Recession busters

Sports blotter: "Realty bites" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  May 14, 2008

Soft market
It was only a matter of time before the plummeting real-estate market began to claim its first sports-related arrests. And now warrants have been issued for a pair of former New York–area sports legends whose real-estate dalliances ended in disaster.

Bart Oates, center for the New York football Giants back in the Parcells glory years, and Ken Daneyko, a key player in the New Jersey Devils’ dynasty of the late ’90s, are tri-state-area real-estate partners who tried to make it big. They got into a jam when they borrowed $300,000 from a Long Island investor named Cary Heller to build a condo complex in Wildwood. The two started getting slow in their loan payments, Heller sued and tried to depose the ex-jocks, and suddenly it became hard to find them.

Finally, Heller had to turn to an Essex County judge, who issued arrest warrants for Oates and Daneyko. Both insist there was no attempt to avoid their legal obligations, though Oates did transfer ownership of his $2.5 million house to his wife for the princely sum of $1 — not realizing that any liens on his property would transfer to the new owner.

In short, this is your typical cautionary tale about ex-athletes who leave the field of glory for the cubicle/loan office. Almost invariably the schemes these guys get into — beer bottleries, steak houses, “classy” strip joints — end up ensnared in tangled webs of litigation, divorce settlements, and loan-sharking mix-ups. Give each 10 points for this nonviolent crime of mismanagement.

The Lawrence Phillips railroad
This is becoming a bit of a cliché now: highly touted running back gets drafted, signs with NFL team, underperforms, then gets arrested on drug/alcohol charges. After several “second chances,” the team releases him, and quickly enough he turns to the Canadian Football League. Something happens up north, and the new team releases the strapping American under mysterious circumstances. Now cut completely loose, the once-promising runner enters the Sonny Liston phase of his sporting life, winding up cuffed and in the back of a police cruiser after hitting a stripper, wrapping a stolen Escalade around a telephone pole, or being caught handing over a half-key of something in an airplane hangar in Tulsa.

Lawrence Phillips was the first passenger on this railroad. Ricky Williams (a nice, completely non-criminal fellow who unfortunately just likes to smoke a lot of tree) was next, and now we have Onterrio Smith. Once considered a potential star, the ex–Minnesota Viking and Winnipeg Bluebomber was pulled over for a DUI in Sacramento this past week, the latest blow to his drug-offense-ridden career.

The weirdest detail of the case is that bail was set at $3746. Why $3746? Who ever heard of a judge issuing bail in a number out to four places? Weird stuff.

Lots of NFL players could be potential “Blotter” stars this week. Michael Boley was charged with battery . . . but who cares about Michael Boley? He plays for the Atlanta Falcons, a team that Odessa Permian High could give a serious ride. The Bears’ Cedric Benson, sure, he maybe drives boats drunk— but he also sucks. At least Latrell Sprewell, the original sports BUI, could ball. And then there’s Marvin Harrison. We just don’t know what to say about the Marvin Harrison case.

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