These days, there are a lot of things I don’t get. For example, I don’t get how conservative America decided to throw in with an oily, grifting con artist from New York.
My latest puzzler is the saga of Mark Few’s DUI arrest. Well before the Gonzaga men’s basketball coach’s season started, the turnovers have been piling up, seemingly with every entity that touches the incident.
You know the particulars. The night of Sept. 6, a fire truck in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho trailed Few’s vehicle and reported an SUV weaving to the city police. Few, driving alone, was subsequently stopped. He blew breathalyzer readings of .119 and .120, a healthy amount above the legal limit of .08, and was charged with DUI.
In mid-October, he appeared in court, and I loved his statement: “I plead guilty because I am guilty.” He was fined $1,000 and ordered to perform 24 hours of community service. He has expressed deep remorse, and knowing Few pretty well, I would imagine his chagrin over this to be massive.
That doesn't excuse the fact a guy significantly impaired should still have the good sense to make other accommodations for a ride.
The process of putting it behind him probably only peters out after he’s visited a few hostile gyms in the West Coast Conference. That was hammered home last week, when a couple of Spokane TV stations spent minutes of newscasts airing dashcam video of Few’s arrest.
In it, you can see things like Few declining a field sobriety test, lying to the arresting officer about how much he’s had to drink, and getting handcuffed. It’s prickly but I wouldn’t term it combative, and I suspect it’s very much like the vast percentage of such arrests. Few tries to explain his way out of it, as the overwhelming majority of us would do.
I felt uncomfortable watching it, as if I were peeping in a neighbor’s bedroom window.
Is Few a public figure? As public as it gets in Spokane. Are news outlets in the right to air such releases? Absolutely.
Does it show a whit of judgment to show the video AFTER THE CASE HAS BEEN ADJUDICATED? I don’t think so. (I assume the public-records request was made weeks ago.)
This will not be a universally held opinion. Deadspin, for example, said the footage of Few reflected “a drunk and annoyed man that acted like he could do no wrong, and that the police were beneath him.”
I worked in the news biz for decades, and there are things you know but don’t report – not because you’re protecting somebody, but because the things don’t rise to the level of what constitutes news. If, say, Few had cursed at the officer or done something else unbecoming, then air it. But running with the story about 10 days after sentencing is odd.
“We asked for the footage because he is a public figure, and we wanted to learn more about what happened in the moments before he was arrested,” the anchorman at KREM-TV explained as the station led its newscast with the video. “We wanted to see how the police report of Few’s arrest lined up with what actually happened in the video.”
No, what you wanted was clickbait, something sizzling on Spokane’s most recognizable figure (but not so recognizable that the arresting officer in nearby Coeur d’Alene had any idea who he was).
Then there’s the school itself. Few issued a statement three weeks ago announcing a three-game suspension. Except the games are Eastern Oregon (played Sunday), Lewis-Clark State – both exhibitions, and thus non-counters for NCAA record-keeping purposes -- and Dixie State Nov. 9.
That, frankly, seems almost silly. The elephant in the room looms as the Texas game Nov. 13, a big-time early-season matchup of national interest and the next game after Dixie State. Like it or not, the appearance the Zags are giving is that they’re trying to move mountains to have Few coach that game.
Two factors that no doubt have affected the administration’s course: A belief that Few will have suffered enough, and over three decades, he’s been an exemplary citizen and a pillar in the community.
A three-game suspension seems within the bounds of propriety, but not when two of the games are trifling exhibitions far off the radar to most of the public. So in essence, here’s what the school has done: By letting Few off easy – and that’s the consensus out there – the whole saga has taken on more ridicule. The narrative becomes, Few got a DUI, the school let him skate, and what a lamentable mess it was from start to finish.
In such suspensions, two thresholds need to be addressed. First, and narrowly, Few has to be called to account for his behavior. Second, the school must send a message that it doesn’t countenance missteps like this. Even if the school is satisfied Few deserves a break for a track record of being a good soldier, it needs to consider that other component.
Gonzaga threw this pass out of bounds. The operative philosophy seems to have been “Don’t mess with Texas.”
Meanwhile, in complete incongruity, the Zags begin the season ranked No. 1 in the country. What a hell of a promotional campaign it’s been.