Unless you’re a fan of American football,
you may not know who Maurice Clarrett is, but this morning he’s big news and
for all the wrong reasons.

Late on Tuesday night Ohio police
noticed a four wheel drive swerving all over the road and gave chase. After
spiking the wheels, police followed the car into a restaurant parking lot where
they struggled to subdue the driver, partly because he was wearing a
bullet-proof vest which nullified their stun guns, and partly because he was
big, very strong, and not interested in being subdued.

After cuffing the man, police searched his
vehicle and found four loaded weapons. Just the usual stuff, including an
assault rifle, a 9mm hand gun, and a machete, presumably not there because he
was a keen gardener. The man in the back of the police car, now wearing a few
cans of pepper spray and a cloth mask, was Maurice Clarrett, a troubled ex-NFL
hopeful – and a player with the Mahoning Valley Hitmen – who was destined one
day to make headlines like “Clarrett’s bond set at $5 million”.
That day has arrived.

“We’re very confident that there was no
intent to harm anyone,” Clarrett’s lawyer argued in court, but it seems the
judge was disturbed by the place Clarrett was arrested – only a few blocks from
the house of a person set to testify against him in an alleged robbery trial.
Clarrett’s counsel also argued the $US5 million bond set by the judge was
excessive, and they may have a point – the prosecution asked for the bond to be
set at $US1 million.

In a fascinating article on Clarrett’s
life, ESPN journalist Tom Friend today suggests that the big-money high-stakes world of pro football was not the right place
for Clarrett. He may have had talent, but he also had a self-destructive streak
that has shadowed him ever since his sporting ability was first identified.

There’s probably not much for Australian
sports fans to take out of this other than the “only-in-America” shock value.
That, and perhaps relief that the trouble our sportspeople tend to cause is a still
long way off world’s best practice.

Peter Fray

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