Deadbeat dads, boozed-up ballplayers and musclebound miscreants. Ladies and gentlemen, tonight's starting lineup...
As the sports world devolves into a morass of lawlessness, fans find it more difficult to keep tabs on their favorite players. Does tight end Mark Chmura (late of the Packers) have an affinity for minors and closer John Rocker an aversion to them, or is it the other way around? If you need help keeping track of the arrests, log on to www.cracksmoker.com. Created in April 1999 by Silicon Valley Internet employees and housemates Chris Burke and Scott Pearse, cracksmoker.com is a dazzling database of athletic malfeasance.
According to the site's homepage, the word cracksmoker doesn't apply just to those who inhale the illegal cocaine-based substance. Instead, the term, as defined by Burke and Pearse when they were UCLA students, can be applied to any "professional or collegiate athlete who exhibits behavior not fit for society." More than 450 sports figures are chronicled on cracksmoker.com (with lengthy entries for chronic recidivists such as the NBA's Isaiah Rider and baseball's Darryl Strawberry). The site lists the trials, legal and otherwise, of players from five entities: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and Fresno State. "The [1997-98] Fresno State basketball team is the alltime Cracksmoker All-Stars," says Burke, referring to, among others, center Avondre Jones, convicted of possession of marijuana and a firearm; guard Rafer Alston, convicted of simple assault; and guard Chris Herren, who spent the early part of the season in a substance-abuse center. Given that legacy, says Burke, "our primary sources are the Internet, national newspapers and The Fresno Bee!'
Burke and Pearse name a Cracksmoker of the Month (April's was Chmura, who has been charged with sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl), but otherwise "we simply post their [newspaper] stories with attribution and provide a link back to the source," says Burke.
Where cracksmoker.com does leave readers high and dry is resolution. Most athletes who appear on the site are shown to be facing charges even if those charges have been resolved. Shockingly, this is true even of some athletes who have been found innocent. Follow-up stories of exoneration or dropped charges are scarce.
"There are so many more links that we could do," Burke says. "A Jimmy Johnson Miami Hurricanes era link, for example. It's a little depressing just how much bad behavior there is out there."
Are you kidding? It's positively vial.