Pacman Jones ought to love professional wrestling. For one thing, there's no one-bump rule. There's no penalty for holding, either, nothing to prevent you from grabbing an opponent by the trunks — or by the hair, if there's enough of it — and flinging him into the first row.
There's also — how sweet is this? — no Uniform Police. Pacman is free to wear a mask in the ring, a clown outfit, a sumo wrestler's thong — or he can simply blind his foe with his impressive collection of bling. It's the Wild West, pro wrestling is, a perfect fit for a lawless sort like Jones.
And here's the best part: Play your cards right, kid, and someday you might be elected governor of Minnesota.
This isn't what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had in mind when he suspended Pacman for at least 10 games for serial misbehavior. The commissioner was hoping, I suspect, for a certain amount of soul searching, for a commitment by the Incorrigible Cornerback to turn his life around — not for a commitment to bash another man's head into a turnbuckle.
But that's what Jones plans to do to make ends meet these next few months, according to USA Today. He just signed a contract with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, and his first match well may be a pay-per-view event Sept. 9 — the same weekend his Tennessee Titans open the season against Jacksonville.
Maybe Pacman — or should we call him Matman now? — can be the halftime entertainment.
Suspensions, of course, make football players do crazy things. When Ricky Williams, the unofficial spokesman for medical marijuana, was banned from the league last year, he sublet himself to the CFL (where he broke a bone and injured his Achilles toiling for the Toronto Argonauts). Decades earlier, the Lions' Alex Karras had to sit out a year for betting on games. To pass the time and make some quick cash, he agreed to wrestle the villainous Dick the Bruiser (the nom de mat of former Green Bay Packer Dick Afflis). Alas, poor Alex was pinned in less than 12 minutes and exited the building with teeth marks in his biceps.
Titans fans are envisioning similar silliness for Pacman. Writes one poster to a message board at Nashville's Tennessean newspaper: "Here is what is going to happen: Pacman will be in the ring in street clothes, supposedly in some host capacity. A scuffle will spill over involving him. He and his, ahem, advisors will say he wasn't involved, it just happened. Well, since everyone knows it is all scripted, Pacman will be in violation of his NFL contract ... by involving himself in something that could cause injury. Pacman is being advised by amateurs."
This isn't the first time a Titan has dabbled in rasslin'. Five years ago, just before training camp, offensive linemen Zach Piller and Fred Miller jumped into the ring during a Total Nonstop Action promotion and started trading blows with wrestler Jeff Jarrett. Naturally, it had all been choreographed, but it went much further than originally planned, Jarrett said afterward. What was supposed to be a verbal confrontation turned into a veritable free-for-all — with punches (fake and otherwise) thrown, folding chairs wielded and other wrestlers joining in.
Titans general manager Floyd Reese was aghast. "I'm not real excited about seeing my guys jump over fences and get thrown into rings and get hit with chairs," he told the Tennessean. "They will have plenty of time to wrestle when their playing career is over."
But the tug-and-grunt business has always had a strange hold on footballers. Indeed, a number of NFL players — some active, some retired — have "won" the "heavyweight title": Gus Sonnenberg of the old Providence Steam Roller, Joe Savoldi and Bronko Nagurski of the Bears, Leo Nomellini of the 49ers and Wahoo McDaniel of the early American Football League. (If you're wondering, "Why the quotation marks?" then you've probably never witnessed a "draw" in which both wrestlers have been simultaneously knocked unconscious.)
Hopefully, that won't happen to Pacman. Hopefully, he'll keep his wits about him and leave the airplane spins, chickenwings, sleeper holds and Indian death locks to the pros. But if he does decide to make a career of it, I'd suggest a co-ed tag team: Pacman and Ms. Pacman. It might be just the kind of comeback that would interest Tonya Harding.
By John Solomon
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