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The Sports Blotter

by Matt Taibbi



   If you learn nothing else from reading THE BEST, learn this. Commit it to memory, make it an organizing principle of your life. This one lesson: DO NOT GO TO FAIRHOPE, ALABAMA.

   That was where former Buffalo Bills great Thurman Thomas was arrested this weekend for marijuana possession. The beleaguered running back's arrest was national news, a SportsCenter bulletin judged to be of at least mid-broadcast importance, and yet at the same time it was quite possibly the most meaningless and pointlessly vindictive celebrity crime story of all time. What crazed drug-induced crime had Thomas committed? Did he, like Seattle Seahawk Jerramy Stevens, get high and drive a pickup truck into an old folks' home? Did he pull a Dwayne Goodrich and flatten two roadside accident victims at 100 per, then leave the scene? Was he not merely high but Darrell Russell high, as in high and armed and on his way to commit serious sex felonies on videotape?

   No. What Thomas was was stoned on half a joint and in bed, passed out, in his own hotel room. How did he come to be arrested? Apparently, some other guests in the hotel actually called and finked on him to the local police. From the AP story:

   Thomas was arrested at the Marriott Grand Hotel in Fairhope around 2 a.m. Saturday after several guests alerted police that he appeared to have drugs in his possession, Fairhope police spokesman Craig Sawyer said.

   In order to make the crime seem more serious, the AP also added, without irony: "The report said [Thomas] was also drunk when arrested."

   THE BEST was so flabbergasted by these circumstances that it called the police station in Fairhope, the Alabama town where the incident took place, to inquire further. Here is how part of that conversation went:

   THE BEST: I'm trying to reach Craig Sawyer, but he hasn't been at his desk all day. I'm a reporter and I just had a question about the Thurman Thomas story...

   FH POLICE: What d'yall wanna know?

   THE BEST: Well, the report said that Thomas was turned in by other guests at the hotel.

   FH POLICE: I'm really—to be honest, I'm not sure. You'd have to ask Craig.

   THE BEST: That's okay. I just thought...I was wondering if I could ask—is it common in your city for citizens to call the police to report a man smoking marijuana in his own room?

   FH POLICE: I'm not sure I understand the question.

   THE BEST: The report said not one guest, but "guests," as in, several people calling the police to report that Thomas may have been in possession of drugs. In our part of the world it would be extremely rare for even one, uh, private person to call the police to report somebody for smoking a joint, but for two to do it on the same day—that'd be like Halley's Comet-rare.

   FH POLICE: What rare?

   THE BEST: Halley's comet-rare.

   FH POLICE: What's that?

   THE BEST: As rare as Halley's comet.

FH POLICE: (pausing) Uh, you'd better talk to Craig. 'Cept he's not here right now. He's at a law enforcement appreciation luncheon.

   THE BEST: A what?

   FH POLICE: A law enforcement appreciation luncheon.

   THE BEST: What's that?

   FH POLICE: That's where the community holds a luncheon to show its appreciation for law enforcement.

   THE BEST: Your community holds luncheons to show its appreciation for law enforcement?

   FH POLICE: Uh-huh.

   THE BEST: Oh.

   FH POLICE: I'll put you through to Craig's voice mail.

   THE BEST: I've already left a message, but thanks.

   Yikes. Anyway, Thomas was roused from his sleep and charged with marijuana possession, a Class A misdemeanor. He was released on bond in time to play a round of golf for former teammate Cornelius Bennett's McDonald's Celebrity Pro-Am.

   Here is how twisted things have gotten in the States: Newspapers actually consider it important and necessary to call the relatives of players who are caught smoking marijuana in their own room. Thurm's wife, Patti Thomas, apologized to Planet America on her husband's behalf through the AP:

"Basically, what he has said was some other guys were with him and because it was near his room, he got caught up in it," Patti Thomas said.

   Thomas, who last year admitted to being a recovering alcoholic, was a legendary partier even by Buffalo standards. In Super Bowl XXVII, after a late night, he forgot his helmet when he went out onto the field.


   In a remarkable story eerily reminiscent of the escapades of sportscrime legend Cecil "The Diesel" Collins, a Columbia University football player has been arrested for entering a woman's room at night and licking her feet while she slept.

Aaron Percival, 19, is a cornerback for the Lions, and also, apparently, a foot fetishist. In the incident, which allegedly occurred eight months ago (he was only arrested this past week), he entered the unlocked room of an unidentified woman, who awoke "to find the defendant licking her feet and toes without her consent," as it was put in court papers. The story gets worse from there: when the woman woke up, Percival allegedly pushed her against the wall and sexually assaulted her with his hand, causing bruising and bleeding that forced her to seek medical treatment.

The woman did not report the crime immediately, but only went to the police later when she learned that another woman was planning to go to the police with a similar complaint about Percival. The other complaint was investigated and no charges were filed, but they were filed in this case, probably because of evidence from the clinic the woman visited.

   Percival denies all the accusations. Teammates responded to media inquiries with supportive statements. Percival's lawyers may want to take care not to call defensive tackle Nick Bevins as a character witness. The prosecution would kill him. Here is what Bevins told the Times:

   "Everyone knows us," he said. "And people know that in a case like this, because of athletics, it would be a big deal."

   Everyone knows you? Columbia University football players? Not sure about that one. Percival was released on his own recognizance after spending a night in jail, and will go to trial later this summer.

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