As for Ramsey, unemployed, three credits shy of graduating after failing a course last spring, cut by the NFL, he is a confused, angry and perhaps misguided young man. According to the transcript in the News, Ramsey repeatedly asked Frost for money, yet he now claims to be the one who has been wronged in this affair. Ramsey made the tapes clandestinely and without telling any official at Auburn or the NCAA about the favors he says he received. Ramsey says the taping—a process that he maintains encompassed 100 conversations over three years—was "a hobby." He claims he wanted to prove how corrupt the Tiger football program is and to warn high school players away from Auburn. Then he says, "I took the money because I needed the money."
Corruption is a natural offshoot of our insistence on calling entertainment-driven, revenue-producing sport "amateur" and of the need of certain middle-aged men, like Frost, to buy into college teams. Ramsey, though, was an eager participant in the very misdeeds that he says made him a victim. Money and revenge appear to be at the root of his complaints.
Presenting herself as her husband's agent—and identifying herself as Dawn Webb—Twilitta tried to sell the tapes to SI last August. Eric's attorney, Donald Watkins, is cleverly milking the situation, issuing the tapes slowly for publication. "To get a full flavor... requires a time-release plan for making the tapes public," he told The Birmingham News, which did not pay to publish the transcript
Ramsey has said that he wouldn't have gone public with the tapes had he not been cut by the Chiefs, as if Auburn was responsible for the failure of his pro career. And Twilitta says, "It didn't have to come to this.... All [Auburn officials] had to do was come to us and at least pretend they were sorry."
For what? Apparently, for everything that has gone wrong in Ramsey's life of late. One thing is certain when you deal with snakes: Sooner or later you must crawl on your belly. Indeed, what is next for college football? Players sent to rival schools with hidden wires? Blackmail?
Still, Ramsey is a victim, no matter how mercenary he may be. He was not the one with power. He took, but the system gave. Ramsey may not have a logical explanation for his deeds, but sometimes being in the midst of a disorienting ordeal—and college football can be just that—can throw off one's ethical compass. Whistle-blowers and star witnesses are not always pleasant or virtuous people. Sometimes they are criminals and informants trying to beat a rap. Sometimes they are deluded fanatics. Often, though, their stories bring about change, even when the tellers do not benefit from the telling, and it's hard to see what Ramsey stands to gain from his disclosures. College football, however, could benefit. The message should not be diminished by the messenger.
When Ramsey asked for money while playing at Auburn, somebody—some adult—should have said no and sent him to the woodshed. But someone, perhaps many people, said yes, and the demons were let loose. Above all else, one is left saddened by this ugly affair, which when reduced to its essence is little more than a circle of people using one another.
According to one of the transcripts, Frost said to Ramsey, "I'd like to give you something, this being your last Christmas at Auburn, and I would like to be part of it."
Happy holidays to all.