Pigskin philosophy: Ausar Walcott learns meaning of in(de)finite

In his 1644 Principles of Philosophy, René Descartes, the first "modern" philosopher, attempted to be more scientific and less metaphysical than he was in his 1641 work, Meditations on First Philosophy. In the 1600s– and even today– there often isn’t much difference between the scientific and the metaphysical, so we should forgive Descartes his faults and applaud his tenacity.

Oh, and humbly thank him for making the distinction– or at least Ausar Walcott should.

Remember Ausar Walcott? Back in February, Virginia’s sophomore starting linebacker was suspended indefinitely for "conduct detrimental to the team,” specifically for having been arrested for his involvement in a January 30 brawl at JMU.

Cornerback Devin Wallace and sophomore center Mike Price were also arrested; all three were charged with three misdemeanor charges of assault and battery by mob and one felony charge of burglary/entering a dwelling with the intent to commit an assault.

Price and Wallace eventually pled guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery; the felony charges were dropped. And Walcott? All charges against him were dismissed.

After a ruling by the judge (he probably denied introduction of certain evidence by the prosecution), the initial charges were amended; that's when Price and Wallace pleaded guilty, and Walcott took his chances. It paid off in the courtroom, but it took a little longer to pay off in Scott Stadium.

When UVA suspended Walcott and his two teammates back in February, it wasn’t for one month or three games, it was “indefinitely.” Yikes. Indefinitely is about as open-ended as it gets, implying all sorts of unpleasant possibilities. “Indefinitely” gives one a maybe-tomorrow-or-next-week-or-next-year-but-most-likely-I’ll-end-up-stuck-behind-a-file-cabinet-in-the-back-of-a-storage-closet-and-good-luck-holding-on-until-somebody-remembers-I’m-back-there kind of feeling. And that’s where Descartes comes in– Mike London’s inner Descartes, that is.

In Principles of Philosophy, Descartes made the metaphysical (not scientific) distinction between the “infinite” and the “indefinite.” Infinity is too great for the human mind to comprehend, he said, but indefinite taxes the old noggin a bit less strenuously.

“Because we cannot imagine extension so great that we cannot still conceive greater," Rene wrote, "we will say that the magnitude of possible things is indefinite.”

Old Descartes was giving himself some leeway, as all good philosophers must. When London suspended Walcott and his teammates indefinitely, he wasn’t being arbitrary; he was giving himself some leeway.

The full weight of “Indefinitely’” came to bear on Tuesday, April 5, when the Harrisonburg/Rockingham General District Court dismissed the charges against Walcott. Undoubtedly the linebacker assumed London would reinstate him that day, or maybe the next.

When a week went by without the call, Walcott must have thought “indefinitely” really meant “infinitely”– and that’s probably the way London wanted him to feel. He waited until April 14 to reinstate Walcott, nine days after the court decision. It was a very smart move.

Mike London is a coach with high expectations of his players: go to class, do your homework, stay out of trouble, and try your best. Anything less is unacceptable. Leaving Walcott in limbo for nine days was a lesson in what “indefinitely” means, not just to Walcott but also to every other Cavalier football player.

Indefinitely ends whenever coach London decides and not a moment before, no matter what a judge or jury might decide. UVA isn’t Auburn, nor is it Ohio State; it’s a place where the coach, not the players or the boosters, is in charge.

Not only did Walcott have to sweat it out those nine days, but upon his reinstatement, the former starter learned he was being moved to the bottom of the defensive depth chart and that he has to meet daily with coach London. If he wants to play ball, he has to play it Mike London’s way, and that definitely means understanding that when it comes to discipline, “the magnitude of possible things is indefinite.”
Juanita lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son, and many dogs.