Abuse of power. Some would argue we saw it more than 10 years ago when Rodney King led Los Angeles police on a high-speed chase before being caught and severely beaten.
Some would argue we saw it when former President Bill Clinton had an affair with a White House intern and then lied to the public.
Some would even argue we saw it last December when USF President Judy Genshaft made the hasty decision to pursue the termination of Sami Al-Arian, in spite of his tenure.
But some would argue all three acted well within their rights.
The heavily-drugged King could have killed the police he led on a chase at more than 100 mph. Clinton, as president, should have been allowed to keep his personal life private. And Genshaft acted swiftly in moving to rid the school of a professor who had been long-suspected of having ties to terrorism.
All three have been debated, and there is no clear right or wrong for any. But on Saturday night, thousands who watched the Bulls wallop Northern Illinois at Raymond James Stadium witnessed one of the most blatant – granted trivial – acts of abuse of power.
It started in the student section behind the end zone. Out of a sea of nearly 24,000, a green and black Nerf football was launched into the air.
For twenty minutes the ball danced around the stadium to the delight of the fans who had lost interest at about the same time the Bulls went up by 700 in the fourth quarter.
All eyes were on the football. From the end zone, it made its way all the way to the 50-yard line at one point. From there, it bounced back up to the 10 and then back to the end zone. It even made its way up near the pirate ship, where one student reached over the guard-rail to make a grab that would have made DeAndrew Rubin proud.
The crowd went nuts.
For a few more minutes the ball cut through the air of the stadium, with occasional stoppages each time the Bulls scored. Back and forth, back and forth. It was like the wave, but much better. Then something happened. A fumble. And with that a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy scooted down the steps and snatched up the ball.
Talk about crowd participation; almost at once thousands booed in unison and shortly thereafter voiced the more pragmatic request of “Throw it back, throw it back.” She didn’t. Instead, she walked back up to her post and held the ball in clear sight of the angry fans whose game had been cut short.
And then she paced. Up and down the landing. Back and forth, between sections 140 and 135. And then she stopped.
Placing the ball between two metal bars, she folded her hands behind her back, almost begging someone to attempt to sneak up from behind and steal it back.
And then she smirked.
Had she been on the field, the refs would have thrown the flag. But she wasn’t. And all she had to do was go put the ball away.But she didn’t.
Abuse of power? In the strictest sense of the phrase, no.
Personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct?
Fifteen yards and an automatic first down for the crowd.
Ryan Meehan is The Oracle’s editor in firstname.lastname@example.org