Monday, November 14, 2005

The Top 10 Sports Sex Scandals of All Time

With the Panthers cheerleaders alleged-sex-in-a-bathroom (which they have denied took place, completely ruining my fantasy) scandal coming hot on the heels of the Vikings SexBoat escapade (which is probably the only sex scandal in the history of Minnesota - I mean isn't it fucking cold there?), perhaps it's time to ponder 10 of the (other) biggest sex scandals in sports history:

1. Kobe Bryant: Nobody but Bryant and the young woman who became his accuser know for sure what happened in that hotel room in Eagle, Colo., on the night of July 1, 2003. What is clear is that Bryant's squeaky-clean image was forever tarnished as he transformed overnight from the Next Jordan to a punchline for late-night comics (or wanna be comics like myself). The woman alleged that Bryant raped her while the player claimed that the (extramarital) sex was consensual. The criminal charges were ultimately dropped before trial and the two reached a sealed settlement on a related civil suit. While the cost to Bryant's reputation is incalculable, the cost to his pocketbook included the $4 million he spent on an eight-carat diamond ring for wife Vanessa.

2. Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich: The Yankees lefthanders shocked their teammates and the rest of America when they showed up at spring training in 1973 and announced that they had swapped wives over the winter. Peterson traded wife, Marilyn, two kids and a poodle to Kekich for Susanne, the two Kekich kids and a Bedlington terrier. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn (who colored himself "appalled") got more angry mail about the wife swap than he did about the introduction of the DH that season. Looking back, Peterson clearly got the better of the deal; he was still with Susanne the last anyone has heard. Kekich, meanwhile, split with Marilyn three months after the couples went public, and was shipped off to the Indians and started only eight more games in the majors.

3. Gold Club trial: It's not exactly shocking to hear that pro athletes frequent strip clubs. It's another matter to have it aired in open court, which was what happened during the 2001 racketeering trial of Gold Club owner Steve Kaplan in Atlanta. Among the athletes who took the stand were Patrick Ewing (who testified that he had been "comped" sexual favors at the club) and Braves center fielder Andruw Jones (who was treated to a threesome at age 19, and actually used the words "hot girl-on-girl action" during his testimony). When one former stripper was asked under oath who was present during one of Ewing's romps, she answered, "The whole fucking NBA." I wonder if the pun was intended or not.

4. Eugene Robinson: The Falcons free safety made headlines for all the wrong reasons when he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Miami the night before Atlanta met the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. He had to be bailed out by the Falcons' GM at 11 p.m., just a few days after Robinson had won the Bart Starr Award for "high moral character" (was that "high" as in "baked"?). The team allowed Robinson to play, but he was burned badly on an 80-yard TD pass to Rod Smith that put Denver ahead 17-3 in a 34-19 win. One Broncos fan held up a sign reading: Eugene Robinson For President.

5. Marv Albert: Up until 1997, Albert was known solely as a popular sports broadcaster who liked to say, "Yes!" That summer, though, Albert, who was accused of sexual assault, gained infamy during a trial filled with sordid details. Albert ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery for biting a former lover 18 times during a rendezvous-gone-wrong. Albert was fired by NBC and resigned from MSG Network. Rapper Common boasted in a song lyric that he was "freaky like Marv Albert." Albert's professional career and reputation, though, have largely been restored.

6. Wade Boggs: The chicken-loving singles hitter became known as a ladies' man when Margo Adams claimed in 1988 that she had been his mistress on the road for four years. Adams originally filed a $6 million suit for, well, it's hard to say exactly since one wouldn't think that "road mistress" is that well-paying a job, even in a perfect world. The married Boggs didn't exactly curry public sympathy, though, when he blamed his behavior on being a sex addict, a term he confessed that he learned from a Geraldo Rivera show. Adams sold a tell-all story to Penthouse but her legal claims were largely thrown out. Through it all, Boggs kept hitting singles (with the occasional double off the Green Monster) and eating chicken (among other things).

7. Mike DuBose: The former Alabama football coach admitted in August 1999 that he had had an affair with his executive secretary as the school was forced to pay the woman $350,000 to settle a sexual harassment case. Making matters worse, DuBose had denied the affair just three months earlier, both publicly and to his bosses. The Tide essentially took the settlement out of DuBose's contract, and when Alabama lost 29-28 to Southern Miss early in the 1999 season, DuBose seemed all but gone. Yet when the Tide rallied to win a surprise SEC championship and entered the 2000 season ranked No. 3, many Bama backers were ready to forgive DuBose for the adultery. Alas, he then committed the unpardonable sin of going 3-8 and lost his job. There is truth to the rumor that Bear Bryant repeatedly rolled over in his grave.

8. Dennis Eckersley/Rick Manning: 1978 was a tough year for the Eck. He was traded from the Indians to the Red Sox, his wife, Denise, told him she was in love with another man, and that man turned out to be his best friend, Cleveland centerfielder Manning. Those facts are not in dispute, though much else about this unplanned wife swap (Denise and Manning later married) is murky. Cleveland lore has it that the Indians front office traded Eck because it learned of the affair and needed to ship one of them out, and since Manning had a cracked vertebra in his neck he wouldn't have drawn much in return. For his part, Eck insists the executives knew nothing and that he himself learned that his wife and Manning were together only months after the trade. Regardless, Eckersley fondly mentioned both Denise and Manning by name in a gracious induction speech when he joined the Hall of Fame last summer. I am unsure if he was up for a threesome or not.

9. St. John's basketball players: The Red Storm was already limping through a lousy season when they lost 71-51 at Pittsburgh on Feb. 4, 2004, to fall to 5-14. Things got much worse that night. Five players took a 38-year-old woman they had met in a strip club back to their hotel room. The next morning, the woman alleged that the players had raped her. One of the players, though, had recorded some of the proceedings on his digital camera. When police saw footage of the woman threatening to file rape charges unless they paid her for the sex, the charges were dropped and the woman was instead charged with prostitution and other counts. (That might mark the only time a sex tape has ever helped anyone get out of trouble). The players' respite was short-lived, however, as three were kicked off the team for good and two suspended for the rest of the season.

10. Denny Neagle: The then Rockies pitcher was arrested in December 2004 for speeding. When police say they noticed that Neagle had his belt unbuckled, they questioned the female passenger, who told them that she had performed oral sex on Neagle for $40. (Neagle's trial has been postponed until Jan. 30, 2006; the woman pleaded guilty to prostitution in September.) It proved to be a very costly transaction for Neagle as the Rockies quickly moved to void the $19 million left on his contract, though the team and pitcher reached an undisclosed settlement in May. The 37-year-old was waived by the Devil Rays this spring and has not pitched in the majors since.

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