- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

Touching moment at Wimbledon yesterday. After Siberian sweetie Maria Sharapova won the women’s singles title, she grabbed her cell phone and called her mentor, Joe Horn.

• • •

Good thing she didn’t try that at the Italian Open. They would have socked her with Rome-ing charges.

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The next press release from Anna Kournikova Inc. will probably contain the passage: “Anna, who has won only one less Slam than Maria Sharapova …

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Michelle Wie knocked a drive into the woods at the U.S. Women’s Open the other day and asked a rules official for relief. Why? “I was in poison ivy,” she said.

The official was unmoved — dem’s da rules, honey — and Wie proceeded to make bogey.

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Those are the rules, too. Rule 13, which pertains to playing the ball as it lies, allows for no Poison Ivy Free Drop.

Champions Tour regular Rocky Thompson ran into the same situation in a tournament last year. According to Golf Digest, Thompson is “extremely allergic to the weed” and “sought relief on the grounds that it created a ‘dangerous situation’ for him. Rules official Chuck Bassler explained that, according to Decision 1-4/11 in the Rules of Golf, such plants as poison ivy, cactus and stinging nettles are common on a golf course and, unpleasant as they are, don’t constitute a dangerous situation. Decision 1-4/10 states that if a ball comes to rest in a situation dangerous to a player, such as near a rattlesnake or a nest of bees, he or she would be entitled to relief without penalty.”

Thompson could have declared an unplayable lie (Rule 28), accepted a stroke penalty and taken a free drop. But he opted to hack his ball back to the fairway and, like Wie, took a bogey.

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You’ll be pleased to know rattlesnakes and bees aren’t the only creatures considered “dangerous” by the rules. “For instance, an alligator would be covered under the rule,” a U.S. Golf Association official told Golf Digest, “but a skunk would not.”

I speak for all of us, I suspect, when I say: Well, that stinks.

• • •

You’ve gotta love the Rules of Golf. I came across this inquiry on the USGA Web site:

“Q: A pine cone falls from a tree and comes to rest behind a ball which is lying in a bunker. Under the principle in Decision 13-4/18, may the player remove the pine cone without penalty?

“A: No. The principle in Decision 13-4/18 is applied only in cases in which the lie of a ball has been altered as a result of an act by another player or caddy, or by a spectator or other animate outside agency. In this case, the lie was altered through natural causes.”

• • •

I have a follow-up question for the USGA: What would I do if David Cone keeled over from a heart attack and came to rest directly behind my ball? Could I remove him without penalty, or would I have to play him as he lies? A heart attack, after all, stems from natural causes.

• • •

News item: Redskins release tight end Kevin Ware after he’s arrested for public intoxication.

Comment: A year ago, when Dan Snyder was signing Darrell Russell, Kenyatta Jones and Byron Chamberlain — all with questionable pasts — a public intoxication arrest would have been considered a plus.

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You’d think if Joe Gibbs could handle Tony Stewart, he could handle Kevin Ware.

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Did you read about Stewart getting into an altercation with Brian Vickers and costing Gibbs 25 points in the NASCAR owner standings? Of course, Joe’s had points taken off the board before. Remember that punt return touchdown by Darrell Green in the ‘83 NFC title game that got wiped out by a penalty?

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I can just hear Coach Joe trying to motivate a linebacker: “I’ve got racecar drivers who can hit harder than you!”

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In response to last Sunday’s item, Neal from Gaithersburg sent along some more nominees for the “Drive Responsibly” Sports Hall of Fame: Jack Daniels (Boston Braves outfielder, 1952), Suds Sutherland (Detroit Tigers pitcher, 1921), Jim Brewer (major league pitcher, 1960-76), Al Nipper (big league pitcher, 1983-90), Arnold Ale (NFL linebacker, 1990s), Chris Draft (Atlanta Falcons linebacker), Bob Stein (linebacker on the Chiefs’ 1969 Super Bowl team) and Muggsy Bogues (a bit of a stretch, but we’ll allow it).

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To which I’d add: Gerald “Ice Cube” McNeil (NFL kick returner, 1986-90) and Blenda Gay (NFL defensive end, 1974-76).

Come on, if you want to make a daiquiri, you’ve gotta have a Blenda (as they say in Boston).

• • •

Speaking of athletes and names, Coco Crisp, the Cleveland Indians’ center fielder, is one of those rare jocks … whose name sounds like a breakfast cereal (Cocoa Krispies). Some other sports figures who should probably be pitchmen (or pitchwomen) for cereals:

• Adam Oates — Quaker Oats.

• Clark Kellogg — Special K (that was Clark’s nickname as a hoops player).

• Darryl Strawberry — Strawberry Fruit Wheats.

• Boo Williams, Saints tight end — Boo Berry.

