- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

Here's what I'll take away from the 2002 World Cup: The U.S. played five matches and won two of them.

Soccer will never be big in this country until the players are identified by a single name like Pele or Ronaldo or Bebeto. Take Landon Donovan, for instance. If you shortened it to Landon, most Americans would think: "Bonanza." And if you shortened it to Donovan, most Americans would think: "Mellow Yellow."

News item: Italian soccer club plans to release the South Korean player who scored the game-winning goal against Italy in the World Cup.
Comment: In retaliation, the South Korean government is considering banning pizza.

Here's the difference between the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and the SI for Women swimsuit issue:
The SI for Women issue features "Banana" George Blair, a barefoot water-skier who's 87.
The SI issue features scantily clad models whose collective age is 87.

Chris Wilcox's steady climb up the NBA Draft ladder makes you wonder: Had he stayed at Maryland another year, would he have been the first player picked in '03?

Did you read that Jesse Ventura, the former professional wrestler, is put off by the "dirtiness" of politics and says he won't run for a second term as governor of Minnesota?
(Insert your own joke here.)

Actually, I know exactly what Jesse's talking about. In politics, everybody's got a foreign object in his trunks.

It must be frustrating for him. I mean, when he wants to get a bill passed, he can't just slam the Speaker of the House's head into a turnbuckle.

One day Luis Castillo breaks the "record" for longest hitting streak by a second baseman. Another day he breaks the "record" for longest hitting streak by a Latino. Give me a break, will ya? All I care about is if he breaks the record for longest hitting streak by a player whose last name ends with an "O."

Even if Castillo does break Joltin' Joe's record, I doubt Simon and Garfunkel will mention him in any songs.

Eighty years ago tomorrow, the NFL changed its name from the American Professional Football Association to the National Football League. I always loved the rationale behind the switch. As George Halas so memorably put it, "The other name stunk."

I see the BCS is eliminating margin of victory from its rankings formula. No wonder Steve Spurrier wanted out of college football.

Yet another Marty Schottenheimer pickup cornerback Donovan Greer was let go by the Redskins on Friday. Pretty soon, the only things left of Marty's will be a couple of boxes of obfuscation and that Crocodile Dundee hat he wore in training camp.

The sport that should really consider contraction is hockey. Last week, less than five years after the Pittsburgh Penguins filed for bankruptcy, the Buffalo Sabres were taken over by the league. And we're not talking about down on-their-luck franchises here, either. The Pens won the Stanley Cup in '91 and '92, and the Sabres went to the finals in '99.

Now that the Flyers have decided not to re-sign Adam Oates, doesn't their trade with the Capitals have to go down as one of the most one-sided in recent memory? The Caps, after all, came away with first-, second- and third-round draft picks, plus young goalie Maxime Ouellet, a former No. 1. As for Philly, it had Oates' services for all of 19 games, during which time he scored three goals, had nine assists and the team got upset in the first round of the playoffs.

If I were an NHL general manager, I'd have Bobby Clarke's cell phone number, pager number and fax number committed to memory. If not tattooed to my wrist.

Caps GM George McPhee showed a lot of courage, if you ask me, by acquiring the 13th pick in yesterday's draft (for the 26th and 42nd selections). Since the NHL began holding its draft in 1963, only five 13th picks have been worth a darn Darcy Rota ('73), Ron Duguay ('77), Dan Quinn ('83), Derek King ('85) and Craig Janney ('86). The first four all scored 40 or more goals in a season, and Janney racked up 106 points with St. Louis in '92-93.

Maybe the NHL should just skip the 13th pick the way hotels skip the 13th floor and planes skip the 13th row.

Other sports, though, have had better luck with 13th picks. Much better luck, in fact. The top 10 No. 13 picks of all time:
1. Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers, 1996) Three championships, and he's still just 23.
2. Bob Lilly (Dallas Cowboys, 1961) Belongs in any discussion of the greatest defensive tackles ever.
3. Karl Malone (Utah Jazz, 1985) Nearly 35,000 points and two MVP awards. The only thing missing is a ring on his finger.
4. Franco Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1972) Ground out 1,000 yards a year for the best team since Lombardi's Packers.
5. Chuck Cooper (Boston Celtics, 1950) The first black player drafted by the NBA.
6. Manny Ramirez (Cleveland Indians, 1991) Since '98, the guy has been good for an RBI a game.
7. Kellen Winslow (San Diego Chargers, 1979) Redefined the tight end position with his size and speed (and paved the way for Keith Jackson and Tony Gonzalez, who, amazingly enough, also were 13th picks).
8. Ace Parker (NFL's Brooklyn Dodgers, 1937) Hall of Fame quarterback, and a Virginian to boot.
9. Frank Tanana (California Angels, 1971) A 240-game winner who relied on his fastball in the early years and sheer guile later on.
10. Sleepy Floyd (New Jersey Nets, 1982) Yeah, there were some other worthy candidates, but Sleepy gets the favorite-son vote because he played at Georgetown. Besides, he did pump in 51 points against the Lakers in a playoff game.

Miscellaneous notes on 13th picks:
In the 1965 NBA Draft, twins Dick and Tom Van Arsdale went 13th and 14th (to the Knicks and Pistons). Unless, of course, it was Tom who went 13th and Dick who went 14th.
Fred Dryer, star of TV's "Hunter," was the 13th pick of the '69 NFL Draft (by the Giants).
The Bullets had the 13th pick three times in four years in the '70s, selecting Nick Weatherspoon in '73, Len Elmore in '74 and Mitch Kupchak in '76.
Other 13th picks: Paul Christman (Chicago Cardinals, '41), Alex Hawkins (Green Bay Packers, '59), Kevin Loughery (Detroit Pistons, '62), Gary Nolan (Cincinnati Reds, '66) and Jalen Rose (Denver Nuggets, '94).

Rod Langway's election to the Hockey Hall of Fame raises an interesting question: Who will be the second Capital to make the Hall (Mike Gartner having spent half his career elsewhere)? Best guess: Either Dale Hunter or Peter Bondra, probably Dale. (Note: I don't think of Oates and Dino Ciccarelli as Caps any more than I think of Bruce Smith as a Redskin. They were just passin' through.)

It's bad enough that Frank Robinson is now No.5 on the all-time homer list (having been passed by Barry Bonds). But did you realize Art Monk will drop to No.5 in career receptions as soon as Tim Brown grabs his fourth pass this season? (Art finished with 940 receptions; Brown currently has 937.)

Speaking of dingers, many seamheads were glad to see Jose Canseco retire 38 homers short of 500, being convinced he was unworthy of Cooperstown. Well, the Cubs' Fred McGriff blasted Nos. 460 and 461 the other day. Is he any more worthy of Cooperstown?

After watching him miss the cut in both the Masters and the U.S. Open, I'm beginning to wonder if David Duval will ever be David Duval again.

He'll be the defending champ at the British Open, by the way. How quickly we forget.

And finally, had a half-hour to kill at BWI yesterday while waiting for my flight, so I watched "It's Academic" on the tube. Can you believe there wasn't a single question about sports? Not even about Luis Castillo's hitting streak.

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