News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In 1978 the Oakland Raiders' Jack Tatum made a clothesline hit on New England Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley's neck, causing permanent paralysis. At the time Tatum arrogantly defended the play as legal and warned other opponents they could expect the same. In January 1997 Tatum applied for disability benefits of $156,000 a year from the NFL Players Association, pointing to the mental anguish he has suffered having to live with the incident. (The $156,000 "catastrophic injury" category is the NFLPA's highest; it's the same category that Stingley is in.)

*Dick Shields made the Pittsburgh newspapers on his 75th birthday on January 11 for his remarkable recuperative powers. Among the medical traumas from which he has recovered: a weeklong coma during which he was near death after a burst appendix; three broken necks (one from falling out of bed while recuperatng from a previous broken neck); a broken back; triple-bypass heart surgery; a grapefruit-size blockage of a blood vessel; and a fungus that ate the skin off his feet. He also saw duty during World War II that included hand-marking of active mines. Said Shields, apparently without irony: "I'd have to say I've been truly blessed."

The Continuing Crisis
* In January the wife of Dr. Michael Baden -- he is the head of the New York State Police's forensic unit -- filed papers in her divorce action against him in New York City. (Baden testified on behalf of O.J. Simpson that the victims' knife wounds probably were caused by more than one assailant.) According to his wife's papers, Baden performed a pair of autopsies on the couple's dining room table, asked her permission to impregnate his girlfriend, and told her he could kill her and make it look like a natural death.

*Pro wrestler Don Harris, age 36 (six foot six, 275 pounds), who with twin brother Ron performs as one of the Bruise Brothers, went to trial in Nashville in January in his lawsuit against plastic surgeon Glenn Buckspan. Harris had wanted his pectorals tightened but wound up with misplaced nipples. He says he is mortified every time he takes his shirt off in public and now must wrestle in a vest.

*The University of Arizona turned down a $250,000 scholarship gift in November that was to be available to female Native Americans. Four-year scholarships would be given on the basis of personality rather than grades, and preference would be given to virgins. University officials balked at this stipulation; said one: "We can't dictate morals."

*Randy Farmer, resident of a Houston suburb, was one of the millions of people around the world who felt compelled to welcome in 1997 by firing off a few gunshots just after midnight. Farmer shot at a back-yard tree; the gun jammed and he went back inside to unjam it. He mishandled his gun and accidentally shot and killed his seven-year-old daughter. Said Farmer: "God had a hand in this. He had to. It was like God called my baby home to be with Him, and God used me as a tool to bring her to Him."

The Weirdo-American Community
*Buffalo State University professor Scott Isaksen, age 44, was arrested in December, allegedly in connection with his coursework, which is described in the university's catalogue as "original thinking" and "approaching situations with innovative techniques." According to police he gave a truant male student the option of writing a paper on stress or actually meeting with Isaksen in private for a series of "stress exercises." The student chose the latter, which included allowing Isaksen to handcuff him and to put a rope around his neck in a motel room.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd