The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 24, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN - Some own up to their mistakes

MORGANTOWN — When you spend your life in a locker room asking questions of athletes for a living, you become a bit jaded. For the most part, all you get are lies, damn lies and excuses.

They come almost before the question is out of your mouth:

REPORTER: “How could you not make that tac … ”

ATHLETE, INTERRUPTING: “Didn’t you see? He held me. You’re as blind as the official?”

Or:

REPORTER: “How did he get behind y … ”

ATHLETE: “I slipped. The ground was wet, the footing was terrible, the equipment manager gave me the wrong kind of cleats, my shoelace came open and, besides, the safety was supposed to be back there.”

Or:

REPORTER: “Wha … ”

ATHLETE: “I lost it in the sun. Got it?”

Yeah, we got it, but explain this. It was a night game.

That is why this has been such an uplifting, wonderful week for there were a pair of athletes who went above and beyond their responsibilities, athletes who actually were willing to take the blame for their own shortcomings, explain what happened without making excuses, point an inward thumb rather than an index finger passing the blame.

In this locker room Hall of Fame we are going to hang the busts of West Virginia basketball player Darryl “Truck” Bryant and offensive tackle Donnie Barclay of the WVU football team.

It begins with Bryant, tough kid out of Brooklyn who had a tough, tough game in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tipoff Classic last week. He not took responsibility for his bad game, but made sure it was available to the Facebook world, which has become the generation’s big, wide wonderful world.

Bryant had scored 11 points in the semifinal victory over Vanderbilt. He did have a bad shooting night with 2 for 11, but did what a point guard is supposed to do, dishing out six assists with just one turnover.

The next night, though, was just ugly. Bryant lasted just 10 minutes as Bob Huggins took all he could that put him on the bench with a “Do Not Disturb” sign around his neck. He missed his only shot and had more turnovers (3) than points (0) and assists (1) combined.

He could have hidden. He could have sulked.

Instead, he pulled out his cell phone and made this post on Facebook:

“Sorry mountaineer nation I just didn't show up 2 play 2day can't do nothing about the past game saturday...”

There was an outpouring of understanding from the Mountaineer nation and one response that almost certainly came from someone who had coached him along the way in his youth.

“Don't be over critical; abstract what is necessary for improvement and move on. Hit the film room and breakdown the mechanics. From a mental perspective only you can evaluate that Truck. Remember son you’re only human. When you regroup, don’t call it a comeback, call it life. Coach Tony Brown and "The world still turns.”

Make no doubt, Bryant will take that response as much to heart as those who read his apology will take it to heard.

Then there was Barclay, who probably really has nothing to apologize for. Playing on a WVU offensive line that has not performed well, he’s been the best out there playing the crucial left tackle spot, which makes him quarterback Geno Smith’s body guard.

On Saturday, at Louisville, he was badly beaten by defensive end Rodney Gnat, who blindsided Smith, knocking the ball free. It was fallen on in the end zone for a touchdown, the only touchdown that Louisville would get in the game.

So on Monday Barclay was asked what had happened. There was no “He jumped offsides” or “He really wasn’t my responsibility.”

“He just beat me,” Barclay said.

He would note that it didn’t happen again, obviously aware that sometimes being beaten can serve to light a fire under an athlete.

You see your quarterback laying there, you see the ball slip into the end zone and you see them fall on it and begin dancing in celebration and you feel as if you want to dig a hole right there.

Of course, what you really have to do is dig out of the hole that you are in, to admit you made a mistake and to correct it, which is what Barclay did.

Barclay went and told Geno Smith it was his fault and Smith simply slapped him on the butt and told him to forget it, to let it go and that is what Barclay did.

Because of it, both he and Truck Bryant could look in the mirror the next morning and feel like they actually could survive their mistakes because they understood them to be nothing more than a bad day at the office.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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