MAY: OFFSEASON HIJINKS
Anyone who still wonders why it is that foreigners complain that Americans don't understand them need only look at the elaborate security preparations undertaken before this past week's Indy 500. According to numerous news reports, security at the race was heightened "in the wake of the events of September 11," and the city of Indianapolis even assigned a special "terrorism preparedness coordinator" named Peter Beering to make sure none of the 400,000 mullet-headed spectators hid boxcutters in their mayonnaise jars. After the race, which passed without arrests, Beering declared the event a security success. Fans apparently agreed with him; AP even quoted one patriotic race fan who raved about how fun it was to be searched. "Brett Eiler," the agency wrote, "an airline pilot from Chicago, waited less than five minutes in line as security officials searched coolers and handbags... Searches at other large events should be so thorough and yet so quick, said Eiler, who was celebrating his 40th birthday with his wife and four friends in matching T-shirts and straw hats. 'It was convenient, it wasn't a hassle, it was great,' he gushed." Left out of all of the hullabaloo was the unanswered question: what self-respecting Arab terrorist would ever be seen at an Indy Car race? "Why the fuck would I bother with the Indy 500?" Osama bin Laden was quoted as saying by the Al-Jazzeri news service. "Who can stand to sit there for all that time watching those goddamn cars go in a circle? I've got enough problems..."
Authorities were not so successful, meanwhile, in preventing outbreaks of athlete violence in other areas. May is generally a slow month for athlete arrests: falling as it does between the traditionally arrest-heavy periods surrounding major league baseball spring training and the arrival of newly-rich NFL rookies at their training camps, it tends to be a time in which hardworking athletes in the NBA and the NHL carry out their season-ending quests for greatness in law-abiding dignity. Nonetheless, there are numerous subgroups of athletes who represent high May arrest risks. Chief among those are the veteran bench performers for NBA teams already eliminated from the playoffs. Knocked out for the season, hounded by fans and media for their failures, and generally pissed off over a season's worth of unresolved playing time issues, the subs tend to find it hard to avoid jumping in the proverbial unregistered vehicle with the proverbial open container of beer.
One of the first hoopsters to get busted this year was Houston Rockets reserve forward Terence Morris, whose arrest for speeding and driving with a suspended license was in keeping with the steady downward pattern his career has followed over the years... Just a few years ago, Morris was on top of the world. After his sophomore year at Maryland, he was a first-team all-ACC player and a sure lottery pick. After his junior year, he was named to the second all-ACC team and looked like a low 20s draft steal. Senior year: honorable mention, near-certain undrafted status. Somehow he makes the Rockets and spends a year straining to get a look at the court over the afro of fellow benchmate Moochie Norris. Then, last week, with the Rockets out of the playoffs, Morris gets pulled over for doing 76 in a 60 zone; police run his license and find out that he'd failed to complete a remedial driving course in November. Sentence: $385 fine and further shame and disappointment. 76 in a 60 zone? Can't a black man get a break in this country?
Portland Trail Blazers reserve forward Zach Randolph, meanwhile, caught the business end of another driving-while-black arrest. Shortly after being bounced from the payoffs by the superior Lakers, Randolph was pulled over by police in Marion, Indiana because his SUV "matched the description of a gang vehicle." Police, apparently distressed at haven taken the trouble to pull over a black man only to not get an arrest out of it, decided to do a breathalizer on Randolph on the off-chance that he might score them a DUI. No luck; his blood alcohol level was less than half the legal limit of .08 percent. But give credit to the innovative Indiana police. They came up with something. Randolph, who came out for the draft early, was underage. Police arrested him for underage drinking, and the backup now faces a 6-month jail term if convicted. Incidentally, he averaged 2.8 points and 1.7 rebounds last year.
No offseason would be complete, of course, without the wayward fist of the odd NFL veteran making into way into the face of his wife— or, as she is usually called by the sporting press, the "mother of his child." With behaviorally-erratic wide receiver Terry Glenn back on medication and making nice for his new team in Green Bay, it fell to other players to pick up the domestic abuse slack this year. The first to answer the call was San Francisco 49ers center Jeremy Newberry, who was arrested after apparently striking a woman for the perfectly understandable reason that her boyfriend had untied Newberry's boat from a raft of 15 moored vessels, causing it to float away. Newberry denied the charges, however. "She didn't like the way I was talking to her boyfriend," Newberry said. "Then she slapped me in the side of the head. My sister said, 'What are doing putting your hands on my brother?' And then (Jennifer) smacked her. I wouldn't hit a woman anyway." Police for some reason didn't believe the story; the investigation is continuing.
Last but not least, Glenn's Packer teammate, running back Ahman Green, was issued a protection order for making terrorist threats against his wife. Shalynn Green told police that her husband had beaten her up twice while she was pregnant. The sports-crime cliche quotient for this story was rounded out when it was reported that "Green's agent and attorney, as well as the Packers, did not immediately return phone calls." While they work their stories out, the case is pending and Shalynn has custody. Look for the veterans to take it easy on police next month while the rookies flood into their dormitories at camp...