Thursday, April 25, 2002

Like leisure suits and the Ford Pinto, it was an idea to suit its era.
Which is to say, surpassingly ill-conceived. On a warm summer evening in 1974, the attendance-starved Cleveland Indians held their first and last “10-Cent Beer Night,” a celebration of life, bad baseball and ludicrously cheap suds.
Lured by the promise of the latter, more than 25,000 fans showed up, many of them already sloshed. And as spectators quaffed an estimated 60,000 10-ounce cups of brew, things went from bad to worse.
In the first inning, small explosions were heard in the stands; in the fourth, a nude man slid into second base; in the fifth, a father-and-son team jumped into the infield and mooned the crowd.
After the Indians rallied from a 5-3 deficit to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, the real trouble began.
Fans poured into right field, surrounding Texas slugger Jeff Burroughs. Punches were exchanged. Rangers manager Billy Martin grabbed a bat and left the dugout to rescue his right fielder. Thousands of drunken fans covered the field, brawling with police, players and each other.
Ultimately, umpire Nestor Chylak who was hit over the head with a chair called a forfeit.
“They were just uncontrollable beasts,” Chylak later said. “I’ve never seen anything like it, except in a zoo.”
As a failed promotion, 10-Cent Beer Night has few peers. But as a bad sports idea, it has plenty. Herein, our picks for the silliest, least intelligent, most regrettable notions in sports history:

Sam Bowie
They could have taken the tongue-wagging shooting guard from North Carolina. Instead, the Portland Trail Blazers used the second pick in the 1984 NBA draft to select Kentucky center Sam Bowie, a ho-hum journeyman who suffered two broken legs and played on three different teams during his unremarkable 10-year career. Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls snapped up Michael Jordan with the No. 3 pick, ensuring a decade-plus run of sellouts, titles, and Bugs Bunny promotional tie-ins. Sadly, a long-rumored “Ultimate Bowie” DVD has yet to materialize.

Giver of injuries; taker of careers; an aesthetic atrocity that looks lousy on television and even worse in person. Since its debut in 1965, artificial turf has been responsible for a multitude of sporting sins, including dome baseball and the cancellation of a Baltimore-Philadelphia NFL preseason game. Imagine a Wimbledon played on the synthetic stuff. The horror.

The Prevent Defense
A passive, gimmicky, gutless brand of football that runs counter to the game’s rock-‘em, sock-‘em nature and, more often than not, prevents exactly nothing save a round of ulcers for both fans and the defensive staff of the team with the lead. Just ask the St. Louis Rams, who allowed New England’s Tom Brady to dink-and-dunk his way to a stunning Super Bowl upset.

Any time a commercial is superior to the product being pitched, said product is in a world of trouble. Vince McMahon’s brainchild and we use the term loosely promised explosive action, raw emotion and scantily-clad knockouts; in its single desultory season, it delivered high school-grade football, a muted Jesse Ventura and bargain-basement strippers, er, exotic dancers. Not even the singular brilliance of He Hate Me could salvage this extreme-flavored wannabe.

Mesh Ballcaps and Zubaz Pants
Perfect for cross-country truckers and ‘roided-up bodybuilders. Inexcusable for anyone else.

Robin Ventura charging Nolan Ryan
Possibly the biggest mistake in the long and generally harmless history of batter-pitcher brouhahas. In 1993, the 26-year-old Ventura went after Ryan, 46, who promptly corralled Ventura in a humiliating headlock before delivering a half-dozen blows to the youngster’s head. Adding insult to injury, Ventura was slapped with a two-game suspension while Ryan was not disciplined for the incident.

Post-Victory Rioting
Detroit, we can see. Los Angeles, too. But College Park? Seriously indulge us for a moment we just don’t understand why fans celebrate championships by looting stores, lighting fires and overturning police cars. It’s dangerous, unnecessary, and frankly, a move that’s beneath anyone who actually expects to win. To put it another way: When you score a touchdown, act like you’ve been there before.

Soccer Hooliganism
Hey, what’s the big deal? It’s not the Final Four or anything.

Boston trading Babe Ruth

Low on funds, Red Sox owner and theater producer Harry Frazee sold the Bambino to the New York Yankees in late 1919 for $125,000 in cash and a $300,000 loan. In doing so, he altered the course of baseball history: While Ruth became the game’s greatest star and the Yankees emerged as the league’s glamour franchise, the downtrodden masses of Red Sox nation were left to gnash their collective teeth for the next 82 years (and counting).

