By Graham Hays
Page 2 staff

Court Reporter: Welcome to Page 2 Court, where the sports world comes to settle its disputes. Today's docket features some unusual cases for our presiding judge, so let's go inside the courtroom, where proceedings are just getting under way.

Judge: All right, let's get started. Bailiff Bill. Who are the first litigants?

Bailiff: We have the case between the NBA Players Association and Damon Stoudamire, your honor. The substance of the case is the recent voluntary drug test submitted to by Damon Stoudamire. The team lists head coach Maurice Cheeks as a co-defendant. Gene Orza has filed an amicus brief in support of the Union.

Damon Stoudamire
Damon Stoudamire didn't fear taking a drug test.

Judge: Ah yes, drugs in sports is a very serious matter. And a coach is involved in this particular instance? Very serious indeed. I hope you have a good explanation for falling prey to the demons of addiction, Mr. Stoudamire. Otherwise, I'll rule for the Union in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

Bailiff: Actually, your honor, Mr. Stoudamire passed the test. There was no trace of any illegal substance in his system.

Judge: Right ... wait, what? You there, from the Union, you're upset because one of your players isn't taking drugs?

Plaintiff: Yes, your honor, we're furious about the whole thing. We're seeking damages of $14.375 million.

Judge: That's ridiculous, how did you arrive at that number?

Plaintiff: It's his 2003-04 salary, your honor.

Judge: What? But he's averaging 12.7 points and shooting 40 percent from the field!

Defendant: If I may, your honor? I don't think my shot selection was part of the complaint.

Judge: Point taken. But it says here that Mr. Stoudamire has been arrested three times for drug-related offenses, including trying to pass marijuana wrapped in foil through an airport metal detector. What, you couldn't just FedEx it, like the rest of the population?

Defendant: Sorry, your honor. I misunderstood the whole "mile high club" concept.

Judge: Anyway, isn't it a good thing for the Union if a player with such a besmirched reputation comes forward of his own free will and proves he's turned himself around?

Plaintiff: Frankly, your honor, we're a little leery of the whole notion of free will when it comes to our players. It doesn't seem conducive to a coherent bargaining position. The union paperwork is very clear on the issue. Additionally, we think the whole stunt was just an attempt by the newspaper columnist in question to focus attention on the issue. Sure, nobody got hurt this time. But what happens when a columnist challenges a player who just sucked down a bong hit in the training room?

Judge: Yes, I can see how it certainly has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for those players engaged in illegal activities.

A very difficult case. Mr. Stoudamire, you shouldn't bite the hand which feeds you, especially when it's a hand that feeds you a salary structure in which you earn more than the GDP of some small countries. On the other hand, it clearly sends the wrong message to side with the a Union that is upset when its players voluntarily prove they aren't taking drugs.

Therefore, I'm denying the claim for damages and ordering Mr. Stoudamire to smoke out before each of Portland's remaining games. Who knows, maybe it'll help your vision on those shots.

***

Judge: Well, that was odd, but let's keep things moving. Bailiff, next case.

Bailiff: We have representatives of Texas A&M, James Madison and Marist against the Ivy League.

Judge: Ah, all fine academic institutions. But what do those three have in common? Do they feel they were deprived of research money as a result of collusion by the Ivy League schools?

Will Venable
Will Venable and his Princeton teammates won the regular season Ivy title, and are headed to the Big Dance.

Bailiff: Uh, no, your honor. The three schools combined to go 7-45 in conference play in their respective basketball conferences.

Judge: And so they're suing for entry into the Ivy League to get some easy wins?

Bailiff: Not as such. They're upset that the Ivy League's refusal to institute a conference tournament has the potential to irreparably harm their own chances of postseason participation.

Judge: More than the harm done by winning 13 percent of their conference games?

Plaintiff: Yes, your honor. Every other conference in Division I has instituted a postseason conference tournament, thereby ensuring all member schools an equal chance at earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Should the kids at our schools be denied a chance at March Madness, simply because they allowed opponents to score 90 points a game in the regular season?

Judge: Um, yes?

Defendant: Exactly, your honor. But aside from the small matter of all teams already having an equal chance to earn the automatic bid when regular season play begins, we fail to see how our schedules impact these other schools. There are no grounds for this complaint.

Plaintiff: Given the stature of the Ancient Eight, we're afraid public pressure could eventually be brought to bear forcing other conferences to follow their lead. These people have power; both presidential candidates are Yale graduates.

Judge: Right, but one isn't the brightest bulb in the box and the other appears to run on D-cell batteries.

Plaintiff: Regardless, we feel it's entirely unfair, not to mention potentially un-American, to rely on something as archaic and class-oriented as regular season standings.

Defendant: Your honor, this Horatio Alger nonsense is a myth. This suit is not about letting downtrodden teams live the American dream. It's nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to protect the cash cows that are conference tournaments. Tournaments which, by the way, we have no problem with other conferences milking to full monetary advantage.

Plaintiff: Communists.

Defendant: Money whores.

Plaintiff: Your honor, they don't even offer athletic scholarships.

