I was reading this old Pete Axthelm profile of Ken Stabler from 1980. A real classy guy. Among the highlight is when he and his team set up a reporter they hated for a cocaine bust.
The only affair involving Stabler that brings no laughter, it seems, is the ugly incident after the 1978 season, when Sacramento writer Bob Padecky was set up for a cocaine bust in Gulf Shores. The circumstantial evidence against Stabler was considerable. Padecky was one of his least favorite writers, yet was invited to Stabler’s hometown for an exclusive interview. Coke was planted under the fender of his rented car and police were tipped off. Padecky unwittingly trivialized the incident a bit with his frenetic by-lined account of his harrowing jail term—which lasted five minutes before the cops realized it was a prank. But the fact remains that someone had executed a cruel and potentially dangerous stunt, and many observers felt that some of Stabler’s friends had participated—with or without his knowledge. When the subject is raised now, all the whimsical and piratical expressions dissolve into a look of abject innocence. “I just don’t know what happened,” he insists. “Maybe nobody ever will.”
Sure thing Kenny. Typical Raider.
Anyway, there was also this:
Properly fortified, the group raced into Selma, where they visited Pitts’s house and drank some more beer. Then, with no real explanation, the group was off to a predominantly black social club in Selma. There were several rounds and some curious glances before it became apparent that the group was on a political mission. Pitts’s friend, Joe T. Smitherman, was running to regain his job as mayor. He had resigned in July of 1979 for personal reasons. But he figured he could get it back with some classic New South campaigning, including an appearance with an interracial group of football stars.
“I’m the one man who understands Southern politics,” Smitherman was soon telling the group. “As mayor, I ordered the arrest of Martin Luther King down here. I said, ‘Dr. King, don’t march.’ And he marched. So I had him arrested. And got 70 percent of the black vote in my next election. What you Yankees have to understand is that we’re not segregationists anymore. We’re populists.” A couple of the blacks fidgeted. Stabler rolled his eyes and muttered, “Henry’s done it again.”
The speeches were not an unqualified success. The audience cheered politely for the ballplayers, but fell ominously silent when Pitts tried an oratorical flourish of, “We in Selma have not merely overcome. We have conquered.” When Sistrunk followed at the mic, he was barely audible. “Speak up, we can’t year you,” somebody called. Sistrunk stared balefully across the room. “If you can’t hear me,” he said, “you can move in closer.” A chair squeaked and there were a few nervous giggles. Stabler said a few words himself but watched most of the proceedings from the bar. “A situation comedy,” he said.
That’s just great. I’m sure their presence and the ex-mayor gloating about not only overcoming but conquering was super welcome in a Selma black bar.
But that wasn’t the only connection to Selma in the news lately. Bonard Fowler, the cop who shot Jimmie Lee Jackson, leading to the famous Selma march, died. Other than killing Jackson, he was also notable for killing other black people as a cop. Then he joined the military, went to Bangkok, and while there got busted for heroin trafficking. That my friends, is a life poorly lived.