Sympathy For The Devil Comment Count

Brian November 17th, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Indoor soccer leagues are not particularly good about keeping things balanced. We were getting the shit kicked out of us because we were all 30 and out of shape and these kids were in high school. Since they were in high school, they were dicks. I'd just about gotten fed up when their goalie started making forays up the field in an attempt to score. Repeatedly. Just rubbing it in.

I started tracking him the next time he did it, with every intention of cleaning him out. As I reached him, he passed the ball. My fate was sealed anyway.

Without any semi-legal means of letting this guy have it, I punched him in the face. 30 seconds of rolling around later, my glasses were in tatters and I'd gotten a healthy suspension from an amateur indoor soccer league I didn't care very much about.

This is not at all what Frank Clark did. I am not drawing any sort of equivalence between the two events.

But I have been there, in the place where part of your brain that says "maybe we should think about this" is overwhelmed by a need for violence. I understand that many—too many—people come at this from the perspective of someone who has experienced or knows someone who has experienced the other end. That is valid. Of course it is. I come at it from the other end. I am a relatively normal person with a nice life, and there but for the grace of God and wife go I.

I struggle to say the appropriate things here because I think the idea of "thoughts" going out to the victims of such things is condescending at best. If you're ever in a position to help a person in that situation do it and if you're not then don't puff yourself up about how roundly you condemn such behavior. I don't see a whole lot of difference between people with the gall to blame the victim and those loudly proclaiming Clark a miserable waste of atoms.

This gets on my nerves because it's a quick leap from pointless moralizing to dismissing a guy forever as only that one thing in that one moment. I saw this picture and it took the wind out of me.


"Clark refused to look at the camera at the Perkins police station"

What did I do?

"Look at the camera."

That's not who I am.

"Look at the camera."

I thought I had left this behind.


Maybe Frank Clark's a bad guy. Or maybe one of the assholes waving him goodbye in the comments to make themselves feel better about themselves would have made the same screwup in the same situation, bottle-deep in a miserable football season after literally living a feral existence on the streets of Los Angeles for most of his youth.

It's not acceptable; Michigan had to make the decision it made. For once the program managed to handle something right. There have to be severe societal punishments for these things, and Clark's going through that.

He's got a choice now. He can be a guy that this happened to once, and he put it all away and forced all of that down as best he could and it never happened again. Or he can let it recur, and be the guy the internet says he is now. It's up to him. I don't know which way it will go, and that photo suggests he doesn't either.

I hope he makes it, and feel badly for him. Yes, as the perpetrator of a terrible thing. Yes. It is possible to be a bad person in a moment because you are wired to be angry, a wiring that comes easily when you've experienced way too much fear growing up. How many people are shitty all the time without tripping a line like Clark did?

It is heartbreaking for Frank Clark to almost make it. You should feel that part of this too.


1989 UM GRAD

November 17th, 2014 at 5:05 PM ^

Completely agree.  The lack of nuanced thinking in many of the knee-jerk comments in yesterday's threads is disheartening.

What Frank did (and it does appear as though the word "allegedly" doesn't need to be used here) is awful.

It doesn't mean that he's garbage or a horrible person. 

We don't know what his upbringing has done to him.  Or how difficult it was - and is - for him to overcome the environment in which he was raised.

Let's hope this is a wake-up call.  Let's hope Frank will atone for this and get the help he needs.

And, of course, hope that there are no long-term negative repercussions for the victim.


November 17th, 2014 at 5:21 PM ^

"hope that there are no long-term negative repercussions for the victim"

I do wonder if Brian would deem this pointless moralizing.

It's clearly not; Brian points out that as outsiders, we cannot simplly take a side here. On the one hand, our position seems firm: Domestic violence requires severe punishment. On the other, we can be equally firm: A man is not equal to his crime.

