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Spurrier gets his ideas lost in the translation

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© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 28, 2001

Surely, it is the fault of the translators.

They are, after all, deciphering the message of a Chinese philosopher from 2,500 years ago. His words are subject to interpret-ation. His implications can be miscon-strued. Pick up three copies of Sun-tzu's The Art of War and you will find three variations of his original text.

Which explains my confusion regarding Steve Spurrier.

The version of The Art of War I just read apparently is vastly different from the Gators coach. In my book? Chapter 3: "Planning Attacks." In his book? Chapter 3: "Behaving Like a Twit." In my book? Chapter 9: "Army Maneuvers." In his book? Chapter 9: "Helpful Hints for Character Assassination." Perhaps that's an exaggeration, but at least it would explain Spurrier's recent, and repeated, accusations against Florida State. The UF guru is fond of quoting Sun-tzu's philosophies, along with Attila the Hun and John Wooden, and he apparently has taken this Art of War business to an unhealthy extreme.

Spurrier has heard a second-hand locker-room comment, seen an inconclusive videotape and declared that FSU defensive lineman Darnell Dockett tried to maim a UF player. When FSU coach Bobby Bowden failed to agree, Spurrier suggested Bowden was the kingpin of this shady, university crime syndicate.

"Calculate advantages by means of what was heard, then create force in order to assist outside missions." From Chapter 1 of The Art of War.

No one has suggested Spurrier does not have a right to protect his players. In fact, it is his duty to protect his players.

It also is his duty, as a university employee and an alleged adult, to behave responsibly. That does not include airing his allegations in public before alerting Florida State. That does not include suggesting Bowden's coaching staff condones dirty play. That does not include refusing to acknowledge the evidence is not as strong as his accusations.

By shouting forcefully and repeatedly, Spurrier essentially dictated the outcome of this mess before it was dropped on FSU's table. There was no way FSU would discipline Dockett once Spurrier started ranting.

And that's the shame of the situation because the actions probably deserve further investigation.

The videotape of Dockett's behavior is suspicious at best and reprehensible at worst. Gators running back Earnest Graham claims Dockett twisted his knee and caused an injury during a pileup after a tackle. Videotape indicates Dockett was in a position to harm Graham, but is inconclusive otherwise.

Additional videotape, however, shows Dockett stomping his foot dangerously close to the hand of fallen UF quarterback Rex Grossman. Maybe Dockett was trying to hurt Grossman. Maybe he was trying to intimidate him. Either way, there is no reasonable explanation and FSU officials should address it.

"Therefore, if we want to do battle, even if the enemy is protected by high walls and deep moats, he cannot (help) but do battle, because we attack what he must rescue." From Chapter 6 of The Art of War.

Bowden is not blameless in this docu-drama. His team has been accused of rough play in the past. And if there is one criticism of his reign in Tallahassee it is he errs on the side of protecting players when they have done little to deserve it. That includes opposing players.

When former UF quarterback Doug Johnson hurled a football near Bowden's noggin during a pregame melee a few years ago, Bowden barely talked about it. Johnson's throw hit an FSU assistant in the back of the head and led to an apologetic phone call from the quarterback. UF declined to punish Johnson.

Florida also seemed to dismiss the accusations of Mississippi State quarterback Wayne Madkin earlier this season. Madkin said a UF player tried to gouge his eye out while he was recovering a fumble beneath a pile of players.

Madkin's claims went largely unnoticed. Maybe that's because he did not threaten a lawsuit. Maybe that's because, afraid of accusing someone falsely, he refused to single out whom he suspected was the fiend. Maybe that's because Spurrier is not Madkin's coach.

Spurrier's reaction to the Dockett scandal hardly is surprising. First of all, the coach is notorious for speaking his mind regardless of what others might think. Secondly, he relishes the image of us-against-them.

Few people are as competitive as Spurrier. Friends joke about how he would avoid playing tennis against them in the morning. Instead, he would wait until the afternoon -- after they had played several sets -- and then whip them when they were tired. His needling on the golf course is legendary.

The problem is Spurrier cannot separate competition and life. He routinely lectures how people are either for the Gators or against them. He does not understand that some of us just like to watch a good football game.

Perhaps his motivations have been pure. Perhaps he really is concerned only about the safety of his players and others.

Unfortunately, if those are his intentions, they get lost in the bluster. Instead of making safety an issue, he has made himself the focal point.

Once again, it is Spurrier against the world.

"Therefore, one does not contend for alliances with other nations." From Chapter 11 of The Art of War.

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