Judge: That's enough out of both of you. Clearly, we're at an impasse caused by a system which allows member conferences such wide latitude in determining their automatic bid. I think the only solution here is to remove the automatic bid from both conference tournaments and regular season standings. Instead, I'm ordering a formula be devised that incorporates all possible factors: media polls, computer polls, strength of schedule, quality wins and margin of victory. Wait, no, not margin of victory. Scratch that one.

I think we'll all agree nobody will be able to find fault with the teams selected by such a comprehensive ranking system.

***

Judge: Wow, this is turning out to be a rough day. Bailiff, next case? Please tell me it's something easy. Aren't we in line to do Todd Bertuzzi's assault case?

Bailiff: Sorry, your honor. Our next case is being brought by Terrell Owens and his agent. Their claim is against cornerback Ahmed Plummer for signing a free agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

Judge: Ah, I know this one. After years of loyal service to the 49ers, Owens is upset that bringing in Plummer takes up so much space under the salary cap that the team is no longer able to afford his services.

Terrell Owens
Terrell Owens may be smiling here, but he isn't a happy camper these days.

Bailiff: So close, your honor. You really are getting the hang of this. But Plummer was already with the 49ers last season. The basis of the plaintiff's complaint is that he opted to remain with the team.

Judge: Of course ... because clearly it's unconscionable for a player to stay with the team that drafted him and developed his professional skills.

Plaintiff: Precisely, your honor. By eschewing the lengthy free-agent courting period, Mr. Plummer has undersold his services on the open market, thereby hurting the future earnings potential of players like my client, players who would do anything for a taste of free agent signing bonuses. We demand the contract be voided and Mr. Plummer sign with the highest bidder.

Judge: Even if it's Arizona?

Plaintiff: Especially if it's Arizona, your honor.

Defendant: This is ridiculous, your honor. My client received a lucrative five-year contract that included an $11 million signing bonus. To say he did anything but guarantee his future financial security is ludicrous.

Judge: Well, it's not Damon Stoudamire money, but $11 million does sound like a lot. What about it?

Plaintiff: We heard the Eagles were prepared to offer him a $15 million signing bonus.

Defendant: You're making that up.

Plaintiff: Am not.

Defendant: Your honor, the plaintiff is playing fast and loose with the numbers.

Plaintiff: Well your client plays slow and loose with his coverage.

Judge: That's enough out of both of you. Wait, I just noticed Mr. Owens' counsel was late filing the paperwork for this suit. I have no choice but to throw it out. But does anyone have a Sharpie? My son is really going to want T.O.'s autograph.

***

Judge: I'm not sure how much more of this I can take. If Martha Stewart walks through those doors, I'm out of here. What's next?

Bailiff: We have Davis Love III's complaint against Shaun Micheel. It involves an audible exclamation and subsequent photograph taken during a backswing during the second round of a recent tournament.

Judge: Micheel did that during Love's backswing? That doesn't seem very sporting. I thought golfers usually treated each other with respect on the course?

Davis Love III
You could say Davis Love III is a bit easily distracted.

Bailiff: I really do wish you'd read the briefings on your desk, your honor. The noises occurred during Mr. Micheel's backswing and were made by a fan in the gallery. Mr. Love was Mr. Micheel's playing partner.

Judge: And Mr. Micheel's subsequent fit of rage somehow damaged Mr. Love's clubs?

Plaintiff: No, your honor. In fact, there was no discernible reaction from Mr. Micheel, whose drive landed in the light rough, from where he eventually saved par. That is why we stand before you today.

Judge: Your client is upset because Mr. Micheel was seemingly unaffected by the distraction and shot par on the hole?

Plaintiff: Quite so, your honor. Mr Micheel's unwillingness to acknowledge the obviously debilitating distraction completely distracted Mr. Love from focusing 100 percent of his attention on his own shots. He feels Mr. Micheel's reaction, or lack thereof, is solely to blame for the bogey he took on the hole and the ball he hit into the pond later in the round.

Judge: Does the defendant have anything to say?

Defendant: Sorry, your honor, my voice is shot. You see, I was at the Big East women's basketball game between UConn and Boston College the other night, and it was quite a contest. Most of the 11,000 people in the enclosed arena were UConn fans, and we spent most of the second half screaming at Boston College's 18-year-old freshman center, especially when the action was stopped and she was at the free throw line.

Judge: Wow, that must have really unnerved her. I appreciate the crowd's enthusiasm, but it's too bad that cost Boston College the game.

Defendant: Actually, she hit all her free throws and Boston College won.

Judge: Ah, well I have your brief, so save your voice. Based on the evidence presented and my deep affection for the movie "Caddyshack," I'm siding with the defendant in this matter.

Plaintiff: In that case, we'd like to argue that the exclamation of "You da man!" during Micheel's backswing is slander against Mr. Love, whose career stats indicate that among the pair, he was clearly more da man than Micheel.

Judge: Get out. That's it, I'm calling a recess for the rest of the day.

Bailiff: But we still have cases against Dale Earnhardt Jr. for not speeding at Daytona and the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning for not making a move before the trade deadline to dramatically alter their roster.

Judge: Send them to Judge Judy.

Graham Hays writes "Out of the Box" five days a week in--between moonlighting for Page 2. He can be reached at graham.hays@espn3.com.


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