The Dope Bowl

Gee, could it have been...the lesbian sex show?
Or was it all those previous sex parties? The cocaine-laced marijuana these folks liked to smoke? Or the strip search of Rachelle Smith--the one where Michael Irvin ordered someone to explore her orifices for microphones right before he told her what to say to a Dallas County grand jury?

Perhaps we'll never know what the most embarrassing detail was that prompted Michael Irvin to stop the hemorrhaging at his drug trial. "I think he was cut bad and bleeding all over the place," says First Assistant District Attorney Norm Kinne, referring to the football superstar. "And they wanted to do some damage control."

It's a little late for that now. I mean, about the only thing we don't know about Michael Irvin at this point is whether his wife will leave him.

Clearly, this trial had to end because it was more than anyone could take. How could Jerry Jones stand one more day of howlingly bad public relations for the team that Valley Ranch wants you to believe is No.1 in both football and family values? How could Michael Irvin stand the fact that as more and more details came out about him, there were fewer and fewer fans who could ever look at those hands again and think of football? How could District Attorney John Vance stand to have yet another extremely high-profile case be tried in his office without so much as a Maolike cameo appearance from the boss--especially when the defendant's attorney, Royce West, has openly declared that he wants Vance's job? Tell us, Mr. District Attorney, are you alive up there on the 10th floor, or is that a mannequin propped behind your desk?

But the most embarrassing thing about the Michael Irvin trial is that it never should have happened in the first place. The extent of the twistedness in Irvin's personal life would have remained largely speculative if Irvin had taken his medicine 19 weeks ago when he first got busted. But that didn't happen. Instead, we got a show we won't soon forget.

Brett Shipp had to go to the bathroom.
Normally this would not be a problem. But there was nothing normal about being in Dallas' Frank Crowley Criminal Courts Building on a steaming hot day in early July when Michael Irvin was on trial for drugs.

Never mind that the place was a zoo--that there were several dozen reporters, producers, photographers, and TV cameramen camped out on the fifth floor, tapping away at laptop computers, staring into video monitors, talking on mobile telephones, aiming their TV cameras at the elevators in the hopes of getting yet another scintillating shot of Michael Irvin entering or exiting the courthouse.

Never mind that there were always star-struck, slobbering fans clogging up the hallways, determined to get an autograph or a glimpse of the lanky football celebrity. Or that courthouse employees were buzzing in and out of Criminal Court No. 5, blushing and giggling and thrilled out of their minds to see somebody other than your run-of-the-mill scuzzbag sitting at the defense table.

None of which prevented well-known WFAA-TV Channel 8 reporter Brett Shipp from going to the bathroom.

Shipp's problem was the big bruiser in the bright purple sweat pants with the tight, white T-shirt and the semishaved head who looked like he enjoyed eating fair-haired reporter boys for a midmorning snack.

It was 10:40 a.m. on Wednesday, July 3, and after only an hour of testimony in front of the jury, state District Judge Manny Alvarez had just called for a break in the proceedings.

For the 24 reporters who had been sitting on hard, wooden spectator benches since 8:30 a.m.--afraid to leave the room lest the proceedings suddenly commence and the bailiffs lock them on the wrong side of the courtroom doors--the break was a mixed blessing. True, it only slowed what was turning out to be the world's most protracted drug-possession proceeding. But on the other hand, it provided that small window of opportunity to call the newsroom, confer with a cameraman or producer in the hallway, or--yes--go to the bathroom.

Or try to.
"Can't use this bathroom," the bruiser said, standing in front of the men's room door like he was playing bouncer at a hot nightclub, both arms folded defiantly across his chest. "Michael's in there."

Shipp was a bit stunned--you know, seeing as how this was a public bathroom in a public building where presumably everybody, including football players, had to pee in a quasi-public manner.

"He wouldn't even look at me while he was talking," Shipp says. "He was looking all around--you know, doing one of these." Shipp puts on his best thuglike expression and fixes his stare on some distant, ostensibly more important place on the horizon.

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Laura Miller