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Revenge of the toad

Sports blotter: "Irabu!" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  August 27, 2008


Flat-out awesome!
Some sports-crime stories aren’t funny in any way — they’re just plain violent and tragic. Others are too emblematic and telling, revealing awful things about our crass, media-obsessed society. And still others — DUIs of aging linebackers, for instance — just aren’t that interesting. When there’s nothing but stories like these to write about, it makes for a depressing week for the author of this column.

But every now and then you get a story that’s just pure fun. Like the one that came gift-wrapped in the New York Post this past week, under the headline DRUNK HIDEKI IRABU ARRESTED FOR ASSAULTING BARTENDER. It’s always great when Yankees get in trouble, but it’s particularly delicious when it’s a famously high-priced former Yankee import, washed up and drinking away the sting of a failed career back in his home country — while an ocean away, Daisuke Matsuzaka, in his nibbling way, is mowing down the American League, going 15-2 this season for the Boston Red Sox.

You basically know the Irabu story already, but here are the details, which are terrific. It seems the “Japanese Nolan Ryan” (yeah, right) spent a long night drinking in a bar in Osaka and then, when he went to pay, had his credit card rejected. Enraged, Irabu (who was once called a “fat pussy toad” by George Steinbrenner, back in the days when the Boss was still great and terrible and ambulatory) threw the bartender against the wall, pulled his hair, and smashed at least nine bottles of liquor. (It is assumed the credit card didn’t cover those, either.) Cops later showed up and learned that Irabu had drunk 20 mugs of beer in the bar.

Irabu was a Yankee during that franchise’s most recent golden age, and actually owns two World Series rings (from 1998 and ’99) despite not doing much to earn them. And . . . well, who cares what happened from there? The only reason I’m even continuing this tale is to segue into the current plight of the Yankees, at last count around 10 games out of first place. Which is really embarrassing for a team with a $200 million payroll. Did I mention they’re 10 games out of first place?

Anyway, give the fat toad 10 points for bartender abuse. Have another doughnut, loser!

Meanwhile, in Tokyo . . .
Continuing the Japanese theme so far, a sports-crime scandal of sorts is enveloping the sumo world. This past week, Japanese police arrested for marijuana possession the spry 357-pound Soslan Aleksandrovich Gagloev, a Russian import known in sumo as “Wakanoho.” Thanks to the oddly idiotic and regressive Japanese drug laws, the hulking Russian — who was caught with a third of a gram of marijuana — now faces up to five years of hard labor.

This is the third black mark against the sumo world in the past year or so. The most serious episode involves three wrestlers and their “stable master” (a manager of sorts), who have been charged with beating a young sumo to death. That case is unresolved; the accused maintain they are innocent.

In a much less grave incident, the sport’s top competitor, a Mongolian called Asashoryu, pulled out of an exhibition tournament after claiming an injury, then was caught on tape playing soccer in his native country five days later. The Japanese, who obviously don’t have many Manny Ramirez types in their culture and take this kind of thing seriously, were mortified. Asashoryu was expelled, the first time an active wrestler has suffered this punishment.

The Japanese are also taking the weed thing as a real blow — Wakanoho’s stable master has actually resigned from the sumo association out of shame. It seems to me a 357-pound guy who makes his living getting belly-slammed in his underwear should be able to relax a little in his spare time if he feels like it. Two points for smoking the sumo tree.

Here’s something you don’t see every day. A pair of West Virginia University basketball players, Joe Mazzulla and Cam Thoroughman, were arrested at a Pittsburgh Pirates game for fighting, drinking, and generally being assholes. (Oh, and, also, they’re underage, which is going to add a charge or two to their beer-fueled offenses.)

I’m racking my brains and can’t recall another instance of an athlete getting arrested while attending another sporting event as a spectator. (Any reader who remembers one, please let me know.)

When he's not googling "Irabu strikes out" and "Wakanoho no-no," Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone. He can be reached

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