- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2004

Don’t ask me why, but whenever I read about a skater’s short program being too long, all I can think of is jumbo shrimp.

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Me, I’d handle the situation the way they do at the Academy Awards. If somebody exceeded the time limit, I’d start playing the theme from “Titanic” or something like that.

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Poor Michelle Kwan. Her program at the worlds ran over by, what, two seconds? If she’d done that at the Oscars, they would have given her the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

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News item: NFL might start handing out 15-yard penalties for pre-planned end zone celebrations.

Comment: Worse, if another player tries to place a cell call after scoring a TD, he’ll be charged at operator-assisted rates.

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Former Redskins quarterback Eddie LeBaron, inducted last week into the Bay Area Hall of Fame (for his exploits at Pacific), told this story to Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I was 12 years old when I went to high school. They wouldn’t let you play until you were 15. That first year, I served as a tackling dummy. Over the summer, I gained 20 pounds, a couple of inches in height — and three years in age. I was the only kid who was 15 three straight years.”

That means — I just looked it up — LeBaron was a mere two weeks past his 20th birthday when the Redskins drafted him in the 10th round in 1950. He was younger, in other words, than Maurice Clarett will be when he’s drafted (presumably) next month — and yet, Clarett’s eligibility has stirred a national debate.

(LeBaron didn’t actually play for the Redskins until the 1952 season, when he was 22. He spent the intervening two years as a lieutenant with the Marines in Korea.)

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We tend to think of Texas as football country. So it’s kind of startling to hear University of Texas AD DeLoss Dodds say, as he did recently to the Houston Chronicle, that “high school basketball here is better than any place in the nation.” But you know what? The man may be right.

As the article by Jerome Solomon pointed out, “Former Texas high school players make up more than one-fourth of the Associated Press men’s All-America squad …, with three former Houston Independent School District players — Connecticut’s Emeka Okafor (Bellaire), Mississippi State’s Lawrence Roberts (Lamar) and Oklahoma State’s John Lucas (Bellaire) — honored with Texas Tech’s Andre Emmett (Dallas Carter). Three Texans also were selected to the women’s team — [Houston’s Chandi] Jones (Bay City), UT’s Stacy Stephens (Winnsboro) and Purdue’s Shereka Wright (Copperas Cove).”

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Maybe that explains why Bob Knight resurfaced at Tech. The Lone Star State, it would seem, is fertile recruiting territory.

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It also might explain why Tom Penders, who had his troubles at George Washington, has returned to Texas to coach at Houston.

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Ugly American of the Month: In his New York Post column, Phil Mushnick made light of a CBS graphic during the NCAA tournament that said Xavier’s Romain Sato was majoring in French. “Left unsaid,” Mushnick cracked, “was that Sato is from the Central African Republic, where the official language is French.”

I ask you, would anyone cast aspersions on an American player who was majoring in English? On the contrary, he’d likely be applauded for not getting his degree in Advanced Basket Weaving.

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From the Xavier course catalogue: “[French] majors [must] complete a senior thesis under the guidance of a faculty advisor.” They’re also required to complete “nine hours from French courses numbered 420-461.”

A description of French 453 (French Tragedy, three credits): A chronological study of the development of French tragedy, melodrama and tragi-comedy from the medieval Passion plays to the present.”

It’s not, in other words, the kind of course Jim Harrick Jr. would teach.

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A Jim Harrick Jr. French quiz:

1. In what European country did the French language originate?

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Colleague Rick Snider suggested I “go to EBay, click on the UK site down at the bottom, enter ‘sports memorabilia,’ and then search for ‘Redskins.’ You’ll see some funny stuff,” he promised.

Indeed, I did. Among the offerings were a Heath Shuler jersey (starting bid: 10 pounds), a Skip Hicks beanie bear (7.50), a 500-piece Washington Redskins puzzle from 1986 (2.99) and a DVD of the Redskins’ 24-20 victory over the Cowboys in 1987 (8.50).

