In news that will appall puritans and have virtually no impression on those who live in the real world, a study by ESPN reveals widespread marijuana use by the Oregon football team. Ducks players past and present estimate that “40-60 percent” of players smoke. “It’s a team thing,” one player says. “Like video games.”
Now, the revelation that college kids use recreation drugs is far from a bombshell. The piece is a worthwhile read, however, because of the way it paints the hands-off culture that allows such behavior to permeate the team.
At Oregon, there is a long tradition of players policing themselves. Several Ducks reference a "code" followed by teammates who handle weed-related matters in-house on a case-to-case basis. "Some guys who use marijuana go out and ball because they're relaxed," says former QB Akili Smith, "but if it affects his play, you sit him down and tell him, 'Yo, it's not for you.'?" Today, that code still stands.
"If you're not hurting the team, everyone's cool with it," says a current Ducks player.
They also pass down lessons, from one class to another, to help avoid detection: Buy through friends rather than dealers; keep it away from campus; if you think a test is coming, ask for detox information, which "is shared between teams and by NFL guys too," says another current player; and never smoke in public or at parties. "We're celebrities here," says another Duck.
Hey, at least they’re responsible about it. But that self-policing doesn’t have a 100 percent success ratio.
The past several years, some of those players have found their way into the police blotter. Former receiver Derrick Jones (now with the Raiders) was suspended indefinitely from the team in 2007 following a citation for "frequenting a drug house." Two years ago, star QB Jeremiah Masoli (now in the Canadian Football League) was dismissed after, among other transgressions, being cited for possession during a traffic stop. One of the more memorable incidents happened in June, when Oregon state police pulled over a Nissan Altima after clocking it at 118 mph about 45 miles north of Eugene on Interstate 5. The car, which carried three passengers, smelled of pot, according to the police report. At the wheel was Cliff Harris, Oregon's standout cornerback/punt returner on the team that lost the 2010 national championship game to Auburn; also in the car was Ducks starting QB Darron Thomas.
"Who's got the marijuana in the car?" asked the officer, who would later note Harris looked tired and that his eyes were "blown."
Harris' reply? "We smoked it all."
Lots of old-world pundits are opining that this news will hurt Ducks coach Chip Kelly on the recruiting trail. That seems highly unlikely. Anyone who doesn’t think this so-called “culture” would appeal to a 17-year-old is crazy. Throw in 4,345 uniform combinations and a hell of a lot of recent success, and Kelly’s got plenty of ammo with which to sell his school.
Or am I missing something? Should we be morally repulsed by this expose?