The Giants haven’t been able to avoid the crime bug that’s bitten so many professional teams over the years— and now it’s affecting their sleep. “When you get a call at your house at that hour in the morning, something is wrong,” said head coach Jim Fassel after picking up Keith Hamilton from jail early last Tuesday morning. “No one is calling to say ‘nice win.’ ” Hamilton’s arrest on speeding and drug possession charges was by no means the first time a team member has been in trouble with the law. Indeed, despite the organization’s intense scrutiny of potential draftees and free-agent signings (including a rigorous psychological evaluation), a few bad apples have crept into the Big Blue bunch. Some recent examples:
Hamilton, November 1998: The defensive tackle is pulled over on the GWB for doing 71 in a 45 mph zone. Port Authority police find less than an ounce of pot in his car and charge him with driving under the influence and other offenses. Hamilton played in the Giants’ Monday night tilt with the 49ers but could face a fine for being a first-time violator of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Lawrence Taylor, October 1998: The legendary Giant has a legendary list of legal troubles as well, including his October arrest for attempting to buy crack from an undercover cop. Although the retired linebacker claims he was set up, it was hardly his first brush with the law. Only a year after his retirement in 1994, Taylor was arrested on similar charges, and during his playing days he was renowned for reckless off-the-field behavior that included a late-night stroll on the New Jersey Turnpike. Taylor, who filed for personal bankruptcy in October, is currently in rehab.
Tito Wooten, December 1997: The oft-burned Giants safety experienced the winter of his discontent when he was charged with choking and beating his live-in girlfriend, Akina Wilson (the charges were later dropped). A little over a month later, Wilson was found dead in the couple’s West Paterson, NJ, town house— an apparent suicide. Authorities never linked Wilson’s death to Wooten (who was in Louisiana at the time), but the player has reportedly received death threats this season in connection with the incident.
Willie Beamon, 1995: A reserve defensive back and special teamer during the Dan Reeves era, Beamon saw more action off the field than on it. He was arrested in 1995 for attempting to run over a Clifton, NJ, cop with his car. Beamon was cut by the Giants last season.
The 22-week-old NBA lockout even has city comptroller Alan Hevesi weighing in . . . on the financial impact to the local economy. According to Hevesi, the city stands to lose $53 million by December 14 because of games already canceled, and as much as $70 million by the end of the year. “The lockout has been bad for the fans and bad for the economy,” said Hevesi, who used to shoot the rock for Queens College, a Division II school.
But not everyone is feeling the pinch. The All Star Cafe in Times Square hasn’t suffered at all, according to general manager Lance Root. “We have not been affected by the lockout. In fact our food and beverage sales have been up.”
However, some places, like TriBeca’s Sporting Club, have fallen off considerably. According to assistant manager Frank Feliciano, the club has had to lay off workers since the NBA lockout because business has been so slow. “During basketball season we used to average $6000 or $7000 in sales. Now it’s less than $1000.” Feliciano says they’ve tried promotional gimmicks in order to bring in sports fans, but to no avail. “Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of hockey fans,” says Feliciano. “So I don’t know what I’m going to do after football season’s over.”
Capital punishment is holding up a major soccer match in Europe. Well, that and violent anti-Italian protests in Turkey, where a European Champion’s League tie between Juventus of Italy and Istanbul’s Galatsaray side was scheduled to occur last week.
Juventus players refused to travel to the away match, originally slated for November 25, because of rioting brought on by Italy’s refusal to deport Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, wanted in Turkey on treason and terrorism charges. Italy’s constitution bans the death penalty and outlaws extradition to countries that allow it. As a result, political unrest broke out all over Turkey— thousands demonstrated at the Italian embassy in Ankara, Italian products are being boycotted, and Juve jerseys were burned by protesters in Istanbul.
The Italian club’s players, led by France’s World Cup hero Zinedine Zidane, resolved not to go, fearing for their safety. But under pressure from UEFA and with repeated assurances from the soccer governing body, the players relented, unhappily agreeing to play the match this Wednesday, December 2. The Juventus side will board a plane and return to Italy immediately after the game.
contributors: Brian P. Dunleavy, Evette Porter, Miles D. Seligman sports editor: Miles D. Seligman