Story of the Week



          On a recent flight from Bangkok to Tokyo, I met a super person and flight attendant on Japan Airlines, Mai Gushiken, who happens to have a famous father. Maiís dad is Youkou Gushiken, who, in 1976, became the WBA world junior flyweight division boxing champion. He registered 13 defenses of his crown from 1976 to 1981. His career record was 23-1, with 15 knockouts. Mai, it was my pleasure meeting you, and I hope we meet again.

Steve Mariucci was canned as Detroitís head coach. I donít know if Mariucci is a good coach or not, but even if he sucks, heís not entirely to blame for the Lionsí failure. In 40+ years since he became owner, William Clay Ford has won one playoff game; heís a mirror image of Bill Bidwill, owner of the Arizona Cardinals, for futility. Since taking over as GM, Matt Millen, now in his fifth year, has a record of 20-55, and is responsible for bad draft after bad draft. So if justice is to be served in Detroit, start with Ford and Millen, and then clean up the mess.     

          Itís bad enough that the Lakers are less than mediocre thus far this NBA season. The real slap is that their local rivals, the Clippers, are way out of character. The perennial lottery-pick Clippers are playing like the Lakers used to play. Itís definitely a role reversal in L.A.

          Donald Trump was a recent guest (10/14) on Dan Patrickís radio show. When Patrick asked Trump his opinion of Alex Rodriguez, he prefaced it by saying that Rodriguez had purchased a condo in Trumpís building, and that he likes Alex very much. Trump then proceeded to be rather candid. He stated that he is disappointed in Rodriguezí inability to deliver in important situations, ala the ALDS against the Angels. He stated that A-Rod had a great regular season, as we know, but he is not at all impressed with Rodriguez when it really counts, especially based on the money he makes. To his credit, Trump certainly didnít stutter.

          Terrell Owens has stolen all the bad NFL print this year. But another great (former) receiver hit the headlines this week; Michael Irvin was again arrested for possession (of a drug pipe) and yet another speeding warrant. By comparison, these guys are making Randy Moss a respectable citizen. 

          I want someone, anyone, to tell me how N.Y. Knicks GM Isiah Thomas keeps his job. Jerry West he ainít! Thomas makes loads of moves every year, and the Knicks continue to show nothing for it. And look at Westís Memphis Grizzlies this season. Jerry West is the greatest architect in NBA history period, and all that after a brilliant Hall of Fame playing career.

          The NHL felt it needed instant offense, so the rules were changed to enhance scoring. Iím a sports purist, and am totally against it. The new rules will screw up the leagueís offensive records, ala the ludicrous, ridiculous, idiotic, stupid, moronic (and any Iíve missed) DH rule in baseballís AL.

          Chicago made a huge mistake. The White Sox traded a super center fielder in Aaron Rowand (28 years old) to the Phils for injury-plagued Jim Thome (35 years old). The Phillies, who also got other players, got the better of the deal regardless. The Sox did the deal while 1B Paul Konerko was still shopping his free-agency; he re-signed with Chicago today. But had he not, it was still a bad deal for the White Sox.

          Overlooking the ease or difficulty of their respective schedules, and based on current wins and losses through Week 11, the most improved team in the NFL this season is Chicago. The Bears have won three more games so far this season than they won all of last year. Conversely, the teams with the greatest negative reversal of fortune when comparing present wins to all of last season are Philadelphia, Green Bay, New England, New York (Jets) and Pittsburgh, all of whom have won eight games less right now than they did all of last year. There are only five games left in the regular season.

          My home town St. Louis Blues are in jeopardy of seeing a record go into the tank this season. They have made the playoffs 25 straight years, a record in U.S. pro sports. Their payroll is way down, and, logically, so are their wins and their attendance, thanks to owner Bill Laurie. Itís not that Laurie doesnít have the money it takes to support a championship payroll; he's married to the daughter of Wal-Mart co-founder James Walton. Itís now a far cry from the Bluesí early years when I owned season tickets. In those days, the Blues were a happening at the Arena, and the most exciting season tickets I've ever owned.

          Everyone is on the Coltsí bandwagon right now. Donít lose sight of one significant point; Indianapolis hasnít won anything yet. Iíll now state that they will not go undefeated this season. They still have formidable teams to play ala the Chargers (at home) and the Jags and Seahawks (on the road). There are lots of X-factors against the Colts doing the undefeated deed.  

          Iím picking Bernard Hopkins over Jermain Taylor in the world middleweight title fight Saturday night. Only one reason; itís the only way they can squeeze yet another rematch out of it. And if Hopkins takes up where he left off in their first fight, there will be a rematch. Iím gonna see the fight, and Iím looking forward to it. To see it up close, I have to be a beer vendor, but thatís ok; I need the money.

          As long as Iím in a handicapping mode, USC will beat UCLA Saturday, and will cover the 21 points. Am I sure of that? Iím so sure that Iím not betting the game. But Iíd love to see the Bruins kick the Trojansí rear ends all over the Coliseum. Unfortunately, thatís not going to happen.        

          The Red Sox, even without a GM temporarily, made a great deal with Florida in landing Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota. It only cost them prospects, and in todayís baseball structure, prospects are far less important than they used to be to a team that has lots of money to spend.

          Jeff Reed and Matt Bryant have nothing on Jay Feely last weekend. Reed blew a gimme when his field goal would have given his Steelers a 10-10 tie with the Colts early on; his miss stopped their momentum that they desperately needed on the road. All Bryant did was blow a chip-shot potential game-tying field goal for the Bucs that preserved the Bearsí three-point lead and victory. All that pales by comparison to Feely; he missed three game-winning field goal attempts for the Giants, who went on to lose to the Seahawks. To be sure, George Allen was so right; special teams are just as important as offense and defense.   


Last Weekís Trivia


          Two men have earned Super Bowl rings as player, assistant coach and head coach. Who are they? Tom Flores and Mike Ditka.

Flores earned his as assistant coach (Super Bowl XI) and head coach (Super Bowls XV and XVIII) of the Raiders, but before that he was Lenny Dawsonís back-up QB with the Chiefs in Super Bowl 4 (Roman numerals were not yet used in Super Bowl designations at the time). Floresí career with KC was less than memorable. In 1969, on his way to earning that ring as a player, he had just one pass attempt all regular season, a touchdown completion, and one rushing attempt for no yards.

Ditka earned his as a player (Super Bowl VI) and assistant coach (Super Bowl XII) with the Cowboys, and head coach of the Bears (Super Bowl XX). Ditka was a productive tight end for the Cowboys after his great playing career with the Bears, and caught a touchdown pass from Roger Staubach in the Cowboysí win over Miami in Super Bowl VI.        


Trivia Question of the Week


          Thanks to JONATHAN KROST for this piece of trivia. Only once in World Series history has the Series ended with an unsuccessful stolen base attempt. It was the last out of what World Series? Who was the player caught stealing? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.