The news that Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon was arrested on aggravated DUI charges casts new light on the sorry state of today's athlete posse accountability.
We live in turbulent and troubled times. Most would agree that our nation faces more uncertainty about its future than it has at almost any moment in its history. While disagreement and discord tend to accompany any exercise in assigning causation or blame for this scenario, common refrains bemoan the decline of accountability and personal responsibility amongst the populace. And seemingly nowhere is this troubling trend more prevalent than amongst the modern professional athlete posse.
Posse members in this town used to believe in things. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN???
There once was a sacrosanct code of honor between athletes and the members of their posses. The athlete would earn the money and bestow it freely on his ramshackle assortment of childhood friends, second cousins, local opportunists and assorted hangers-on. They would, in turn, handle business by taking on tasks like holding the stash/holding the piece/driving the Escalade home at 3am/meteing out any necessary ass whoopings. Thus, the athlete would remain free of legal entaglements that could otherwise imperil everyone's gravy train. The cost of maintenance and upkeep on a first-rate posse would typically lead to bankruptcy within a couple of years of the athlete's retirement, but this again was an accepted part of the natural order. In the last decade, however, there has been a frightening breakdown in posse responsibility, leading to pro athlete's names festooning TMZ headlines and court dockets at a record rate.
You have forsworn your oath. Lord Commander Mormont is unimpressed.
Here at BC we're on top of this lamentable trend, and are here to present you with an in-depth examination of some of the decade's most high-profile posse failures. In the interests of fair and balanced reporting, we'll also examine any mitigating factors that might alleviate some of the blame from the posse in question.
Driving While Ig'Nant Division
A longtime athlete staple, this is the division where young Mr. Blackmon has so recently made his presence felt. Since run-of-the-mill DUI's are so commonplace as to elicit nothing more than an exasperated sigh from experienced posse evaluators, cracking this list meant kicking it up a notch and actually ending a human life.
Third Place (Tie): Donte Stallworth and Dwayne Goodrich
Both Stallworth and Goodrich managed notable vehicular homicides, in both cases striking down pedestrians in the wee hours whilst repairing to their respective abodes following an evening of carousal. Goodrich's case drew particular ire as he A) was reportedly hitting triple digits on the spedometer, and B) ran down Good Samaritans who were attempting to free another motorist from a flaming wreck. Failure to follow one of the simplest Rules of Possedom - Posse Member Drives Home From Da Club - reflects poorly on those involved.
Mitigating Factors: In Goodrich's case, his relatively meager salary as a second-round pick and inability to stay within five yards of any receiver he attempted to cover likely meant that he could afford, at best, a vestigial posse. With only one or two poorly-compensated dudes trying to run the whole operation, there are bound to be slip-ups.
As for Stallworth, the time and place of his incident are noteworthy. It happened on the South Beach causeway at 7:15 AM following a wild night at the Fontainebleu Hotel. Even in a right-to-work state like Florida, most standard posse agreements stipulate working hours that wrap up by 4:00 or 5:00 AM. Any posse member still on call at sunup would have been going above and beyond the call of duty.
Second Place: Leonard Little
Considered an overachiever even by the considerable standards of drunk-driving athletes, Leonard Little killed a young mother of two while driving drunk during his rookie season and followed up on this accomplishment by landing ANOTHER DUI in 2004 during which he failed three separate field sobriety tests. Presumably, during his time at the University of Tennessee he received both Fulmer Cup training as well as some down-home Southern wisdom about getting right back on that horse after it throws you. Regardless of his motivations, however, the fact that he was a highly-touted and wage-earning pro athlete during both instances paint this as a strong case of dereliction of posse duty.
Mitigating Factors: Few, if any. This is a simple case of leaving the meal ticket in your jeans pocket, washing it and then putting it through the dryer - straght posse negligence all the way around.
First Place: Eddie Griffin
NOTE: Not this one.
While some pro athletes may have a pretty cavalier attitude towards causing the death of a civilian, almost all would agree that you don't want to lose your OWN life. Given the ramifications re: posthumous earning potential, posse members would fervently concur that keeping the player in question alive is of paramount importance. Thus, the sad story of Eddie Griffin is a particularly egregious example of posse failure. Griffin, who had plied his NBA trade with the Rockets, Nets and T-Wolves while typically boasting a BAC in excess of his scoring average, was killed when he ignored a railroad warning and drove his SUV directly into the path of an oncoming locomotive. Considering Griffin's history of alcohol-related driving troubles, how could any self-respecting posse member have allowed him to get behind the wheel?
