Normally, whether it's the nostalgic scene from Hill Street Blues or a tired, musty police station, when one thinks of a blotter, it either involves something that protects the surface of a desk or refers to a list of crimes, criminals and things that lead to one's photo on the wall of your local post office.
These days, when I visit ESPN.com or the countless other sites which devote themselves to the news surrounding professional and collegiate sports, I am noticing that maybe 20% of what's discussed on any of these sites focuses on the actual on-field, on-court or in-match play. I'm not maligning these sites, and I'm not suggesting that the actual activity within the confines of the sports world is merely confined to the actual playing of the sport(s). There's the pre-game, post-game, off-season, spring training, Injured Reserve, surgical repair, charity work, and free agency. That last one, of course, is the biggest aspect of the pro sports -- free agency took a simple game -- or four (baseball, football, basketball and hockey) -- and made it into a multi-billion dollar business. It gives guys who can barely read and whose careers are over by the time they're 35 into multi-millionaires.
But when we talk a sports blotter, we mean one thing: the legal problems involving and surrounding pro (and some college) athletes.
This week in particular, there have been a number of sports-related stories. The NFL's regular season concluded last weekend, and some of those teams who missed the playoffs, as is typical, dumped their head coaches. So the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers need to look for new guys to head their respective coaching staffs. In the case of Bill Cowher, the former head coach of the Steelers, he resigned. But the fact is, these were non-performance-related sports stories.
However, more importantly, there's a bunch of police matters pending when it comes to sports news. There was the senseless, tragic murder of Darrent Williams, a cornerback with the NFL's Denver Broncos. Mr. Williams had attended a party for a fellow Denver athlete (Kenyon Martin of the NBA's Denver Nuggets) and wound up having some sort of altercation with someone or some other people at the club; several hours later, the Humvee limo in which he had been traveling was riddled with bullets that injured other passengers and left him dead.
He was 24 years old.
The police were looking for a white SUV in connection with the drive-by attack on Mr. Williams' limo; apparently, the SUV in question belongs to a Brian K. Hicks, a man who is currently in jail in connection with drug and attempted murder charges.
If this situation hadn't involved the death of a 24-year-old guy, it would almost -- almost -- be comical.
Then there's the story of Jared Allen, a member of the playoff-bound Kansas City Chiefs. Mr. Allen, who like Mr. Williams, is also 24, was arrested in May in Overland Park, Kansas (home of a friend of mine) for DUI. At that time, the judge suspended his sentence providing Mr. Allen didn't have a recurrence of DUI. Well, Mr. Allen had a recurrence. In September, he was again stopped and arrested for DUI, and this time, the judge, at the prosecutor's suggestion, yanked the originally-suspended sentence and sent Mr. Allen to jail. Except that since he's a pro athlete, he won't have to report to jail -- for his 48-hour sentence -- until February 16th. I suppose, at that particular time, he'll also have to pay his fine -- $500 -- and arrange for community service.
I'm not sure where to begin -- but I suppose forcing Mr. Allen to stay in jail for two whole days and pay a $500 fine is obviously ridiculous in its overwhelming leniency. This is a guy who has to be making at least -- at least -- $500,000 annually. So to give him a two-day stint in a drunk tank and a fine I'd expect to pay if I was caught speeding 25 or more miles above the limit is a joke. Something else which is almost comical as well: this is a guy who is 6-6 and 270 pounds. Unless he's got some sort of medical problem, it seems to me that in order for him to demonstrate he was driving drunk, he would have had to have consumed at least four or five drinks -- that, or the equivalent of at least a half-case of beer. I'm not taking Mr. Allen -- or anyone -- to task for having a couple of drinks and then being pulled over without knowing he was drunk -- legally or otherwise. But a guy that big has to consume a serious amount of alcohol to be drunk, and to consume that much booze and then be willing to drive says a lot about this shitbird's character -- or complete lack thereof.
What is even more disturbing than his apparent disregard for public safety, if not for his own safety, is that he, like most athletes in the National Football League, are aware that legal violations involving substances -- DUI, drug charges, et al -- which result in convictions will result in league-mandated suspension. That means Mr. Allen's two-day jail stint will be more brief than his punishment from the NFL.
There's something wrong when the NFL's sentence is harsher than a municipal sentence for DUI. But that's another matter.
The final item on today's sports blotter (only because I can't tolerate much more of this type of stupidity at any time) is this particular news story out of Detroit involving another member of the NFL -- this one, however, involves Joe Cullen, a coach for the Detroit Lions.
Mr. Cullen was arrested for DUI on September 1st, 2006. However, that's really only the icing on the cake. The really memorable aspect to Mr. Cullen's legal issues from 2006 stem from his being arrested a week prior, on August 24th, for driving nude.
Yep, you read right -- he was arrested for driving nude. To be more specific, he was arrested for driving -- nude -- through a Wendy's drive-thru (he placed his order -- nude, paid -- nude, and then -- nude -- picked up his burger and fries and Biggie drink and -- nude -- took off). This incident, by the way, knocks OJ's Rolls Royce post-murder jaunt through a Mickey D's drive-through to second-weirdest drive-thru tale of all-time.*
Yep -- this is a coach, not a player. Yep, his drunk-driving arrest from September was bona fide (he was 0.12, the legal limit is 0.08). And yep, he had been fired from at least one other coaching job for alcohol-related factors.
Notice that none of the above items mentions the brawl between the Pacers and Pistons from a couple years ago, or the recent brawl involving the aforementioned Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
When I was young, I voraciously watched sports -- baseball, basketball, football and hockey -- with a wide-eyed adoration borne from naivete and youth. These days, though, what happens on the field is governed and -- increasingly -- overshadowed by which players are in jail on drug or assault charges, suspension from using performance-enhancing drugs, or who are, sadly, no longer with us because of gun violence.
With all the money and stupidity rampant in pro (and also in college) sports, I wonder how long it will be before the off-field stuff is more entertaining than the actual on-field product. And, sadly, I wonder if I'll even care if and/or when this change actually occurs.
*Third weirdest drive-thru tale of all-time belongs to George Carlin, who went to a Burger King drive-through, ordered a #1 with a regular drink, rolled up to the payment window, handed them their $5.37, took the bag of BK goodies, drove to ANOTHER (nearby) Burger King, placed the same order -- #1, regular drink -- rolled up to the payment window, handed them the bag and said "That'll be $5.37."
** Fourth weirdest drive-thru tale involves me, a friend of mine, an inflatable doll, a homemade t-shirt, a hockey helmet, and a sex-toy. The remainder of that story shall be omitted out of respect for Ron Dugay, formerly of the New York Rangers.