Basketball Short Shorts
No. No. A thousand times no. Despite fostering a sweaty, disturbing, amateur wrestling-like undertext, thigh-bearing, cup-hugging short pants were a hoops staple well into the 1980s (and a oft-ignored dark side to the great Lakers-Celtics rivalry). Kudos to Michael Jordan and Michigan’s Fab Five for ushering in an era of more, er, complete coverage.

The NBA Legends Game
Ouch. No, really featuring former league stars, this annual All-Star event was less a celebration of basketball than of recent advances in orthopedic medicine. Mercifully replaced by the Rookie-Sophomore challenge in 1994.

New Comiskey Park
Worse than the wild ‘n’ woolly Vet. Worse than crumbling, smelly Shea. Worse than Montreal’s cavernous Stade Olympique. In the pantheon of crummy major league ballparks, Chicago’s New Comiskey Park reigns supreme. The reason? What might have been. Only a decade old, New Comiskey was built just before the current flood of cuddly retro parks. Oops. A charmless concrete monstrosity to rival the multipurpose stadiums of the 1970s, New Comiskey is located in a lousy part of the city, has a vertigo-inducing upper deck and sports a lovely view of the nation’s meanest housing projects. Camden Yards, it isn’t.

Pat Riley’s Miami Heat
Um, Ahab? Show’s over. The whale won.

Bjorn Borg’s Comeback

Borg really should have known better. After a decade-long retirement, the 11-time Grand Slam winner returned to the clay courts of Monte Carlo in 1991, where he was summarily thumped by tennis nobody Jordi Arrese. The problem? Beyond his advancing age (34), Borg was a walking anachronism: Short shorts, striped headband and a woefully underpowered wooden racket that was no match for Arrese’s oversized graphite boom stick.

Juwan Howard, $105 Million Man
Not since Jon Koncak has one basketball-playing man earned so much for so little. Coming off an All-Star 1996 season in Washington, Howard signed a 7-year, $105 million deal with Miami; after the NBA invalidated the contract, the Wizards scrambled to match it. Bad move: Howard, a glorified role player, saw his production sag for a sub-.500 franchise. A salary cap albatross, the game’s third-highest paid player eventually was shipped to Dallas, then Denver.

Fox’s Glowing Hockey Puck
In the future, computers will speak. Robots will do the housework. Flying cars will dock at the Crystal City jetport. And hockey pucks will glow neon-puke orange. In 1996, Fox adopted a “glowing puck” in reality, a computer-generated blob that appeared on screen in place of the rubber disc for its NHL broadcasts. Intended to make it easier for viewers to follow the action, the glow puck was widely rejected by hockey fans, mostly because slap shots produced a cartoonish contrail that resembled a bright-red comet. Fortunately, the network junked the concept.

The Big East’s Six-Foul Rule
A great idea if you like under-the-basket scrums, sub-.350 shooting percentages, 58-52 barn burners and sagging television ratings. Otherwise, an unmitigated disaster.

The Arizona Cardinals
Ignored at home, long forgotten in their former city, the Cardinals are utterly superfluous Exhibit A for NFL contraction (assuming the King of Leagues ever considered such madness). The Arizona desert is where first-round draft picks go to die; where the last franchise quarterback was Neil Lomax; where Buddy Ryan was given free reign; where half of Ryan’s family was put on the team payroll; where the playoffs are somebody else’s problem; where sellouts are the stuff of fable unless Dallas or Chicago is in town. And never forget: The St. Louis iteration of the club sprung Dan Dierdorf on an unsuspecting American public.

The Houston Astros’ Rainbow Uniforms
So very, very bad but not so bad they’re good. Spawned in 1975 go figure Houston’s infamous red, orange and yellow striped jerseys have alternately been described as “clown-like” and “the smashed cheeseburger look.” (Our take? Regurgitated Taco Bell. But that’s just us). Tacky as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ old unis, ridiculous as the Chicago White Sox’s brief flirtation with short pants, Houston’s garish getups get the nod on sheer longevity after all, the rainbow persisted in one form or another until 1994.

Something does not compute namely, an incomprehensible, geeked-out ranking system that consistently fails to produce the most logical national championship matchup in college football. For the bowl czars and conference commissioners, the BCS is a useful way of deflecting discussion from a potential playoff system; for the rest of us, it’s headache-inducing hooey. And we’d like to know: Does USA Today compu-rankings guru Jeff Sagarin even watch sports?