Mitigating Factors: Unfortunately, alcohol wasn't the only contributing factor to Griffin's driving woes. In an earlier incident in Minnesota, Griffin crashed an SUV while not only drunk, but according to witnesses also blasting a porno on the in-car DVD system and going to town on Little Eddie.
NOTE: Again, not this one. Thank God.
Any self-respecting posse member is going to have certain limits. If a couple of shots of Henny get your player in the mood to handle up on himself during the ride home, it's certainly easy to see how posse members might have scrambled to avoid driving duty.
Proscribed Substances Division
A lot of people have disagreements with league, state and federal authorities as to which substances they can and can't possess/ingest/traffic, and athletes are no exception. While it's clearly a posse member's job to throw himself into the line of fire in these kinds of situations, some are sadly not up to the task.
Honorable Mention: Damon Stoudamire
An athlete busted holding weed is bad. An athlete busted by airport security holding weed is even worse. If the athlete in question is busted because his tinfoil weed-wrapping set off the airport metal detector, we seem to be dealing with some pronounced posse failure. Guys, how can you let this happen?
Mitigating Factors: In the Stoudaposse's defense, there are a few in play here. First, while posse duties in local modes of conveyance like an Escalade are pretty clear-cut, once air travel comes into the mix it's not always clear who, if anyone, should be traveling with the athlete in question. Additionally, there's the Fuckin' Magnets - How Do They Work? corrolary: predicting the interaction between a metal detector and a sheet of tinfoil is well beyond the scientific acumen of the average NBA player or posse member, particularly when you consider that how can tinfoil be metal if you can fold it and shit?
Third Place: Jamal Lewis
Apparently deciding that simply earning millions as a top-five NFL draft pick and Super Bowl winner was just not keeping it real enough, Lewis got himself embroiled in conspiracy to distribute five keys of Peruvian Marching Powder and ended up serving four months in the pen. How could Jamal's crew have let his name get mixed up in such nefarious dealings?
Mitigating Factors: Few, if any. This is a classic case of posse negligence, from failing to acquaint Jamal with the concept of a burner cell phone all the way up to one of his boys rolling over on him in court. Regardless of their level of familiarity with these kinds of dealings, this all went down IN BALTIMORE while The Wire was already in its second season - it's just inexcusable that no one stepped up to advise Jamal on how to be more Avon Barksdale and less Avon lady in his entrepreneurial venture.
Second Place: Roger Clemens
At the height of Major League Baseball's steroid scandal,
beloved admired respected pitching great Roger Clemens found himself being investigated by the highest of authorities after getting ratted out by former trainer Brian McNamee. We've moved from sins of omission to sins of comission here - just poor play all around by a member of an athlete's inner circle.
Mitigating Factors: Few, if any. While at some point Clemens may have strayed from the strict Care and Feeding of a Posse Member guidelines, no one even remotely involved with the posse industry could view this as anything but a craven backstab. His treachery stands in stark contrast to the exemplary work of Greg Anderson, who racked up not one but TWO stints in the federal pen on behalf of Barry Bonds. While Anderson earned the coveted Golden Remora trophy at the 2009 Posse Awards, Mr. McNamee has earned only scorn.
First Place: Nate Newton
While the circumstances of posse failure aren't as clear-cut in Nate Newton's case, the sheer idiocy of his Smokey-From-Friday and the Bandit shenanigans earn the top spot for this category. When an NFL Pro Bowler gets popped with a vanload of weed, TWICE, in less than five weeks, there's some blame to be thrown around.
Mitigating Factors: Nate's crew actually does deserve some consideration here. First, when you move from normal posse shenanigans into outright criminal conspiracy, there are certainly some grey areas and this may have been a case of a part-posse/part-criminal for hire mixed bag that can often lead to Hope and Crosby-style hijinks on the road. Also, posse selection is the responsibility of the athlete - if he had put together a crew that he trusted so little that he had to be along IN THE VEHICLE in both instances, it's likely that some poor hiring practices were in play. Regardless, the execution on these operations was not exactly on par with making the Kessel run in under twelve parsecs, so the crew in question needs to shoulder a good chunk of the blame.
