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As is our occasional custom, we check this week on the “sporting police blotter.” It’s a random sampling of the mischief the folks who play games for a living get themselves into in increasingly amazing numbers and the controversies that blight the games we play.
The survey ran a fortnight, Nov. 9-23, and it’s confined to the more serious or interesting or both of the felonies, indiscretions and stray peccadilloes reported during that period. Time and space allows for no more than that. Apologies to those who failed to make the cut.
Our “heroes,” in no particular order, include:
Mike Tyson, who is something of a recidivist on the old “blotter.” He got a day in jail and three years probation for running amuck in wide open Mesa, Ariz. His latest little bender ended when he almost ran into the sheriff’s car incurring charges of driving under the influence and possessing cocaine. He was lucky to catch a merciful judge for he could have gotten four years hard time, given his track record. The incident wasn’t much by Mike’s standards but it’s still good to have him back on “the blotter.”
Pacman Jones, another regular. He copped out and now agrees to testify against his buddies in that triple murder at a Las Vegas strip club. In return, a judge has reduced the felony charges against him to gross misdemeanors. But the commissioner of the NFL, from which he’s been banned for a year for his infamous antics, is not impressed. Roger Goodell, who has brought a whole new attitude to the subject of behavior in pro-sports, says Pacman will remain suspended.
And behavior in the NFL remains suspect.
A trial date for Browns’ cornerback Leigh Bodden was set. He’s charged with being verbally abusive with police at an airport. Trial date, apparently determined by a judge who is a Browns’ fan living in the distant past, was deferred until the week after the Super Bowl.
After celebrating his teams win over Atlanta not wisely but too well, Tampa linebacker Cato June spent seven hours in jail. He was nailed on a DUI charge after being stopped for speeding and weaving at 3 a.m.
Bengal’s receiver Chris Henry, who has become a legendary cut-up in a very short career, chose the eve of his return from an eight-game suspension for poor conduct to get into a nasty altercation with a parking lot attendant in Newport, Ky., another wide-open town. The investigation continues.
Meanwhile, his alter-ego, the Titans running back named Chris Henry (no relation) has been grounded four games for violating the league’s steroids and related substances policy.
So has Marcus Stroud, a star defensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who claims to have used the stuff to help recover from ankle surgery.
Rather luckier was the Falcons Jonathan Babineaux, a defensive tackle. He was cleared of a felony animal cruelty charge in the death of a pit bull. Had he been convicted, he would have been sent to prison.
Where he would, of course, have joined his friend and ex-teammate, the luckless Michael Vick, erstwhile scrambling QB deluxe, now scrambling to avoid a lengthy sentence from a judge who is said to be an animal lover. While he awaits that word -- which comes in two weeks -- Vick voluntarily entered a Virginia jail three days before Thanksgiving. It’s his way of expressing contrition for his confessed sins against dogs.
It was a hefty two weeks for the college gang too.
There was the case of Joe Glenn, coach at the University of Wyoming. He was obliged to apologize to the entire state of Utah for directing an obscene gesture (the old fashioned “flip of the bird”) at his honorable opponent, Kyle Whittingham, the University of Utah’s head coach. Glenn complied. But was he really the “bad guy” in this fiasco? Seems Glenn lost it only after Utah tried an onside kick while leading by a score of 43-0. Whittingham now reluctantly agrees that the onside kick was “maybe a bad decision” (his words). Whittingham is believed to be a huge Bill Belichick fan.
Sportsmanship would seem to be in flower all over college football these days. Preston Smith, a Louisville University linebacker, is accused of spitting in the face of Pat White, a West Virginia University’s star quarterback. The coaches of the two teams consider it a trifle. But White remains incensed.
Interesting school, Louisville, home of Rick Pitino. They’ve taken Duke University to court for opting out of three football games. The two schools were supposed to meet four times between 2002 and 2009 but after Duke got pasted, 40-3, when they first met and concluded they were out-matched, they reneged. So Louisville is suing Duke for a half million bucks. Hey, it’s only a game.
There are several examples of the boys being boys, as it were.
Three members of the University of Montana team were charged with home invasion as a post-game party celebrating the annual classic with Idaho State got out of hand.
At Georgia, Billy Humphrey, a star Bulldog guard, got arrested on a felony weapons charge for running around with a knife.
At Purdue, star wide-out Selwyn Lymon was arrested on charges of drunken driving and resisting arrest.
At Oklahoma State, linebacker Chris Collins got suspended for the season after pleading guilty to a charge of aggravated sexual assault, a felony. The victim was 12.
At Ole Miss, they now admit at least 20 players stole stuff from two hotels used by the team on road trips earlier this season. Items swiped included radios and pillows, apparently still luxury items deep in Dixie. Claiming the thieves are basically “good kids who made a bad decision,” Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone declined to bounce them from the team.
Fans got into the act too.
At Nebraska, where the Cornhuskers have fallen on evil times and given up more than 70 points in a game twice this season, the defensive coordinator is being threatened with mayhem. According to the AP, one of the telephone threats received by Kevin Cosgrove stated, “Go back where you came from you (blank...deleted) before I kill ya.” Appreciating the fervor of local dismay over the once Big Red’s rotten season, police are taking the matter very seriously.
International sport would seem to be equally in turmoil judging from incidents occurring in this mere fortnight’s span.
Some examples: Michael Rasmussen, the Danish cyclist, now admits he lied about missing a drug test. The investigation into the fatal poisoning of a Pakastani cricket coach continues in Jamaica. An Italian tennis player is suspended for betting on matches. Authorities continue to investigate alleged attempts to poison a German tennis star before a match in Russia. Italian soccer fans riot in Rome, after a fan is killed by police in a similar melee in Tuscany.
Rather makes the hijinks that go down on this side of the pond seem tame, does it not?
And all of it played out against the backdrop of the “Big One,” the steroid and HGH scandal that finally brought down Barry Bonds and Marion Jones and now threatens to explode in all directions with the impending revelations of the Mitchell Report. Yikes!
Bonds’ disgrace deepened during our fortnight. Few doubt his career has ended in shame! Jones, one of the nation’s greatest female athletes ever, has been destroyed. Track’s international governing body has stripped her of every title and ordered her to pay back $700,000 in winnings. But she claims to be broke. Who would doubt she’s both broke and broken. It’s tragic.
Two weeks in November. It reminds us of that old Granny Rice line: “It matters not who won or lost but how you played the game.”