- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Time and again in recent months, we’ve been reminded that, well, it’s a dog’s world. Like yesterday, when it was reported that Mandy Block, recipient of a certificate of bravery from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, was retiring from her job as the Italian sausage in the Milwaukee Brewers’ sausage races.

Mandy became a national celebrity last summer after the Pirates’ Randall Simon bopped her costume with his bat during a race, sending her sprawling and causing a major sausage pileup in front of the Pittsburgh dugout. Soon enough, she was being interviewed on the “Today” show and “Good Morning America” and receiving the tube steak version of the Purple Heart. “I’m proud of it,” she said of her certificate of bravery. “I didn’t even know there was a hot dog council.”

Alas, Mandy — for better or, uh, wurst — has decided to give up her Brewers gig so she can take some psychology classes at the University of Wisconsin. You can’t, after all, be a sausage forever.

Mandy’s story wouldn’t be all that noteworthy if it didn’t follow, by a mere two weeks, the one about the German shepherd in London that swallowed 28 golf balls. A team of veterinarians had to cut open poor Libby’s stomach to remove the dimpled things, a procedure that took 2-1/2 hours and required 30 stitches.

“The vets didn’t even have to do an X-ray because they could hear the balls and feel them rattling around,” the dog’s owner told the BBC. “They were having bets about how many would be in there. I think the highest bet was 11, so they were shocked when 28 came out. I find it hard to believe she swallowed them whole, and I’m gobsmacked to say the least.”

No word yet on whether Nike is going to sign Libby to an exclusive contract to swallow only their golf balls.

Dogs, dogs, dogs. They’re all over the sports pages these days. Perhaps you noticed that the men’s and women’s Division I basketball championships this year were won by the UConn Huskies. Then there’s the Mississippi State men’s team, the Bulldogs, who won their first regular season Southeastern Conference title since 1963.

And did anyone see this item in the Boston Globe a few months back? Seems the Beanpot hockey tournament final between Boston College and Boston University drew a lower TV rating in the Hub than the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (2.8 to 1.5). Yup, believe it or not, the BU Terriers aren’t nearly as popular among Bostonians as Yorkshire terriers.

Speaking of New England — and dogs — one of the biggest plays of the Patriots’ Super Bowl season was … a pooch punt. This was in Week 14, when the Pats were trying to wrap up the division title against the Dolphins. They were leading only 3-0 with nine minutes left when former Maryland Terp Brooks Barnard bunted the ball out of bounds at the Miami 4. On the very next play, linebacker Tedy Bruschi intercepted a pass, returned it for a touchdown, and New England prevailed, 12-0.

If Barnard hadn’t come through with his near-perfect pooch, there’s no telling how the season would have turned out for the Patriots. Maybe they wouldn’t have won that day — and taken a 12-game streak into the playoffs. Maybe they wouldn’t have had the home-field advantage in the AFC. Maybe Jake Delhomme, and not Tom Brady, would have gone to Disney World.

That same weekend in December, the Saginaw (Mich.) News reported a brewing brouhaha between Ferris State and a distant (100 miles) school district over, of all things, a bulldog logo. The college was threatening “a legal dogfight,” according to the paper, because it considered the St. Charles Community Schools logo “confusingly similar” to its own. After picking his jaw up off the floor, St. Charles superintendent Joseph G. Rousseau suggested to Ferris State that “in these tough economic times for Michigan, maybe we could partner and give this some positive spin. Our bulldog could be the little brother to their bulldog or something.”

Canines, curs and mongrels have always been sniffing around sports, whether it be “Fido” Baldwin racking up 34 pitching victories for the Chicago Pirates in 1890, “Doggie” Julian coaching Holy Cross to the NCAA basketball championship in 1947 or “Bulldog” Turner being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966. And did you know the longest hitting streak in baseball history — 69 games by minor-leaguer Joe Wilhoit in 1919 — ended when Wilhoit, after going hitless in his first three trips to the plate in game 70, was walked by “Mutt” Williams?

As this latest rash of stories makes clear, though, the sports world is going to the dogs. And I, for one, am gobsmacked — whatever the heck that means.

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