Big play played

Plus, the latest on the sad tale of Dwight Gooden
By MATT TAIBBI  |  March 23, 2006

Willie Clay - Money ProblemsHere’s a weird one, Boston sports fans. Everyone out there remember a guy named Willie Clay? He played for the Patriots once upon a time, and he actually wasn’t half bad, although he wasn’t half as good as his self-anointed nickname — “Big Play” — suggested. Big Play Clay’s shining moment in Boston came during the 1996 play-offs, when he picked off a Mark Brunell pass in the end zone against the Jags in the conference-championship game, helping propel the Patriots to its final pre-Belichick embarrassing Super Bowl stomping at the hands of the Packers.

Well, Big Play has resurfaced, as part of an Agatha Christie–esque mystery involving a missing Georgia hedge-fund manager named Kirk Wright. It seems that about a month ago, the Marietta-based Wright vanished, although not completely: he still communicates with his lawyer, and not from the afterlife, either — apparently from some US location where he’s in hiding.

The lawyer, an ex-SEC type named Jacob Frenkel, says that Wright has disappeared because of “concerns about his safety,” although a warrant for his arrest in conjunction with an SEC lawsuit is probably also a compelling reason. Apparently, Wright managed a $185-million fund that lost a lot of people their shirts, and some of his investors were former NFL players. According to Frenkel, two of those former players made threats against Wright, causing him to go into hiding. Frenkel says that two players went to Wright’s home, posed as law-enforcement officers, and demanded to know his whereabouts.

Clay was one of Wright’s clients. Among Wright’s other clients were fellow NFL ex-safeties Blaine Bishop and Steve Atwater, as well as onetime running back Terrell Davis and current player Carol EmDoc Gooden - Drug possession, assault, sexual assault, extreme DUImons. Frenkel is not revealing the names of the two offending players, but we’ll find out soon enough.

The rites of spring
The Dwight Gooden story has now officially triggered the Daryl Strawberry clause of sports-crime reporting, having become just too damn sad to joke about. In what has become an annual rite as timeless and dependable as the emergence of Punxsatawney Phil, Gooden was arrested during spring training again last week, this time for violating the terms of his probation. Gooden apparently admitted to his parole officer that he’d been doing coke. The officer then ordered a tox screen, Doc failed it, and off to jail he went. You know things have gotten depressing when you start volunteering the evidence to the authorities.

One of Doc’s first busts was a spring-training coke arrest in 1987. He was again busted in the spring of 1991, charged with rape alongside Vince Coleman and Daryl Boston. After his retirement, Doc was busted in the spring of 2002 for a DUI. The following year he was hit just a few weeks short of spring training, in January of 2003, this time for driving with a suspended license. Then last year, Dwight was busted on March 12 for punching his girlfriend after she pulled a Russell Crowe and threw a telephone at his head. In August, Doc was arrested again for an alcohol-related driving incident.

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