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Archive for Sunday, June 22, 2008

Commentary: Who cares about character anymore?

June 22, 2008

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You might think that after his last bad experience with the bubbly, Javon Walker would not have been out spraying bottles of Dom Perignon on people partying in a Las Vegas nightclub.

You might.

You might think the Oakland Raiders would have figured out Walker could be bad news at any price, much less the $16 million he was guaranteed to play wide receiver for them.

You might.

Unlike the Raiders, Walker has an excuse of sorts. Like many athletes he's young, dumb and so flush with money that he can't wait to buy $900 bottles of champagne just to shower people with.

Just how dumb really comes into focus when you think about what happened with Walker just 18 months ago when police believe champagne spraying by a teammate touched off a fight in a Denver nightclub. When it was over, Walker was in a limousine cradling a dying Darrent Williams in his arms.

Al Davis isn't that dumb, just increasingly desperate. The architect of the great Raider teams of old isn't getting any younger and he badly needs someone to catch the balls thrown by JaMarcus Russell if the Raiders are going to have a chance to win again.

Davis rolled the dice on Walker not because the Raiders have a reputation of taking the NFL's trash and turning it into treasure. He did it for the same reason he took Randy Moss a few years back and the same reason Jerry Jones takes every misfit who can find his way to Dallas.

They want to win so badly they can't help themselves.

In Walker's case, the Raiders knew they were getting someone who had antagonized Brett Favre in Green Bay, was with Williams when he was shot after a night out in Denver, and had a history of bickering with the teams that employed him. But when the Broncos unceremoniously cut him, he got a $55 million deal from the Raiders.

Walker has yet to play a down for the Raiders but he rewarded that faith earlier this week when he was found unconscious, beaten and robbed, on a Las Vegas street corner, hours after being seen spraying champagne on fellow clubbers at a nightclub. Technically he's a victim, guilty only of random champagne madness, since stupidity by itself is not a crime.

Down in Texas, meanwhile, former bad boy Michael Irvin is helping baby-sit various Cowboys in hopes they'll all be ready to play opening day.

The Yankees have a lot of expensive seats to sell in their new stadium, too, and a desperate need for pitching. So they didn't think twice about signing serial malcontent Sidney Ponson to a contract with the hope he will be on the mound soon in New York.

Ponson so tested the patience of the Texas Rangers that they waived him this week even though they need pitching even worse than the Yankees and he had an earned-run average of 3.88.

With the Yankees floundering most of the season in the AL East, about the only surprise is that they haven't tried to sign Barry Bonds as their DH.

Indeed, most of the talk you hear by teams about building character and employing good citizens is just talk. Given a chance to pick up a star player with a checkered past, most will do it without a second thought if they think it will help them win a few more games. Like the Raiders, they're usually so desperate they can't help themselves.

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