Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Darkest things happen during the day's darkest hours

Nothing good happens after midnight.

I have heard Conrad Straube say that a hundred times, perhaps 200.

I know exactly what he means by that. As a cop on the street for many years before becoming Willoughby’s police chief, he was a first-hand witness to the carnage, insanity and various forms of criminal activity that take place in the early-morning hours.

And when he said he saw a lot of the seamy side of life taking place after midnight, he knew precisely of where he spoke.

Conrad recently retired as chief. Fortunately for the city, he was succeeded by another outstanding chief, Jack Beckwith.

I have been privileged to know every chief in Lake County since 1950, as well as many from surrounding communities — places such as Euclid, Lyndhurst, Mayfield, Mayfield Heights and Hunting Valley.

I would say that at least 90 percent of them were excellent chiefs. And Conrad was one of the best — probably one of the top half-dozen. So whenever he spoke, I listened. And his observations about what happens in the middle of the night are not only interesting, they’re something the officials of the National Football League might wish to pay attention to.

Who knows, they might even want to establish curfews for the overgrown kids who play for their teams and who don’t seem to be smart enough to stay out of trouble.

Not every professional football player is a mental midget, of course, but enough of them are to give the sport a black eye and make the public-at-large wonder what in the world is wrong with these overpaid dopes.

I am not talking about the players who know enough to go home, watch the 11 o’clock news and go to bed. They don’t have a need to be out on the prowl until 3 a.m., which seems to be the time most of them get in trouble.

Here’s another of Conrad’s axioms: He said of all the drivers he ever stopped on the highway after midnight, fully half of them were driving with no licenses or with suspended licenses.

So if anyone, not just a professional athlete, is on the road after midnight, there is at least a chance that the police officer who is watching you might be wondering what your status is as a certified driver.

The lady of the house and I go out to dinner quite often, but we are almost always home by 9:30. By 10 p.m. the dogs have been out, we are in our pajamas, and we are watching a movie.

The other night we watched “Notorious,” with Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains. What a great film! They don’t make ’em like that any more. But I digress.

So many football players have been arrested in the past few months that I got to wondering if it is an epidemic. Then I read Jim Ingraham’s column last Sunday in which he pointed out there have been 27 arrests of NFL players in the last five months.

Later I read that the number is now 29. There may be even more by now. And by golly, that is an epidemic.

Baseball players also get into trouble in the middle of the night. But lately football players seem to be cornering the market on late-night arrests.

They aren’t getting busted for double-parking. It is murder that heads the list.

Money has a lot to do with it. The NFL owners are billionaires and the players are millionaires.

I don’t know how much regard the owners have for their money, but many — not all — of the players are like children who are turned loose in a candy store.

The way they spend money is a form of insanity. Why, for example, does Joe Haden, one of the Browns’ best players, have five or six luxury cars? Does it make any sense? Does he need them, or is it pure ostentation?

When Clay Matthews played for the Browns, he drove the same old Ford Mustang for years. For all I know he may still be driving it.

Can you imagine Otto Graham, the greatest quarterback of all time, who won 10 championships for the Browns in 10 years, owning six cars? Or staying out until 3 a.m.?

By the way, when today’s heroes are out until all hours of the night, they are not playing pinochle. There is booze involved.

And, of course, disputes over women, as in who said what to whom, who was insulted by the remark, and why the conversation evolved into gunfire, as in the case of Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot who is now unemployed and facing murder charges.

I hope he saved some of that $12.5 million signing bonus he got. He will need it.

The players (and the owners) may not be so smart, but the lawyers are, and they will end up with a fistful of those dollars.


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