Saturday, August 18, 2007

the Fuzz | by Jay

Apparently Jimmy Clausen was ticketed back in June for something called "transporting alcohol as a minor". The Indiana State Excise cops were staking out Belmont Beverage when Clausen and two others arrived to pick up some hooch. One of the others, a 23-year-old, entered the store while Clausen waited in the car.

Excise police were in an unmarked car outside the store to catch minors attempting to get alcohol, said Lt. Tim Cleveland, a police spokesman.

Clausen, the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the last recruiting cycle and currently battling for the starting quarterback job at Notre Dame, received a misdemeanor citation, police said. The 23-year-old, a recent Notre Dame graduate, was cited for inducing a minor to possess alcohol, an infraction.

Clausen, through the university, declined comment Friday. Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis also declined comment.

The 23-year-old entered the store and bought two 1.75-liter bottles of Smirnoff vodka and a 200-milliliter bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, police said, as well as a case containing 30 cans of Natural Light beer...

Clausen entered a pretrial diversion program with the St. Joseph County prosecutor’s office, said Linda Scopelitis, who directs the program.

Under the terms of the agreement, signed on July 11, Clausen agreed to pay a $170 fee and to not commit a similar offense for a year, Scopelitis said.
Leaving aside the curious timing of the report (this happened two months ago?) and tabling a discussion of the appropriate use of time by state police (waiting around liquor stores to bust kids?), purchasing 30-packs of Natty Light at Belmont Beverage, McLovin'-style, is almost a rite of passage at ND. I think our dorm single-handedly kept that place in business for four years, cycling through cases upon cases of Keystone, Busch, and Milwaukee's Best.

It's kind of a dumb thing for Jimmy to get caught doing, especially seeing as an Irish quarterback basks in the brightest spotlight in college football. If Clausen forgets to tie his shoes in the morning, it's going to be reported. An Irish quarterback has to be extra-careful. Still, "transporting alcohol while underage" sounds like another one of those byzantine Indiana "Blue Laws". (You know, like you can't buy a sixpack at the grocery store on Sunday, a liquor store can't sell milk, and you can't carry your drink from the bar to a seat in the restaurant). This one's particularly silly, and it's a minor infraction.

Which brings me to Jeff Carroll's nasty and mean-spirited editorial in the SBT today. In it, Carroll attempts to hold up the incident as part of continuing pattern of bad behavior by Clausen. Along the way he refers to a "a growing scrapbook of melodrama", Clausen as "the permanent poster boy for recruiting excess and entitlement", taking "aloofness to a new level", calling his announcement press conference an "abomination" cheered on by "enablers decked out in blue and gold", describing him as "tortured-looking", branding him an "above-it-all primadonna" who must make amends for his "showboating", and finally, wondering aloud if Clausen is "worth all the aggravation." It's a pretty vigorous rip job, and after reading it you wonder what the hell Jimmy ever did to piss this guy off.

Carroll, you'll remember, was one half of the intrepid SBT team of Carroll & Wieneke that spilled a bunch of ink last summer "investigating" the recruitment of Clausen. In a multi-part series of articles, they speculated that ND under Charlie Weis might be attracting a bad element, and held up the recent police blotter activity at USC as the final destination for the Irish program. In the end, the articles were nothing more than baseless hypothesizing; a good read, spoiled. After they were published, Charlie got hacked off, and banned the two reporters from asking questions at pressers for a day. (They reconciled almost immediately, and Jeff and Bob were back on the job the next day).

Today's editorial from Carroll feels like a case of residual sour grapes, a hangover from last year's tête-à-tête. Instead of looking at the incident dispassionately, Carroll slams Clausen and beats him down mercilessly. In fact, just a week ago, Carroll spent the better part of a column psychoanalyzing Charlie and his impending quarterback decision, using words like "joyless" and "misery" and "emotionally draining" and "psychologically taxing" and "oppressive".

I have to wonder, what press conference was Jeff Carroll watching? Since the start of camp, Charlie's been anything but "joyless"; in fact, he's been downright ebullient, much moreso than I've ever seen him since his arrival at ND. When talking about the quarterback race, he's jocular and smiling and has a continual "I know something you don't know" grin on his face. It's the polar opposite of what Carroll describes, as anyone can see for him/herself on the videos. I don't know why he would paint such a gloomy picture, but I can speculate. There's a pattern of churlish behavior developing here, and it's not with Jimmy Clausen.