Watching our athletes' behavior…

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Watching our athletes' behavior…
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No cliché in sports lore is older than the refrain of players wanting to represent themselves, their team and the league well…on and off the floor or field.  Recently, our beloved athletes’ behavior fits a different sports cliché: “they’re making a lot of unforced errors.”

Looking through the pages of ESPN in the past two months has been an adventure in comedy as several stories seem like they should have come directly from spoof movies like Major League or Slapshot.

Washington Wizards’ guards Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton certainly shot (sorry, had to) themselves to the top of the bad behavior list after both were suspended for the rest of the 2009-10 season.  Arenas was charged with a felony and Crittenden a misdemeanor last month.  The two pulled guns on each other in the locker room after arguing over a card game that took place on the team plane.

Thankfully, the Wizards reportedly banned card games on the team plane.

The last straw for Arenas before his suspension was the stunt he pulled in pre-game introductions where he pulled out pistols using his fingers and “play shot” teammates.  He was suspended the next day.  Stellar behavior from one of the league’s stars, right?

Perhaps the saddest part of this particular story was that the late Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington franchise since 1964, was an anti-violence advocate that changed the team’s name from Bullets to Wizards because of the connotation associated with it.

But Arenas and Crittenton don’t even make my top spot in the list of boneheaded moves in the way of poorly behaving athletes in the last month.  Here’s my top five:

5.  University of Florida DE Carlos Dunlap’s DUI Arrest

On the Tuesday before the SEC Championship game, which very should have been called a national semifinal, between the Gators and Alabama, Dunlap was arrested at 3:25 a.m. and charged with driving under the influence (SEE HERE).  This came in the beginning of the Gators’ week of preparation to play the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship and served as a distraction as practice began.  Dunlap was so drunk that he was stopped at a traffic light on a green when officers approached the car and observed that he was snoozing, slumped over the wheel.

One would think that every player leading up to this big of a game would be on his best behavior and focused only on the task at hand.  Dunlap’s absence may have been part of the reason that Florida lost to the Tide.  His lack of commitment to a program above himself would be the main reason I would not want my team drafting him this April when the NFL convenes at Radio City Music Hall.  Scouts, Inc. currently has Dunlap rated at #21.  Here’s hoping Miami doesn’t select him.

4.  University of Southern California WR Joe McKnight’s SUV

The 2006 Land Rover registered in Joe McKnight’s girlfriend’s name looked really nice at the USC practice facility in late 2009.  The car was purchased for $27,000 by Adam Schenter, according to the California DMV.  Schenter is a businessman and marketing specialist with no known ties to the USC program.  However, his known ties to McKnight include a company Schenter owned that registered the website www.4joemcknight.com.  Check the LA Times’ story on the controversy HERE.

McKnight ended up sitting out the Trojans’ bowl game and the investigation is not over yet, but when you play for a program like USC, a team that is the envy of most national programs and already under investigation because good old O.J. Mayo and others, you should probably watch it a little bit.  Did he have to be driving the Land Rover to practice?  Maybe he could have just saved it for times he took out his girlfriend and mother of his child to a nice meal paid for by Schenter or a booster.  Driving it to practice each day where reporters and cameras are on a daily basis was more boneheaded than accepting the SUV in the first place.  It’d be a little more obvious if he showed up in a 2003 Elantra or came using public transportation.  McKnight should get a nice Schwinn and drive that to practice next year. . .if he stays in school.

3.  Buffalo Bills’ RB Marshawn Lynch’s $20 Tip

I like TGI Friday’s as much as anyone, but apparently Marshawn Lynch uses it as something more than a place to grab a burger and maybe a molten chocolate brownie.  On December 7, Lynch went to a Friday’s in the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg and had an incident where he snatched $20 out of a woman’s hand, a $20 bill that was to be used to pay her check and leave a tip (SEE HERE).  Unfortunately for Lynch, the woman’s husband was a cop and filed a police report days later.

Maybe Lynch forgot his wallet in the car and didn’t have his credit card to pay for the French onion soup and Jack Daniel’s flat-iron steak he was about to order.  Or maybe he had forgotten that he was a star athlete in his own town and the TGI Friday’s would probably comp him and his picture would end up somewhere on the wall.  You know, he would be posing with the general manager and lead cook and the photo would be signed and put somewhere in the lobby.  Perhaps he needed the 20 to pay for a babysitter.  Or maybe he forgot that he signed a 10.275 million dollar contract in 2007.  But, Lynch has never been the stand-up type.  After all, this is the guy who was accused of a hit-and-run with a pedestrian.  What would have been nice, would have been if Lynch walked into the Friday’s and announced he would buy everyone a round of drinks as opposed to taking money from TGI’s patrons.  They used to make a dang good French dip, but took it off their menu.  Maybe Lynch was mad about that.  I know I am . . .

2.  Arenas and Crittenton

I can’t pass this one up as part of my top two.  The fact that it happened in a pro sports locker room, was over a card game and that it caused card games on the team plane to be banned still makes me giggle.  But, the top spot was not even close. . .

1.  Eastern Carolina University Dessert Fight at the Liberty Bowl

Leonard Paulk and Jonathan Williams really like dessert.  So much so that they fought over one at the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl’s awards luncheon that preceded the game played on January 2 (SEE HERE).  According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the two players nearly flipped over a table and one had the other in a headlock and was hitting him.  ECU’s entire roster and coaching staff were at the luncheon, as was that of their opponents, the University of Arkansas, who won the game in overtime, 20-17.  ECU Head Coach Skip Holtz suspended the two players for the game.  The seldom-used running back Williams tallied 38 yards on 14 carries this season before his season ended due to a knee injury.  Williams has been suspended by ECU twice before, so he is no stranger to trouble.  Paulk, a defensive back, played in all 13 regular season games as a nickel/dime back and on special teams.

The burning question in everyone’s mind is: what was for dessert?  Was it a nice piece of New York cheesecake?  A brownie?  Did they have tiramisu?  Or maybe it was a cake that said “Congratulations to ECU and Arkansas!”, and Williams and Paulk really wanted the piece that said “ECU” like five-year-olds want the piece of birthday cake with the flower on it.  What kind of teammates get in a fight at an awards banquet with media in attendance?  They should have split the piece and then chalked it up as the event that brought the team together, the defining moment of their season. 

The best part about this whole ordeal was that Holtz jumped ship at the end of the bowl season to take over the University of South Florida program, and that’s where this gets a little complicated.  You see, USF fired their coach, Jim Leavitt, after he allegedly grabbed a player by his throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it all.  Did USF officials think that Holtz would bring a new discipline to the program after hearing of the dessert altercation?  Maybe they got ahold of the tape from that luncheon and saw really good form in the headlock and figured the USF defense would benefit from that type of instruction. 

After Holtz left, who did ECU turn to as a replacement?  None other than Ruffin McNeill.  Yes, that name does sound familiar, doesn’t it?  That’s because McNeill was the interim coach who replaced Mike Leach at Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl.  Leach, of course, was accused of improperly dealing with the concussion of Adam Jones and was fired.  McNeill better make sure the dessert table is fully stocked at all ECU functions, and as he begins to assemble his staff a pastry chef may be at the top of the list.  I hear the Pirates like chocolate. . .

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