Sports are unique in the sense that they provide a platform for individuals to rise to hero status based on their play. They can also turn athletes into goats for the exact reason.
However, the unique aspect comes when an athlete, defined by a terrible performance on a big stage, finds redemption, forever erasing the negative perception from the memories of fans.
Just ask Oklahoma safety Javon Harris, who has that very opportunity this Saturday when the Sooners take on Baylor in Norman.
Last season, Harris was torched repeatedly by Baylor's Robert Griffin III, consistently biting on play-action fakes which allowed Griffin to hit receivers over the top for big pass plays and touchdowns. In fact, Harris got caught looking in the Bears' backfield on the second play of the game and got burned for a 79-yard touchdown pass, but it was called back thanks to a holding penalty.
The night only got worse for Harris. On a touchdown pass from Griffin to wide receiver Tevin Reese in the second quarter, Harris was getting chewed out by linebacker Travis Lewis before Reese even reached the end zone.
It was just that kind of night for Harris, who had secondary coach Willie Martinez, defensive coordinator Brent Venable, and head coach Bob Stoops in his face for most of the night. He was eventually benched in the second half, and didn't get his starting spot back until this spring.
This season, Harris hasn't been perfect, but he has been nothing like the player that was running around the Floyd Casey Stadium grass completely lost. Harris has racked up 40 tackles, second on the team, and leads the team with four interceptions, including a 46-yard return for a touchdown against Texas Tech.
His darkest night has served as a motivator for Harris since the day after it happened. Monday after the game, Harris showed up for media availability and stayed longer than anyone else answering questions about his performance.
I remember Harris speaking with the media back in August at the Sooners' media day, and he said he had watched the game that very day. Since that time, he watched it pretty much every day during two-a-days, and when asked about last year Monday after practice, he told reporters he had watched the game earlier in class.
It's unfortunate such a poor performance has come to define Harris as a player. He's a solid safety, proving this season that his performance against Baylor was anything but the norm. He's also a high-character individual. Not many people would be able to own up to such a poor performance the way Harris has over the past year.
But this week, Harris has the opportunity to turn around the public perception of him as a football player, at least for those out there who still view him as terrible. Every fan's eyes will be on him Saturday, hoping he can take advantage of this opportunity to make them forget his darkest hour.