|Future millionaire Morris Claiborne isn't the loser in this Wonderlic story. (Getty Images)|
Part of me doesn't want to name the central character in this story. But I'll do it because you probably know his name already -- and even if you don't, you could Google a few of the facts and figure it out.
So his name is Morris Claiborne, and he played cornerback for LSU, and in a few weeks he'll be one of the first players picked in the 2012 NFL Draft. At that point his life will change. He'll become rich. He'll become (more) famous. He'll have endorsements to choose from, a new city to discover, a home to buy. His life will never be the same.
But one thing won't change.
He'll always be Morris Claiborne, the guy who scored the 4 on the Wonderlic.
He'll always be the guy who was identified -- and then mocked -- by the website Pro Football Talk as having the worst known NFL Wonderlic score, ever. The founder of that site, Mike Florio, wrote the story on Claiborne's Wonderlic score under the headline, "Claiborne gives birth to a four on the Wonderlic." That's a play on Claiborne's last name, get it? Smart guy, Mike Florio. He's as clever as the day is long.
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As cruel, too.
Also in that story is a reference to the previous holder of the dubious record for worst known Wonderlic score, Vince Young, whose score has been disputed but who was thought, for a time, to have scored a 6 on his first try. And after that reference to Young's allegedly low score, Florio ties it all up in a rattlesnake-shaped bow:
Finally, Florio wrote, Young has someone at whom he can point and laugh.
Because it's funny, see, that Morris Claiborne scored so low. It's downright hysterical that he has a learning disability, which he does, and that maybe his learning disability had something to do with that low score. Or maybe it had nothing to do with the low score. Maybe it doesn't matter.
Maybe it's nobody's business what his score is.
I would argue that players in the 2013 draft class should boycott the Wonderlic next spring. Why take the test, knowing that some gutless anonymous source might leak the lowest score to some media vulture who doesn't have the decency to decline the story? One or two players couldn't boycott the test, no. It would hurt their draft stock, cost them money, earn them a reputation as a troublemaker. But if all 300 or so players invited to the 2013 NFL combine refuse to take it, what's the NFL going to do?
Boycott 'em all?
But that's a story for another day, that solution to the Wonderlic leak. The story for today is about the leak itself, the website that would publish it, and the reaction it caused.
The reaction was cruel and uplifting, all at the same time. The cruelty came from those who would mock an athlete -- a human being -- for his perceived lack of intelligence. Read a few of my columns, and you know I can be as hard as just about anyone. But there are some lines I won't cross, like that line Mike Florio crossed. I will never mock someone for something they were born with.
That includes height, and that includes intelligence. That also includes an addictive personality, which is why I'm not laughing at Ryan Leaf now that I understand exactly why his life is unraveling. He's apparently addicted to pain pills, addicted to the point that he has allegedly been breaking into the homes of acquaintances, digging through their medicine cabinet, taking whatever pills he can find. It's criminal, yes, and the courts will deal with him. But it's tragic too. It's not a laughing matter.
It doesn't take much to show humanity, you know? The Morris Claiborne story at Pro Football Talk was our chance to show humanity, and many passed the test. Claiborne was supported on Twitter by those of us who were horrified that such a breach of his privacy led to such a breach of common decency. Seeing people come to Claiborne's aid? That was humanity.
But lots of people failed the litmus test. Go back and look at your Twitter feed, or look at the message boards below the PFT story. I keep thinking that guy, that Florio dude, will take down the story out of common decency. But 36 hours after it first went up, the story is still available as of this writing, as are the message boards below it. And the messages are a stream of one-liners, jokes about Claiborne's perceived intelligence.
Not that anyone has any idea how smart he is. A standardized test freaks some people out. I saw a guy walk out of our SAT test -- we were high school juniors -- in tears. He froze up, freaked out, walked out. How can that happen? I couldn't tell you, but that guy was a B student. The pressure got to him, is the only thing I can guess. He knew that test would determine what level of college he could get into, and he imploded.
Is that what happened to Morris Claiborne? I don't know, you don't know, and Mike Florio doesn't begin to know. But this is a bell that cannot be un-rung. We all heard it, and how do you forget something like this, like a Wonderlic score of 4 -- the maximum is 50 -- from a famous football player? You don't forget it. You might get fuzzy on the details in a few years, maybe forget whether it was a 4 or a 5 or a 7, but there are now thousands of people, possibly millions of people considering how Mike Florio's infectious story went viral, who will always remember Morris Claiborne as that guy from the Wonderlic.
But if that score is going to follow Claiborne around, let's make sure of another thing: Let's make sure that the news story of Claiborne's Wonderlic follows around the guy who wrote it, who put it under a taunting headline and then made jokes about it.
Because when you get right down to it, the guy with the Wonderlic score isn't the dummy in that story.