Poll Results: You’re Just Like Jameis Winston


Let’s face it: unlike Jameis Winston, very few of us have an NFL throw in our bodies, let alone all of them. But according to some feedback I received recently, the overwhelming majority of us have one thing in common with the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and national champion: we accepted free stuff in college, and hooked others up as well.

On a broadcast of ESPN’s Draft Academy on Tuesday, Winston explained that last year’s incident that saw him cited for shoplifting at Publix was actually the result of a favor extended to him by an employee of the supermarket chain. I knew my own experience with this matter, an experience not dissimilar to that of Winston. But I wanted to find out if people like Winston and I were the exception or the rule. I thought about heading over to the Florida State campus, but I figured I’d get rather slanted feedback if I enquired about the matter to Winston’s classmates. So I figured I’d take to Facebook.

See, although I now reside in Tallahassee, I grew up in Michigan, and have also lived in Orlando, Washington, D.C., and Boulder, Colorado, so I’m connected, via social media, with people from all over the country, people from varied cultural, economic, and philosophical backgrounds who have attended myriad different colleges and universities.

I posed a two-parted question to them: (1) while in school, were you ever the recipient of such a gesture, and (2) did you ever provide the same treatment to your own collegiate acquaintances? I figured most people had done so, but the results of my unscientific poll were nevertheless really quite eye-opening.

I received dozens of responses, and it turns out that while Winston’s game may be quite singular, he’s got plenty of company with regard to simply being a college kid who accepted something for which he didn’t pay. One respondent said her job didn’t afford such an opportunity, but that she would have indulged her friends if she had the chance. Another replied that she didn’t have such a hook-up, later telling me that she would have partaken as well if she had (I’m counting them each as “yes” votes). Nearly every other respondent — better than 98% — said that they readily participated in just such behavior while in college, while more than 96% copped to extending such services to others.

These people are parents, soldiers, lawyers, and engineers (also, my retired school-teacher aunt). Respectable, hardworking members of their communities. Some are even Gators

It’s been suggested by many, including ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, and not inaccurately, that this is a common treatment afforded star college athletes. And while that sentiment seems accurate, it’s also limited. For this isn’t just about big-time college standouts. Or even just about college athletes. It is, intrinsically, just about college. 

It’s as typical of a college student as underage drinking. Or swearing, a practice central to another incident that has led many to question Winston’s character: when he shouted an obscenity on the Florida State campus. Admission: I swore in college (so did you). I swear now (so do you). I’ve cussed in a college classroom– as the teacher. Why? Because some well-placed blue language can help you connect to college students.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly why Winston yelled the phrase he did in a crowded environment: to connect. To fit in. To that end, it’s somewhat fitting that it occurred in the FSU Student Union. Perhaps it was just that: his attempt at uniting, at being a normal college student, which, anyone who’s been to college knows, is synonymous with the occasional bad decision.

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But do a couple of lapses in judgment make Winston a bad person? No more than some poor decisions on the football field resulting in interceptions make him a bad football player. And per my informal poll, we’ve all pretty much done the same stuff (off the field), which invites the question: are we bad people? Few would be as ready to lay claim to this title as they have been to bestow it upon Winston.

Perhaps we would be wise to acknowledge mere youthful indiscretions when we see them. And perhaps the question isn’t about if Winston has “character issues,” but, rather, who among us does not?