• Tootie Shaw, women’s pro basketball player — Tootie Fruities.

• Joey and Stevie Graham, twin brothers on Oklahoma State’s Final Four basketball team — Golden Grahams.

• Any Czech athlete — Wheat Chex/Corn Chex.

• Rod Smart (He Hate Me) — Smart Start.

• Coco Miller, Mystics guard — Cocoa Puffs.

• Dennis Rodman, Terrell Owens, David Wells, Marat Safin, Mark Cuban, Nuke LaLoosh (honorary) — Any kind of flakes.

• Dennis Farina — Farina. (OK, he’s an actor, not a sports figure, but he did play the coach of the New York Knicks in the Whoopi Goldberg vehicle, “Eddie.”)

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On the subject of He Hate Me, there’s a Spike Lee movie coming out soon — saw the preview the other day — titled “She Hate Me.” (She Hate Me is also the name Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme gave to a filly he owns.)

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I’ll never understand why Fred Lynn in his prime — or Willis Reed, for that matter — didn’t hook up with Product 19.

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What kind of sales pitch will new Celtics coach Doc Rivers use on free agents?

“It’s 80 degrees, and there’s no state taxes,” he cracked to the Boston Globe’s Shira Springer. “Wait, I can’t do that [anymore].”

Nope, Beantown’s a little different from Orlando.

• • •

Springer also got a great quote from Celtics shot-caller Danny Ainge on free agents’ total lack of concern with the “big picture.” “Do you think anyone pays attention to the [club’s] vision?” he said. “What do players want? They want money and opportunity. Some players you don’t go after because the opportunity might not be there. Style plays a part. Do they like the coach? Will opportunity come with the personnel on the team? Those are the types of questions players typically ask. Agents and players go through rosters. They know what opportunities might exist.”

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Web Find of the Week (recommended by Ed McKee at GW): The site maintained by the Association for Professional Basketball Research (apbr.org). Lots of interesting stuff here, including statistical information on the long-gone American Basketball League of 1961-63 — which briefly featured a Washington team, the Tapers. (According to the APBR, the Tapers were a “former industrial league team owned by the Technical Tape Corporation and Paul Cohen,” but they moved to New York in the middle of the league’s first season. I guess attendance had, uh, Tapered off.)

It was the ABL, not the ABA, that dreamed up the 3-point basket. It was also the ABL’s John McLendon, not the NBA’s Bill Russell, who was the first black coach of a pro basketball team. McLendon coached the Cleveland Pipers, whose principal owner was a fellow named George Steinbrenner. (He later directed the ABA’s Denver Rockets for part of a season.)

The Washington Tapers played their games at the Coliseum and were coached by Stan Stutz, the former New York Knick and Baltimore Bullet. Two of their stars were Roger Kaiser (19.4 points a game) and — I love this name — Sy Blye (16 ppg). Alas, they finished in last place in the Eastern Division with a 31-50 record.

The Tapers eventually wound up in Philadelphia before the league folded. Do yourself a favor and check out the APBR’s site.

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Something else I came across at apbr.org: the minutes of the Basketball Association of America’s league meeting in New York on June 6, 1946. (The BAA was the precursor to the NBA.) One of the motions that passed that day was a “payroll limit” of “$40,000, exclusive of the salary of the coach and trainer.” Pro basketball had a salary cap in 1946!

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One last thing I came across at the APBR’s site: If you click on “NBA Record Evolution,” you’ll learn that local favorite Gene Shue once shared the iron man mark for most minutes played in a season — 3,338 with the Pistons in 1959-60. (Gene appeared in 75 games that year, so he averaged 44.5 minutes a game.)

The player he shared it with was Wilt Chamberlain, who also logged 3,338 minutes that season (in 72 games). Two years later, Wilt played a ridiculous 3,882 minutes — an average of more than 48 a game, because of a few overtime periods — to set a record that figures to stand forever.

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The joy in Blacksburg over Virginia Tech’s official entry into the ACC can barely be contained. One Tech booster heard of Mike Krzyzewski’s negotiations with the Lakers and posted the following message on a fan Web site: “Think adding the Hokies was just too much to take?”

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“Blacksburg looked so much different 20 years ago than it does today,” my friend Robert, a Tech alum, e-mails. “Back, then it was: Look to your right and see all the cows. Drive past the football stadium and see ‘Home of the Fighting Gobblers.’ ” Times have changed, indeed.

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And finally …

Rich Tandler, author of “Gut Check” (the story of the Joe Gibbs Redskins), sent along a column he wrote in February 1975 for the Virginia Tech student newspaper, the Collegiate Times. In it, he noted: “Last summer [1974], the Washington Star-News reported that Tech was definitely in the [ACC]. The next day, the paper reprinted a retraction.”

Obviously, the Star-News should have stuck by its story.

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