Maurice Clarett’s Downfall: Who Is to Blame?

Mike Nanna

He couldn’t handle the pressure. He thought he was invincible. He was just plain stupid. These are just a few of the numerous explanations one can give for the tragic downfall of Maurice Clarett. The common element within each and every one of these explanations is that they all involve blaming Maurice. Maurice did this to himself. He should have been something special, and he just couldn’t keep it together. What a shame. In the media and as fans in general, it’s easy to blame fallen stars. It’s easy to bash great athletes who show glaring imperfections. It comes naturally for many of us to jump on the bandwagon that just so happens to be dragging one athlete’s name through the mud.

In the case of Maurice Clarett, it may seem easier than usual to make a final judgment. This is a man who not only robbed two people, but was caught with multiple firearms, a bullet proof vest, and a bottle of vodka in his car on his way to do God knows what. This is certainly not an innocent victim of the system, but rather a terrible young man who recklessly put others’ lives in danger. But is this really a complete or even accurate assessment?

I ask you to consider the cases of some other young prodigies who went awry: Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, even Mike Tyson. Why does it seem that some of the time, when boys are asked to be men before they are ready, they often crash and burn. We see the same type of thing happen in Hollywood. Michael Jackson didn’t exactly turn out to be an upstanding citizen nor did the cute little boy from the movie “A Bronx Tale”. When these kids have the world handed to them before they truly even understand their place in it, does it really surprise you that they flush it down the toilet? A common answer to this question would be that, since we’ve seen a number of young men succeed when put in this position (Lebron James for example), doesn’t that show that the problem is not the situations but rather the boys themselves? But why should one person’s success automatically condemn others for their failures?

What if Lebron, for example, just happened to be surrounded with the right people who instilled the right values or shielded him from the trouble that awaited him should he have strayed? What if Lebron had people in his life that made him “keep it real” even when it seemed like he could do pretty much whatever he wanted. Maurice Clarett certainly did not have those people. He was encouraged into destructive behavior from the moment he stepped onto the Ohio State University campus, and most likely beforehand as well. He admitted to being given money, cars, and no show jobs, not to mention passing grades in courses he rarely showed up for. There is no doubt that the University and his coach Jim Tressel turned a blind eye to these actions because they, just like the rest of us, didn’t care much for Clarett’s personal well-being. We all enjoyed watching him play football on Saturdays and were looking forward to one day watching him on Sundays; quite frankly, there was nothing that would take our attention away from that. Not even an introspective and sensitive boy who clearly was showing signs that he couldn’t handle the pressure. Not even a troubled young man who was showing poor judgment more and more frequently. Not even a kid, just like any of us here at Colgate, that just needed a little guidance. He was an entertainer and we cared about the product he gave us each and every week.

Maybe it is mostly Maurice Clarett’s fault that his next four years or so will be spent behind bars. Perhaps he did do this to himself. But before we crucify him for making some horrendous life choices, let’s remember who was cheering for this same boy when he scored the winning touchdown in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. It was partly that cheering that contributed to his downfall and for this reason, a hint of sympathy for Clarett and others like him would be well deserved. We at least owe them that.