Sunday, February 25th, 2007
This time it is a place called Minxx Gentlemen's Club in Las Vegas and this time the athlete in the area, an athlete with a stupid amount of money on him and guns in his 5 a.m. party, is Pacman Jones of the Tennessee Titans. This time when the fun ends and the shooting starts, a guy named Tommy Urbanski out of Commack, L.I., has suffered a bullet wound that severs his spinal cord. If he survives, he is in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
This time it was an NFL player at an NBA event, the NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas, which was an accident waiting to happen despite what NBA Commissioner David Stern and the Chamber of Commerce want you to believe now.
Nobody is blaming either league for what happened after Pacman Jones allegedly took exception to one of the strippers at the Minxx Gentlemen's Club picking up the money Jones was throwing at her and â€” according to witnesses â€” grabbing one woman and punching her.
This could have been any night at any VIP section of any strip club, with or without professional athletes in attendance. Nobody is saying that the NFL did this or is responsible for this because Pacman Jones, at least temporarily, still has a job in the league, and for the time being is being questioned only as a witness. Nobody is saying that incidents like this are some kind of epidemic.
They just no longer seem rare.
Roger Goodell, the new commissioner of the NFL, ought to understand something: There is the growing perception that the sound of gunfire around his sport is becoming routine. The last time a gun went off before Tommy Urbanski, a former pro wrestler working a part-time job at Minxx, took one in the torso it was a defensive back for the Denver Broncos, Darrent Williams, being shot dead in a white Hummer limousine following a club dispute on New Year's Eve.
And one of the stars at the last Super Bowl for the Chicago Bears was Tank Johnson, another one who doesn't just belong in the National Football League but clearly The League of Distinguished Gentlemen as well. Last December, when Johnson's home in Gurnee, Ill., was raided, police seized six loaded and unloaded guns and approximately 500 rounds of ammunition, presumably because Mr. Johnson was considering rushing the state of Wisconsin instead of Brett Favre.
Around this time, there was another gunshot around football and Johnson's bodyguard and friend, Willie B. Posey, was shot dead outside a club called the Ice Bar, 738 N. Clark, in what is called the River North area of Chicago.
"What we can tell so far," the police told the Sun-Times at the time, "is that there had been a fight inside the bar, a shot rang out, and Mr. Posey was shot."
Sound familiar? Sure it does. A fight in a club and bullets in the air and then somebody down, Willie D. Posey, friend of Tank Johnson. Or Tommy Urbanski who, according to Michael O'Keeffe's fine reporting in the Daily News today, was trying to make some extra money at a club in Vegas so that his wife Kathleen could attend law school. Urbanski clearly didn't understand the kind of crossfire involved when an athlete is out wanting to have some fun with his buddies and some girls.
He didn't understand that he would pay for it the rest of his life, because of dollar bills being thrown at strippers in Vegas.
The violence was all a big show when Urbanski was wrestling in the WWF. The other night it was real, because guns always are.
These stories do not shock anymore in sports. They do not shock with somebody like Pacman Jones, who has been talked to by the police eight times in the last two years. Nobody is shocked when we hear that there might have been a connection with a $50,000 necklace being stolen from Sebastian Telfair one night in New York City and the rapper Fabolous being wounded by a gunshot not long afterward.
"The investigation is moving on," Telfair said a few days later. "I'm moving on."
We all moved on. Stephen Jackson of the Pacers moved onto the Golden State Warriors not long after he was firing his own gun, reportedly in self-defense, five shots from his 9mm pistol, after a fight inside an Indianapolis strip club. That club was called Club Rio, on West 38th St. in Indianapolis, near Gemco Lane. So it was Club Rio for Stephen Jackson when a gun â€” his â€” went off and it was the Ice Bar for Tank Johnson's bodyguard and it was the Minxx Gentlemen's Club on a festive All-Star weekend in Vegas.
The night Darrent Williams of the Broncos got shot dead, it was in an area south of downtown in Denver, in a club sometimes called Shelter and sometimes called Safari, which makes you think it was something less than "21."
Sometimes it isn't guns, and you just have nine members of the Cincinnati Bengals arrested in the last 14 months.
This time it is Vegas. This time it is Pacman Jones and the guys with him and the owner of the club saying that the guy carrying the gun was a member of Jones' party. This time the victim is Tommy Urbanski. He goes down this time when another gun is fired around sports. We don't even flinch.
Mike Lupica, NY Daily News