That is the major takeaway from this overcooked word-soup from Rick Reilly. Sure, he bizarrely shoehorns George Zimmerman into an article about "young, urban athletes" who were neither murdered nor murderous, but the real gist of this column is that Rick Reilly is fucking shocked that those four kids didn't steal anything, or at least thinks you'll be shocked.
Reilly spins a yarn about four D-III football players from New Jersey who coincidentally walked into a convenience store on a night it had been broken into. They walked in thinking the store was open, picked out some stuff and milled around looking for someone to pay before eventually leaving money on the counter to pay for what they took. They then went to tell the neighboring store that it looked like someone was missing. That's the hook; that the four college athletes (who look like this) somehow defied the odds to not be total shitheads, to the shock and wonderment of all who observed it. Seriously, every person in this story is amazed by it.
It's hard to understand why else a man (and, maybe, woman) would spend so much time to write a column in this way. It's as if he fancies himself a magician, fluttering his hands and distracting you with
witty banter and then—voilà!—those "urban athletes" with "dreads and hoodies and baggy pants" actually weren't your worst fears skulking around your neighborhood. As he produces a quarter from behind your ear.
Still, we are merely in Reilly's nonsense wheelhouse. He dials up the cynical schmalz a bit, but it's not like we haven't read things like "...not a break-in. It was a breakout. Of honor[,]" or "she expected shoplifting and got spirit-lifting instead" from Reilly before. But then something happened. Maybe dark-goateed Evil Rick Reilly took a shovel to both Reilly and his editor. Maybe he had a breakout. Of fucking insanity. Hard to tell; but this paragraph appears in the column:
I love this story. It makes me want to go hug somebody. I cover young, urban athletes nearly every week and 99 percent of them are fine and honest and good. Dreads and hoodies and baggy pants are not moral statements, they're fashion statements, nothing more. These four just made that a whole lot easier for me to explain.
It actually works to his favor that it barely makes sense. Still, it's curious why this is such a noteworthy story if 99 percent of the young, urban athletes he covers nearly every week are fine and honest and good. What was it about these four kids with dreads and hoodies and baggy pants doing the right thing—99 percenters—that prompted a glowing column? To let us know he can now more easily sell the idea that people wearing clothes and hair are, for the most part, not thieving assholes and may even be nice?
And then he drops the Zimmerman kicker. Just in case you were wondering if Rick Reilly ever gave one shit about telling a good story (or telling a story well), here he is cable news-ifying one about college athletes not stealing batteries.