The Sports Hangover: Horse vs. Holyfield, Old-Time Hockey, Solomon Grundy, and More
Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman weren’t the only ones downed by a hangover this weekend. The Sports Hangover wonders if the heads of Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Graham, and the men standing between LeGarrette Blount and the end zone hurt more than that horse that Evander Holyfield punched.
Holyfield v. the Horse
When Evander Holyfield punched humans, people applauded. When he revealed on the UK’s Celebrity Big Brother that he once punched a horse, his costars expressed “hate” toward him and fantasized about stabbing him. The former heavyweight champion relayed that a horse--which he alternatively described as pregnant and male--that bucked him from the saddle once provoked an unkind in-kind response. “The horse feet barely missed,” the Real Deal explained of the pregnant stallion. “I was so mad I hit him right in the jaw.” A dumbstruck Liz Smith, a British fashion writer and vegetarian, reacted: “You punched a horse? But you’re a human. You’re a human.” Dwight Muhammad Qawi begs to differ. Holyfield was superhuman in that epic fifteen rounder. “I think that’s disgusting. I think that’s disgusting,” emoted British reality television personality Luisa Zissman. “You punch my horse I would stab you--seriously.” Seriously?
First Flair, Now Barkley
ESPN reporter Mike Reiss quizzed Patriots coach Bill Belichick on the strange presence of Charles Barkley in his team’s locker room after Saturday’s win. “I go back with Charles back when I was in Cleveland and he came in to play the Cavaliers,” Belichick, almost cracking a smile, explained. “It’s unbelievable to me that at 6’4’’ he led the NBA in rebounding. I’m a big fan of his.” The feeling was mutual. “When Bill Belichick leaves and Tom Brady leaves, y’all team is going to (expletive) suck,” the Round Mound of Rebound, described as exceedingly jolly in barely coded press accounts, said in the victor’s locker room to the team’s fans. “You take it for granted. You do take it for granted. You’re like, ‘We have to win the Super Bowl, or our season sucks.’” Isn’t that Brady and Belichick’s attitude, too? Bandwagon Barkley isn’t alone in his support for the Pats. The Hulkamaniacs have jumped aboard the Brady-Belichick-Blount bandwagon, too.
One thing is clear about the MLB-Alex Rodriguez steel cage match. Both sides display a willingness to use foreign objects and ringside goons to emerge victorious. When A-Rod pledges to sue MLB in federal court and characterizes the league’s crusade against him as a backdoor effort to abolish guaranteed contracts, he shows that he’s in it to win it. He’s appealing to two forces capable of taking on Major League Baseball: the players’ union and the federal government. Sunday night’s 60 Minutes story implied that the Yankee slugger may be willing to do much more than that. When Biogenesis’s Tony Bosch refused to sign an affidavit attesting that Rodriguez didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs, Team A-Rod attempted to bribe and threaten him, he alleges. “You should leave town,” Bosch claimed one of Rodriguez’s associates told him. “We’re going to get you a plane ticket to Colombia.” Was Rodriguez’s former supplier supposed to feel safe there? The program didn't come out and say it, but 60 Minutes left viewers with the impression that Rodriguez would kill for his name--or his millions. The use of insulation rather than outright accusation seemed a bit like Jason Varitek’s famous punch at A-Rod from behind his catcher’s mask. People will cheer. But is it right?
Despite their best efforts to paint A-Rod in a negative light--and perhaps this requires little effort at this point--60 Minutes showed that MLB would use means fair and foul to bring down the player who has made more money off of it than any other. Feeling abused by the likes of Sosa, McGwire, and Bonds, Bud Selig has gone after A-Rod with the zeal of one who has learned a hard lesson. A-Rod’s legacy is on the line; more so is Selig’s. MLB purchased the incriminating evidence against the third baseman from a shadowy, anonymous figure for $125,000. MLB paid off Bosch--a guy who the league had only recently been suing--with security, lawyers’ fees, and the withdrawal of legal suits against him and his brother so that he would turn on A-Rod. They've hired a horde of former FBI agents to pursue the man they view as the league’s most flagrant drug offender. MLB takes rules so seriously that it’s willing to break rules to bring down a malefactor.
But Rodriguez, in Lance Armstrong fashion, points out that he has never tested positive for a banned substance. That misleading truth best explains the vehemence with which both sides make their case. Alex Rodriguez has never been caught.
