Bear season

Sports blotter: Vacationland edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  April 2, 2008

Remember the Maine
Remember this past year, when the state of Montana — a heretofore mostly ignored distant iceberg adrift in the sea of major college football — became the unquestioned capital of American sports violence, exploding with a series of serious felony cases, ranging from murder to coke trafficking?

Well, we may have a new weird and unexpected pretender to the great sports-crime throne, and this one is right here in our own backyard: the University of Maine Black Bears.

This past week, UMaine Black Bear D-lineman Bryan Grier walked up to a woman in New Hampshire, ordered her to give him the keys to her Jeep Cherokee, and then drove off. An effective way of stealing a vehicle, one supposes, except that it allows the victim to actually see you. Grier was busted almost instantly when others reported a man by the same description acting “erratically” in the nearby area. He was hit with felony theft and misdemeanor “reckless conduct” and robbery charges.

So what, right? Well, it turns out that Grier’s is just the most recent in a long line of arrests involving UMaine athletes or coaches since this past spring. Looking back, we remember a few of these cases, such as the November incident in Orono, in which seemingly J-Kidd-inspired freshman hockey player Tanner House made a barroom tit-grab (charges were later dropped). But most of the arrests were small-potatoes stuff (small Maine potatoes, probably), including an OUI for an assistant football coach; a summons for a football player who got into a fight over, not with, a girlfriend; and a couple of charges for a basketball player and a football player who went on a shopping spree with a stolen debit card. Even the bigger cases were devoid of any eyebrow-raising information, unless you count the fact that House, an Albertan, was described in the news as a 21-year-old freshman. Guess they go to school late up there in Canada.

But racking up double-digit arrests in the space of a year is pretty amazing, Florida State–caliber stuff. It got bad enough that UMaine president Robert Kennedy had to institute a new policy for internal discipline that involved doubling the old penalties.

The Grier incident doesn’t seem like the usual obnoxious/enabled-since-childhood star athlete running amok. He apparently has psychological issues and has been admitted to a mental-health facility in the wake of the arrest. Still, it can’t be the best news for the Black Bears, who appear to have written themselves into national sports coverage with this series of busts. We’re giving Grier an Incomplete on his crime score until he’s released from the hospital — until then, we’ll keep an eye on our neighbors up north.

Not nice beavers
Here’s a twist on a fairly common college-jock-crime phenomenon, the target-shooting incident gone horribly wrong. We see about five of these cases a year, and usually it’s one of two things: either an offensive lineman tries to shoot cans or bottles with a pellet gun and hits people by accident, or an offensive lineman tries to hit people with a pellet gun and succeeds. But this past week, we had baseball players instead of offensive linemen, and the target-shooting didn’t involve a pellet gun, but an actual .22-caliber rifle.

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