Man, this was a tough one. In fact, this was as difficult a year for picking out the worst sports criminal as any in recent memory. Can I get an extension, Mr. Taxman?
Though 2007 also fielded an impressive roster of high-profile athletes whose criminal exploits monopolized headlines for large chunks of the calendar, it essentially boiled down to a two-man contest between a couple of professional football players: Michael Vick and Adam “Pacman” Jones.
Jones pulled out the Phoenix’s Skell of the Year award for 2007, and this year validated our non-faith in him by continuing to be a violent douchebag, among other things helping torpedo the season of his new team, the Dallas Cowboys, by getting into a much-publicized fistfight with his own bodyguard in a hotel bathroom.
But this year was different. In a way, 2008 was a much more disturbing year in sports crime than 2007, featuring as it did a much wider array of ghastly jock malfeasances. Competition was so stiff, in fact, that two multiple offenders couldn’t even capture the crown. (Typically, unless there is a uniquely awful single-event crime — a Rae Carruth–type murder conspiracy — we would give this award to an athlete who commits at least two serious crimes in a calendar year. Some weight has to be given to the athlete who proves himself to be a repeat offender, a criminal personality as opposed to a schlub who makes a one-time mistake.)
This year’s multiple-offense runners-up are former University of Nebraska running back THUNDER COLLINS and then–New York Mets relief pitcher AMBIORIX BURGOS.
Ex-Cornhusker Collins was in the news quite a bit this past year. In August, he was hosting a fundraising event in Lincoln, Nebraska, when someone inexplicably left him in charge of the money. It vanished (duh) and Collins quickly reported the “theft” of more than $13,000 to the police (he wasn’t charged). At the time, Collins’s return to public life was much publicized around the university — he had disappeared after a series of arrests (boasting the sports-crime trifecta of weed, gun, and chick-boxing incidents) had clouded his legacy as a very good college running back. But a month after the charity incident, Collins went away again — this time probably for good — after a shooting he allegedly committed in Omaha left one man dead and another seriously injured. Collins was charged with first-degree murder, meaning he probably won’t be hosting charity events any time soon.
Burgos, meanwhile, was sputtering along as just another high-octane power arm who couldn’t find the plate — the kind of guy almost every team has somewhere in their farm system. This past year, Burgos was injured and loafing around during the Mets’ annual late-season slide when he got arrested for throwing his girlfriend against a wall in a Queens Holiday Inn. A month or so later, back in his native Dominican Republic, he was involved in a hit-and-run that left two women dead. He allegedly ran over two women in a Hummer and fled the scene, and was subsequently arrested and charged in the two killings.