The last time Jameis Winston made a fool of himself, his university-issued apology attributed the following sentence to him:
"I realize that I am in the public spotlight and my conduct needs to be above reproach."
That was in the spring, after he was cited for shoplifting. Which of course came after last fall, when he was under investigation for rape.
So there was Winston on the Florida State campus Tuesday, allegedly jumping on a table and yelling an obscene phrase, according to the Twitter accounts of at least seven people who say they heard and saw the Heisman Trophy winner's laugh-out-loud moment. Deadspin was first to report on it, citing multiple tweets. (Please note that the hyperlink contains offensive language.)
Apparently Winston's spring realization of life in the public spotlight, and the necessary conduct therein, had a short shelf life. Because his serial tone deafness to his own situation – not to mention the climate surrounding football as a whole right now – is simply astounding.
What he said was crude language for anyone, in any walk of life. But on top of that, nobody who wears shoulder pads should be shouting it in public. Jameis Winston least of all.
For those of us not in the loop, this jovial saying Winston was yelling on campus appears to be a popular meme going around colleges and elsewhere right now. It's a punch line made popular and tossed out randomly for laughs.
Which is not terribly funny to at least one grumpy old man – and several other adults I've spoken with, particularly females – but whatever. If I were a college student, maybe I'd view it differently. And if Jameis Winston were just another dude and has no personal history hanging over him like an anvil, maybe this wouldn't be a big deal.
But guess what? He's not just another dude. He's not even just another famous dude. He's the star quarterback of the No. 1-ranked, defending national champions, who also happens to be the defending Heisman Trophy winner, and he is under Title IX investigation at Florida State right now for his sexual encounter with a then-FSU coed in December 2012 – the one that didn't result in criminal charges but could still result in penalties on campus.
Given all that – a man under investigation in an alleged sexual assault, who is auditioning daily for a potential nine-figure career in the suddenly very image-conscious National Football League – maybe this isn't the thing you want to be shouting from a table top on campus. Here in the real world, where football players are under more scrutiny than ever for how they comport themselves and how they interact with women, this is industrial-strength stupid.
Fact is, Winston doesn't seem to have learned much about life in a fishbowl. Signs of maturity are stunningly slow to appear with him.
I talked on the phone Tuesday afternoon to one of the students who tweeted about Winston. He did not want to give me his name, but his Twitter handle is @KiefOsceola. His account of what happened: "I'm walking to class, and all of sudden I hear from behind me, '[Expletive] her right in the [expletive]!' I look around and it's Jameis. I'm like, 'Was that real?'
"It was just a joke. It was a place with no little kids or older people around. I don't even think there were any faculty around. It was just funny. Everyone was laughing. He was just joking around.
"That's one of the reasons people love Jameis – he interacts with the students. That's what he does."
"KiefOsceola" said he wanted to talk to me because he "can already tell this is going to be a bad story." He wanted to clear up any misconceptions and defend Winston. He believes it was a harmless moment of campus levity that was about to be blown out of proportion. I appreciated him offering his insight, when no one else would. But I don't think he understands how this will play outside the Tallahassee bubble.
(As an aside: I reached out via Twitter to all the people Deadspin cited in its initial report. It was the only means I had of contacting them in a hurry, and I wanted to hear first-hand from them what they saw and heard. This is what's called reporting – journalists talk to people who witnessed something that may be newsworthy. Sometimes reporters call someone on the phone, sometimes we knock on their doors – and in the modern world, sometimes we hit them up on Twitter or Facebook and it's a public process. If they put information out there, it's my job to follow up. Judging from the Twitter reaction to my inquiries, some people would rather I shot from the hip without attempting to gather any facts at all.)
Jimbo Fisher and everyone else at Florida State figures to be privately furious with Jameis over this brouhaha. Not because it was stupid at best and at least a little insensitive, but most likely because he's interfering with preparations for the big game against Clemson on Saturday. And we can't have that.
The local press did its part to comply with the vital mission of Clemson preparation Tuesday by failing to ask Fisher about Jameis' grandstanding joke earlier in the day. According to an athletic department spokesman, the topic never came up when the head coach met with reporters after practice.
There is, after all, a title to defend. Far less important is how many people Jameis Winston offends during that title defense.