Skell of the year

By MATT TAIBBI  |  December 18, 2007

This phenomenon is so common now — and also so charged with racial tension — that sports reporters have learned to write about it in code. Increasingly, in introducing a new star athlete to readers, sports hacks find themselves addressing first and foremost the question of whether said jock has an “entourage.” The widespread use of the latter euphemism was definitely the journalistic innovation of 2007; its meaning was so completely and implicitly understood that, by the end of the year, agents and athletes made the denial of an entourage one of the first orders of business in broadcast and print interviews. “O.J. Mayo says he doesn’t have an entourage,” read a typical story. Then there was the case of former Celtic Sebastian Telfair; a year after Danny Ainge proudly proclaimed that “Sebastian doesn’t have an entourage — that’s just a myth,” Telfair was robbed by an associate of the rapper Fabolous (specifically, “a member of Fabolous’s entourage”). Fabolous himself was shot and wounded in the leg shortly after the alleged robbery.

But the evil king of all sports “entourage” stories was none other than this year’s true master criminal, Adam “Pacman” Jones of the Tennessee Titans. While Michael Vick came across as at least something of a victim in his affair — sent up the river by an NFL leadership perhaps a little too anxious to separate itself from the more grotesque symbols of ghetto culture, even as it welcomed back with open arms takers-of-life like Leonard Little — Jones was something different. Jones was an unrepentant super-engine of glandular indulgence who seemed to have a special talent for two things: returning punts for touchdowns, and getting people shot in strip clubs. He was involved in two shooting incidents in two different clubs: one in Las Vegas (in an incident that popularized for all time the expression “making it rain”) and another, less-publicized affair in Atlanta. The Vegas shooting left three people shot and one, former professional wrestler Tommy Urbanski, paralyzed below the waist. Moreover, Jones was twice arrested for spitting on women. All in all, there were nearly a dozen troublesome incidents involving Jones between his drafting by the Titans in 2005 and his one-season suspension by the NFL this past April. Amusingly, on the night before he was to meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about repealing the suspension, Pacman went . . . to a strip club.

While Vick always came across as a guy who was undone by his hangers-on, Pacman, on the other hand, seemed like a guy who was shielded by his hangers-on. He was a user, more than a usee. Unlike Vick, who ended up getting more time than the guys in his treacherous “entourage” who ratted him out, with Jones it was always someone else — Urbanski, a security guard, a loogey-drenched woman — who got the worst end of their encounters. With Vick already sentenced, jailed, and eating three squares as we speak (his victims not men and women but dogs — the reason for his relatively low 49-point status on this board), and Pacman conversely still at large and spending his TNA (Total Nonstop Action) wrestling money on the exotic dancers of the Eastern Seaboard, it’s only fitting to name Jones the Skell of the Year. It was a bad, unfunny year in sports crime, and he was a perfect symbol of everything it stood for. Take your time coming back, Pacman. We won’t miss you.

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