October 2, 2007

Ranking Sports' Biggest Villains

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In case any of you have been wondering why my name has been relatively absent from paper for the past couple of weeks (and by the way if you actually have, that’s embarrassing and you should begin to rethink your life a little) it is because I sacrificed fulfilling many of my beloved duties at The Sun in order to prepare for the Law School Admission Test (a.k.a. The LSAT). Now that may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but I think I speak for many future law students (and for that matter future medical students like Scott Zuckerman and Michael “Texas Belt Buckle” Schechter) in saying that I would rather take a Tyson punch to the kidney than go through that experience again.
But now that the dreaded test has come and gone and I am starting to have some semblance of a life again, I have started to ponder the pervasive conflict between modern day professional athletes and the law. It seems you can’t turn on ESPN for longer than an hour these days without hearing about at least one athlete’s run in with police. And I’m sure the arrests and convictions the public knows about are dwarfed in comparison to the number of athletes who have used their celebrity status to escape what would be, for any normal citizen, certain trouble. But some athletes have taken the troublemaker stigma to a whole new level. With that in mind, I would like to give my humorous take on the top-5 most infamous troublemakers in our generation of sports superstars. I have based my selection upon two main criteria: 1) the popularity of the athlete and 2) the seriousness of the infraction. Here are the results.
No. 5) Ugueth Urbina
I know what you’re thinking: Who the hell is this guy? And perhaps rightly so because, except for baseball geeks like me, not many people probably remember the fiery and dominant Venezuelan closer. But over the course of Urbina’s career, he racked up 237 saves, 814 strikeouts, two all-star appearances, a sparkling 3.45 ERA and a 2003 World Series championship with the Florida Marlins. So like it or not, he certainly qualifies as at least a semi-star. But what he may lack in celebrity status he certainly makes up for in criminal behavior. Five months after the Detroit Tigers traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for Placido Polanco in November of 2005, Urbina was arrested by Venezuelan authorities on the charge of attempted murder. What did he do? Get this. On October 16, Urbina attacked five farm workers on his property in Venezuela with a machete — yes, as in the massive knife — and attempted to pour gasoline on them. He was convicted of the charge and sentenced to 14 years in prison, ending his MLB career.

No. 4) Adam “Pacman” Jones
As soon as I saw this guy strolling through court like he owned the place with his trademark dreadlocks and a sorry excuse for a suit a couple of weeks after his infamous involvement in a shooting at a Las Vegas strip club, I knew he had locked up a place on this list. The Vegas police report states that Jones sparked a melee after “making it rain” by throwing upwards of $81,000 on over 40 strippers at Minxx Gentlemen’s Club & Lounge. Honestly, you just can’t make this stuff up. When a bouncer and the women scrambled to pick up the money, a brawl ensued which ended in the shooting of one female patron and two security guards — one of whom is now permanently paralyzed from the waist down. That incident in and of itself coupled with Jones’ breakout 2006 NFL season would have been enough to get him on the list, but Pacman had aspirations for an even higher ranking. He has also been arrested on charges of assault and vandalism stemming from a nightclub altercation in Nashville, an assault charge for spitting on a woman, and was caught on camera at the scene of a gas station shootout. In all, he has been involved in 10 separate incidents involving the police since he entered the NFL, four of which led to arrests.
Just based on pure quantity, Jones has to be considered for troublemaker of the decade. But give Pacman credit for sticking to his guns, he continues to assert that he is just a victim of an unfathomable series of unfortunate events, kind of like the curse on Hugo from “Lost” after he won the lottery. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rightly suspended Pacman for the entire 2007 season, and given his uncanny ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I have a funny feeling that we won’t be seeing Pacman on a football field ever again. Unfortunately that also means that we won’t be hearing Chris Berman say one of my favorite lines in the history of sports journalism ever again, “He…could…eat…all…the…dots.”

No. 3) “Iron” Mike Tyson
This guy’s antics have literally provided hours upon hours of entertainment for me over the course of my life. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to check out the video “funniest Mike Tyson moments” on You Tube. It includes classic Iron Mike lines such as “I normally don’t do interviews with women unless I fornicate with them. So you shouldn’t talk anymore. Unless you want to, you know.” And of course the timeless, “I wish one of you guys had children so I could kick them in the f&*#!!! head or stomp on their testicles so you can feel my pain, because that’s the pain I have waking up every day.” The awkwardness of those interviews is rivaled only by Borat and Larry David when he brings his ‘A’ game. But getting beyond the absurdity of those quotes and the fact that he actually bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear in front of millions of horrified viewers, Mike has committed his share of crimes as well. Tyson was arrested in July 1991 for the rape of Miss Black Rhode Island, Desiree Washington, in an Indianapolis hotel room. After he was convicted on the charge on February 10, 1992, he was sentenced to six years in prison — three of which he served. This past January, Tyson nearly rammed a police SUV and was charged with possession of narcotics — cocaine, in fact — and driving under the influence. He faces up to four years for the most recent charges.

No. 2) O.J. Simpson
I probably would have left “The Juice” off the list if not for his most recent run in with the law. Despite the famous highway chase outside of L.A. all those years ago and arguably the most famous murder trial in recent history, O.J. was overshadowed by the media coverage given to stars such as Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones. That is until a few weeks ago, when O.J. stormed a Las Vegas hotel room with several accomplices in an attempt to steal back sports memorabilia that had apparently been taken from him. He is now charged with, among other things, armed robbery with a deadly weapon and could spend the rest of his life in jail. If there is one guy on this list that I have the least sympathy for, O.J. definitely takes the cake. Blessed with spectacular ability, Simpson had everything any man could ever want, and he simply threw it all away. He even tried to make a quick buck by releasing the book “If I did it,” detailing how he would have gotten away with Nicole Simpson murder. Good riddance.

No. 1) Michael Vick
You knew it was coming. I really didn’t want to put the polarizing figure in the top spot but I just couldn’t help myself. Mike Vick went from being the face of the Atlanta Falcons, one of the brightest and most talented stars in the NFL and a Madden cover boy to a cold-hearted felon. And not just any felon either. The federal indictment accuses Vick of some heinous acts that, in the minds of many, even rival rape and murder. As such, Vick represents the gold standard of “Athletes Gone Wild,” if you will, a case study in just how quickly today’s superstars can fall from grace. For the record, I wish Vick the best. Unlike the rest of the guys on this list, he seems much more like a good guy who was caught up in the wrong crowd. Don’t be surprised if you see the dynamic quarterback starring for an NFL team near you in 2009.