Help! I just realized I'm living in a haven for the miscreants of sports.

Las Vegas is supposed to be the city of sin, but New York has always been the city with the bad rap. The people are unfriendly. The crime rate is high (or at least used to be). It's the kind of place that takes young people with dreams and chew them up and spit them out.

Maybe this is completely unfair, a bad rap against a town that has a lot to offer. But over the years, New York's sports teams have made some big investments in troublemakers. This week, the

New York Knicks

traded for

Latrell Sprewell

. The deal has a lot of people here up in arms, but if you look at the actions of the city's other teams, it almost seems in character.

It is said that actions speak louder than words. If that's the case, Sprewell's actions over the last 13 months have been screaming what a jerk he is. In November of 1997, Sprewell was playing for the

Golden State Warriors

when he decided that his coach,

P.J. Carlesimo

, was riding him too hard. His answer: Choke the man. Anyone who saw the marks on Carlesimo's neck could see that when Sprewell went for the choke, he meant business.

Since then, the

NBA

suspended him, the Warriors terminated his contract and Sprewell sued (rather successfully) to have each penalty reduced. Also, he was arrested for driving recklessly in Martinez, Calif., and sentenced to three months of detention in a halfway house.

The topper is that after all this, Sprewell sued his agent,

Arn Tellem

, for negotiating him a contract with the Warriors that failed to protect his salary in the event he pulled a stunt like pulling on Carlesimo's neck.

Regardless of the fact that he has been selected an NBA all-star, it's clear the guy is the scourge of the NBA. Yet the Knicks can't wait to suit him up because they are about winning at all costs and Sprewell is a talent that might help them win a title in the coming

Michael Jordan

-less season.

A few years ago,

Wade Boggs

became embroiled in a very public scandal about his extramarital relations with a woman named Margo Adams. It was very ugly. In Boston, where he'd been a hero for the

Red Sox

, the fans were unforgiving of his indiscretion. He came to New York to join the

Yankees

and within a few months, no one even remembered there had been a scandal. Plus, he got to win a World Series title.

Darryl Strawberry had his share of problems. There was substance abuse and tax evasion, but once he became installed as a productive member of the Yankees, those both zipped right out of people's minds.

New York, it seems, is the perfect place for the subversive. I believe it's because there's so much else going on here. It's easier to blend into the crowd in the Big Apple. Others think it's because too many people like these guys already live here. But the list goes on:

  • How about Tony Phillips? This is a guy who was busted for using crack while he played baseball for the California Angels. How bad was the rap on him? At the beginning of the last baseball season, no team would have anything to do with him. But as the win-at-all-costs attitude in sports took over, the Toronto Blue Jays found a place. Then the New York Mets immediately traded for him. For two days, all you could read in the city tabloids was about the crack addict the Mets had just turned loose on New York. Then, you never heard anything again.
  • How about Tie Domi, the well-known hockey goon? This guy was so proud of his nasty reputation that he used to, after scoring a goal, skate around the ice with his stick between his legs like a witch on a broomstick. In New York, he was just another player.
  • Or Bryan Cox of the New York Jets. He is the NFL player who has racked up the most fines from the league office and one of the real bad boys of the sport. Here in New York, he is seen not as a thug and a troublemaker, but as an important cog in the team's run to the AFC championship game.
  • And we haven't even talked about Dwight Gooden.

People from the more wholesome parts of the U.S. see New York in pictures, replete with the Times Square theaters that play pornographic films, and they think it is a city in moral decay. The way its sports teams behave does nothing, but reinforce the stereo type.

I happen to live in the Big Apple and I know that it is not all that bad. The rest of America sees the Mayor

Rudolph Giuliani

has taken some big strides to improve the way New York is viewed. He has orchestrated an enormous drop in crime and the murder rate is as low as it was in 1964. People in this town no longer walk the streets fearing they will become a victim of someone's misdeeds.

Now if only he could do something about the crime at the area's ball parks.