We bombed in Denton

Sports blotter: "Complaining about the refugees" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  February 21, 2007

HOWARD STIRGUS: just wanted to play in a basketball game and didn’t know the cops could trace 911 calls.

Anybody visiting southeast Texas these days is likely to hear a lot of grumbling about “those people” — the ones who came over from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It’s a hot topic on the local right-wing radio stations and fast becoming its own chapter in the history of subterranean American racism, offering a rich legacy of loaded code words: “We’re happy to help, but enough is enough,” “Some people are just happy mooching off the government,” “I don’t want to say all people from New Orleans are criminals, but . . . ”

Denton, Texas, isn’t exactly prime NOLA refugee country — it’s just north of Dallas — but a recent news story coming out of that town is probably not going to help the refugee lore situation very much. An emerging high-school basketball star named Howard Stirgus was busted last week for phoning in over a dozen bomb threats to one of his team’s games. Stirgus was under suspension for that game for fighting in school, and apparently thought he could get the game postponed until such time as he could play in it. His plan failed; authorities evacuated the gym, found no bomb, and eventually arrested him on the night of the game.

Stirgus is from New Orleans. Until the arrest, he was considered a solid D-1 prospect, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out for him now. “I don't think any Division I school would take a chance,” said Mike Kunstadt, publisher of the basketball Web site Texashoops.com. Among other things, the execution of his plan does not exactly inspire confidence in his ability to handle college academics. Stirgus made the 911 calls from a cell phone he had borrowed from a teammate, apparently not realizing they could be traced by police.

Most news reports characterize Stirgus as a very nice kid who has not dealt with the stress of moving and being away from family very well. And this isn’t a case of a dumb jock brutalizing a woman or some poor sap who happened to be standing in the wrong place at a bar on some Saturday night; at the heart of this story, it’s just a kid who wanted to play in a basketball game. Let’s hope he gets a second chance…

Buckeye black eye
2007 hasn’t been a good year for the OSU football team so far. First they got stomped by Florida; now they’ve got their first football bust of the year. Defensive lineman Kris Luchsinger was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after being busted for what sounds very much like one of those big-football-player-whales-on-unlucky-sap-in-bar stories.

According to reports, police arrived at Jackie O’s tavern, in Athens, Ohio, in response to a call about a fight. When the cops walked into the place, there was indeed a fight going on and the police ordered it stopped. For a moment everyone was in order, but then, according to police, the 6’3”, 225-pounds Luchsinger grabbed another male and started hitting him. Police ordered him to stop, but Luchsinger kept punching the man until police grabbed him. Luchsinger — a former high-school wrestling standout — wrestled with cops for about 30 seconds before breaking free and attempting to escape down an alley in the direction of a Taco Bell. I wonder if Luchsinger’s coaches are going to be impressed with the way he “filled the alley” on that play.

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