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Many folks are just now being introduced to Kirk Snyder, star of Nevada’s Cinderella Sweet 16 team. But readers of the Sunday Column, which is always ahead of the curve, knew about him Way Back When. Kirk, then a sophomore, topped the Snyder Poll on Nov.17, 2002 (nosing out Penn soccer player Rachelle Snyder and the Snyder, Texas, High School football team).

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My friend Robert asks: “Is it just me, or is every NCAA tournament analyst an ACC guy? Billy Packer, Len Elmore, Mike Gminski, Jim Spanarkel. Am I missing anyone?”

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Ex-super welterweight champ Shane Mosley fired his father as his trainer after losing to Winky Wright. Which got me wondering: How common is it in sports that someone sacks his own father? Answer: Rare, but hardly unheard of. Some other athletes who’ve given dad the gate:

• Pavel Bure, hockey — Terminated his old man, Vladimir, as his personal trainer in 1997. The reason? Philosophical differences, of course. “He wanted to do his two [training practices] together,” Vlad told the Vancouver Sun, “and I don’t agree with this. Two practices is more productive. My No.1 rule is the coach is always right.”

• Jennifer Capriati, women’s tennis — Canned papa Stefano as her coach in the 1990s, only to rehire him later.

• Jeff Gordon, stock car racing — Booted his stepfather, John Bickford, out of his racing business in 1995. “He’s a father,” Jeff explained in Fortune magazine. “He didn’t want me to make any mistakes. I wanted to learn. And sometimes you learn by making mistakes.” Just last week, however, he brought Bickford back into the Gordon empire.

• Janet Jackson, Super Bowl halftime sensationalist — Dumped dad Joseph as her manager in the mid-1980s and became Her Own Woman. Soon afterward, she won her first two American Music Awards.

• Roy Jones Jr., boxing — Sent his father, the only handler he’d ever had, packing in 1992. “[He] was used to running everything,” the future champ told ESPN magazine. “When it was my time, he couldn’t understand. Now I think he does.”

• Floyd Mayweather Jr., boxing — The WBC lightweight champion bounced Floyd Sr. as his trainer in 2000, replacing him with his uncle Roger, a two-time world champ. Floyd Sr. was immediately hired by Oscar De La Hoya.

• Sara Sanders, women’s golf — Fired her daddy as her caddy in 1998. It didn’t help her game any, though. Her ranking on the LPGA Tour continued to hover in the 80s and 90s.

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Four sports figures who continued to work for a team after it fired their fathers:

1. Cal Ripken, Orioles — The O’s evicted Cal Sr. from the manager’s office after an 0-6 start in 1988. Junior, though none too pleased, toiled for the franchise until his retirement in 2001.

2. Wade Phillips, Houston Oilers — Wade not only remained in the Oilers’ employ after they gave Bum the pink slip late in the 1985 season, he served as interim coach, going 1-3.

3. David Shaw, Oakland Raiders — Stayed on as Jon Gruden’s quality control assistant in 2000, even though Gruden had dismissed his dad, Willie, as defensive coordinator. As Willie put it in the St. Petersburg Times, “Look, we weren’t going to work for the Raiders for 25 years, retire together and get a gold watch.”

4. Jon Gruden, Tampa Bay Bucs — Gruden’s case is a little different. He took the Bucs’ coaching job 16 years after the club cashiered his father, Jim, as director of player personnel. And just to prove there were no hard feelings, Jon Boy led the team to its first Super Bowl.

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Filial First Prize: Aaron Boone, Reds.

The same week Cincy relieved father Bob of his managerial duties last season, Aaron was traded — at his request — to the Yankees, for whom he hit an American League Championship Series-winning home run against the Red Sox.

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Biggest Cheap Shot: BYU fired Roger Reid as men’s basketball coach in 1996 while his son Robbie, a point guard for the Cougars, was off on a two-year Mormon Church mission in Greece. Robbie subsequently transferred to Michigan, where he hit 160 3-pointers in two seasons, second on the Wolverines’ all-time list.

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And finally …

I probably should have saved those last four items for Father’s Day, just for laughs.

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