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Pac Ten Week: Searching for Sammie Stroughter

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Back in the Spring, Mike Riley called Sammie Stroughter "the the most fun guy day to day I've ever come across," in the same Portland Tribune article that described the receiver as "Oregon State's answer to Ernie Banks" for his enthusiasm. Then, Riley said

"It's like his ethic is to just come out and love what he's doing, practice with enthusiasm, work hard and have fun. It's pretty easy to work with that type of kid. He's always the same."

On his sunny disposition, Stroughter elaborated (ebulliently, we can assume, though it doesn't specify. If you read these quotes out loud in theatrical style, try it with a full-throated blend of unpretentious buoyancy, with a little Larry Graham bottom in it):

"Attitude is one thing you have control over," says the 6-foot, 185-pound Sacramento, Calif., native, who will be a senior in the fall. "Coach Riley always preaches it. Some situations and circumstances you have no control over, but you have control over your attitude and the way you carry yourself."

Presumably, then, it's one of those uncontrollable situations and circumstances - illness, death in the family, jury duty - that led first to an odd media ban as players reported to camp, and then to the Beavers' MVP carrying himself out of practice for a solid week. Nobody knows, exactly, because Riley has only said,

"He's taking care of some personal issues," Riley said. "I know you guys want to know more, but I can't talk about it more. I don't feel good about it. He's just taking some personal time."

That was last Wednesday, when Stroughter's status was described as "practice to practice," a far less ominous assessment six practices ago. His status now, for all intents and purposes, is "unknown."

Stroughter: de-limbed by abnormally dense Corvallis waifs?
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It's a compelling story because a) Stroughter is very good, one of the top eight or ten receivers and return men in the country, and, because of the high profile, b) it is the most mysterious absence of our Internet age. No one outside the program is pretending to know why he's gone, or for how long, and no one inside is telling. We can probably rule out jury duty - one of his Beaver-obsesses colleagues surely would have blogged it to Juristocrat from the box by - or, I dunno, the first leg en route to Burning Man, but a week into Stroughter Watch, nervousness hasn't led to much in the way of reportorial, blogger or message board dirt, even of the specious and irresponsible variety. Oregonians respect the privacy of others, it seems, to a frustrating degree.  

I wrote Beaver fan Jake from Building the Dam for any tips, and his message board suggestions produced the following timid theories:

Stroughter is upset over the dismissal of friend Coye Francis. This notion has some echo chamber traction, though no non-gossippy corroboration whatosever and plenty of skepticism. Francis, a backup cornerback, was kicked off the team last week following a gun arrest, a few days before the issues began bubbling up with Stroughter. "Worst case scenario," wrote Oregonian reporter/blogger Paul Bukar during a scrimmage Saturday, "Stroughter decides he isn't playing football anymore."

Emotionally, it's a devastating personal blow and etc., but it doesn't follow that Riley would let even his star walk away from the team with a window to return under those circumstances. Stroughter would be gone for blatant insubordination, and Riley would say so publicly, unless there is a deeper bond between Stroughter and Francis than anyone realizes that would justify a grief-stricken sabbatical. Doesn't make sense.

He'll Be Back Thursday. Unless he's actually off the team. All Stroughter-related marketing materials have been pulled from OSU's official site.

It's the Mafia. How else would someone from Washington post it first on the OSU Scout board?

It's just a little much-needed R&R. "No doubt he knows the drill of fall practice and doesn't need it like the underclassmen." Uh, no. Stroughter has no known injuries that would justify a "team leader" skipping out to preserve his, uh, temple for the regular season.

It's none of your damn business. Surprisingly popular choice for folks who spend potentially productive hours trolling and sorting through unintended porn results for anything and everything Beaver-related, as beat writer Cliff Kirkpatrick found out quickly on his blog. They don't know, and they don't want to know, just as long as the kid is taking care of what he needs to take care of in his life.

That won't do at all. Message boards exist for rampant and unfounded speculation into the personal lives of interesting citizens (and not so interesting citizens, in many cases), and bogus claims of intimacy with said subjects if necessary. I avoid them for precisely this reason. And the one time I go specifically looking for wild, unhinged gossip, I find only honest shrugs and perfectly appropriate well-wishing? You responsible adults make me sick.