- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

Before long, Gene Orza will be telling us that the reason baseball players are smaller this year is that “McDonald’s is no longer supersizing.”

• • •

News item: Vancouver police might file charges against the Canucks’ Todd Bertuzzi for his mugging of Colorado’s Steve Moore.

Comment: If it ever comes to trial, let’s hope they don’t ask Bertuzzi to try on a bloody glove.

• • •

With apologists like Barry Melrose, who needs a P.R. department? Here’s what the shameless ESPN analyst said about the Bertuzzi incident on the network’s Web site:

“This situation isn’t necessarily a black eye for hockey … because anyone who doesn’t like the physical nature of the sport is going to bash it anyway. It’s amazing that Major League Baseball cannot get its players to submit to drug testing and has pitchers who throw at guys’ heads, yet people zero in on one unfortunate incident in hockey and point to it as an example of what’s wrong with the game.”

• • •

What a Canucklehead (as they say in Vancouver).

• • •

Canucks GM Brian Burke after the Marty McSorley-Donald Brashear episode in February 2000: “We want to play physical hockey. It’s a trademark of my teams. But I also tell the players if you get in a situation where you [hit] someone over the head with a stick or you run someone from behind and seriously injure them, you’re going to New York by yourself for the hearing.”

From Friday’s New York Times: “The NHL announced its decision [to suspend Bertuzzi for the rest of the season] a day after a one-hour meeting in Toronto attended by Colin Campbell, the NHL’s director of hockey operations; Bertuzzi; Bertuzzi’s agent, Pat Morris; and the Canucks’ general manager, Brian Burke.”

• • •

You’ve gotta love search engines.

• • •

Did you see there was a five-way tie for first place in Conference USA men’s basketball this season? Yup, Cincinnati, Memphis, Charlotte, DePaul and UAB all finished with 12-4 conference records (seriously complicating the seeding of this weekend’s tournament). Such logjams, it turns out, happen much more often than you’d expect. Here are 10 more five-way ties for first in recent sports history:

1. American Football Conference, 1980 — All five playoff teams (Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston, San Diego Oakland) had 11-5 records. One of them, the Raiders, went on to win the Super Bowl.

2. Mid-American Conference men’s basketball, 1981 — Western Michigan, Toledo, Bowling Green, Ball State and Northern Illinois all posted 10-6 league marks. Ball State captured the conference tournament to earn the MAC’s lone NCAA bid.

3. Kemper Open, 1983 — After 72 holes, Fred Couples, Gil Morgan, Scott Simpson, Barry Jaeckel and T.C. Chen were deadlocked at 1 under. Couples took the title, his first on the PGA Tour, with a birdie on the second playoff hole, knocking a 5-iron inside 2 feet on the 211-yard 16th.

4. Southwest Conference football, 1994 — Texas A&M; had the best mark in conference play, 6-0-1, but was ineligible for the championship because it was on probation. So Baylor, Texas, Texas Christian, Texas Tech and Rice shared the honors at 4-3.

5. Buick Challenge, 1996 — Rains reduced the event to 36 holes, producing a tie among Michael Bradley, Davis Love III, John Maginnes, Len Mattiace and Fred Funk at 10 under. Bradley prevailed in the playoff.

6. SUNY Athletic Conference softball, 2000 — It was incredibly crowded at the top, with Cortland, Brockport, Geneseo, Oneonta and Buffalo State all going 13-5.

7. New England Small College Athletic Conference men’s basketball, 2001 — Trinity, Colby, Wesleyan, Amherst and Williams finished 6-3 in the league. Amherst then settled the issue by beating Trinity in the NESCAC tournament final.

8. Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate golf tournament, 2002 — The five medalists, at 1 under, were North Carolina’s Dustin Bray, Wake Forest’s Bill Haas, Duke’s Leif Olson, Tennessee’s Ian Pamaby and TCU’s David Schultz.

9. Mid-States Midwest League football, 2003 — The league crown ended up as the joint property of St. Ambrose, McKendree, Trinity International, Saint Xavier and Olivet Nazarene, all 5-2. St. Ambrose and McKendree advanced to the NAIA playoffs.

10. Brooklyn (N.Y.) A-1 Girls’ High School Basketball League, 2004 — The regular season resolved nothing, as Sheepshead Bay, James Madison, Midwood, Canarsie and Abraham Lincoln all went 11-4. In the Brooklyn Borough title game, though, Lincoln prevailed over Midwood.

• • •

Of course, one of the more famous five-way ties in sports history was the one in the Colonial golf tournament last year. Tying for 96th place at 5 over — and failing to make the cut — were Carl Paulson, Arron Oberholser, Heath Slocum, Tim Clark and somebody named Annika Sorenstam.

• • •

Bob Knight has mellowed, all right. According to the Dallas Morning News, Texas Tech hoops star Andre Emmett had to run 1,500 fullcourt sprints earlier this season as punishment for “oversleeping and missing a practice on game day.”

In his next game, Emmett scored 26 points to lead the Red Raiders past Texas A&M; 70-69.

“Fifteen hundred fullcourt sprints, going down and back, equals 53.4 miles,” the Morning News noted. Emmett did his penance in two days.

• • •

Why am I convinced Saint Joseph’s will still be a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament despite a loss in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals? Precedent. Two other A-10 teams have had only one defeat going into the NCAAs, and both got the one-seed in the East. The particulars:

• Temple, 1988 — The Owls were 29-1 through the conference tournament. They got as far as the Elite Eight, where Duke knocked them off 63-53.

• Massachusetts, 1996 — The Minutemen were 31-1 heading into the Big Dance. They made it to the Final Four — the closest an Atlantic 10 school has gotten to the title — before being eliminated by Kentucky 81-74.

Both Temple and UMass, by the way, beat Georgetown in the NCAAs — and then lost their next game. Saint Joe’s doesn’t have to worry about that this year because the Hoyas won’t be in the field.

• • •

Old friend Mark Schlereth was mildly amused that Sports Illustrated left him off its “six best athletes from Alaska” list (which included, among others, a dogsled racer). “You look at it and kind of chuckle,” Schlereth, who played on three Super Bowl champs and appeared in two Pro Bowls, told Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post. “A sled-dog musher? That’s fairly disappointing. I’ll give you the lead dog is a better athlete than me. I promise you that. But the musher? ‘Mush, you huskies?’ I don’t think that requires an incredible amount of athleticism.”

• • •

And finally …

Colleague Rick Snider passes along word that Haruurara, a Japanese filly who has lost all 105 of her races, could be the subject of a major motion picture. Should the film come about, Haruurara is expected to play herself — probably because the producers couldn’t find another horse who was nearly as slow.

“What, Mr. Ed wasn’t available?” Snider e-mails.

To which I reply: They’ve given us “Seabiscuit,” so why not “C-Minus Biscuit”?

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