The Sports Blotter

by Matt Taibbi


POLICE BADGERING

April is traditionally a good month for the University of Wisconsin wide receiver, and this year is no different. It's usually about this time of year that a Badger wideout puts up a shocking 40 time in private workouts and starts rocketing up the NFL draft boards, despite the fact that he spent the last four years playing in an offense that passed once every lunar year.

The tradition generally ends unhappily for NFL teams, as future mega-flameouts like Donald Hayes and Tony Simmons steam into late April and mercilessly chew up both high draft slots and the careers of hoodwinked pro scouting directors. The tradition reversed itself somewhat a few years back with future Miami Dolphin star Chris Chambers, but all signs point to another potential fiasco this year, with the oft-injured Lee Evans putting up a blistering 4.37 (Badger 40 times are almost always described as "blistering") and virtually guaranteeing that he will go in the top 40 picks and break someone's heart—quite possibly the Jets'—as he meets with Gang Green this week.

That said, maybe Evans will work out fine, because someone else may have already eaten this year's portion of bad April karma for the Badger receiver corps. Highly-touted sophomore receiver Ernest Mason, slated to replace Evans for the Badgers next year, was busted again for battery in a strange deja vu scenario in which he allegedly attacked his girlfriend in almost exactly the same manner as he did late last year.

The 19-year-old Mason was arrested last Thursday and charged with four solid misdemeanors: battery, intimidating a victim, disorderly conduct and bail-jumping. He was arrested outside the Regent Apartment complex in Madison, the same place he was arrested in December, after he allegedly attacked the same girl. The bail-jumping charge was added in this incident because he had been ordered not to have any contact with the woman.

In this particular incident, Mason and the girl allegedly began arguing, then smashed her cell phone, and then there was a scuffle in which she fell down and hurt her head. After the incident, he reportedly told her: "If you go to the cops, I'm gonna get your ass."

She went to the cops, but as of this writing, he hasn't gotten her ass. After the last incident, which unfortunately came just before Wisconsin was slated to play in the vastly important Music City Bowl, a university committee first suspended then revoked his suspension, allowing him to play. There is no word yet on whether he will be allowed to continue spring practices.


ONE WILD CAT

The Blotter has a Big 10 theme this week. Embattled Northwestern linebacker Braden Jones has withdrawn his commitment to play at the school, ending one of the more remarkably troubled collegiate football careers this side of Florida State. Jones made his decision to quit in the wake of a March 2 incident in which he was arrested for attempting, of all things, to rob a taxi driver.

Jones was arrested and charged with felony aggravated battery and attempted theft after he hailed a taxi, then fought with the driver after telling him he had no money to pay for the ride. News reports are unclear, but it appears that Jones ultimately failed to rob the driver because he left his wallet on the back seat of the cab. The discovery of the driver's license led police to Jones.

Jones had been arrested the previous year for battery and unlawful use of a driver's license after he let himself get out of control at a fraternity party. Initial reports indicated that he had punched a police officer, but he was never charged with that offense. That incident came just before five other NU players were arrested after they attempted to barge into a home where they mistakenly believed a party was going on. When the homeowner insisted that there was no party and threatened to call the police, one player reportedly said, "We are the police, fat fuck." In the wake of those incidents, NU athletic director Mark Murphy said, "When this happens, it's a concern... when kids start drinking, problems happen." No kidding.

Jones actually made headlines in an unusual way before he even played a down for NU. After he signed with NU in 2001, he went to visit his brother Loren, a student at Vanderbilt, and got in a fight with Vanderbilt football player Doug Wolford. Wolford ended up knocking Jones to the ground and pounding his head against the pavement, causing him to suffer brain bruises that kept him out of football for six months. Police considered charges against Jones for that incident, but none were ever filed.

NU has had a troubled history since its storied 1995 Rose Bowl run, in which it erased forever the troubling memories of having once lost to Chicago Dental in an official college football game. In 2001, strong safety Rashidi Wheeler collapsed and died during practice, apparently after using ephedrine. This came two years after former NU player Robert Russ was shot and killed by police in a controversial incident after attempting to flee after being pulled over for a DUI. Russ was also a player with a checkered history, having once attacked police officers on the streets of Evanston in an apparent psychotic episode, in which he believed, or perhaps knew, he was being chased by the devil.

NU was also embroiled in a point-shaving scandal involving basketball players in the mid-90s. The bookie in that case was a former NU football player named Brian Ballarini. Jones, in any case, has left the team, but the door is not firmly closed, according to head coach Randy Walker. "I believe there are some redeemable qualities," the coach said last week. "He has some real positive things to offer, but there are some problems in his life that he has to fix."


GO SPEED RACERS

Like bookends. March Madness begins with an arrest of two Murray State players, and now it ends with another arrest—of two more Murray State players.

Preston "Trey" Pearson III and William Waycaster, both players for the Racer team, were arrested last week on DUI and drug charges. The two were nabbed in a traffic stop in which Pearson was slapped with underage DUI, failure to present a driver's license, driving without insurance and not wearing a seat belt. Rounding out the picture, Waycaster got possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.



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