But it is the manner in which we communicate that that is so vitally important. And it is not "pointless moralizing" to hope for the best for a victim of a horrible crime. It is not pointless moralizing to call attention to that person rather than to the perpetrator of the said crime. There is a narrative to domestic violence, and it is not (and need not be) kind to the perpetrator.

As outsiders, we must necessarily recognize the undue reality that the woman faced. We can also express our sadness and our disappointment that the road for Frank has passed through this point.

But we can't just erase the victim. That will only make it worse.

Chris S

November 17th, 2014 at 10:03 PM ^

Also, good link to his background story. I had no idea about his upbringing.

Brian, I'd be curious as to your view on the idea of a team standing behind a player. It seems like a tricky situation to be in. If Hoke takes his back, then he is supporting a felon. If he cuts ties, then he's turing his back on one of his "sons."

So what do you think (given the information we/you know) would be the right course of action to show that this is not acceptable, but still not completely shun him from the program?


November 17th, 2014 at 4:35 PM ^

Growing up around a Father who at one time was very abusive, I can relate to this a great deal. My Father sought councling for his issues, and he eventually became a terrific parent. It took unwavering support at times, and it wasn't always easy, but it was always necessary. I agree with the decision to dismiss Clark, but I will continue to root for him, because the kid probably needs a few people on his side at this point. Growing up in the Flint area, I knew countless kids that grew up in situations similar to Clark, and it took them years to became the men they are today. I'm not excusing what Clark did, but I'm openly rooting for the kid, because trust me, where he's at right now is a dark place in which he likely can not find the light. 



November 17th, 2014 at 4:35 PM ^

Great perspective Brian.

It made me pretty uncomfortable seeing how many people in the Clark thread called him a piece of scum and told him to go fuck himself. While his actions are inexcusable and he shouldn't play for Michigan anymore, people do mess up. The vast majority of us don't know Frank personally and its safe to say he's been through a lot more than most if not all of us here as well. I just hope the victim can move forward peacefully and Frank gets the help he needs to turn his life around.


November 17th, 2014 at 5:11 PM ^

I see where Brian is coming from, but isn't the onus on Clark to prove that he's capable of functioning properly within society before we presume that he's not a bad person? Isn't there a middle ground between a rush to say he's a waste and a rush to say he knows he made a mistake and won't make it again?

Seems like Brian's sentiment prematurely falls a bit too much into the latter category. Am I wrong?



November 17th, 2014 at 5:22 PM ^

I cannot say for sure, but I am somewhat certain that he has been part of team visits to Mott's and has likely participated in other similar outreach programs as part of the team. 

He did, despite his upbringing, manage to do enough to be qualified to attend M as a football player, which is more than most that come from that type of environment. 

He was doing something right to be recognized to some extent as a team leader and has without a doubt improved as a player. 

All those things are points in his favor and speak to a person that is trying to keep his life pointed in the right direction. 

Let's not judge him solely on two mistakes, as if they sum him up completely as a person. 

I absolutely agree with the decision that at this point in time, he should no longer be associated with the team. However, I do hope that somehow that he is able to finish school when he is this close to graduating. There will be plenty of punitive measures doled out by the legal system that will mark him for life and serve as some sort of atonement for his transgressions, dumping him from school isn't in anybody's best interest. 

I'm sorry for everyone involved, most of all the woman and children that were the victims of the abuse, but also for Frank.


November 17th, 2014 at 7:09 PM ^

He's playing devil's advocate because anytime a hot button issue is published on the internet,  many people feel compelled to rush to judgment, comment, or spout off in some way which isn't always the most reasonable thing to do.


