- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

Good thing Saddam Hussein isn’t an athlete. He’d probably get off with community service.

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News item: The family of Strom Thurmond, the late South Carolina governor and senator, acknowledges he once fathered a mixed-race child.

Comment: Wouldn’t it have been cool if the kid had turned out to be Nate Thurmond?

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Four things about Otto Graham — the late, great Cleveland Browns quarterback — you probably didn’t know:

1. The Detroit Lions drafted him fourth overall in 1944 (after Notre Dame quarterback Angelo Bertelli, Wisconsin back Pat Harder and ND back Creighton Miller) but didn’t pursue him as aggressively as Cleveland of the rival All-America Conference. The Browns’ deal included paying Graham $250 a month while he was still in the Navy.

2. Otto and Redskins owner George Preston Marshall had a memorable exchange at the Touchdown Club dinner in January 1950, soon after the NFL and AAFC merged.

Graham: “If we play the Redskins next year, my advice to Mr. Marshall is to buy back a piece of the laundry business [he had recently sold].”

Marshall: “Are you looking for a job to drive a truck?”

Graham: “Mr. Marshall is a stubborn man. He cost a lot of men a lot of millions in the last four years [by opposing the merger].”

Marshall: “Wait till you see what it’s going to cost you next year.”

3. Otto was a modern quarterback in every respect. In his first NFL title game, in 1950 against the L.A. Rams, he passed for 298 yards and rushed for 99. The latter, I’m pretty sure, is a record for a QB in a postseason game (but I’m expecting Michael Vick to break it one of these days).

4. Contrary to what you may have read or heard last week, Cleveland coach Paul Brown didn’t invent the single-bar face mask for Graham after he had his mouth cut open in a 1953 game. That’s sheer myth. The reason I know this is that I have a picture of the episode in question. (It appears in Bill Levy’s 1965 history of the Browns, “Return to Glory.”) In the photo, Otto is lying flat on his back after getting laid out by a 49ers linebacker, and standing a few feet away is teammate Ken Gorgal … wearing a single-bar face mask.

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Ironically, Graham later became the coach of the Redskins. But the team never finished above .500 in his three seasons (1966 to 1968).

“You’ve got to be part SOB to be a good NFL coach,” he once told Terry Pluto of the Akron Beacon Journal. “I was too nice of a guy. In one game, I had a rookie who dropped a punt. On the sidelines, I put my arm around him. People booed. I couldn’t help it. I felt bad for the kid.”

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If you don’t think Redskins rooters are getting restless, check out this new Web site: firedansnyder.com. You’ll love “Dan’s Top 10 Blunders.” (No.2: “He removed shelled peanuts at home games. He fires coaches and ends up paying millions when they are gone, but he won’t pay to clean up our shells???”) You might even want to order a FireDanSnyder T-shirt ($12.99), sweatshirt ($19.99), hat ($12.99) or bumper sticker (two for $5).

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ESPN ran a graphic the other day pointing out that the Redskins have scored 30 or more points only once in 14 games this season — the worst such slump in Steve Spurrier’s coaching career. Actually, though, going back to last October, the Redskins have scored 30 or more points only once in 26 games, a far worse slump.

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But, hey, who’s counting?

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After last Sunday’s Redskins-Cowboys game, I’m more convinced than ever: There’s nothing sexier than an NFL cheerleader in a see-through slicker.

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Especially when she’s modeling thermalwear underneath.

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Some football fans are perplexed about why the ground can’t cause a fumble. Me, I don’t understand why the referee still uses hand signals to announce penalties when he’s got a microphone. I mean, is it for the hearing impaired, or what?

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Then again, a lot of folks at Lambeau Field do wear earmuffs.

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The BCS had better hope Oklahoma loses the title game to LSU, otherwise people will be able to make the argument that the Division II national champ, Grand Valley State, is better than the Division I-A “national champ.” The proof:

Grand Valley State beat North Dakota in the Division II championship game 10-3.

North Dakota beat North Alabama 29-22.

North Alabama beat Valdosta State 17-10.

Valdosta State beat Florida Atlantic 45-17.

Florida Atlantic beat Middle Tennessee State 20-19.

Middle Tennessee State beat Troy State 27-20.

Troy State beat Marshall 33-24.

Marshall beat Kansas State 27-20.

And …

Kansas State whomped Oklahoma 35-7.

By my count, that makes the Grand Valley State Lakers 101 points better than the Oklahoma Sooners. (If they ever played, though, the Lakers would probably be nice enough not to run up the score.)

• • •

Still, I might be tempted to take Grand Valley and give the 100.

• • •

Speaking of the Sooners, it warms the heart to see the NCAA grant Jason White a sixth season. Not only will White have a chance to win his second Heisman Trophy, he’ll also be strongly in the running for the Chris Weinke Award.

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Trivia question: The Jacksonville-bound Maryland Terps made their first appearance in the Gator Bowl after the 1947 season, when they tied Georgia 20-20. What future Super Bowl coach starred for the Bulldogs, passing for 187 yards and accounting for two touchdowns? (Answer below.)

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I don’t get how being traded to the Red Sox wouldn’t be construed as a benefit to Alex Rodriguez — making up for his pay cut and placating the players association. As Paul Finkelman, a Tulsa Law School professor, put it in the Boston Globe: “Playing for the Red Sox … means that you’re playing every year for a real pennant contender. It’s especially huge if the alternative is to rot in Arlington, Texas, for the rest of your life.”

• • •

FYI: In the 1993 edition of the “Places Rated Almanac” (the only one I could lay my hands on), Boston was ranked the 17th-best metro area. Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas, was 109th — just ahead of Grand Rapids, Mich.

• • •

The foul ball that bounced off the hands of Chicago Cubs jinx Steve Bartman was auctioned for $106,600 last week. An unusual figure, $106,600, but not entirely unheard of. It’s also:

• The total contributions made by Cuban-Americans to George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 1992.

• The amount of money pocketed by Sophie Gustafson for finishing second and sixth in the Women’s British Open in 1998 and ‘99.

• The career earnings of Sugar Maple Farms’ Raffie’s Majesty before the 1998 Belmont Stakes (in which the horse placed fifth behind Victory Gallop).

• The fine assessed a Providence, R.I., medical products manufacturer in 1999 for violations of federal pesticide control laws.

• The median price of an existing single-family home in Bonita Springs, Fla., in 2002.

• The prize won by Russell Lockhart for landing a 531.4-pound blue marlin in the 2003 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic.

• The average salary of a full professor at Harvey Mudd College in the current academic year.

• • •

Ron Wilson, the ex-Caps coach, has San Jose playing incredibly, uh, balanced hockey. The Sharks are 10-9-10 (with three overtime losses) going into tonight’s game at Anaheim. Which got me wondering: Has any NHL club ever had the same number of wins, losses and ties in a season?

Answer: Nope. The 1954-55 Toronto Maple Leafs came closest, finishing 24-24-22.

Go Wils!

• • •

Answer to trivia question: Johnny Rauch starred for Georgia against Maryland in the 1948 Gator Bowl (though the Terps’ Lu Gambino took MVP honors with 165 yards rushing and three TDs). Rauch later guided the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl II, where they lost to Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, 33-14.

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Things might have been different for Mike Jarvis at St. John’s if Darius Miles, who signed a letter of intent to go there, hadn’t opted for the NBA instead.

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And finally …

Bettors might want to file this one away for future reference: Michigan State’s men’s basketball team is 0-1 in games played before crowds of more than 75,000.

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