The new system

Sports Blotter: 2007 yearbook edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  December 27, 2006

D-RAILED: Willis would have been better served trying to find one of these on the night in question
And so we come to the end of another year in sports crime. The obvious stars of this season were the Cincinnati Bengals, but in truth we all have sins on our conscience this year. That includes me; two weeks ago, I fucked up a story about a pair of Kansas college-football arrests so badly that if I’d been a lawyer, I’d have been disbarred. I won’t get into the pharmacological reasons for that mistake, since the this column is about sports crime, not crimes by journalists. Readers interested in the details of that particular story can check the Columbia Journalism Review’s new “Hackz Behind Bar” column next month.

That incident has prompted me to reconsider the format of this column, and give it a more stats-based look. I’ve decided to assign a numerical score to each criminal incident outlined in this column. Each arrest/court proceeding will earn a score on a scale of horribleness from one to 100, with 100 representing the absolute worst sports-related crime conceivable, and one the least consequential. The purpose of the system is to keep a running tab each year on all crimes committed in the North American arena, and crown an Annual Crime Champion at the end of each calendar year. Having not kept tabs last year, I’d say the top candidates would probably have been Mau Clarett and Chris Henry, with Clarett’s hatchet probably being the deal breaker.

The score system will be absolutely subjective, although there will be a few basic rules to give the system some consistency. For instance, I’m scoring all arrests for simple marijuana possession — the most common and least serious of all sports arrests — a measly one, making that the anemic minimum standard for a mention in this column. If the athlete in question was driving a car when he got arrested, however, that score goes up to 25. All driving-impairment arrests score a minimum of 25, on the theory that if you drive drunk enough to attract a cop four times, you’re probably going to seriously hurt someone at least once. One other weed-arrest footnote; if you get arrested with a quantity of marijuana that is at least as large as a Hefty bag — a “Nate Newton arrest” — you get 10 points off your year-end score, provided you weren’t driving after sampling your Hefty stash. In this column, you get points off for being funny, and millionaire athletes driving around with trash bags full of pot are funny.

All arrests involving assaults against women score a minimum of 50 points. All assaults of men by women, provided deadly force is not used, score minus 50 points, although arrests involving women who throw cell phones at men are annoying, not funny, and score positive points. If you attack your wife or girlfriend by ramming her with a car — think Victor Riley — that’s a minimum 75 points. If you actually hit her, that’s 85. If your children are in the car, that’s 90 points. If anyone else’s children are in the car, that’s also 90 points. Maximum scores of 100 are rare, the last one being Rae Carruth. O.J. was a 99; he lost one point only because a big chunk of his sizable fee went to Barry Scheck and therefore indirectly went to Scheck’s Innocence Project. You don’t get points off for getting away with it.

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