You might remember the brilliant, scary reporting about the 2000 Washington Huskies by the Seattle Times' Ken Armstrong and and Nick Perry in 2008. Now, all the stuff that couldn't make a family newspaper has been released in the book, "Scoreboard, Baby."
Today's excerpt tells the story of linebacker Jeremiah Pharms, one of the more "responsible" players on the team while he terrorized backfields at UW. But like a few members of that fabled squad, Pharms wasn't anything close to the law-abiding family man the university made him out to be.
Coming out of high school, in Sacramento, Pharms was 6-1, or 6-2 or 6-3 or 6-4, depending upon which newspaper or scouting service you read. He weighed 210 pounds-or 220 or 225 or 227-and ran the forty in 4.5 or 4.55 or 4.6 or 4.62 or 4.65. He bench-pressed 320 pounds. He had 10-inch hands and 32½-inch arms, and if you wanted to know how much he could squat or how high he could jump, those numbers could be obtained, too. He had a thick neck and a soft voice. Blue Chip Illustrated named Pharms a prep All-American, calling him the best high school linebacker in the western United States.
In college, Pharms just got bigger and stronger; he weighed 250, bench-pressed 405. He had started every game the last two years, emerging as one of the defense's best players. He sported a tattoo of a pit bull on his arm; his initials ran across his stomach. He refused interviews. "A man of mystery," the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called him. A fearsome hitter, Pharms roamed the opposing team's backfield. By game's end, he wouldn't have the most tackles. But he would often have the most memorable-the one that jarred the ball loose or elicited gasps from the crowd. Sometimes, in games, he'd lock eyes with an opposing lineman and proceed to urinate, the stream darkening his pants. He did this to intimidate, to make the other guy think he was crazy. Sometimes he'd come off the field so emotional his teammates would see tears. They were thankful they played with him, and not against him.
(Author's note: In 1999, Pharms's wife, Franquell, got into a fight with Pharms the day before a home game, with each accusing the other of assault. The next day, Franquell crossed paths with one of Pharms's girlfriends, Cassandra, while at the football game.)
The next day, on October 2, 1999, the Huskies hosted Oregon. It was a night game. Before kickoff, a group of six people took seats in the student bleachers, around the 20-yard line. This group included Pharms's mother, his cousin Calvin, and Cassandra. As they watched the Huskies warm up, Franquell walked by. She said something like, "I'm getting him out of the game." Then she walked down to the field.
Pharms's mother knew this was trouble. She asked a friend of Jeremiah's to go and intercept Franquell. On the sidelines, Franquell found Ralph Bayard, a senior associate athletic director, and told him about Cassandra being in the stands. Bayard was a distinguished figure, with oversight of NCAA compliance, student-athlete academic services, community relations. He had played under Jim Owens-and was one of the four players suspended for refusing obeisance to Owens's misguided loyalty oath. Now he was faced with an upset wife. Franquell pointed Bayard to the stands and said Jeremiah's girlfriend wasn't supposed to be there, that Neuheisel didn't want Jeremiah to have any distractions. As they talked, Jeremiah's friend caught up. He started talking to Bayard, too. Franquell headed back toward the stands.
Pharms's mother saw her coming. Get ready, she told Cassandra.
As Franquell approached, she took off her coat.
Don't do this here, Jeremiah's mom told her.
Franquell pulled Cassandra's sweatshirt over her head and began punching. Cassandra couldn't see the blows, but she could feel them. She was getting punched in the back. She was getting punched in the head.
Jeremiah's mom tried to get between the two. Franquell pushed her away.
Calvin stepped in. "You don't fuck with my auntie blood," he said. Franquell jumped on Calvin from behind, wrapping herself around his shoulders. She grabbed his gold chain and broke it. Calvin spun around and pinned Franquell to the ground.
Nearby, a cop was working security. He heard whistling and looked up. People were pointing him to section 21, near the 20-yard line. He ran up to Calvin and Franquell. The cop had no idea what started all this, all he saw was a guy on top of a woman, with a crowd gathered around. He told Calvin to let Franquell up. Calvin refused. Calvin was screaming, and he just kept screaming. The officer saw blood on the woman's lip. He told Calvin again: Let her go. Calvin refused. After a third round of this, the officer pulled out a canister of pepper spray and blasted Calvin in the face.
The pepper spray did the job. The fighting stopped, and everyone was separated. Afterward, the university police took statements-from Franquell, Cassandra, Calvin, Jeremiah's mom, Jeremiah's friend, even from a vendor selling hot chocolate. "I believe Franquell is acting like a woman scorned," Jeremiah's mother told police. Franquell said she'd had enough. While giving her statement to police, she got on the phone and made airplane reservations to go back to California.
Later, she would return to Washington and live with Pharms again. Authorities elected to charge Franquell with fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor. But the case lingered in the courts for years, with nothing much happening. In the end, prosecutors dropped the charge.
The one person who didn't give police a statement was Jeremiah. He was too busy playing. That night, he scooped up a fumble in the fourth quarter and returned it 22 yards. Before a packed house of 72,000 fans, Washington beat Oregon, 34–20.
The fight in the stands didn't make the newspapers. Nor did the fight the day before. Some details of the domestic-violence investigation made it into a court filing, but a King County judge sealed the entire record, in an order that violated state laws designed to discourage such secrecy.
Buy a copy of "Scoreboard, Baby" right here. You won't regret it.