--Barry Switzer, former University of Oklahoma football coach, in Bootlegger's Boy
Let's examine the events surrounding Arizona State University's fleet-footed quarterback and admitted sneak thief, Garrick McGee.
Charles Harris, the slippery, smooth-talking athletic director at ASU, characterizes McGee as a fine young man guilty only of making some wrong decisions.
Harris and Bruce Snyder, the football coach, agree that McGee's punishment for his crime wave along Mill Avenue in Tempe should be suspension from a single ASU football game. Incredibly, the weak-kneed president of the university, Lattie Coor, stands by and is unable to murmur even a word of dissent.
The state criminal code prescribes the penalty for the crimes to which McGee has confessed as five years in a state prison.
I apologize. I know your eyes must widen in disbelief when you read things like this.
You must have the same questions I do.
How can Harris' perception of criminal activity differ so widely from the law's? Are the people who wrote the laws crazed? Well, for one thing, Harris is in the business of generating crowds at football games. That's his bottom line. The criminal justice people, on the other hand, are charged only with making the streets safe. McGee was picked to be this year's starting quarterback for the Sun Devils because he is a talented, swift runner who will prove dangerous to opposing teams. No matter how many scrapes McGee gets into with the law, they will not matter to Harris and Snyder, so long as McGee performs well on the field. This Saturday McGee is scheduled to lead Arizona State into an important game against the formidable University of Louisville. Louisville barely lost its opener to Ohio State University, and is shooting for a postseason bowl bid. So are the Sun Devils.
The photogenic Sun Devil Stadium is a mere four-minute stroll down the street from the Leather Mill at 640 South Mill, scene of the most effective piece of open-field running McGee has displayed since his arrival on campus.
Here's what happened, according to police reports and subsequent confessions. Read the unadorned prose of the police and you get the real picture.
From academia, you get Paradise Lost. From the cops, you get A Clockwork Orange.
Perhaps Harris' values are so totally turned around because he's so close to the situation. He's like Barry Switzer in Switzer's final days at the University of Oklahoma.
When Switzer's quarterback in 1989, a young man named Charles Thompson, was nabbed by the FBI for selling cocaine, Switzer's immediate defense was that Thompson wasn't using cocaine, only selling it.
I keep thinking of poor Rodney King standing there in front of a forest of TV cameras and asking plaintively:
"Can we all get along?"
Not this way.
@body:On Friday, December 13, 1991, quarterback McGee and Tim Smith, a linebacker from the Sun Devil football team, pushed through the front door of the Leather Mill, not far from the Coffee Plantation on teeming Mill Avenue, a central gathering place for college students and faculty members. It was the fourth time within the span of a week that McGee and Smith had gone to the same store to try on the top-quality leather jackets.
The place is owned and operated by Mitch and Bunny Stoller, transplants from Illinois. Years ago, says Mitch Stoller, he played football as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois. Mitch is proud of the fact that he was on the same team with Ray Nitschke, who went on to become a member of the National Football League Hall of Fame following a spectacular career as a linebacker with the Green Bay Packers.
Ironically, Nitschke himself had engaged in off-campus activities which resulted in his being brought before a campus disciplinary body.
Nitschke, the story goes, drank too much beer one night and mouthed off to a waitress in a restaurant just off the Illini campus. The waitress poured a bottle of ketchup over his head. When it was learned how Nitschke had behaved, he was ordered to make a public apology for his rudeness.
The Stollers insist they like and admire young athletes. They enjoy it when members of the Phoenix Cardinals come into their store to look through their collection of expensive leather jackets. The Cardinals, who earn big salaries, can easily afford to pay for them.
Bunny Stoller had been growing increasingly nervous, however, over the visits of these two young men who loitered in the store for long periods, trying on the jackets, without making a purchase. On their most recent visit, she had become frightened and suspicious when they asked her as they departed what time she was planning to close the store.