- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2003

I brake for the Tour de France.

• • •

Did you see that if Jan Ullrich is unable to catch Lance Armstrong today, it would be the fifth time he’s finished second in the Tour? On the plus side, I hear they’re going to make him an honorary Buffalo Bill.

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News cameras will be allowed inside the courtroom for Kobe Bryant’s hearing on a sexual assault charge. Telestrators, however, are strictly forbidden.

• • •

As is Bill Walton.

• • •

Those knocking ESPN for adding Rush Limbaugh to their “Sunday NFL Countdown” lineup are forgetting his extensive sports background. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Rush worked in the Kansas City Royals ticket office.

• • •

Plus, he just has a great football name: Rush.

(Though not as great as Patrick Pass, the Patriots fullback.)

• • •

If a former “director of group [ticket] sales” can be hired as commentator by ESPN, can an ex-beer vendor be far away?

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One of the perks of winning the Super Bowl for Brad Johnson was that the Rev. Billy Graham invited him to his log cabin in Montreat, N.C., for a visit. “You can see his house from where I lived [in western North Carolina],” Johnson told Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune. “He’s on top of his mountain. I was halfway up mine. I’ve never been one to get starstruck, but this was inspirational.”

• • •

Trivia question: What do David Klingler, Tommy Maddox, Matt Blundin, Tony Sacca, Craig Erickson, Casey Weldon, Will Furrer, Chris Hakel, Jeff Blake, Ricky Jones, Kent Graham, Bucky Richardson and Mike Pawlawski have in common? Other than that they’re quarterbacks, I mean. (Answer below.)

• • •

Little-known fact: To protect their investment in Craig Hentrich, the NFL’s first $1million punter, the Titans inserted a clause in his contract prohibiting him from “motorcycle riding, hang gliding, rock climbing, parachuting and participating in water sports and winter sports,” the Florida Times-Union says.

Holding for extra points seems to be OK, though.

• • •

The most surprising figure I’ve come across in recent days is that 13 of the NFL’s 32 teams now hold training camp at their regular-season practice sites. (Two of them even let players go home at night.) The Steelers’ Bill Cowher, for one, doesn’t like the trend.

“I’m more of an old-school guy,” he says. “I think [going out of town for camp is] a necessity. It’s a necessity for [the players] to understand what you want. It’s a necessity for you to get a feel for who you have. … If you eliminate a lot of distractions and bring them closer, the better sense you’re going to have of evaluating and making decisions.”

And here’s my favorite part: “Everyone wants to be the new people that buck the trend, they want to be trendsetters. It’s a great game, [but] we have too many trendsetters.”

• • •

You also have to feel sorry for towns like Carlisle, Pa., that lose all that revenue. Not just from the care and feeding of players and fans, but from all the speeding tickets that are always issued on Getaway Day.

• • •

News item of the week (from the Los Angeles Times): “The Pond [in Anaheim] will be home to a National Lacrosse League team starting in December. Ogden Facility Management, which owns and operates the facility, will have an ownership share in the former New Jersey Storm franchise.

“The team’s other partial owner is Jayson Williams, the former New Jersey Net player awaiting trial on manslaughter charges.”

• • •

It’s not just that the O’s Sidney Ponson (14-5) is on a 23-win pace; it’s that he’s doing it with a losing team. Do you realize only one pitcher in the last 20 years has racked up 20 victories with a below-.500 club? (Greg Maddux, who went 20-10 for the 78-84 Cubs in ‘92.) If Ponson does indeed reach 23 wins, it would be the most by a pitcher on a losing team since Steve Carlton posted a 27-10 mark with the 59-97 Phillies in ‘72. Not bad.

• • •

The four other pitchers since ‘72 who have won 20 for a losing club:

• Phil Niekro, 1979 — 21-20 for the 66-94 Braves.

• Ross Grimsley, 1978 — 20-11for the 76-86 Expos.

• Randy Jones, 1976 — 22-14 for the 73-89 Padres.

• J.R. Richard, 1976 — 20-15 for the 80-82 Astros.

• Jones, 1975 — 20-12 for the 71-91 Padres.

• • •

E-mail from a Virginia Tech grad: “Our first year in the ACC we should be truly awful [in basketball] unless we suddenly recruit Moses Malone. … We could also be the first winless ACC team to have all its basketball games sold out! The early word out of Blacksburg is that if you don’t get b-ball season tickets this year you never will.”

• • •

The Sunday Column goofed a week ago. It said new Wizards coach Eddie Jordan was “on the bench” when the Cavaliers’ summer league team went on a 32-0 tear against the young Wizzes. In fact, Jordan was out West, sweet-talking Gilbert Arenas into coming to Washington. As punishment, Yours Truly has placed himself on double-secret probation.

• • •

Two more former GW basketballers currently plying their trade in Europe (courtesy of Ed McKee, the athletic department’s head tub-thumper): Alexander Koul (Wroclaw, Poland) and Anxton Iturbe (Gijon, Spain). They’ve got a pretty sizable alumni chapter over there, don’t they?

• • •

Answer to trivia question: They’re the 13 quarterbacks taken before Brad Johnson in the ‘92 draft. (Brad went to the Vikings in Round 9 — back when there was a Round 9. Interesting, isn’t it, that the two best QBs in that draft turned out to be Johnson and Jeff Blake (a sixth-rounder)?

• • •

British Open champ Ben Curtis says his game is suited to the majors because he hits the ball straight and is good at grinding out pars. That’s one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is, Curtis was incredibly lucky to win at St. George’s with a modest 1 under score — so lucky he even avoided a playoff!

In only five of the last 67 majors could Curtis have finished 1 under and won outright. The other four:

1999 British Open (Carnoustie) — Paul Lawrie (6 over) beat Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard in a playoff.

1998 British Open (Birkdale) — Mark O’Meara (even par) defeated Brian Watts in a playoff.

1998 U.S. Open (Olympic) — Lee Janzen (even) edged Payne Stewart by one stroke.

1995 U.S. Open (Shinnecock) — Corey Pavin (even) was two shots better than Greg Norman.

• • •

And finally …

Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis — that Grand Slam of Golf event in December should be a ratings blockbuster for TNT. Maybe, just to spice things up, they should invite the winner of the LPGA Championship (somebody named Sorenstam).

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