- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

News item: Latest expansion of FedEx Field boosts capacity to 91,655.

Comment: There’s probably a clause in Joe Gibbs’ contract that says, “Stadium must have more seats than Martinsville (86,000) by 2004 and more than Lowe’s Motor Speedway (167,000) by 2008.”

• • •

Trivia question: Arrange the following according to their capacity, from biggest to smallest: FedEx, Bristol Motor Speedway, Talladega, Rockingham, Darlington (answer later in column).

• • •

Even if Dan Snyder fills the place, it won’t be the biggest regular-season crowd in NFL history — not by a long shot. A game between the Rams and the 49ers at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1957 drew 102,368. The Rams were the darlings of L.A. back then. For three home games in ‘58, they had attendances of 100,470, 100,202 and 95,082. (They also packed in 95,985 for a preseason game against the Redskins in ‘51.)

• • •

The week after drawing 102,368, the Rams went to Green Bay and played before 19,540 — a difference of 82,828 fans. That has to be a record, too (one that might never be broken).

• • •

FYI: The Raiders topped 90,000 several times during their years at the Coliseum. The most recent: In ‘92, when a game against the Cowboys attracted 92,488 — 833 more than the capacity of FedEx.

• • •

I’ve got three words for you, Dan: Standing room only.

• • •

By the way, don’t tell me the Redskins’ boss isn’t old-fashioned. With this latest refurbishing of FedEx, he’s brought back the obstructed-view seat!

• • •

Yup, it’s a veritable Throwback Stadium now. Maybe the government will declare it a National Historic Site.

• • •

Today obstructed-view seats, tomorrow goal posts on the goal line.

• • •

Answer to trivia question: Bristol Motor Speedway has the most seats (160,000), followed by Talladega (143,000), FedEx (91,655), Rockingham (60,122) and Darlington (58,000).

• • •

Folks are getting way too carried away about pro wrestler Brock Lesnar being in training camp with the Minnesota Vikings. After all, the connection between football and wrestling has always been strong. Gus Sonnenberg, an all-NFL lineman in the early days, turned to wrestling and won the world championship in 1929; Bronko Nagurski did likewise in ‘37. Then there’s Leo Nomellini. The 49ers’ Hall of Fame defensive tackle beat champ Lou Thesz on a disqualification in ‘55, but the rules at the time, alas, allowed Thesz to retain the title.

• • •

“I remember visiting with Leo once before a match,” one of his Niners teammates told me. “He told me exactly how it was going to go. He said, ‘After about 30 minutes, I’m gonna throw the guy into this gal’s lap in the first row, and then he’s gonna climb back in the ring and I’m gonna pin him.’”

• • •

Ernie Ladd, the 6-9, 315-pound Chargers defensive tackle in the ‘60s, got his nickname — “the Big Cat” — not from football but from pro wrestling. He tangled with the likes of Killer Kowalski and Bobo Brazil in his mat career and was inducted into the World Wrestling Federation Hall of Fame in 1995 (along with Antonino Rocca, Ivan Putski and the Fabulous Moolah, among others).

(I love Bills guard Billy Shaw’s description of Ernie in “Going Long,” Jeff Miller’s oral history of the AFL: “He was so big and strong, he didn’t have to be mean.”)

• • •

And let’s not forget the memorable 1963 bout between Dick “the Bruiser” Afflis, formerly of the Packers, and Alex Karras, then on suspension from the Lions for betting on NFL games. Afflis, a real wrestler, bit Karras in the bicep and pinned him in less than 12 minutes.

• • •

Chuck Klosterman on the Kobe Bryant case in the September issue of Esquire:

“Early in the conference semifinals against the Spurs, there was a moment when Bryant was whistled for traveling. Even by NBA standards, this violation was obvious. Yet Bryant complained about the call (which is even more egregious when one considers that Kobe — like all superstars — gets preferential treatment from most officials). This makes one wonder if Bryant understands the difference between right and wrong. Should the video footage of that traveling violation be admissible in court? Perhaps. Because what I find myself suspecting is that Kobe Bryant may very well be guilty, but honestly he believes he’s innocent. And that’s where things get complicated.”