Guaranteed Contracts
Two words: Albert Belle. Two more: Ike Austin.

Aluminum Bats
A pinging pox on college baseball. Blessed with plus-size sweet spots, aluminum bats have turned the sport into a hit-happy burlesque, one in which the bottom of the order bats .350 and USC captured the 1998 College World Series by the football-like score of 21-14. Adding injury to insult, metal bats produce extra-fast batted ball speeds, making comebackers potentially lethal.

The Ricky Williams Draft Day Trade
Forget Mike Ditka’s insufferable bluster, Williams’ subsequent social anxiety disorder, the New Orleans Saints wasting their entire 1999 draft on a player who’s now in Miami. Thanks to this deal, America was subjected to a magazine cover featuring Ditka in dreads and Williams wearing a wedding dress. ‘Nuff said.

They’re lame. Yep, we said it. From the Goodyear Zeppelin to the Budweiser Bag O’ Gas, blimps add exactly zilch to the average sports broadcast, save the occasional wide-angle shot of a smog-choked urban skyline. Hooray for free advertising!

Scoreboards don’t lie. Stopwatches can’t be bribed. Time and space are impervious to human subjectivity. Judges, on the other hand, are none of the above. Particularly when Don King is involved. Judging strips sport of its objective purity; worse still, a French judge forced us to pretend to care about figure skating. Forget? Sure. Forgive? Nope.

Florida Baseball and Los Angeles Football
Picture this: It’s a gorgeous Sunday morning. Sunshine, clear skies, 70 degrees. Like always. You’ve been crammed in your cubicle all week, soaking up the warm, phosphorescent glow of Windows XP. You could sit in traffic for an hour, drop $100-plus on some tickets and watch your mediocre local sports franchise in person. Or, you could grab your football, toss your glove in the back seat and head for the park. Or the beach. For free. Tough choice, isn’t it?

Ryan Leaf
The stuff of nightmares, provided you’re an NFL general manager. Plucked by the San Diego Chargers with the second pick in the 1998 draft the hapless Bolts even traded up to nab him Leaf busted in every way possible. He missed a season with a shoulder injury. He nearly attacked a heckler. He was suspended for cursing out team officials. He played golf after telling teammates his sprained right wrist was too sore to practice or play. Leaf also tossed 33 interceptions over three seasons, the main reason he’s now a Dallas Cowboy.

“Kazaam,” the Movie
Among Shaquille O’Neal’s multimedia affronts the commercials, the albums, the video game “Shaq Fu” this one stands out, a cinematic Chernobyl that, quite shockingly, overestimated box office demand for a gargantuan rapping genie. Word to Diesel: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s cameo in “Airplane” was vastly superior.

Andre Agassi’s Uber-Mullet
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Agassi’s early 1990s rock-and-roll tennis top a permed-up, poofed-out, Mark Gastineau-shaming mega mullet stands as the most wretched sports ‘do of the 20th century. Look upon it, ye Brian Bozworths, ye Gene Keadys, ye Steve Nashes. And despair.

Sideline Reporters
Lord knows they’re trying. But outside of the occasional injury report and/or harassment of Pete Rose, our intrepid on-the-field bulldogs provide little in the way of scoop unless, of course, you consider Melissa Stark’s outfit to be newsworthy. Fifteen-yard penalty for those insipid half time interviews Reporter: “Coach, your assessment?” Coach: “We’re going to make adjustments” and an extra 10 for Eric Dickerson.

Apparently, now included in the official major league sports franchise starter kit.

Andre Rison giving Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes the keys to his pad
Following a 1994 argument, Lopes, a member of the pop group TLC, set fire to the home she shared with her football-playing boyfriend. (For good measure, the inebriated Lopes smashed a few of Rison’s cars on the way out). Undaunted, the couple announced plans to marry last summer; in a utterly unpredictable development, the wedding was later called off.

Basketball’s Possession Arrow
Jump it. Every time. Are we not men?

Tank Black, sports agent
Black, who once represented basketball star Vince Carter, was convicted on a drug-related money laundering charge last summer; in January, a federal jury found him guilty of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice in the theft of up to $14 million from NFL players he represented. According to his defense lawyer, Black “did nothing but follow the advice of his attorneys.” Who’s his financial adviser, Ruben Rivera?