Gunplay/General Mayhem Division
While issues around substances and driving on said substances can be tricky, once things like felony assault come into play it is the posse's solemn duty to keep the athlete's hands clean. Once again, however, too many modern posses are able to pull of this most basic of duties.
Dishonorable Mention: Michael Vick
Involvement in the underground sport of dog fighting certainly turned out to be Bad Newz for Michael Vick, who went from the penthouse to the pen once he found out that even his trusty alias wouldn't be enough to throw the Feds off the trail this time. Couldn't one of his compatriots have done something more to wrap a bathmat around his own forearm and offer it up to the slavering jaws of the law?
Mitigating Factors: Let's face it - this was going to be a tough rap to beat entirely. By the time anyone got wind that there was an investigation going on, the Feds were involved and everyone knows that RICO dude is one tough MF. Still, there's no excuse for allowing the public to learn that Vick himself went all Ser Ilyn Payne on the dogs - someone needed to step up and take that bullet.
Third Place: Plaxico Burress
In an act of self-sabotaging incompetence worthy of Wile E. Coyote, Plaxico "Cheddar Bob" Burress shot himself in the leg in a Manhattan nightclub and ended up serving a couple of years on a weapons charge. Even if his posse was on Broadway at the time, someone should have been able to prevent a disgrace of this magnitude.
Mitigating Factors: This is a case that has to be considered in two parts. The first part - Plaxico having a gun on him at all - is a clear example of posse failure. All prospective posse members should be made to chant the following:
The athlete does not carry weight. The athlete should not be strapped.
with the cadence of the "In death he has a name, his name is Robert Paulson" mantra from Fight Club until it is absolutely seared into their brains. And for God's sake - SWEATPANTS? Complete advisory failure. As to the actual act of discharge, however, a posse's zone of intervention stops right around the athlete's groinal region (see: Griffin, Eddie and porndriving), so whatever Plax was up to that set the gun off was his own fault.
Second Place: PacMan Jones
Stripper punching. Bouncer biting. Strip-club shooting. Bodyguard bathroom brawling. Having an athlete's name involved with even one of these transgressions is enough to tarnish the good name of any posse member. If he's been tied to all of them, it's nothing short of a disgrace. Bad posse, or worst posse?
Mitigating Factors: There are no two ways around it - when Roger Goodell commissions a FatHead of your player with a bullseye in the center, the posse has utterly failed in its duties. There's just too much stink around PacMan's name to cast anything but harsh judgement on this bunch. Even the fact that a posse member stepped up to the plate and did the actual shooting following PacMan's abortive rain dance is canceled out by the ignominy of his own bodyguard throwing down with him in the men's room of a swank Dallas hotel. Dude, your job is to prevent problems, not cause them - if you can't handle that, at least be skilled enough to put a 5'9" drunk dude in a headlock before he can cause enough commotion to alert passers-by (pissers-by?) to your antics.
First Place: Ugueth Urbina
Rather an upset that a baseball player would lead our list, but it was bound to happen after the erstwhile Major League reliever returned home to his native Venezuela and responded to a suspected theft by some farm workers just like an average fellow would - with a machete assault followed by attempted immolation.
Ugie, man, let's talk about thiiiEEEEAAAAGGGHHHH!!!
Mitigating Factors: Multinational posse issues can always be a bit thorny, but it's hard to get past the fact that in Venezuela, you should be able to round up a crew to commit multiple brutal murders for a fraction of what it would cost here in the States. The fact that this bunch couldn't pull it off without Urbina himself having to jump in there like Danny Trejo just makes you shake your head.
Hopefully, this string of posse malfeasance will help to serve as something of a wakeup call to the entire industry. Even in these troubled times, there are posses out there doing tremendous work on behalf of their players - especially when the player is willing to help shoulder his part of the load. If everyone could learn from these shining examples and get back to the basics of handling business, maybe we could finally hear some more of the six sweetest words in athlete jurisprudence:
The State declines to press charges.