The locker room affair, the biggest taboo in sports.

Previously published Slate articles made new.
Feb. 3 2010 12:43 PM

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Teammate's Wife

The locker room affair, the biggest taboo in sports.

(Continued from Page 1)

At the end of the 2000 season, every New Orleanian and their mother (that includes my typically sports-averse mother) buzzed that Saints wide receiver Joe Horn had impregnated teammate Willie Roaf's wife. The rumor spread so widely that, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, 49ers coach Steve Mariucci asked Saints coach Jim Haslett about the Horn and Roaf tittle-tattle during a postgame handshake. After a few months of silence, Roaf scuttled the rumors by telling the Times-Picayune thathe was his daughter's real father. Horn confirmed Roaf's declaration. "We make mistakes sometimes," Horn told ESPN, "but that is one mistake Joe Horn did not make. I did not sleep with Willie Roaf's wife."

After Roaf punctured the rumor, the Times-Picayune's Dave Lagarde wrote that a gaggle of readers had accused him and the paper of covering up the affair. No one accused the Dallas Morning News of trying to keep their hands clean when the Dallas Mavericks' Jason Kidd and Jimmy Jackson stopped talking to each other. In March 1996, the Morning News reported that Kidd and Jackson were feuding over a woman. Jackson's response, as recorded by the paper: "That's [expletive]." Three months later, the Morning News said the woman was R & B singerToni Braxton. Kidd and Jackson both denied knowing her. When asked if she dated either or both of the Js, Braxton refused to reveal if either man was man enough for her. The next season, the Mavericks traded both players.

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Wannabe locker room Lotharios have to overcome the practical challenges of sneaking around a colleague. One helpful reminder: Always lock the bathroom door. In 2002, Australian rules football star Wayne "The King" Carey got caught in the loo with the wife of a fellow North Melbourne Kangaroo at a team birthday party. As the Aussie press frothed over "the biggest story in the history of the game," the King retreated to his hometown of Wagga Wagga to sit out the rest of the season in shame. "I've made plenty of mistakes," he said, "but this is the biggest mistake I've ever made." Perhaps he should have further reassured the public by adding, "I did not sleep with Willie Roaf's wife."

One obstacle to shagging your teammate's wife is that you're usually on the road when he is. Indians outfielder Rick Manning cleared that barrier by cracking a vertebra in his back and staying in Cleveland while he mended. According to Terry Pluto's The Curse of Rocky Colavito, Manning convalesced with his teammate Dennis Eckersley's wife, Denise, while the Indians were on the road. Upon his election to the Hall of Fame this year, Eckersley told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was "devastated, really emotional" after finding out about the affair. "I'm most proud of that year," Eckersley continued, "winning 20 under that type of stress." Manning and Denise Eckersley later married.

One good way to cover up an affair is the old "we were rehearsing" trick. Pro wrestlers Kevin Sullivan and Chris Benoit, and Sullivan's wife, Nancy, a manager who performed under the stage name "Woman," traveled together on the World Championship Wrestling circuit in the late 1990s. According to a 2000 story by the Cox News Service, Woman and Benoit, known for his patented German suplexes, started an on-screen affair when Sullivan, one of the circuit's creative directors, decided a Woman scorned would be good for ratings. The affair turned real, and Woman divorced Sullivan and married Benoit. (Update: In 2007, Chris Benoit killed his wife, Nancy, and son, Daniel, before killing himself.)

None of these escapades come close to approaching the majesty of the world's hottest locker room affair. Yankees pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson first swapped wives in the summer of 1972 after a late, boozy dinner at the house of Yankees beat writer Maury Allen. That October, the lefties made the wife swap permanent and threw in the kids, dogs, and furniture for good measure. When the news broke in March 1973, the Yankees were besieged with mail. "Nobody was for it," a team spokesperson told the New York Times. "None of the letter-writers or phone-callers said, 'Good going, guys.' "

Yankees outfielder Ron Swoboda, who was at that first dinner, describes the spouse trading as an "early '70s era thing." Still, "it was so far outside the norm," Swoboda remembers. "It was beyond anybody's realm of reality—except it happened." In his book All Roads Lead to October, Maury Allen says that despite Peterson's insistence that this was a clean-cut "life swap," it "was a sex thing, mostly." The sex must've been pretty good. While Mike Kekich and Marilyn Peterson flamed out after a couple of months, Fritz Peterson and Susanne Kekich were still married as of 2000.

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