The Worm, Basketball Jesus, and Dear Leader
Dennis Rodman introduced himself to the world in a racially-charged outburst of sore-loserdom. It’s easy to forget this after the colored hair, cross-dressing publicity stunts, and stints on reality television. Stung by Larry Bird swiping an inbound pass from Isaiah Thomas to swipe game five and ultimately the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, the rookie forward spoke heresies against the Basketball Jesus. Specifically, Rodman said after a bitter game-seven loss that the man most responsible for defeating the Pistons was “way overrated.” “Why does he get so much publicity?” Rodman asked. “Because he’s white. You never hear about a black player being the greatest.” Rodman’s tirade in North Korea regarding prisoner Kenneth Bae--shouting “Do you understand what he did in this country?” on CNN--reminded me of his earlier outburst regarding Bird. He doesn’t think before he speaks. And he learns from his mistakes that the more he makes them the more he gets attention. What a long strange trip it’s been from Bokchito, Oklahoma to Pyongyang, North Korea.
Deadspin’s Samar Kalaf claimed earlier this season that New Orleans Saint Jimmy “Graham is by far the best tight end in football.” The best tight end in football’s Saturday afternoon stat line? One catch for eight yards on six targets.
To Be Blount, LeGarrette Blount
It was the best of trades. It was the worst of trades. The preseason LeGarrette Blount-Jeff Demps exchange is a tale of two cities, Tampa (4-12) and Foxboro (13-5). Okay, so Foxboro is a small town. But it’s a city come fall Sundays. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns Saturday night after averaging five yards a carry in a running-back-by-committee backfield this past season. Jeff Demps, perhaps the fastest player in the National Football League, played in two games, taking one handoff for fourteen yards, catching three passes for twenty-one yards, and returning four kicks for ninety-three yards. He contributed two first downs. The trade may be the most important, least discussed ingredient in the success of a Patriots squad decimated by injuries, free agency, and a murder indictment. And given bowling-ball Blount’s role (roll?) in chipping away at the eleven pins standing in his team’s way, the numbers probably don’t do justice to his value. Hopefully, that seventh round pick thrown in with Demps does something for the Bucs to mitigate the injustice of this steal.
Across the line of scrimmage on Saturday, Trent Richardson, who crossed the line of scrimmage just once with the ball in his hands, is the anti-Blount. The Browns gave the third pick in the draft for Richardson in 2012. It didn’t work out for them. So they shipped him off to Indianapolis, recouping a first-round pick in the process. Richardson rushed for one yard on three carries against the Patriots. It’s always a bad sign when your rushes exceed your rushing yards.
The Greatest Love of All
What in the name of Bill Wyman is Whitney Houston’s daughter doing marrying her brother? So Nick Gordon isn’t blood-related to Bobbi Kristina and Whitney never got around to adopting him. But the pair grew up for more than ten years under the same roof and clearly regarded each other as family. “I love sleeping with big brudder,” Bobbi Kristina tweeted in late 2011. Shortly thereafter, Nick Gordon tweeted out a picture of himself with Bobbi Kristina referencing their twitter handles in the caption: “@ndgordon baby sis @REALbkBrown.” Whitney’s daughter insists this is what her mother always wanted. If that’s true, her issues with chemicals may have been more profound than anybody had imagined. Why is this family’s voice of reason, Bobby Brown, silent here?
Florida Panthers on the Endangered Species List
Hockey in Miami makes as much sense as beach volleyball in Saskatoon. But once upon a time--in the 1990s, to be exact--the NHL believed that it could expand its profits by expanding South. As the Florida Panthers’ efforts to secure a $70 million bailout from Broward County shows, it didn’t work. Expansion watered down the product and forced hockey upon communities whose traditions didn’t include it. If fans won’t support your millionaires’ club, then the taxpayers shouldn't, either. Michigan Stadium overflowing on New Year’s Day proves that hockey remains enormously popular where the climate and youth leagues foster love for the game. Go north, NHL, go north. The Panthers have as much of a future in South Florida as the Chiefs did in Charlestown.
Why Isn’t There an Endzone Celebration in Tribute to Solomon Grundy?
Colin Kaepernick played with a chip on his shoulder yesterday. His Cam Newton endzone impersonation showed that his placement in the NFL draft more than a round behind the Carolina quarterback still smarted. Newton dislikes the disrespect. But when you showboat, expect others to show you up. One man’s celebration is another man’s taunt. If you’re going to hold yourself up as Superman but play like Jimmy Olsen, don’t be surprised when others mock.
I See a Red Carpet and I Want to Paint It Black
If a sewage pipe exploded its contents on the red carpet in a film script, Rex Reed would recognize it as a metaphor. Since this actually happened at the Golden Globes yesterday--TMZ characterized it as “black sewage” emitting a “horrible stench”--I’ll take it as a sign from the Great Film Critic in the Sky of what He thinks of Hollywood.