Every Court's His Court 

Kobe Bryant's money and celebrity will never disappoint him

Kobe Bryant's money and celebrity will never disappoint him

If Kobe Bryant has the power to teach us anything, it's that John Edwards was right. There really are two Americas: one for people like Kobe and one for people like us.

Aw, you knew from the start that Kobe was never going to spend even an hour behind bars, didn't you? All along, it was a mismatch.

On one side was a small-town prosecutor working within an under-resourced court system. On Kobe's side was a whole team of the slickest legal talent his millions could buy, and they stayed two steps ahead of the poor, dizzy judge the whole way. By the time they were done trying their case in the media, making hash of Colorado's ballyhooed rape shield law and portraying the alleged victim as a mentally unstable slut, the young woman was refusing to testify, the prosecution's case collapsed and the entire sad farce came to an ignominious end. It was bound to be this way. Justice may be blind, but it can keenly smell which side all the money is on.

We will never know whether Kobe committed the crime with which he was charged. We do know, however, that he's an adulterer, that things got bloody rough in his room at the lodge, and that he or his attorneys felt enough concern about something to issue a statement that used the word "apologize" three times.

We also can be reasonably certain about the fallout from another adventure in celebrity justice. If women were reluctant to come forward with accusations of rape before, they're going to be doubly reticent now. And now we have all seen that rape shield laws, which were supposed to prevent cases from turning into trials about the alleged victims' sexual histories, offer about as much real protection as shark repellent.

I'm starting to wonder why we even bother putting the powerful on trial for anything. Does anybody really think Ken Lay or Bernie Ebbers, even if they ultimately serve a few months at a country club prison, are going to receive any punishment even remotely commensurate with the crime? Does anyone imagine they won't emerge as net financial winners from their corporate finagling? Did anyone really think the federal government could beat Microsoft? (If you answered "yes" to any of the above, please visit my auctions on eBay, where I am currently offering the Brooklyn Bridge.)

It might be different if at least we could observe some change in behavior among those from the other America who effectively are above the law. But Microsoft went right back to doing what the Justice Department had pursued it for doing. I'm not holding my breath waiting for Bernie and Kenny Boy to turn introspective. And we've already seen how Kobe responded.

You'd think that the experience of being charged with a crime that could have landed him in prison and destroyed his career would have had a chastening effect on Mr. Bryant. You'd be wrong.

Before the case was even adjudicated, Kobe was representing for himself stronger than ever. He prevailed upon Lakers' owner Jerry Buss to dump coach Phil Jackson. (Kobe thought Phil's "triangle" offense held him back.) He prevailed upon Buss to jettison Shaquille O'Neal. (Shaq was holding Kobe back.) Now the Lakers are Kobe's team, just as he always wanted, so now the spotlight in the world's most glittering basketball palace can belong solely to him.

He bought his wife a very, very nice ring for her trouble. He'll pay his accuser a very, very handsome figure to make her civil suit go away. He'll retain his loyal fans, some of whom sent threats to his 20-year-old alleged victim. In the end, he'll probably recover enough endorsement deals to provide a nice rainy day fund for the lean years when he can no longer command $20 million salaries. And our kids will go on crossing their hearts at school and reciting the words "liberty and justice for all," saying it often enough that they will gradually believe it's true.

Half-Cocked

At least there's one salutary effect of Vanderbilt's 31-6 drubbing at the hands of South Carolina: it put the kibosh on media hype about Vandy's bowl prospects. This team might not win three games.

Hardly anyone envisioned it would be this bad. Vanderbilt entered the season with more experience than anytime in recent memory, a (supposedly) new attitude and what looked like a favorable draw for its home opener. Win or lose, the game figured to be close.

Instead, Bobby Johnson's team collectively looked as though it was still getting ready for picture day. The Commodores were mostly inept at stopping South Carolina's running game.

As unprepared as they appeared, those among the Vandy faithful who still like to point to shoulda/coulda/woulda can take some solace in that, were it not for two goal-line turnovers—one of which went 98 yards for a Gamecock touchdown—the final score might have been 24-20. And if buzzards had jukeboxes up their butts, music would fill the skies.

Suddenly, the expectations are being revised downward. Two of Vandy's "beatable" opponents, Rutgers and Navy, scored impressive victories last week over Michigan State and Duke, respectively. Expect Johnson's team to play better. But only much, much better will be good enough even to give them a chance.

How It Looks from the La-Z-Boy

Titans 20, Dolphins 10

All that Dave Wannstedt needs to feel truly close to Job is for oozing sores to break out all over his skin. He already has suffered two catastrophes before his Dolphins played a single game. First, his big offensive acquisition, David Boston, was lost for the season to injury. Then, Ricky Williams retired and disappeared into Neverland.

Barring the arrival of another hurricane in South Florida, look for the Titans to come home happy from Miami.

Patriots 26, Colts 23

Bills 24, Jaguars 17

Texans 20, Chargers 16

Buccaneers 23, Redskins 20

Alabama 26, Ole Miss 14

Georgia 35, South Carolina 17

Texas 30, Arkansas 20

Mississippi State 17, Auburn 14

LSU 52, Arkansas State 14

Florida 40, Eastern Michigan 13

How It Looks from the Ha-Z-Girl

Aileen Katcher will be the first to admit that she knows nothing about football, other than it's played in the fall and that Nashville has an NFL team. This makes her the perfect "control" for our annual experiment in football prognostication.

Each week this season, Aileen will make picks based on her own criteria, which may include but are not limited to team colors, mascot names, phases of the moon and number of Jewish players. Feel free to use Aileen's one-step-up-from-random selections to gauge the acumen of your favorite Football Media Geniuses.

Dolphins 21, Titans 17 ("Miami is my dad's adopted team, and he just survived Frances.")

Patriots 14, Colts 7 ("As a former Bostonian, I'll go with New England.")

Redskins 21, Buccaneers 7 ("No team should have orange and pewter as their colors.")

Jaguars 14, Bills 10 ("What is a Bill, anyway?")

Chargers 7, Texans 3 ("Are they Houston's team or Texas' team?")

Alabama 24, Ole Miss 14 (former Birminghamian)

Auburn 21, Mississippi State 10 (see above)

Arkansas 14, Texas 7 ("burnt orange?")

Eastern Michigan 14, Florida 10 ("gut feeling")

Georgia 10, South Carolina 3 ("How could you pick a gamecock as a team emblem?")

LSU 7, Arkansas State 0 ("Louisiana deserves one win this week.")

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