- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

In the spirit of the season — and because nothing else particularly fascinating is going on — I bring you a special holiday edition of the Sunday Column. (That’s right, the Sunday Column is running on Thursday this week. You got a problem with that?)

• • •

After much research, it has been determined that only one athlete in a major sport has ever been named Christmas — Steve Christmas, a catcher-first baseman with the Reds, White Sox and Cubs in the mid-‘80s. Christmas wasn’t born on Christmas, but he came close (Dec.9). His big-league career, alas, was less than illustrious: 37 at-bats, one homer, .162 average.

• • •

There was also, if I’m not mistaken, a pitcher in the ‘40s for the Reds named Yule Blackwell.

Oh, wait, that’s Ewell Blackwell. My bad.

• • •

Everybody remembers the classic playoff game between the Dolphins and Chiefs on Christmas Day 1971, the one that went into double overtime. But that’s not the only noteworthy sports occurrence that’s taken place on Dec.25. A sampling of others:

1945 — Future NFL quarterback Ken “Snake” Stabler is born in Foley, Ala.

1950 — Sugar Ray Robinson stops Hans Stretz in five rounds in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s Sugar Ray’s fourth victory in Europe in 17 days — three of them by knockout — and his last tuneup before challenging middlweight champ Jake LaMotta. (He TKO’d LaMotta in his next bout on Feb.14, 1951, which raises the question: has any other boxer ever had consecutive fights on Christmas and Valentine’s Day?)

1956 — Corky Devlin of the Fort Wayne Pistons ties an NBA record by going 0-for-15 from the field in a game against the Minneapolis Lakers. The mark isn’t broken until 1991, when Golden State’s Tim Hardaway came up empty on all 17 of his shots from the floor against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

1967 — Carl Yastrzemski makes the cover of Sports Illustrated as the magazine’s Sportsman of the Year.

1982 — Anthony Allen catches three touchdown passes to lead the University of Washington to a 21-20 win over Maryland in the inaugural Aloha Bowl. The Terps’ Boomer Esiason throws for 251 yards and two TDs in a losing cause.

1984 — The Knicks’ Bernard King explodes for a career-high 60 points in a 120-114 loss to the Nets.

1995 — Emmitt Smith scores his 25th touchdown of the season, breaking the record set by John Riggins with the ‘83 Redskins, as the Cowboys crush the Cardinals 37-13.

• • •

In other words, who knows what goodies are in store for us today? I can hardly wait for the Hawaii Bowl to start.

• • •

Corky Devlin. Don’t you love the sound of that name? As it turns out, Devlin went to GW and was one of the stars of the Colonials’ great teams in the early ‘50s (along with Joe Holup). When he graduated in 1955, he was the school’s No.2 all-time scorer, and Fort Wayne took him with the 11th pick of the NBA Draft that year (after Jack Twyman went 10th).

In Corky’s rookie season, the Pistons reached the finals, losing in five games to the Philadelphia Warriors. With the clock running out in Game 4 and Philly ahead 107-105, he heaved in a long shot that appeared to tie things up, but the officials said it came after the buzzer. “Devlin was a good offensive player,” Fort Wayne coach Charlie Eckman once said. “But defense? He couldn’t spell the word.”

Amazingly enough, Corky’s 0-for-15 day against Lakers didn’t keep them from trading for him the next year. (They sent 7-footer Walter Dukes to the Pistons as payment.) He played his third and last NBA season with Minn and ended his career with a points-per-game average of 7.1 — and a field goal percentage of .366.

• • •

Speaking of Christmas, did you know the Redskins will still be paying Marty Schottenheimer next season, his third as the Chargers’ coach? According to the Associated Press, “The Redskins agreed to pay $2.6million during the first three years” of Marty’s four-year, $10million deal with San Diego (the difference between what he would have made in Washington and what he’s making with the Bolts. “Their obligation ends after paying $500,000 of his $2.5million salary next season.”

• • •

And let’s not forget, the Redskins also had to give the Chiefs two third-round picks for him as compensation. All in all, one of Dan Snyder’s brainier moves.

• • •

In honor of Terrell Owens and Joe Horn, who will miss their teams’ final game this weekend with a broken collarbone and separated shoulder, respectively, I give you Five End Zone Celebrations That Wide Receivers Haven’t Thought of Yet:

1. Pull rabbit out of helmet.

2. Buy round of beers for everyone in end zone section.

3. Drop down on one knee, look sincerely into TV camera and propose marriage to Significant Other.

4. Swipe first-down marker from sideline crew and pole vault over crossbar.

5. Hold up game for 15 minutes to pose for LeRoy Neiman painting.

• • •

News item: In an interview during last weekend’s Patriots-Jets game, an apparently tipsy Joe Namath twice tells ESPN’s Suzy Kolber, “I want to kiss you.”

Comment: Boy, it’s a good thing Solomon Wilcots wasn’t working the sideline.

• • •

Explain this to me: Namath creates a national stir by coming on to a female TV reporter, but nobody says a thing when Doug Flutie plays the drums on “Monday Night Football” with Barenaked Ladies.

• • •

Assuming they knock off the Bills on Saturday, the Patriots have to be considered the least dominant 14-2 team in NFL history. The Pats have outscored their opponents by a mere 79 points so far (317 to 238). As a frame of reference, when the Redskins went 14-2 in 1991, they outscored the opposition by 261 points. No 14-2 club has outscored its foes by fewer than 114 points, and only one has outscored them by fewer than 153.

• • •

Translation: New England is far from a lock in the AFC playoffs, even with the home-field advantage (and even with previous victories over the Colts, Titans and Broncos). Denver, which leads the league in time of possession by more than a minute (at 34:05), will be particularly dangerous — provided it has Clinton Portis at its disposal. The Broncs, you may recall, were without Jake Plummer when they lost to the Patriots eight weeks ago. A Denver win on the frozen tundra of Green Bay on Sunday would definitely be a shot across the Pats’ bow.

• • •

For what it’s worth, only three quarterbacks in Division I-A completed 70 percent of their passes during the regular season, and two of them played in the ACC — Philip Rivers of N.C. State (71 percent) and Matt Schaub of Virginia (70.2). (The other was Toledo’s Bruce Gradkowski, who checked in at 71.2.)

• • •

My Virginia Tech source, who was never that thrilled about Boston College joining the ACC, notes: “BC’s men’s [basketball] team drew 2,434 for a recent home game [against Sacred Heart], whereas the Maryland-Tech women’s game in Blacksburg [on Dec. 13] drew 3,006. (And yes, we do charge for the women’s games.)”

• • •

Actually, it’s even worse than that for the Eagles. In their last three games at Conte Forum (vs. Sacred Heart, Kent State and Stony Brook), they had a total attendance of 10,129. In the ACC, that’s not even a good “Midnight Madness” crowd.

• • •

Former Washington Cap Anson Carter on Dale Hunter (in a story by Nancy L. Marrapese on ESPN.com):

“I learned a lot about little things [from Dale]: Where to hook guys, where to hack guys, where to slash them in the ankles. He’s the best at doing stuff like that. You don’t realize it, but after the game, you’ve got welts and bruises on your arms. He just knows where to hack guys where they don’t have any equipment.”

• • •

And finally …

Now that the Orioles have signed J. Lo, will Ben Affleck become a regular at Camden Yards?

… and to all a good night.

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