- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

So let me get this straight: Barry Bonds used steroids, but he didn’t inhale?

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Mr. Schwarzenegger, meet your new lieutenant governor.

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According to grand jury testimony published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonds gave his “personal weight trainer” a $20,000 bonus after his 73-homer season in 2001. To which I say:

Barry must be a pretty lousy tipper

To pay his trainer only $273.97 a round-tripper.

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Did you see the Red Sox voted Nomar Garciaparra three-fourths of a World Series share? They would have given him more, I’m told, but he wasn’t traded early enough in the season.

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In honor of our baseball team being named the Nationals, the Sunday Column proudly presents Five Professional Sports Franchises Named … the Americans:

1. Birmingham Americans, World Football League, 1974 — Managed to win the WFL’s only championship (the league folded in mid-‘75) but had their share of financial difficulties. At one point, the team was locked out of Legion Field because it owed some $14,000 in sales taxes. Little-known fact: Charley Harraway, the former Redskins fullback, jumped to the Americans and finished his career with them.

2. New Jersey Americans, American Basketball Association, 1967-68: Precursors of the New Jersey Nets, the Amerks, as the newspapers called them, went 36-42 in their one season in Teaneck. Playing for them — as Rutgers’ Bobby Lloyd and St. John’s alums Tony Jackson and Bob McIntyre did — was a real adventure.

“I was with Pittsburgh,” one ex-ABAer says in “Loose Balls,” Terry Pluto’s oral history of the league, “and our first exhibition game was against the New Jersey Americans. New Jersey’s uniforms never showed up, and they played in white T-shirts with numbers written on the back in Magic Marker. They also wore shorts or sweatpants that didn’t match. Never in my life was I so grateful to have my own uniform.”

3. New York Americans, National Hockey League, 1925-41 — The Americans, who predated the Rangers, originally were owned by William V. Dwyer, a bootlegger. In 1927, however, Dwyer was sentenced to two years in Atlanta Penitentiary, and he eventually had to give up the franchise because of tax problems. The club never reached the Stanley Cup Finals in its 16 seasons.

4. New York Americans, American Football League, 1941 — There isn’t much to remember about them except that they were the first pro team Tom Harmon, the Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan, played for. Harmon signed with the Americans for one well-paid game, ran for their only score in a 7-7 tie with the Columbus Bullies and then went into the military. At the end of the season, the league disappeared.

5. Bridgeport (Conn.) Americans, Eastern League, 1917-23 — On July22, 1918 the Americans were just a game out of first place with a 44-12 record — probably the high point in the history of the club. Unfortunately, that was the day the league shut down because of World War I.

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I totally agree with Ricky Williams’ decision not to return to pro football. I mean, good running backs are a dime a dozen, but a decent holistic healer is hard to find.

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Sounds like Redskins offensive guard Randy Thomas is the Cool Hand Luke of the NFL. The man could eat 50 eggs — and wash ‘em down with a side order of hash browns.

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If not a side order of Cleveland Browns.

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The details of Thomas’ recent pigout at Chubby’s Barbecue in Emmitsburg, Md. — he consumed six pounds of food (ribs, shrimp, etc.) in less than an hour — are reminiscent of the gustatory exploits of Ernie Ladd. Ladd, a 6-foot-9, 315-pound defensive tackle in the ‘60s with the Chargers (among others), once took part in a celebrity pancake-eating contest and ate … 124, give or take a flapjack.

Amazingly, he didn’t win the contest. Two things conspired against him: One, he arrived late, which forced him to do some serious catch-up eating; and two, he was competing by himself against two-man teams.

Now there’s a man with an appetite.

Ladd handled the pancakes fine, as it turned out. But the six containers of syrup — and their accompanying sugar buzz — were another matter. “Worst drunk I’ve ever had,” he said.

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A joke making the Internet rounds:

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — The Redskins’ practice was delayed for nearly two hours yesterday afternoon.

It all began when one of the players noticed a suspicious looking white powdery substance on the field. Coach Joe Gibbs immediately suspended the workout and called in the FBI to investigate.

A field analysis determined that the white substance, foreign to the players, was the goal line. Practice resumed after Special Agents decided the team would be unlikely to encounter it again.

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Patriots punter Josh Miller on the Hall of Fame worthiness of Raiders great Ray Guy, as quoted by the Boston Globe: “[He’s] got my vote. His statistics today would put him in the middle of the pack, but he was the first punter to do it right. He was the guy with five-second hang times. He’s like Dick Fosbury. Fosbury wasn’t the best high jumper. He only did about 6 foot 4. But now they all do the Fosbury Flop.”

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Actually, Fosbury jumped 7-4 at the ‘68 Olympics to win the gold medal. But never let the facts get in the way of a good analogy.

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Later in the same story, Pats kicker Adam Vinatieri said, “We play as key a role out there as the other players. … Twenty or 30 years ago maybe things were different, but today a lot of the punters and kickers are good athletes. When Tom Tupa was punting here, he was the best golfer, the best basketball player and one of our best athletes. Thirty years ago, maybe the kickers were fat guys and foreign guys, and that stereotyped us.”

Fat guys and foreign guys. Wouldn’t that make a great title for a book?

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Memo to the Redskins: Don’t let Tupa sucker you into a $2 Nassau — or a game of one-on-one, either.

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News item: Notre Dame fires Willingham with two years left on contract.

Comment: The Irish merely discovered, as so many have, that a Ty is like kissing your sister.

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Everybody’s making a big deal about Cincinnati going to the Fort Worth Bowl after a season-ending 70-7 loss to Louisville. Heck, that ain’t nearly as bad as Nebraska playing in the BCS title game after a season-ending 62-36 loss to Colorado in 2001.

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Can’t believe I left Oklahoma off last week’s list of college football programs that have had a great run of running backs. From 1967 to ‘79, the Sooners turned out Steve Owens, Greg Pruitt, Joe Washington and Billy Sims. Much thanks to reader John E. Heaney for alerting me to the oversight.

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Ever vigilant Phil Hochberg writes: “Tom Wolfe, whose book, ‘I Am Charlotte Simmons,’ is rapidly climbing the best-seller lists, may know writing, but he don’t know college roundball. Twice in the book, Wolfe refers to action taking place in the first quarter of a college basketball game, and once he talks about a crowd-shaking thunderous dunk in warmups (prohibited by the NCAA) by JoJo Johanssen, one of the book’s main characters.”

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Gone but not forgotten: Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium no longer bears the inscription “Home of the Fighting Gobblers” [the nickname of the school’s teams until the switch to “Hokies” 20 years ago]. Demolition on the west side of the stadium, part of a $53.5million expansion project, caused the letters to be taken down last week.

“It was a bit dated,” says my friend Robert, the Tech fanatic, “but I always thought it gave the outside of the stadium a bit of character.”

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And finally …

I’m reading about this latest U.N. scandal, the one involving payoffs and all sorts of other shadiness, and I’m thinking: Who do these people think they are, the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee?

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