Why tasers and athletes don't mix
Here’s the problem with boxing as a career. For a bona fide contender, life is a glorious parade of fur coats, holes in biker shorts, and wrecked hotel suites. But take a few bad punches, and next thing you know, you’re running for your life through a Nashville housing complex, pursued by a half-dozen angry Southern cops armed with Taser pistols.
Such was the experience last weekend of Oliver McCall, one of the more embarrassing figures ever to wear the heavyweight champion’s belt. McCall was the toast of the sporting world for one brief, beautiful, Chauncey Gardner–esque moment in 1994, when he more or less accidentally knocked out Lennox Lewis for half of the disputed heavyweight title. But McCall surrendered the title almost immediately in a loss to the sloth-like Frank Bruno, then spectacularly fell from grace in one of the most bizarre title fights of all time — when he quit during his rematch with a re-crowned Lewis, bursting into tears in the middle of the ring.
McCall’s career as a sports criminal is almost without peer or parallel; he makes Lawrence Taylor seem like Ann Romney. Just prior to his second Lewis fight, McCall became the first professional athlete ever to be arrested for attacking a Christmas tree in a public place. He later racked up a series of drug charges and is said to have had a million-dollar check stolen from his shoe while he was sleeping in a crack house. Eventually committed to a mental institution in 1997, he would later return to prison on a series of increasingly bizarre offenses.
This past weekend, McCall was allegedly trespassing on private property in Nashville when police approached him and asked if he lived at the complex. He reportedly replied, “I’m Oliver McCall, former heavyweight champion of the world.” Police told him he was under arrest; he replied “no” and took off. Cops chased after him and finally felled him with a stun gun.
With his latest arrest, McCall joins an elite group of sports criminals who have been subdued with stun or Taser weapons. Those include ex-Miami Dolphin Gene A tk ins (busted in 2003 on arson-conspiracy charges; he was brandishing four knives when shot), hockey-goon legend Bob Probert (cocaine charges; he claimed in his police report that his name was “The Bad One”), and Jags o-lineman Chris Naeole (garden-variety bar fight). The first person to be shot with a Taser gun in an incident involving pro-sports figures was one of the all-time legendary figures of sports crime, a diminutive Scottish tourist named Colin McCabe, who in 1984 bravely attacked Lyle Alzado on the streets of Santa Monica after a traffic altercation. McCabe’s heroic performance — he was ultimately restrained by police, not by Alzado — probably ranks second only to Tex Cobb in the history of quixotic sports gestures.
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