- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

Ahmad Rashad is relevant again.
He is the NBC good-luck charm who casts professional and human dignity concerns aside and assumes the lap-dog position around Michael Jordan.
At least Rashad is more honest than many of the poorly dressed press-row types who perform their worshiping under the cover of flatulent prose.
This is a "return to normalcy," however normalcy is defined following Sept. 11. It is harmless enough. The old-timers in journalism don't call the sports end of the operation the toy department for nothing.
We try our best not to be frivolous. Some succeed more than others.
Goodbye, Cal, and this time we really mean it. Get out of here. Enough already.
His was the longest goodbye, a sobfest by the end, an idle element of idolatry.
Ripken played in a zillion consecutive games, three hours at a pop, which is different from turning a screw on a leaky faucet for 40 consecutive years.
Joe DiMaggio also played with a quiet elegance, one of the mandatory tenets of Baseball 101, passed down from generation to generation. DiMaggio embodied something in America, if Ken Burns is to be taken seriously.
The rush to glean vast insights from the pop-culture icons in our midst is hardly limited to the sports field.
Phil Donahue has been resurrected in recent weeks because of his one-time stint as a talk-show host. He merely qualifies as an unintended form of comic relief.
Donahue wants to understand the actions of the terrorists. He also wants to understand America's response to them. He, in effect, does not understand either side. Yet, because of his celebrity, he is trotted out on the airwaves to voice his call to understand. This is remarkable, so American. Donahue knows nothing, of which he is certain, and yet his nothingness is passed along as genuine knowledge.
There are three cases of anthrax in Boca Raton, Fla. Should we call Jane Fonda to get her medical opinion on the matter? Or is that Marty Schottenheimer's area of expertise?
After all, many of Schottenheimer's players are breaking down. Those are the lucky ones, incidentally. The others are obligated to be on the field, the last place they seemingly want to be.
So Jordan is back, Ripken is gone, along with Tony Gwynn, the Redskins have elected to take the season off, and Barry Bonds has finished the season with 73 home runs.
The breathless have been up to the physical requirement in each case, as breathless as ever, after promising not to be breathless ever again in the days following Sept. 11.
The self-imposed moratorium lasted a good week or two, lifted en masse after Jordan implied that he had come down with a severe case of poison ivy.
His desire to scratch the itch is understandable, and as meaningful as Michael Jackson's one-time case of poison ivy in the groin region, which he used to scratch furiously on video.
Ballplayers routinely scratch themselves in public, usually without commentary.
Our games don't function in a vacuum, try as they might. The incongruency is obvious. Before make-believe bombs were thrown on America's football fields last Sunday, the dropping of real bombs was under way in Afghanistan.
Schottenheimer decided not to reveal the news to his players before the game, confirming his position in the world as a know-nothing football coach. They are men, aren't they? Couldn't they handle it?
This is symptomatic of the thinking in the sports world. It is where the right to know, a sacred right in America, is compromised by the importance of a football game. It is where grown men squeal like little girls in the presence of Jordan. It is an overinflated world that struggles with the world around it.
Clarity is not completely absent.
Bruce Arena, coach of the U.S. soccer team, informed his players of America's military action last Sunday in Foxboro, Mass., before they defeated Jamaica and earned a spot in the World Cup.
"If you can't make a commitment to play for 90 minutes in some stupid little soccer game, you don't belong on the field," Arena said.
He amended himself after a pause, dropping the "stupid little" from soccer game.
Regardless, Arena was in the right world, uncertain though it is.


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