The world of sports journalism has for decades been one giant Willie Wonka chocolate factory for the tired cliché. And while sportswriters themselves are generally just literate enough to keep from confusing their products, the general public may be excused if it permits some cross-pollination. Last week, in the Albuquerque Tribune, the victim of a sports crime jumped exactly that shark, resulting in one of the more macabre innovations in the history of sports journalism.
Every sportswriter worth his toupee will openly recognize that “I heard something pop” is one of the 10 English-language phrases most important to his professional survival. As the required stock line of the sports-injury story (“I turned and planted my foot and I just heard something pop,” said El-Amin, who is now doubtful for the rest of the season), “I heard something pop” is every bit as crucial to sports-writing success as are cheesy post-game catch phrases like “I was just trying to make something happen” and “We’re really coming together as a team.”
Sadly, another well-worn cliché of sports journalism is the story of the college athlete arraigned on battery and false-imprisonment charges after an “altercation” outside a dorm with an ex-girlfriend who has just started dating a non-jock with respectable grades. For some reason, these stories often involve wide receivers in particular, and in recent years have tended also to be precipitated by the throwing of a cell phone at the ex-girlfriend’s head (see: Wisconsin Badger wideout Ernest Mason, Penn State receiver Maurice Humphrey, et al.). We had a variation on this tale occur last week in New Mexico, when UNM safety Aleem Harris was charged with four felony counts of “aggravated battery causing great bodily harm” and one count of kidnapping after confronting his ex outside a UNM student apartment complex.
According to police reports, Harris swung repeatedly at his ex, who had broken off their relationship two weeks earlier, and struck her in the nose with the heel of his hand. “I’ve never hit a woman before, but I’m about to fuck you up,” the safety reportedly yelled at his victim. The 6’3”, 225-pound Harris was eventually restrained by his teammate, Othellus Swift, who incidentally is now in line for the starting-safety job following Harris’s suspension.
The oddity in the case revolves around the police report. Quoting from the Albuquerque Times:
“She said she dodged several of Harris’ swings, but her head hit the wall three times and she heard a loud pop when Harris struck her nose, the complaint states.”
Blues on the rampage
Pop quiz: name the only major college men’s-sports team in America with a female nickname (the NYU Violets don’t count). If you picked the University of Delaware, the alma mater of such sports legends as Rich Gannon and William “Jeff” Komlo (the onetime NFL quarterback who in retirement stole $1.4 million worth of South African stainless steel), you’re a genius. The Delaware Blue Hens are the only big program in the country whose male athletes carry the torch for a female mascot. The Wayland Baptist (Texas) Flying Queens, lest you forget, are a women’s team.
Not surprisingly, the Blue Hens have an extremely modest criminal history, with Komlo its only prominent offender. But that changed last week when three members of the football team were charged with the increasingly common Division I crime of home invasion. Linebacker Demetrice Alexander, running back Danny Jones, and defensive back Jeff Robinson allegedly entered the home of two students, held guns to the heads of a 20-year-old male and a 19-year-old female, and ransacked the place, stealing (among other things) marijuana and 18 vials of steroids.
Hens head coach K.C. Keeler sounded strangely vengeful in his first post-arrest remarks, when he appeared to favor summarily executing the three in the event of a guilty verdict. “People are innocent until proven guilty, but ... If any of the three is found to be involved in this crime in any way, each will be terminated.”
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Matt Taibbi: firstname.lastname@example.org