November 18th, 2014 at 8:43 AM ^

as I said in the original thread, it's sad. It's sad all around and also angrily confusing. However, to bring football into THE ACTION of what he did is terrible, IMO. His childhood does likely play a role (as with every human being) and I mentioned that but doing what he did has nothing to do with "a bad football season". That's atrocious to even assert. I don't feel better by saying what I feel and I feel like I don't give a shit if he just lost his NFL future let alone his remaining UM games. I also don't feel bad relating the fact that if it was my sister and he was just too damn big to stop then that he'd get kamikaze'd by a posse of masked men soon after and his concern wouldn't be football but bats and his life. Nothing he did required poetic or pity inducing words. The thing you got right was when you said he'll be the guy that did it once (that we know of) or prove to be the bad guy he's being called by doing it again. A huge fan of your write-ups but not this. That pic is a pic of a dude that just realized he might be playing football in Canada (if he's lucky), the "real Frank" or not.


November 17th, 2014 at 4:37 PM ^

Pointless moralizing. Exactly the phrase I was looking for. Thanks for that.

BUT, pointless moralizing is what the internet is for. Or, like, at least 40% of the internet. And probably 80% of espn


November 17th, 2014 at 5:01 PM ^

Brian wrote, "I don't see a whole lot of difference between people with the gall to blame the victim and those loudly proclaiming Clark a miserable waste of atoms."

This is where he and I part ways. I agree that the latter is pointless and unhelpful. But I think that victim-blaming is a real problem insofar as it creates a mentality that prevents intervention on the part of bystanders and places a stigma on victims. It's not for nothing that people who concern themselves with abuse focus on eliminating victim-blaming.


November 17th, 2014 at 5:34 PM ^

There's a difference, a big one, between avoiding blaming the victim and racing to prove goodness by saying how horrible you feel for the victim. You're not really accomplishing much except making yourself feel/look better by taking a "strong moral stance". And in a way, that's taking advantage of the situation and the victim.

On the other hand nothing we say on here is likely to meaningfully impact any of the parties involved, so maybe we should just let everyone vent/emote/deal however seems best to them.

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November 17th, 2014 at 8:15 PM ^

What you pointed out is a massive difference most here seem happy to just gloss over. 

I would say it's also mostly pointless  because it's happening in blog comments and not in a place where it matters. If society's reaction didn't reflect how appalling it views his crime, the incentive to reform wouldn't exist. 

Also, people say stupid, exaggerated things on the internet all the time in almost every conceivable circumstance. It's practically the norm. Not even practically, it is to be expected. That doesn't make it "right" but let's not let this fact cloud the issue. 


November 18th, 2014 at 7:49 AM ^

while there may be the stereotypical drunken man who comes home and beats a woman, what I have read about or seen more often is a couple in a heated argument where the woman starts the physical violence and the man cracks. In our popular culture, a woman hitting a man upside the head with a frying pan is funny / he probably deserves it / it gets his attention. The problem is in the real world he could instinctively respond in defense and that response is likely going to be more signifincant - especially if he is a college or professional athlete - especially if they come from a background where instinctive defense is an everyday necessity. Both Ray Rice and this case are such cases.

They shouldn't happen, and they do, and it is sad.

carlos spicywiener

November 17th, 2014 at 4:42 PM ^

Thank you, this NEEDED to be written.

Jesus christ, so sick of the typical sanctimonious "MY university doesn't need to be beschmirched by you, CRETIN" mindset.

Knock out Braxton Miller, pick off Logan Thomas in the Sugar Bowl, and they praise your name. Screw up and you're the devil himself. No in between. No shades of gray.

Just black and white.

A kid like Clark has demons running around in his head. He lies down in bed and thinks of the gunshots and the violence. Football was his ticket out. 4 years of mostly fruitless team records, he'd separated himself apart from those bad nights, with a degree in hand, NFL payday on the way, and in a night of rage he screws himself over.

I don't feel disgusted as much - wait, no, I most certainly do. But you know, I also feel sorrow. He was this close.


November 17th, 2014 at 4:46 PM ^

Strongly believe this led Brady Hoke to reference the situation as "tragic" (could be mistaken, but this is the first thing that came to mind).

That's what I see what I look at that picture; it appears as if he is aware of the ramifications of his actions. And Brian made an excellent point: "which" Frank Clark made the mistake? The perpetual asshole masquerading as one who escaped his past, or the one who escaped his past briefly masquerading as an asshole?


