- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2005

News item: Airport security discovered vials of dried urine and “The Original Whizzinator,” a prosthetic penis designed to foil drug tests, in the luggage of Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio Smith. He later was suspended for the upcoming NFL season for either failing or missing a test.

Whoa. Somebody wasn’t paying attention the first time around.

We tried to warn Smith, his ilk, the whole wide world of athletic miscreants. Honest. Two years ago, we offered a sportsman’s guide to upright behavior — in essence, to being good.

Actually, it was more like a guide for staying out of trouble. Which really means not getting caught.

Looking to load a vacuum cleaner-sized bong and smoke your way to Xanadu? Stay home. Cutting a probationary plea deal? Show up for court. On time.

Such were some of the handy, common-sense tips. Frankly, we figured our advice was foolproof.

Yet somewhere along the way — probably when Ron Artest reacted to a thrown cup of beer as if it contained hydrochloric acid — one thing became clear.

Calling Smith and company foolish would be a compliment. And also a gross understatement.

Once again, we have no choice but to sound our clarion call to sports stars everywhere: For the love of Orenthal James Simpson, keep your noses clean.

All we’re asking is that our athletic icons be a little bit smarter when it comes to bad behavior. Partially so they can keep playing, and mostly so we don’t have to hear about Sean Taylor. Ever again.

Don’t get busted. That remains the golden rule. Herein, a few more helpful hints on remaining free and, um, clear:

On aliases

From checking into team hotels to ducking federal subpoenas, every athlete needs a fake identity. Two tips:

1) If you are black like hockey player Peter Worrell, don’t tell traffic police that you are actually white ex-teammate Andreas Lilja. They might not believe you.

2) “Ron Mexico?” No. No. A thousand times no.

On driving

Previously, we advised against driving. Our bad. Avoiding the wheel just isn’t practical — at least not when you have to be somewhere. Like court.

Still, risk can be minimized. Just follow our handy checklist:

• DON’T get on a motorcycle. Or a Vespa. In fact, don’t even watch “Biker Boyz.” Granted, it’s tough to suffer a Kellen Winslow II-style accident from your couch. But why risk it?

• DO keep a tidy ride. When Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins was arrested for drunken driving, his car had vomit on the driver’s side door. Do the math: half-digested dinner splatter = a long night involving thumbprints.

• DO carry proper identification. Had former Portland Trail Blazers forward Qyntel Woods produced a driver’s license instead of a basketball card during a routine traffic stop, police might have missed the warm marijuana ashes in his car.

• DON’T leave warm marijuana ashes in your car. How hard is it to roll down the window?

• DO account for traffic, particularly when heading to traffic court. Judges frown on late arrivals — and sometimes jail them, in the case of former Chicago Bears receiver David Terrell.

On public speaking

Don’t talk. No good can come of it. A good rule of thumb? Everything you say can and will be used against you. Then posted on the Internet.

From television crews to cell phone cameras, ours is the surveillance age. Be aware. Rip a former player with a not-so-cryptic taunt of “see you next Tuesday” like former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Paul Silas? Someone will get it on tape. Hanging with guys who make a hobby of giving police informants a “hold in the head?” With a little luck, you may headline the next Carmelo Anthony underground DVD.

Time was a reptilian college basketball coach like Baylor’s Dave Bliss could tell his players to pretend that a slain teammate sold drugs to pay his tuition — and reasonably expect that an assistant coach would not record and leak the entire conversation.

Sadly, those halcyon days have passed.

In the here and now, discretion is the better part of staying employed. Before grabbing a player by the neck, a la Bobby Knight, have student managers turn the camera off. When making a San Francisco 49ers public relations video, save the topless dancers, racial epithets and lesbian activities for the postwrap party.

Less fun, to be sure. But also less hassle.

Seems too complicated? Make things easy. Just emulate Rasheed Wallace, who whiled away a media session by playing on a video game system, never acknowledging the reporters crowded around him.

Bad behavior? More like brilliant — because if you don’t say a word, you can’t say anything stupid. Which is a distinct possibility for any athlete and a very distinct possibility for Rasheed Wallace.