Golf Mysticism
Golf is not a metaphor for life. Or for business. It doesn’t involve Zen, magical caddies or any sort of Tao. It’s not sacred. It’s just a couple of schlubs with clubs, throwing back beers and knocking a little white ball around a glorified city park. That’s all. Get over it, already.

Celebrity Boxing
Don’t take this the wrong way, but Tawny Kitaen hits harder than Greg Brady.

Fantasy Sports
Strictly for losers, like that “Gamer” clown on Got a big draft coming up? Looking to bolster your rotation? Lose your top rusher to a season-ending knee injury? Guess what no one cares. Not the real players. Not the real coaches. Not the real front office personnel. And definitely not us.

Gus Frerotte Headbutts a Concrete Wall
What on Earth was he thinking?

The Baha Men
The indisputably evil purveyors of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” occupy the ninth circle in the stadium anthem Inferno, right below Tag Team (“Whoomp! There It Is”), the Village People (“YMCA”), 2 Unlimited (“Ready for This”) and Gary Glitter (“Rock And Roll Part 2”).

The Tomahawk Chop
Instantly annoying. Like that Dell Computer guy.

The Olympic TripleCast
Three times the Ahmad! That, in a nutshell, was the TripleCast: An NBC-sponsored pay-per-view package that offered three extra channels of 1992 Summer Olympic coverage. Problem was, the Peacock elected to show all of the Games’ marquee events on network television, sticking TripleCast subscribers with a smorgasbord of table tennis, synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics. Needless to say, the concept flopped. On the plus side, NBC lost millions.

Jerry Krause
Players may not win championships, but hedgehog-like little tubs of goo certainly know how to lose them. After riding the MJ express to six NBA titles, the diminutive Chicago Bulls GM enjoyed a Jerry Jones moment and decided he could fashion a champion on his own. The result? A Bulls squad so laughably noncompetitive that even top-tier NBA free agents a notably greedy bunch won’t take Krause’s money.

Ice Dancing
Not a sport.

Synchronized Swimming
Also not a sport.

Michael Jordan, Outfielder
The White Sox had it all wrong. They should have let Jordan pitch. [Editor’s note: After Sports Illustrated ran a cover story imploring MJ to “bag” his minor league baseball career, Jordan refused to speak to the magazine, a policy that, as far as we know, is still in effect. The Washington Times would like to make it clear that this story is in no way ridiculing Jordan’s valiant attempt to pursue a childhood dream, nor is it suggesting that his time would have been better spent earning two more NBA championship rings].

Jose Canseco, Pitcher
On what must have been a terribly slow day in 1993, Texas Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy let Canseco pitch the eighth inning of a blowout loss to Boston. The cocky slugger allowed three earned runs on three walks and a pair of singles; thanks to the resulting arm strain, he would later undergo ligament surgery on his right elbow, a procedure that ended his season and turned him into a full-time designated hitter. Our advice? Next time, stick to something safer. Like dating Madonna.

The Washington Redskins charging $10 to watch training camp
Hey, we’ve been to NFL training camp. In fact, as members of the sports media, we’ve actually been paid to attend. And you know what? It still isn’t worth it.

Jean Van de Velde’s 2-iron
Needing nothing more than a 6 on a par-4 18th hole to capture the 1999 British Open, Van de Velde could have laid up, hit a short iron onto the green and three-putted to victory. Instead, he went for the green and banged a shot off the grandstand bleachers. One bunker, one water hazard and a triple-bogey 7 later, the Frenchman went home empty-handed.

Indoor Fireworks
We can stomach the insufferable music. And the overpriced food. And the annoying, incessant promotions. And the CO2-propelled T-shirts. But when we’re choking on fumes and squinting through smoke just to see the action on the floor, stadium cheese has gone too far. In 1994, a San Antonio Spurs pregame fireworks display set off the Alamodome’s smoke alarms, triggering the arena’s fire sprinklers and dousing fans for 15 minutes. That’s entertainment!

Disco Demolition Night
The only real rival to 10-Cent Beer Night and, perhaps not coincidentally, a product of the same decade. Held by the Chicago White Sox in the summer of 1979, the promotion allowed fans to exchange their disco records for 98-cent tickets. Some 80,000 Bee Gees-detesting fans showed up 20,000 of them outside the ballpark and when the resulting mountain of vinyl was detonated in the outfield between games of a doubleheader, a wild riot ensued. The field was shredded. The Sox were forced to forfeit their second game against the Detroit Tigers. And thirty-seven fans were arrested. Other than that, it was a remarkably quiet evening.

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