ENTIRE STATE thinking you’re the next coming of Vince Lombardi or George Halas. You were going to take them to “Hog Heaven”…a blissful state of college football championship lore. You brought back the hope to a football crazed state that someday you’d bring a championship. And, this is such a unique situation, as you know. There are VERY FEW jobs like the one at Arkansas. There are no professional teams to compete with for headlines. YOU WERE DA MAN! The whole state decks out in red EVERY Saturday, even when it’s April. They advertise the Spring Football game as if it was the first game of the season. But, as I learned when I moved from Minnesota, every weekend IS opening weekend for Hog football. It’s mentioned nearly every sportscast every weekend on every station throughout the state and the year…just more so from August through January. Listen to a sports call in show at ANY time in Arkansas and you can pretty much guarantee they’ll be talking Hog football. I mean, you saw the fervor just a few short months ago surrounding the recruiting of one of the nations elite high school players who had mentioned he might select Arkansas to continue his football career. The state nearly shut down to watch what school DGB would select to play at next year (sorry you didn’t snag him). Well, I know you know these things and it’s probably why you decided to accept the inevitable ridicule you would receive leaving the Atlanta Falcons before the season began — you had to snatch this opportunity when it arose because there are very few situations like it anywhere in the country…SEC…the attention and potential admiration of the entire state…living in a beautiful part of the country…near Wal Mart…need I say more? But, apparently all of that wasn’t enough. You were smitten with a young woman, half or nearly half your age and you were willing to toss all of that for her. Very sad.
And, then there’s the life of the woman you were taken by. I know she’s old enough to make a decision. But she was engaged to be married! Obviously, they had issues they didn’t know about if she was willing to throw away her future to participate in this. But, Bobby, you had to know that you exerted undue influence on her. I mean, you are in a position of power—influence. And, as the story unfolded, we found out that you also had resources to throw at the situation. You used your “charm”, position and resources to “play in the mudpile”. I won’t claim to say who snared who in this trap. It appears you both had enough opportunity to do so and both wielded your “swords” well. Her with her beauty and allure, especially for an aging man and you with your position of power, money and fame. Now, her wedding is off and your marriage is in much need of repair. So, who won? Incredibly sad.
Giving all of that up would be hard to believe when you weighed the situation on the scale of life…a (seemingly) great marriage + the love of your kids who trust and listen to you because YOU’RE THEIR DAD + the opportunity to influence tens/hundreds of men for their life in a position that only a very small percentage of people ever get to experience + the adoration of an ENTIRE state and more popularity than any government leader vs. a few pleasure-filled moments with a young woman. Sounds like such an easy decision now, I know. What could cause someone to make such illogical choices? That’s the question, isn’t it. But, here I can’t cast a stone at you. I’ve been there. Not exactly “there”. But, I’ve made poor choices that created a trust-rift with my wife. And, we can find hundreds, nay, thousands of similar stories throughout history. But, there is one story that comes to mind when I think about your situation. There is someone else of Biblical proportions who was right where you are. You might recall the story of a king who had it all and then threw it all away because he was smitten with a beautiful woman next door.
King David wanted Bathsheba badly. And, he was willing to murder her husband (a noble man) to get what his eyes and lust-filled heart desired. He was also willing to put his men, his troops at risk to make sure that her faithful husband and military servant, Uriah, wouldn’t be around to find out that the child in Bathsheba’s belly wasn’t Uriah’s. David actually had his troops change position to expose Uriah to the enemy. We don’t know much about the response of his wives but I’m just guessing they weren’t too elated about the situation either. I won’t go into the details about how his momentary decision to feed his lusts cost him much more than he gained. He lost his authority, much of his power, lives of others and his children…specifically the one he bore with Bathsheba who died right after birth. Much of David’s life after that was embroiled in much trouble. But, here’s the good news and what I want to leave you with, Bobby. David was included in the Bible despite all of these issues. You see, he had a heart that wanted to follow God. In fact, the bible calls him “a man after God’s own heart”. There are consequences for bad decisions. I know you understand that as much or more than anyone today. You had it all, at least in human terms. A wife that loves you. You are the father of 4 children. What a privilege. You had a whole state that would’ve voted you in as Governor but would rather have a winning football coach/team. And, you put it all at risk for your “Bathsheba”. You were “King Bobby” in Arkansas. Today, you’re just Bobby.
But, I believe I know the answer to your question…why did you do it? You did it for the same reason I and others have done it. It’s also why people lie, cheat, steal, murder, spread rumors, say ugly things to others, yada yada yada. At our core we are all capable and, verily, have carried out similar activities that just didn’t have the notoriety or visibility to be played out in front of an entire nation. We are sinners at our core. From the moment we are born we carry with us the nature to commit heinous acts against each other and against God. Don’t believe me? Just watch a two year old throw a tantrum because he/she doesn’t get what they want. We may get less obvious in our tantrums as we grow older and wiser but the result is the same…I want what I want when I want it and I’ll scream, lie, cheat, steal and even murder to get it if I have to (see previous story about King David). That is the ugly truth of sin and you’re not the only one who’s ever participated in it. I have and so has everyone else who has ever lived, except One! And, without Him whose death and resurrection we just celebrated we are all lost in that state forever. But, the good news is what we celebrated…Easter. Jesus came so that we would have life and not be a slave to sin anymore. In Christ we can be and are forgiven. The bible says, “there is now no condemnation for those who are IN CHRIST (emphasis mine)”. That choice is up to you. Just like the choice or series of choices that took you down the road to destruction, there is a path you can take toward being rebuilt. Read the book of John, if you haven’t, to find out more.
Bobby, time will allow these wounds to heal if you take the right steps. If you ask for forgiveness from God and then from your family, friends and those who have invested in you, you will find healing. I pray that this isn’t the end of the story for you. I pray that one day I’ll read in the “Where are they now” section that you were restored in your relationship with your wife, that you were spending time with your children and grandchildren teaching them how to throw a football on a beach somewhere. I hope that your gift of influencing young people would be combined with the story of how you recovered from poor decisions and the consequences of those decisions to find out who you really were so that you could find who God created you to be. It will be so much more powerful to share with young people when you combine it with your ability to influence them and share how you rose up out of the ashes and from here on made wise choices to get to where you are going. But, it’s up to you. You can likely take your own advice (that which you’ve probably shared with your team and your family) to make the next RIGHT decision. The game isn’t over. It’s only halftime and you can make the right adjustments to come out on the right side of the scoreboard but you can’t do it alone. You need a relationship with Someone who knows you at your core and is, therefore, the only One who can heal you at the core. Then, the second half can be better than how the first half ended. You’re down but you’re not out. Come on, coach! What choice(s) will you make now?
A caring fan, man, husband and dad who has made bad choices but knows now WHO is in charge and hoping you find that out too, before it’s too late!