News comes slowly on vacation, and, even if it does finally reach you, your brain has a way of not believing it. For the last week or so, I was at the South Jersey shore, but my brain was somewhere else--marinating in a never-ending cocktail of sun, sand, Heineken, poker, family outings, still more Heineken and very little sleep. What I heard from the outside world usually took awhile to register.
They caught a terrorist? They raised the threat level? They uncovered a plot to attack New Jersey? Are you sure? And Rick James died? Really?
It was all super freaky. But none of that jarred me as much as the Quincy Carter saga. I left the beach about 4:30 one afternoon and found four messages on my cell phone, all of which screamed essentially the same information: Carter...cut...drugs...holy shit.
The cocaine rumors hit me hardest. They started as a report on FoxSports.com but were retracted a few days later by the (ig)noble outfit. It seemed like an awfully hard drug for a God-fearing Christian like Carter to sample. But regardless of what drug he might have flirted with, he did use some sort of substance--that much was undeniable. It was widely reported that he had registered one positive test and had spent time in rehab. At that point, the specific drug hardly mattered to me. I wouldn't have cared if he was smoking herb or shooting heroin into his eyeball. One is more benign than the other, yeah, but it's the idea of Quincy Carter--Godboy--using "substances" that rankled. For the past few years, I've hardly heard him utter a sentence that didn't include at least a cursory reference to the Almighty. I don't mind if anyone does drugs. And who cares if an athlete likes to party? What pisses me off is when someone beats me down with religion and piety when he's actually a closet degenerate. Nothing wrong with being a degenerate, mind you--it's the façade to which I object. Which is why I hope God smites Carter somehow. A focused plague would be fine; some locusts might do the trick.
"I just know that I'm saddened by this turn of events," head coach Bill Parcells said in a news conference the day Carter was kicked to the curb. "I really am--you know, I like these kids. I don't have anything personal--I had a good relationship with the kid. That's just the way it is.
"I've got 18 months invested here, too. I have two off-season programs and a regular-season and a playoff game invested in this process, too."
Jerry Jones made comments of a similarly nauseating nature--he was sorry to see Carter go, but it had to be done, blah, blah, blah. That's why Carter isn't the only one who ought to be punished for hypocrisy. The Cowboys, General Jerry and Big Bill are also guilty. That Jones--the same man who enabled his players' overt debauchery in the mid-'90s--could stand up and, with a straight face, say they cut Carter because it had to do with team "philosophy and what we're about," was hilarious, but it wasn't surprising. The man has made a career out of lying and changing direction in opportune moments. And Parcells isn't much better--he had Lawrence Taylor once, remember. The Hall of Fame linebacker was a major cokehead, but Parcells chose to look the other way. The reasoning was the same for Parcells and Jones back then. Both Taylor and the troublesome Cowboys were winners, real players who delivered Super Bowls instead of quasi-capable question marks who delivered next to nothing.
Don't be fooled by the rhetoric--if Carter were blessed with a ring on his finger or a bit more talent, he'd still have a star on his helmet and a team to command. Admittedly, the Cowboys cut Carter for a variety of complex reasons--he allegedly was one positive test away from a four-game suspension, for starters--but the underlying impetus was watching their own backs. That's what they do best, that and covering up their motives. In this case, though, their spin control had as much to do with standard operating procedure as necessity. The Pokes had to say that it wasn't just about the drugs. They had to say it was about on-field production and other concerns because the NFL Players Association and the league have an agreement that teams can't cut players solely because of drug issues. It's also understood that teams can't administer their own drug tests--which, some believe, is exactly what the Cowboys did and how they came to find out that Carter was using. Tsk, tsk. The NFLPA may file a complaint on Carter's behalf, and well they should. But don't expect any significant fallout from that. The Pokes will probably get away with it--whatever "it" was. (Let's hope when God is done with Carter, he'll shoot the Pokes with a few bolts of lightning.)
The real bummer here is that Quincy's mere presence offered us something we all needed--a quarterback competition and a side to take. Or maybe we didn't need it so much as we longed for it. Just having Carter around provided us with entertainment and, more important, something to talk about. Whomever any of us supported--Carter or Vinny Testaverde--was largely immaterial. Until the games began, the important thing wasn't whose side you were on but rather that we were afforded the opportunity to take sides in the first place. The "my guy is better, and yours plays like he has some kind of palsy" arguments were a bit childish, but they also made for a damn good time.
Now that Carter is gone, the side-taking and the certitude that went with it have been abandoned for a far less entertaining, all-encompassing understanding. We know what's going to happen next as surely as we know that Mayor Laura Miller is never going to keep her pothole promise. It's going to be Testaverde's team for as long as the 'Boys are winning. After that, Drew Henson takes over and the future becomes the present. Maybe Tony Romo will make a cameo appearance, but only if there are injuries. So we know how things are going to go from here, and where's the fun in that?
After all this bullshit about Quincy Carter and what drugs he did or didn't do, and what tests the Cowboys did or didn't administer, and why they cut him, the fact that we're now deprived of a little fun and spontaneity is the greatest disappointment. His overindulgence combined with the team's hypocritical self-preservation have deprived the rest of us of another end-of-summer drama. By the time you read this, I'll be at training camp in Oxnard, California, and I'm quite positive it'll be a total bore.
Only the Pokes' record and postseason fate remain in question now. Which, in turn, leaves Dallas backers with only two options: Either pray or party.
On second thought, given Carter's example, fans might as well do both.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.