Welcome to another session of Prominent Athlete Drug Bust. Join with sports fans here at the busy intersection of Thin Moralizing and Convenient Rationalization for reasoned debate, police bashing and stale jokes.
Today’s perp: Washington State basketball star Klay Thompson.
I know, I’m as surprised as you are. I figured him for college basketball’s biggest Stiffly Stifferson. You’d think if he was a regular partaker – partoker? – of the herb that he might have lightened the hell up and cracked a smile by now.
Lightened, lightened. Not lighted. Sheesh.
The Cougars took a stab at playing their way back into the NCAA tournament picture with a solid win over USC on Thursday night in Pullman, the mood leavened somewhat by an ankle injury of indeterminate severity to point guard Reggie Moore.
Two hours later, the mood was leadened.
Thompson, first in the Pacific-10 Conference in scoring and last in expressiveness, was pulled over in his GMC Envoy by Pullman police for a faulty headlight. Turns out the light inside hadn’t gone on, either.
According to the police report, the officer detected the odor of marijuana in the rig, and a search turned up 1.95 grams of the stuff. Thompson got a misdemeanor citation for possession and the grocery store down the hill missed out on selling a couple of bags of Doritos.
By this morning, coach Ken Bone suspended Thompson for Saturday’s game against UCLA.
Since he was alone when stopped, Thompson apparently couldn’t claim the pot wasn’t on his side of the car, leaving Bone no choice.
You know what they say about marijuana busts: location, location, location. Earlier this season, pot and paraphernalia were found on Moore’s side of his unoccupied dorm room. Judge Bone immediately lowered the boom and held his point guard out of the first three minutes against Santa Clara. A month later, Moore was suspended for the Stanford game. Nothing had changed in the interim, other than perhaps someone above Bone asking, hey, ever hear of this thing called discipline?
Now punishment has been expedited – who says the Cougars haven’t improved over the last half of the season? – even though Thompson maintained the ganja wasn’t his.
This is entirely possible. I know when I was in college, my favorite place to keep my stash for safekeeping was a buddy’s car because I knew it would all be there when I came back.
Thompson’s disclaimer comes by way of his father, Mychal, the former NBA player turned broadcaster, who just happened to be booked as a substitute co-host Friday morning on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles.
“He told (his parents) that it wasn’t his, that he was out with his friends,” said Mychal Thompson. “It doesn’t matter to me. It’s on him, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s his.”
Dad was just getting warmed up.
“You’re the best player on the team,” he recalled telling his son. “Your teammates look up to you, they need you for your leadership – and you have a huge game against UCLA this weekend and you’re fighting for an NCAA berth. And this is what you do?
“You let your team down, your coaches down, the student body down and the school down.”
And then there was this: “If I was coaching, and him not learning a lesson from (what happened to) his teammate, I’d say, ‘See you next year.’”
As refreshing as the senior Thompson’s candor and tough love was at the beginning, his radio screed stretched out for a half hour and into self-aggrandizement – and worse. It must have played real well with the WSU basketball teammates Thompson rooms with to hear Mychal Thompson say his wife “wasn’t surprised” at the son’s bust because of the “kind of friends” he has.
In the meantime, distraught Cougs railed against the legendary overpolicing of Pullman – a circumstance I’m sure WSU recruiters diligently lay out to youngsters on their campus visits. Even the legalization of marijuana was fair game in the debate.
Maybe NORML is missing the boat. If only it could organize the nation’s collegiate sports fans who have had their heroes suspended for a couple of bones on the eve of a crucial game, repeal would be right around the corner.
Except it’s only an outrage if your guy gets popped. If it’s a rival team’s player, hey, time for that school to clean up its act.
The crime, of course, is not some piddly weight. It’s not grasping the reality that a law, no matter how dubiously defensible, is a law, and that sports is a fishbowl, particularly in Pullman. No athlete is either invisible or bulletproof, and there are teammates to be considered, always.
Klay Thompson will be sentenced to embarrassment, and highly temporary embarrassment at that. Unless his father gets near a microphone.