• • •

Don’t ask me why I never noticed this before, but on Esquire’s masthead, down near the bottom, a “spiritual advisor” is listed. And who is this Sage of the Psyche? George Foreman.

• • •

Recently acquired Celtic Rick Fox and singer-actress Vanessa Williams have called it quits after five years of matrimony. What a stunner. I mean, who knew her pre-nup contained a no-trade clause?

• • •

Four marriages between athletes and celebrities that make Rick and Vanessa look like Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy:

1. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe (length of union: 9 months).

2. Mike Tyson and Robin Givens (one year).

3. Andre Agassi and Brooke Shields (two years).

4. David Justice and Halle Berry (three years).

• • •

Two other pairings that didn’t last a decade:

1. Terry Bradshaw and Jo Jo Starbuck (1976-83).

2. John McEnroe and Tatum O’Neal (1986-94).

• • •

And another that barely did: Dan Pastorini and June Wilkinson (1972-82).

• • •

Six current marriages of longer duration than the Fox-Williams coupling:

1. Wayne Gretzky and Janet Jones (married July 1988).

2. Rodney Peete and Holly Robinson (June 1995).

3. Valeri Bure and Candace Cameron (June 1996).

4. John McEnroe and Patty Smyth (April 1997). (The second time’s the charm!)

5. David Beckham and Victoria Adams (July 1999).

6. Grant Hill and Tamia Washington (July 1999).

• • •

The gold standard: Bob Waterfield and Jane Russell (1943-67).

• • •

Keep an eye on:

1. Pete Sampras and Bridgette Wilson (married September 2000).

2. Jason Sehorn and Angie Harmon (June 2001)

3. Dario Franchitti and Ashley Judd (December 2001).

• • •

Fun Facts:

• Eight years after divorcing Tyson, Givens tied the knot with her tennis instructor. They separated on their wedding day.

• Shields had her marriage to Agassi annulled so she could take another husband in the Catholic Church.

• O’Neal dated Michael Jackson in the ‘70s.

• Wilkinson was squired around by Elvis Presley (and also starred with Zsa Zsa Gabor in the 1984 flick, “Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie”).

• Gretzky first met Jones when he was a judge on “Dance Fever” (and she was one of the dancers).

• Jones’ wedding gown cost $40,000.

• Cameron once played “the Science Gal” opposite “Bill Nye, the Science Guy.”

• Russell had a cantilevered bra designed for her by Howard Hughes.

• Wilson was Miss Teen USA 1990.

• Harmon got pulled over for a traffic violation one time and refused to get out of the car because she’d taken her pants off. (It’s a long story.)

• • •

My recent lament about the increasing popularity of poker on TV brought this e-mail from my friend Robert:

“I would be remiss in not telling you what I experienced last night at 9:42 while watching TV. Poker was on four different channels at the same time! Celebrity poker was on Bravo and the Travel Channel, and professional poker was on ESPN and Comcast.

“This is truly the beginning of the end of modern civilization.”

• • •

Something I didn’t know until I started flipping through “The Numbers Game,” Alan Schwarz’s history of baseball statistics: “John F. Kennedy kept the 1961 ‘Baseball Register’ in his White House desk drawer his entire presidency.”

• • •

Most folks, when they think of the Kennedys, think “Social Register” — or “cash register” — not “Baseball Register.”

• • •

Wonder if he sought comfort in it during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Perusing a page of stats can be very relaxing.

• • •

I’m taking Schwarz’s book with me on vacation — and will be back in two weeks with more nuggets.

• • •

And finally, did you read about Mets pitcher Tom Glavine getting his front teeth knocked out in a taxi accident? Who was his driver, Travis Bickle?


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