Surprising

Sports blotter: "Absolutely fell out of my chair" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  December 3, 2008

081205_blotter_main
Shocked, shocked
You do a thing often enough, you tend to get good at that thing. That’s the way practice works, and most football coaches understand the concept well. Running 40 curl routes at the end of each practice will make that one you run in the game go that much more smoothly.

The same goes for talking to the press after one of your players gets arrested. And this, too, is a thing that football coaches do a lot. Especially big-time coaches of big-time, D-1 programs — teams like Florida or Florida State — who bring in a lot of great athletes and all the behavioral problems that go with them. After 50 post-arrest press conferences in 15 years or so, these guys get pretty good at the shtick. “I’m deeply disappointed that Jimmy would even have an alligator in his room in the first place, but I think I speak for everyone in this program when I say that I believe him when he says he didn’t foresee the animal actually eating that girl. I mean, lots of collegiate athletes have pets . . .”

Take Urban Meyer, coach of SEC powerhouse Florida. Meyer has gotten pretty slick with his post-arrest comments, employing a range of strategies. He’s gone with the quick-strike, cut-that-bastard-loose strategy, used most recently when he kicked cornerback Jacques Rickerson to the curb after the latter got popped with a domestic-battery-by-strangulation charge (“That is not what our program is all about.”). He’s gone the “Coach X was tightlipped about Y’s arrest today” route, much favored by coaches who want to see just how bad the actual criminal charges will be before they act — Meyer used that tactic after safety Tony Joiner was arrested this past year (“I don’t know the whole story yet.”).

Then there is the “shocked, shocked” ploy, which you usually see after an important player or recruit gets hit with an especially ugly charge. Coach knows the player is such a great kid, a great teammate, he just can’t fathom how he ended up high on dust and throwing two state troopers into a plate-glass window. This is usually a prelude to an appeal to the court for mercy, a mild sentence that goes heavy on community service and anger-management counseling, and a boldly lenient one-game suspension (to coincide with the Appalachian State game) that the school issues using the reasoning that “we all make mistakes.”

Such was the situation this week when Cameron Newton, backup to megastar quarterback Tim Tebow, got arrested for the already passé charge of laptop theft. When police came to investigate the theft, it seems Newton threw the laptop out his window into a dumpster. The cops found the evidence and booked the young man on felony counts of burglary, larceny, and obstructing justice.

Meyer’s quote: “I was shocked. Absolutely fell out of my chair, crushed, surprised.”

Newton will probably be suspended for a while, but expect him back next year. He becomes one of a string of prominent college athletes (including UConn basketball stars A.J. Price and Marcus Williams and Red Sox farmhand Clay Buchholz) who’ve been caught stealing laptop computers. Give him 28 points for the nonviolent offense, plus an extra one for the classy throwing-out-the-window move.

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