Ring In the New...Please!
In accepting the blame for the New York Knicks' poor play a few weeks ago, coach Jeff Van Gundy said, "I'm a disgrace to myself." He was mocked for that, but how much more digestible this year of bad sportsmanship would have been if more people in the sports world—players, coaches, owners—had stood up and said those words.
Take, for example, the football players from Mississippi and Mississippi State who got into a rumble before the kickoff of their Southeastern Conference game on Nov. 29. Over in the NHL, at least Colorado's Claude Lemieux and Detroit's Darren McCarty had the civility to wait until a whole three seconds were gone in the Nov. 11 game between the Avalanche and the Red Wings before they threw off the gloves and had at each other.
Here are a few other gentlemen who should proclaim themselves auto-disgracers. Trevor Warren was the women's soccer coach at Lock Haven University who at halftime of a Nov. 1 game against West Chester University allegedly told his players he wanted them to lose, and then made some strange lineup changes and personnel decisions in the second half that turned a 1-0 lead into a 5-1 defeat. Warren knew that a Lock Haven loss could eliminate Bloomsburg University, Lock Haven's archrival, from the three-team Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoffs, for which Lock Haven had already qualified. Warren, who denied that he had wanted the Bald Eagles to lose, later resigned.
Disgrace, Michael Schumacher is thy name. Schumacher's reckless attempt to run Jacques Villeneuve off the track at the European Grand Prix in Jerez, Spain, on Oct. 26 made Schumacher the gas-and-gasket set's answer to Mike Tyson. Fortunately, Schumacher ended up as the one with the damaged car and Villeneuve went on to finish third in the race and win his first world drivers championship.
Then there's Gov. Don Sundquist of Tennessee. Politicians specialize in making absurd statements to ingratiate themselves to constituents, but Sundquist went way overboard when he said that "the Heisman award has been diminished" because it was won by Michigan's Charles Woodson and not by homeboy Peyton Manning. That kind of statement no doubt embarrassed the Tennessee quarterback, who is a true sportsman.
After a year like this, it's refreshing to hear a voice of sanity. Oakland Raiders quarterback Jeff George has declared his belief that athletes should clean up their acts because they are role models for young fans. The forum George chose for his manifesto? The January issue of Penthouse.
Still Living Dangerously
We are sad to report that Evel Knievel underwent hip replacement surgery at Tampa General Hospital last Thursday, three weeks after being injured during a round of golf at Belleview Country Club, in Clearwater, Fla. No, he was not hurt trying to sail a jet-powered cart over a sand trap. The 59-year-old daredevil and X-Games pitchman stumbled into a creek bed somewhere on the back nine.
A[The Artist Formerly Known as Prince]-ly Visit
English boxer Prince Naseem Hamed's defense of his WBO featherweight championship against Kevin Kelley at Madison Square Garden last Friday was the culmination of a dizzying, weeklong publicity blitz on this side of the pond. A Sheffield-born son of a Yemenite immigrant, Hamed is already wildly popular in Europe and the Middle East, as much for his talent for self-aggrandizement as for his boxing ability. With killer abs he doesn't mind showing off, in-your-face sex appeal and sharp opinions that he voices in what he describes as a "rogue brogue," he is, in short, boxing's answer to the Spice Girls.