- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

Can you believe the storm kicked up by this claim that Paula Abdul coached — among other things — an “American Idol” contestant?

And that might not be the half of it, I hear. In her spare time, apparently, Abdul has also been coaching the Lakers.

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Not that there’s anything wrong with that. After all, her husband in the early ‘90s, Emilio Estevez, was the guiding force behind the Mighty Ducks.

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The contestant, Corey Clark, says Paula helped him buy clothes to wear on TV. You don’t suppose we could get her to do that for Craig Sager, do you?

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“Primetime Live” showed a tape of Clark kissing Abdul’s hand during an audition. On the same show, he recounted the time she sneaked up behind him and gave him a peck on the neck.

Or was that how Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss hooked up? Sometimes I get confused.

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Something I never knew until I researched this item: Cuba Gooding Jr.’s touchdown dance in “Jerry Maguire” was choreographed by … Paula Abdul.

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What, you thought I was going to say Phil Jackson?

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The RFK Stadium grounds crew came in for some ribbing after it needed 31 minutes to roll out the tarp last Saturday night. The official explanation — that the crew lacked the necessary manpower — prompted Los Angeles Times reader Ed Larkin to crack, “That has to be the only understaffed department in all of Washington, D.C. … ever.”

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News item: Former big league pitcher Tom House says he used steroids in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Comment: What’s next, researchers finding a reference to andro in Abner Doubleday’s diaries?

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House later corrected the comments he made to the San Francisco Chronicle. It was amphetamines, he said, not performance-enhancing drugs, that a half-dozen pitchers on every club were using in those days.

By the end of the month, he’ll probably be telling everybody it was Wheaties.

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“We were at the tail-end of a generation that wasn’t afraid to ingest anything,” House said. “As research showed up, guys stopped.”

Research, huh? You mean like “the tail-end of a generation” starting to grow tails?

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In other baseball news, it was reported that Dr. Arthur J. Ting — the surgeon who has been working on Barry Bonds’ left knee — has been reprimanded twice by the Medical Board of California and is currently on probation for unprofessional conduct.

His fellow doctors, I’m told, don’t appreciate the ads he’s been running on Bay Area billboards: “It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t operated on by Ting.”

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The Rochester Red Wings, meanwhile, are honoring their former manager later this month with an “Earl Weaver bobblehead night.” It’s the first bobblehead, sources say, that features an ejection button.

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Worth checking out: Peter Handrinos’ blog at unitedstatesofbaseball.com. In one recent entry, Handrinos makes a case for every major league team having a midget on the roster — a la Eddie Gaedel.

Imagine, Handrinos writes, if “a latter-day Bill Veeck takes a look at his team. He’s got little or no production from the 25th man. … Maybe, in a best-case scenario, the bench player is a guy like career pinch-hit leader Lenny Harris, a singles hitter with a lifetime .318 [on base percentage]. Or maybe the team’s got pinch hitter extraordinaire Manny Mota, with a .355 career OBP.

“Our modern Veeck gets the bright idea: Let’s replace that dead wood on the bench. Let’s get a new pinch hitter, or more accurately, a pinch walker. The new guy wouldn’t hit; he wouldn’t even be expected to hit. All he’d have to do is stand up and create a postage stamp-sized strike zone. It would be a target so tiny that even good control pitchers might give up a base on balls at least once in every three go-rounds. Once the guy makes it on base, he’d simply be replaced by a pinch runner. … Simply by forcing pitchers to throw to a tiny strike zone, a midget can create as many base runners as an ordinary batter can create through regular channels.”

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And on top of that, he won’t scarf down as much of the post-game buffet.

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Now that a remake of the Vincent Price classic is in theaters, it’s only a matter of time before some heavy-hitting ballclub is dubbed the “House of Whacks.”

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I still can’t get over Maurice Clarett — he of the 4.82 40 time at the NFL combine — getting taken in the third round by the Broncos. I mean, the Runaway Bride clocked a 4.57.

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Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Shawne Merriman, the ex-Maryland Terp, might miss all of the Chargers’ offseason workouts because his agent doesn’t think the club is offering him enough injury protection? Um, maybe it’s just as well the Redskins didn’t draft him.

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Merriman certainly isn’t scoring any points with his new teammates. “For someone to miss a minicamp I think is a little ridiculous,” Quentin Jammer told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I understand it’s all part of [negotiations], but all these guys in this locker room and across the [NFL] have been through a minicamp. Everyone shows up at minicamp.”

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Elsewhere in pro football, the Eagles released one of their receivers. I don’t even know his name, to be honest with you, just his number — 84.

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Sorry, Freddie Mitchell, but you had that coming to you.

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Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Redskins tried to sign Mitchell. They’re infatuated with yards per catch average these days, and his was a healthy 17.1 last season (on 22 receptions).

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As an added bonus, one of his nicknames is “FredEx.”

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The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette filed a Freedom of Information request so it could examine more closely the legal settlement between the Big East and the Atlantic Coast Conference. “We found that, aside from money,” the Gazette’s Mitch Vingle writes, “WVU, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Connecticut received football game agreements with ACC schools as well as an opportunity to join the ACC’s academic consortium.”

Hey, at least the Big East didn’t retain the rights to the nickname “Fighting Gobblers.”

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On the heels of Johnny Damon’s megacelebrity comes word that Steve Nash has won the NBA’s MVP award. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be a barber right now.

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Saw on ESPN that, with its win over the Bulls on Friday night, the local NBA franchise is now 7-3 in Game7s. (Who woulda thought?) Which got me thinking: How have the Wizards/Bullets/Zephyrs/Packers done in the seventh game of the season the past 44 years? Have they been just as irresistible a force in those contests?

My findings:

Hardly. In fact, they didn’t win a Seventh Game of the Season until 1971 — their 11th year in the league. Later they went through a stretch in which they dropped 14 of 18 (1978 to 1995). Their lifetime record in such games: 15-29.

This utterly inconsequential information is brought to you exclusively by the Sunday Column.

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And finally …

Did you see that silly bandage Paul Pierce wore around his head last week to protest the roughhouse tactics of the Pacers? The Celtics, not wanting to rush his recovery, quietly placed him on the 24-Hour Imaginary Injury List.

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