Getting the green for greens has to be done in a fair way

May 17, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

It wasn't exactly front-page news, but a former congressional press secretary pleaded guilty to four counts of bank robbery last week in Greenbelt, telling authorities he needed money for rent and golf.

The first thing that crossed my mind when I read the story in Thursday's Sun: What's the sports world coming to? The second thing that crossed my mind: I didn't know WBAL morning talk-show host Chip Franklin is a former congressional press secretary.

I only bring that up because I thought Franklin was the world's most obsessed golfer (30-handi- cap division) until Thomas C. Springer took the legal term "guilty with an explanation" to a whole new level of absurdity. Springer was press secretary to then-congressman Toby Roth of Wisconsin during the 1980s, but apparently turned to a life of crime when he could no longer afford greens fees on an honest salary.

The whole concept is so incredible that I called Franklin to ask him if he could imagine a scenario where he was so desperate to play golf that he would rob a bank.

"That's stupid," he said, "but if I did, I guarantee I wouldn't have gotten caught."

I'll have to take him at his word, because there are people who claim Franklin has been stealing money doing talk radio for some time now, but I still can't figure out how anyone could be crazy enough to pull a series of bank heists for greens fees. And did the guy really think he was going to get away with a throttle arrester on his cart?

If you think that kind of thing doesn't happen every day, think again. Two masked gunmen burst into a suburban city hall outside Paris on Monday and demanded tickets to the Champions League soccer final between Arsenal and Barcelona, but left the scene empty-handed.

Tickets to the game are being scalped at the Euro equivalent of more than $2,500 apiece, but local politicians sometimes get VIP tickets to big sporting events.

The gunmen hoped Saint-Denis Mayor Didier Paillard would have some extras, but he was not in the building at the time.

Upon further review, maybe sticking up a bank for golf money is the second craziest thing I've ever heard.

Count your blessings. At least you don't have to worry about anybody mugging you for your Orioles tickets.

I really don't see a lot of difference between that and what class-action lawyer Alfred Rava has been doing in California, where the Unruh Civil Rights Act is so poorly written that a slick lawyer can sue to prevent a team from having a Mother's Day promotion.

Rava, who was excoriated in this column Friday for his Mother's Day lawsuit against the Angels, also has sued the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics on similar grounds. He has turned a well-intentioned law meant to protect people from real economic discrimination into a cynical attempt to profit from the trivialization of their suffering.

Maybe Larry Brown ought to wear a mask the next time he signs a megabucks contract to coach in the NBA. He's still due about $40 million from the New York Knicks, but there is talk that owner James Dolan may cash him out after just one losing season at Madison Square Garden.

I will defer to San Francisco Chronicle and CBS SportsLine columnist Ray Ratto, whose description of Brown is right on the mark:

"Larry Brown's entire career has been a tribute to the power of the short attention span. He sees trouble coming on a horizon beyond the one you and I know, and has already scoped out the escape routes. He is, in a real and meaningful way, the perfect exit row passenger."

ABC has announced its new Saturday night college football package, and I couldn't be happier. The network will feature USC in either its national or regional broadcast five times during the 12-week schedule.

I wonder if network officials realize that all the marquee players from last year's team will be playing on Sunday this fall.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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