Tiger traps

Sports blotter: "What are they teaching at Clemson?" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  July 11, 2007


Truth decay
Baseball players steal bases, basketball players steal basketballs, and that’s all acceptable behavior within the confines of the game. Football players, however, have a disturbing tendency to steal cars, and that is — generally speaking — not acceptable behavior.

While it would be hard to call it a trend, exactly, there’s a little something afoot with NFL players and car theft. It seems as if once every few years or so, an NFL player will be driving along, minding his own business, only to be pulled over in some static backwater town by bored, overweight cops who, through genius detective work, subsequently discover that their angry, over-muscled suspect is driving a stolen auto.

Usually, after many hours of communing with expensive city lawyers and sifting through piles of confusing out-of-state fugitive warrants, the cops end up dropping the charges, issuing citations for speeding and verbal resisting, and letting their out-of-town guests walk, after the visitor has forked over a small fine and an autographed football.

It doesn’t always happen that way, though. For players like Bam Morris, Tamarick Vanover, and Mark Ingram, stolen-car beefs resulted in real charges and big-time scandals. (Ingram’s deal was the most interesting. The ex-Giant was caught in 2001 in a Ford Expedition ripped off from a Budget Rent-a-Car lot; when he was busted he had more than three grand in counterfeit bills on him — and one of Lawrence Taylor’s checkbooks in his car. It took police a while to sort that one out).

Others, such as then–Atlanta Falcon cornerback Juran Bolden (who apparently bought a stolen car illegally) got off somewhat more easily. Overall, there have been about a half-dozen stolen-car situations involving NFL players in just the past decade or so.

Now we have our latest such case, this one involving a little-known Oakland Raiders defensive end named Bryant McNeal. McNeal was pulled over by cops in tiny Chapin, South Carolina, this past week, and, at first, was chippy with arresting officers, teasing them for the lameness of their speed trap. “You’re always trying to get people right there at 35 miles per hour, man,” he said, after being stopped for the standard broken-headlight offense. “You’re trying to stay awake. You’re a real hero.” Cops shrugged but then booked McNeal after they saw that his license had been suspended. They then dug more deeply and found that there was a warrant out for his arrest in Florida, for selling a Land Rover to a pawnbroker for $15,000 when he didn’t really own it.

Police also found a charge for writing a fraudulent check to a dentist, which begs the question: doesn’t this guy have full medical? In either case, I’m giving this guy a flat 50 on the crime scale. Cheating a dentist just isn’t right.

McNeal was a star at Clemson — that’s worth pointing out because we’ve had a hell of a lot of South Carolinian arrests of late. Which brings us to . . .

Troubled waters
The San Diego Chargers, when not whining about their playoff losses, have lately been in the habit of racking up criminal charges like yellow flags — so much so that they’re in danger of becoming Cincinnati West. Their latest foible came this past weekend when Anthony Waters, a standout linebacker they drafted out of Clemson (in South Carolina!) this past year, got run up on assault charges in a bizarre incident involving an amateur baseball player named Colby Sarvis.

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