"Just win' standard leads owners to chronic misfits

You might think that after his last bad experience with the bubbly, Javon Walker would not have been out spraying bottles of Dom Perignon on people partying in a Las Vegas nightclub.

You might.

You might think the Oakland Raiders would have figured out Walker could be bad news at any price, much less the $16 million he was guaranteed to play wide receiver for them.

You might.

Unlike the Raiders, Walker has an excuse of sorts. Like many athletes he's young, dumb and so flush with money that he can't wait to buy $900 bottles of champagne just to shower people with.

Just how dumb really comes into focus when you think about what happened with Walker just 18 months ago when police believe champagne-spraying by a teammate touched off a fight in a Denver nightclub. When it was over, Walker was in a limousine cradling a dying Darrent Williams in his arms.

Al Davis isn't that dumb, just increasingly desperate. The architect of the great Raider teams of old isn't getting any younger and he badly needs someone to catch the balls thrown by JaMarcus Russell if the Raiders are going to have a chance to win again.

Davis rolled the dice on Walker not because the Raiders have a reputation of taking the NFL's trash and turning it into treasure. He did it for the same reason he took Randy Moss a few years back and the same reason Jerry Jones takes every misfit who can find his way to Dallas.

They want to win so badly they can't help themselves.

In Walker's case, the Raiders knew they were getting someone who had antagonized Brett Favre in Green Bay, was with Williams when he was shot after a night out in Denver, and had a history of bickering with the teams that employed him. But when the Broncos unceremoniously cut him, he got a $55 million deal from the Raiders.

Walker rewarded that faith last week when he was found unconscious, beaten and robbed, on a Las Vegas street corner, hours after being seen spraying champagne on fellow clubbers at a nightclub. Technically he's a victim, guilty only of random champagne madness, since stupidity by itself is not a crime.

Down in Texas, meanwhile, former bad boy Michael Irvin is helping baby-sit various Cowboys in hopes they'll all be ready to play opening day. So far, Terrell Owens has for the most part kept his mouth shut, Tank Johnson has kept his guns home and Adam ”Pacman“ Jones has kept out of strip clubs.

While Pacman Jones hopes his good behavior will get him reinstated for the upcoming season, his past keeps popping up. In the latest chapter, a woman involved in a Las Vegas brawl that police say Jones incited was found dead last week behind a building in the Bronx after a fall from a building.

That by itself won't stop Jones from getting reinstated by Commissioner Roger Goodell. There is, however, the little matter of his testimony in the case of a man charged in the Vegas shooting that left a strip club bouncer paralyzed. The man told a television station last month that Jones ordered the shooting and was trying to frame him for the crime.

Cowboy fans, of course, couldn't care less what Jones did in his past if he can help them get to the Super Bowl. And neither does Jerry Jones, who worries more about selling expensive seats in his new stadium than the legal problems of his latest project.

The Yankees have a lot of expensive seats to sell in their new stadium, too, and a desperate need for pitching. So they didn't think twice about signing serial malcontent Sidney Ponson to a contract.

Ponson so tested the patience of the Texas Rangers that they waived him last week even though they need pitching even worse than the Yankees and he had an ERA of 3.88. That number enticed the Yankees to overlook Ponson's alcohol-soaked problems and his inability to get along with both teammates and management.

Indeed, most of the talk you hear by teams about building character and employing good citizens is just talk. Given a chance to pick up a star player with a checkered past, most will do it without a second thought if they think it will help them win a few more games.

Like the Raiders, they're usually so desperate they can't help themselves.