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December 18, 2014

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Too much money, lots of temptation

Ron Kantowski wonders whether Javon Walker’s behavior might give teams considering Vegas pause

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Steve Marcus

This is the Las Vegas intersection, Koval Lane and Winnick Avenue, where Oakland Raiders wide receiver Javon Walker was found unconscious early Monday. Koval Lane is getting a bit of bad reputation: It’s where rap star Tupac Shakur and UNLV football player Randy Brewer were shot in separate incidents.

First Tupac, then UNLV football player Randy Brewer, now Oakland Raiders wide receiver Javon Walker.

If there’s a new Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Las Vegas’ Koval Lane may be it.

Rapper Tupac Shakur was gunned down at Koval and Flamingo Road after a Mike Tyson fight at the MGM Grand; Brewer suffered a similar fate, stemming from an altercation at the Ice nightclub at Koval and Harmon. All that’s left of Ice now is the old facade and a sign hanging from it that says the piece of real estate on which it sits is being reserved for a future hotel-casino.

Continue across Flamingo and you’ll soon reach a T in the road where Koval intersects Winnick Avenue. That’s where they found Walker early Monday morning, looking like he had run one too many crossing patterns. He was beaten unconscious, the victim of an apparent robbery.

I went down there Wednesday morning to check out the crime scene, or at least the place where they found Walker after he had been filmed spraying champagne on Las Vegas nightclub patrons. It didn’t exactly look like Dealey Plaza. Yes, there was a tour bus, but nobody was snapping pictures. Either the bus driver had made a wrong turn or had just left Imperial Palace through the back door, which wouldn’t be the first time that happened.

Even at 9 a.m., the street is eerily quiet. It sort of looks like New York City in that Will Smith movie where a virus turns people into rabid dogs. Thankfully, I don’t encounter any rabid dogs or other predatory beasts, such as merciless 21 dealers, on their way to catch the bus. I pull behind a maroon GMC Safari with its hood flung open. There is something leaking from it, but at least it isn’t blood.

About a block and a half up the road is the back entrance to Bally’s.

This is where our new sports arena is supposed to go.

In the not too distant future, on the very spot where they found Walker lying in a pool of blood, there may be a patio attached to a trendy restaurant where people wash down overpriced chicken with $7 imported beers on their way to a ballgame. That’s what I was thinking as I sat parked behind that broken Safari.

That, and the fact I was glad it was daylight.

• • •

As far as black eyes to our pro sports future goes, Javon Walker’s winding up unconscious on Koval Lane minus his wristwatch isn’t one of those Tony Conigliaro-taking-a-fastball-to-the-orbital-cavity black eyes. That one ultimately was career ending. I haven’t heard one Back East sports columnist pontificate that a wide receiver winding up unconscious without his wristwatch in the shadow of the Strip is one more reason Las Vegas shouldn’t have pro sports.

However, I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody is thinking that.

Pacman Jones’ poor judgment, Tim Donaghy’s bad calls, Charles Barkley’s gambling habit ... blame it all on Vegas. Too many temptations for too many pampered athletes with too much money and too much free time. Too many bright lights. This would never happen in Cincinnati or Milwaukee or Indianapolis.

Oh no? When was the last time you looked in on the Indiana Pacers?

I don’t know much about Javon Walker, other than he’s a decent football player who likes to spray champagne on people who party at nightclubs. And that he had a former teammate die in his arms after a similar champagne-spraying incident in Denver.

Maybe there’s something in the bubbly that turns people into rabid dogs.

A lot of people blame the knuckleheaded athletes, but I blame society. What Javon Walker and his pals do to unwind in their spare time really isn’t that much different from what Mickey Mantle and his pals did in theirs. Only The Mick and Whitey Ford preferred to drink the champagne instead of spraying it on people.

The primary difference is that when The Mick and Whitey and Billy Martin started getting rowdy and buying people drinks and grabbing women by their rear ends, those around them usually asked for their autographs instead of their wristwatches at gunpoint.

Read Ron Kantowski’s blog “Now and Then.”

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