Mon Mar 08 02:07pm EST
One item that we missed in this morning's police-blotter-esque Headlinin' post: Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger, one of two highly touted redshirt freshmen poised to compete for the starting job this season, was arrested early Sunday morning near Valdosta for, among other things, underage possession and false ID. If that doesn't win this year's Worst Way To End Spring Break Award, it's sure to be at least a finalist. (Actually, if Valdosta is Mettenberger's idea of a party, he may also be in the running for the Worst Way To Spend Spring Break Award, but that's a different post entirely.)
Mettenberger is the first UGA player to get pinched this year, and if history is any guide, he won't be the last. Yet the Bulldogs' brand of off-season scofflawism has become famous for its relative lack of out-and-out thuggery. You won't see a Dawg make the police blotter for a rape or robbery; more than likely it'll be for something like, well, this:
Call it mo-ped mania maybe, or a surge in scooter scofflaws - but two University of Georgia football players now have been busted in less than two weeks for committing traffic violations while operating the popular miniature motor vehicles.
The latest player to run afoul of the law was NaDerris Rakeem Ward, who wound up handcuffed and jailed after being pulled over by a UGA officer about 2:30 p.m. Friday. Police called a tow truck to haul away the 180-pound Yamaha scooter.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 255-pound Ward was riding a 49 cc Yamaha Zuma that weighs about 70 pounds less than the 19-year-old does. The football player was passing vehicles on the right side of the road - which is the wrong side of the road to pass anyone on two-lane streets - as Ward traveled along Carlton Street at East Campus Road, according to a UGA police incident report.
As the story explains, Ward's arrest occurred less than two weeks after running back Caleb King was pulled over for piloting an even smaller scooter the wrong way down Sanford Drive. It also came relatively close on the heels of a string of minor-to-moderate moving violations -- speeding, expired/suspended licenses, what have you -- that prompted some Dawg fans to wonder whether Mark Richt had ordered the team to surrender their automobiles and trade down to scooters in the hopes of reducing the chances of such incidents. (Which, if that was the strategy, it obviously failed.)
But perhaps the infraction most emblematic of Georgia's lawbreaking philosophy came about a year and a half earlier, when offensive lineman Ian Smith got drunk at Amici's restaurant in downtown Athens, went to the bathroom, and passed out so deeply and thoroughly that the police had to break down the door of his bathroom stall with a hammer just to get him out. Nobody injured, no automobiles involved, no property destroyed (other than the door) -- just a booze-lovin' good ol' boy failing to make use of the gray wrinkly thing growing out the top of his spinal cord.
It's easy to cackle at the Bulldogs for being dumb or irresponsible; even I, as a Georgia grad myself, will stipulate to both of those characterizations. But in light of recent incidents in Eugene, where certain Oregon Ducks seem intent on turning felonious assault into an offseason hobby, and Charleston, where two former Citadel players robbed one of their own coaches at gunpoint, it's time to salute the Dawgs for their measured, incremental path toward Fulmer Cup immortality. If, say, Oregon's offseason rap sheet is the equivalent of an R-rated movie, full of violence and (I'm just speculating here) bad language, then Georgia's a PG "Police Academy" farce at best -- scooters get driven the wrong way, people drink too much, some of them occasionally pass out on the toilet, but in the end the slapstick quotient far exceeds the body count.
And consider the alternative: In 2008, Georgia was complete arrest-free but saw its preseason number-one vaporized by three embarrassing losses and ended up in the Capital One Bowl. A year later, they put up some token arrests, finished well outside the Fulmer Cup top 10, and had the worst season of Mark Richt's tenure in Athens. If a misdemeanor-laden offseason is the price we have to pay for better things in 2010, then godspeed, Zach Mettenberger, and any teammates who may follow along (on their scooters, on the wrong side of the street) in your wake.
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Matt Hinton is on vacation this week. Inform Doug Gillett what a poor substitute he is at dougie_doodle at yahoo.