Good Luck, Mo

Maurice Clarett has requested an early release from prison.  Clarett, now 26, has served a bit more than half of his 7 1/2-year prison sentence at the Toledo Correctional Institution.  A local Franklin County Judge will rule on his request after getting information on his behavior in prison.

Clarett went to prison after being convicted of serious crimes.  Still, I can’t help but pull for him a bit.  Clarett had one of the most rapid falls imaginable, from the heights of athletic glory to the depths of incarceration.  He was an integral part of the Ohio State team that beat the University of Miami Hurricanes for the national championship.  He was a tough, aggressive, punishing runner whose ground game helped to anchor the Buckeyes.  He carried a significant load in the Buckeyes’ offense that year, and he played through a number of injuries.  Most memorably for me, in the national championship game he made one of the great pure football moves I’ve ever witnessed in person.  After Craig Krenzel threw a dispiriting interception, Clarett ran down the Miami defensive back and somehow wrestled the ball away from him.  It was a tremendous, instinctive play by a truly talented football player.

That National Championship game was the last game Clarett ever played for the Buckeyes.  His behavior during that dream season had been somewhat erratic, but after the season he seemed to run off the rails.  Rather than take his punishment for apparent misconduct that was the subject of NCAA investigation, he decided to challenge the NFL draft rules for underclassmen, ultimately lost that legal challenge, and later was cut after being drafted by the Denver Broncos.  Thereafter, according to reports, he sank into increasingly bizarre behavior and eventually was convicted of criminal acts.

Clarett’s story is a sad one because he easily could have stayed with the team, graduated from school, supplemented his income with TV commercials, endorsements, and personal appearances, and been set for life as an honored member of the pantheon of Ohio State football sports heros.  Instead, he made some disastrously bad choices as he struggled with fame and his inner demons.  I always felt that Clarett could have used a father figure to advise him and give him better, more honest advice than what he was hearing from the sycophants around him.  With better advice from a trusted figure, he might have turned things around and perhaps never have strayed so far to begin with.

I’m willing to give a 26-year-old a break and a chance to redeem himself.  Good luck, Maurice Clarett.

A White-Knuckle Drive

This morning I drove from Columbus to Cincinnati during a raging snowstorm only to learn, a few miles from the Cincinnati outskirts, that the hearing would be rescheduled for a later day.  So, I promptly turned around and drove back to Columbus.  It was a white-knuckle drive both ways.

The roads were snow-covered, large snowflakes were falling, and there was a stiff breeze.  Still, long-distance driving has its lulling effects.  You begin by driving slowly and carefully, and then you gradually, inevitably increase your speed as the traction seems solid and nothing bad happens.  The danger, of course, is that it only takes a small slick spot to turn your car — going a measly 60 miles an hour, well below the speed limit — into an out-of-control projectile, skidding down the roadway and probably spinning, besides.  It only takes a brief instant of feeling like your car has lost contact with the road to make your bowels clench and force a few fervent prayers (mixed with epithets) from your lips.  Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, so there are no atheists in cars driving miserably down interstate highways in snowstorms, trying to keep their cars on the two tracks in the slow lane, their ice-covered wiper blades slapping but failing to clear off a windshield that is coated with ice and snow and muck thrown by the tractor-trailer speeding by in the passing lane.

I tried to take it easy both ways and managed to get to the Orient area, just south of Columbus, when I saw a series of tractor-trailer/car accidents.  There were cars and truck strewn across the roadway and median as if they had been tossed there by an angry child.  Traffic halted completely and I thought, as I often do in such situations, whether I could have been involved in the pileup if I hadn’t stopped for gas and a cheeseburger.  After a time traffic started up again, and as I drove past a few jack-knifed tractor-trailers I promised to drive carefully the rest of the way.  Fortunately, no one seemed to be hurt, and I was able to stick to my careful driving promise for the rest of the drive.

When I got home tonight I poured myself a glass of wine that tasted very sweet indeed.

Another Day, Another Winter Storm

Forecasters are calling for yet another winter storm to hit Columbus today, with total expected accumulation of another 8 inches of snow.  From this morning’s stroll it appears that the leading edge of the storm is already here, with a brisk wind flinging little icy bullets against the intrepid walker.  So, we will batten down the hatches, leave for work a little earlier, and drive a little slower today.

As a former D.C. resident who remembers how the Nation’s Capital freaked out over even a few inches of snow during the early ’80s, I’ve been wondering about how D.C. residents are dealing with the aftermath of the historic storm that dumped some 30 inches of snow on the area last weekend.  It sounds like some things haven’t changed; I’ve heard a few news reports of worried residents binge-buying milk, bread, eggs and bottled water from local grocery stores upon reports of this new storm approaching.  So, no matter what happens, they’ll be able to enjoy a hearty brunch.