November 17th, 2014 at 5:49 PM ^

Be consistent and honest in your rhetoric.

Put evenly, it should say:  "Knock out Braxton Miller, pick off Logan Thomas in the Sugar Bowl, and they praise your name. Commit felony larceny and then beat up your girlfriend you suspect might be pregnant and you're the devil himself. No in between. No shades of gray," and the no shades of gray might be a little more sensible.  Just about everything we know of Clark off the field at this point doesn't provide much room on the spectrum for gray.



November 17th, 2014 at 4:45 PM ^

Yes, upbringing and context has a huge effect on why people do things like this. Yes, it's tragic for all involved. But the line that someone can just be set up to do things like this applies in literally every single poor decision ever. Sure, Frank Clark had a very rough upbringing and never received the support that many do. There were no doubt tons of factors in Csont'e York's upbringing which led to him KO'ing a defenseless man in a club. There are tons of factors in Adrian Peterson's upbringing which led him to believe that it was perfectly ok to beat his kid. They all still did those things.

If this is going to be your line, that's fine - to be perfectly honest I sympathize with it as well. I also agree that it's silly to jump on the internet and call people scumbags for things like this, while ignoring the context. But I hope to not see you denounce any player for anything they do off the field in the future without equal consideration.


November 17th, 2014 at 4:50 PM ^

"But you've lost the ability to denounce any player for anything they do off the field."

My reading of this is that Brian is denouncing Clark's actions as despicable, but is pausing to consider the circumstances / context and basically saying, "Walk a mile in Clark's shoes before you judge."  You can look at the situation as a whole - denounce a player's terrible actions and still hope they learn from it and improve their life.  

I'm not sure what exactly your point is here?  What is wrong with that?  Maybe we should never denounce a college football player for their actions off the field without context?


November 17th, 2014 at 5:01 PM ^

Man it hear you, but let's take stock:

Lost millions of dollars, his career, every difficult practice and workout for four years, and probably much longer - wasted. He probably loses his significant other, and (possibly) his baby thinks him an ass, and rightfully so before even being born.

He basically loses a big part if not all of his current family and cannot even finish up what he started, disaster or no.

Also when the team MAY be in a bowl game, there's a good chance he is in jail. Now some of that is a bit speculative, sure, but however you feel about what he did surely you can agree he is in the middle of paying the full price for that act.


November 17th, 2014 at 4:38 PM ^

It has to be hard for Frank Clark, as well as being hard for the other victims in this situation.  Judging from the picture, he seems to feel remorse.  I also hope that he is able to learn from this and be a better person going forward.

Not having grown up in circumstances like his, it is hard for me to imagine what life was like for him growing up where and how he did.  It was a hell of a lot harder than it was for almost any of the folks posting on this board.  He had seemed to learn from his freshman mistake, to be seizing his second chance and to be pointing his life in the right direction through hard work.  I hope he doesn't lose it all and, instead, finds a way to make this a learning experience.


November 17th, 2014 at 9:32 PM ^

So we can use the whole "blaming it on the upbringing" as an excuse for beating women? Sorry but in my opinion you have choices in life and he made them. if you apologize for someone that beats women, then you are no better than the woman beater themselves

His Dudeness

November 17th, 2014 at 4:50 PM ^

I cant believe I misspelled weird. But yes, it is.

First of all Brian punched a high school kid while he was in his 30's over an indoor soccer match. Yep I'd say that's pretty weird behavior actually.

We are all somewhat "wired" for aggression. I mean apes routinely eat eachother and leave the endtrails as a show at the edges of their territory so... yea. I don't see "bad wiring" as an excuse for poor behavior. 

Also, I mean Frank has had his chances. To say he can change is accurate, but to say he will be remembered for anything other than this incedent is a prayer at best. I hope he does, but do I feel bad for him? No.