On supplemental income

Feeding a family on $14million per is no picnic. Just ask Minnesota Timberwolves guard Latrell Sprewell. With the cost of rims and diamond-encrusted platinum medallions ever rising, sports stars need all the extra income they can get.

That said, choose your side projects with care.

For one, second jobs are exhausting — and heartless employers won’t care. Artest asked for time off because of a busy schedule that included promoting his record label; the Pacers responded with a two-game suspension, presumably because the team pays him to guard people, not scout talent for the halftime show.

Ask yourself: If Will Smith produces second-rate rap in his free time, should I necessarily follow suit?

Running a business also takes market savvy and a firm grasp of the law — not to be confused with grasping a blunt and a bottle of Cristal in the VIP room. To wit: Former NFL player-turned-entrepreneur Nate Newton established a lucrative, high-volume marijuana distribution ring.

The only hitch? Marijuana is illegal. Ditto for:

• Scalping Super Bowl tickets like Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice.

• Permanently borrowing $18,000 worth of equipment from the locker room like six members of the South Carolina football team.

• Using counterfeit in-house currency at a strip club like Ohio State running back Lydell Ross. Don’t the Buckeyes have boosters?

Beyond the law, know your limits. If you spent more time in college assaulting your ex-girlfriend than attending Econ 101, a la Lawrence Phillips, think twice before selling your Big Eight championship ring for $20 in a Las Vegas pawnshop. The same ring might go for $1,700 on EBay.

In Wall Street circles, this is known as selling high. Which probably sums up Phillips’ condition at the time of the transaction.

On amateur law enforcement

We can’t blame you for wanting to play cop. Between “CSI: Grand Rapids” and “Law and Order: Parking Enforcement,” police work looks exciting and glamorous, rife with cool toys, fast cars and big guns.

Besides, Shaq does it in his free time. So how hard can it be?

(This is a trick question).

Films like “Lethal Weapon” ought to have a disclaimer: don’t try this at home. Actual law enforcement takes training and experience — and even then, authorities apprehend and beat up the wrong people all the time.

You think you can do better? Not likely.

Baltimore pitcher Sidney Ponson tried to settle an Aruban beachfront dispute by punching a man in the face. The punchee was a magistrate. Talk about excessive force. After getting hit with a cup of beer in Detroit, Indiana forward Artest charged into the stands, throwing a fan to the ground. The suspect’s only crime? Not getting out of the way fast enough.

Lesson: leave the vigilante justice to Charles Bronson — or perhaps your bodyguards, who really ought to be earning their money.

Realize, too, that films are fake. Television is fiction. The authority-defying, loose cannon cop who turns in his badge and gun is a dramatic cliche, not a role model.

In the movies, slugging a sheriff’s deputy, then waving your Olympic gold medal while declaring “you don’t have one of these!” is the sort of stunt that gets Mel Gibson the girl and the promotion; in the real world, it’s the kind of thing that gets former downhill ski champion Bill Johnson booked for assault.

Note the difference.

Also keep in mind that real cops don’t take kindly to posers. Reportedly upset over two stolen ATVs, the Redskins’ Taylor could have called authorities. He could have called his dad, a Florida police chief.

Instead, Taylor reportedly took matters into his own hands, waving a handgun in an unidentified person’s face before punching someone. Guess who got arrested.

Look, O.J. has been prowling the nation’s golf courses for a decade, following tips and developing leads. He still hasn’t apprehended the real killers.

Again, what makes you so special?

On prosthetic genitalia

We appreciate the effort. But frankly, there are better, less kinky ways of beating drug tests.

Contact BALCO. Ask for the stuff Bonds and Jason Giambi may or may not have used. Contract a sudden case of narcolepsy. Demand a Kelli White-shaming dose of the stimulant modafinil. Borrow from cyclist Tyler Hamilton and blame your failed blood doping test on an unborn twin who died in utero.

Track coach Trevor Graham once claimed a runner flunked a test because he tripped and fell, thereby elevating his testosterone levels. If you’re Smith or former NFL running back Ricky Williams, why not claim you tripped and fell … into a patch of wild cannabis?

Of course, Williams and company could eliminate their need for a device resembling a crude sex toy by laying off illicit drugs in the first place. But far be it from us to suggest something so staggeringly preposterous.


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