- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2004

News item: No U.S. man advances past the second round of the French Open.

Comment: I knew “freedom fries” would come back to haunt us.

• • •

Speaking of tennis, I learned a new verb last week: to tree (which, in the racket world, means to play over one’s head). Jennifer Capriati used it to describe the performance of opponent Yulia Beygelzimer in the French. “I don’t think I played badly at all,” she said. “I think the girl just out of nowhere started basically treeing out of her mind.”

• • •

Funny, I would have thought “to tree” was a basketball term, the translation of which was: “to play ferocious defense but score very few points” (a la Wayne “Tree” Rollins).

• • •

Nobody trees in the NBA these days like Ben Wallace.

• • •

In honor of Marat Safin, who dropped his shorts during his match against Felix Mantilla on Thursday, the Sunday Column proudly presents Seven Other Episodes of Mooning in Sports:

1986 — Bears quarterback Jim McMahon mooned a TV news helicopter during a practice for the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

1987 — Houston Oilers general manager Ladd Herzeg was accused of mooning the wedding party at a hotel in Buffalo. (He denied the charge, but offered his resignation to owner Bud Adams nonetheless.)

1996 — Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning got in big trouble for mooning a female trainer. The woman eventually reached a $300,000 settlement with the university.

2000 — A fan ran out onto the field in Los Angeles and mooned John Rocker, the Atlanta Braves’ politically incorrect reliever.

2001 — Daniel Blouin was stripped (yes, stripped) of his bronze medal in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Canada Summer Games for “baring his buttocks after crossing the finishing line,” according to Reuters. (“I’m not taking drugs or anything like that,” he explained. “It was a joke, and [games organizers] didn’t accept it.”)

2002 — A group of L.A. Lakers, Rick Fox among them, mooned fans after the Lakers wrapped up their third straight NBA championship.

2003 — “Doing his part to keep alive a hallowed baseball tradition,” the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported, “[Minnesota] Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven mooned the entire … team Wednesday afternoon as it assembled for the annual team photo.”

• • •

The interesting thing about the Herzeg “incident” — if, indeed, there was one — is that the Oilers’ quarterback at the time was Warren Moon.

• • •

So I’m listening to Joe Gibbs’ radio ad for Cintas — “the Uniform People” — and I’m thinking: I wonder if Cintas makes throwback uniformsfor janitors.

• • •

Old friend Albert Connell is taking another stab at Canadian football with the Calgary Stampeders. In fact, his name was in the news the other day for igniting a Major Melee during practice that “grew to three separate piles of bodies going at it,” the Calgary Herald said. It began with receiver Wane McGarity and DB Milo Lewis exchanging pleasantries. Then Connell, “perhaps subconsciously caught up in hockey fever, … sprung onto the scene as the third man in, tackled Lewis and was responsible for turning the scrap into a full-blown line brawl.”

“We’re taking care of each other,” Albert explained. “I’m definitely not letting anyone mess with Wane.”

Connell and McGarity go way back — to New Orleans, where Albert got himself fired for, um, borrowing money from Deuce McAllister without his permission.

He shouldn’t run into such problems in Calgary, since nobody in the CFL makes any dough.

• • •

Web Site of the Week: If you want to have some fun sometime, check out aerojockey.com/oracle. The site will help you find a “conference connection” between any two major college teams — kind of like “Six Degrees of Separation.” For instance: Maryland and Southern Cal? What connection, if any, do they have? Answer:

1. Southern Cal is in a conference with Arizona (Pac-10).

2. Arizona was in a conference with Brigham Young (WAC, 1962-77).

3. Brigham Young is in a conference with Texas Christian (Mountain West).

4. Texas Christian was in a conference with Tulane (Conference USA, 2001-2004).

5. Tulane was in a conference with Maryland (Southern, 1922-32).

• • •

Or how about Virginia and, say, Nebraska? That only takes four steps, as it turns out:

1. Nebraska is in a conference with Baylor (Big 12).

2. Baylor was in a conference with Arkansas (Southwest, 1914-91).

3. Arkansas is in a conference with Alabama (SEC).

4. Alabama was in a conference with Virginia (Southern, 1921-32).

• • •

One more: Virginia Tech and, oh, Central Florida. Amazingly, just three steps are needed:

1. Central Florida is in a conference with Marshall (Conference USA).

2. Marshall was in a conference with the Citadel (Southern, 1977-81).

3. Citadel was in a conference with Virginia Tech (Southern, 1936-64).

• • •

Makes you realize that conference shuffling didn’t exactly start with Miami et al. jumping to the ACC.

(Much thanks to my friend Robert for steering me to this site.)

• • •

Tech, by the way, has sold out its allotment of tickets — more than 45,000 — for its Aug.28 opener against USC at Fed Ex Field.

• • •

Trivia question: Who was the first NBA player to shatter a backboard? (Answer later in column.)

• • •

Idle thought: Isn’t Kevin Garnett just Elvin Hayes with a conscience? (In other words, an “E” who’s willing to pass the ball.)

• • •

No joke: If I were the owner of a team in the NHL draft lottery, I’d hire Orlando Magic VP Pat Williams to represent me.

• • •

Is Williams the luckiest guy in sports, or what? The man has won the NBA lottery four times now, once when he had just one pingpong ball in the cylinder [1993]. (Maybe the secret is to go out, like Pat and his wife have, and adopt 14 kids — to add to their own five. Nah, there’s gotta be an easier way.)

• • •

My recent column about perfect games in baseball got me wondering: What’s the most hits ever allowed in a shutout in the big leagues?

The record, believe it or not, is 15 — by Senators legend Walter Johnson in 15-inning win over the Red Sox on July 3, 1913. (Washington prevailed 1-0).

Another Senator, Milt Gaston, is one of two pitchers to throw a 14-hit shutout in a nine-inning game. Gaston worked his magic against the Indians in 1928. Fifteen years earlier, the Cubs’ Larry Cheney performed a similar feat versus the Cubs.

• • •

Then there’s Reggie Cleveland’s complete-game, 18-hit victory for the Red Sox against the Tigers in 1977. (Boston 12, Detroit 5.) Try that sometime. Cleveland pitched to 44 batters, struck out just one, and gave up 15 singles, two doubles and a homer. (Details provided by the swell folks at retrosheet.org.)

• • •

Former major league hurler Mike Krukow: “When I first came up with the Cubs, Rick Reuschel was sitting in the clubhouse with me, and he said, ‘One game I want to throw before I quit is a 14-hit shutout where I get lit up, and I just figure a way to get out of it. And here’s the rest of the scenario. You have nothing that day. Nothing. Not only that, but the umpire’s strike zone is miniscule.’” (From the June 2003 Baseball Digest.)

• • •

Answer to trivia question: The first NBA player to shatter a backboard was — brace yourself — Chuck Connors of the Boston Celtics, who did it during warm-ups before a game on Nov.5, 1946. Connors, of course, went on to greater fame as the star of the TV series, “The Rifleman.”

• • •

And finally, Nike’s Phil Knight has a suite at the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium. In the bathroom is a toilet seat with the inscription: “Just Do It.”

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