- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 12, 2004

Almost called in sick today with a “minor medical problem” — a la Chamique Holdsclaw. The space bar on my laptop kept getting stuck.

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Think it matters at all that Joe Gibbs has never lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, inasmuch as he hasn’t faced them since they had orange uniforms?

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Heck, the last time he went up against the Bucs, Dexter Manley sacked Vinny Testaverde for a safety. That’s how long we’re talking about.

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I’m not big on predictions, but in this case I’ll make an exception: Redskins 20, Bucs 17.

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The biggest shock about the Internet hoax involving Clinton Portis is that the “story” didn’t break on April Fool’s Day.

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That, after all, is when Sports Illustrated published the piece in 1985 about Sidd Finch, the pitcher with the 168mph heater (who turned out to be a figment of writer George Plimpton’s imagination).

It’s also when the “Morning Zoo” team at a Florida radio station reported earlier this year that the NFL had taken the Super Bowl away from Jacksonville and awarded it to New York.

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Three other sports hoaxes:

1. September 2002 — SI strikes again, running a phony feature about Simonya Popova, a 17-year-old junior tennis vixen from Uzbekistan who wore “midriff-baring outfits so small they appear to come from Gap Kids.” The stunt was inspired by the movie “Simone,” about a computer-generated actress.

(Who would have guessed that, two years later, a real-life Simonya Popova would surface — 17-year-old Siberian siren Maria Sharapova, upset winner of Wimbledon?)

2. November 2003 — Hoosiergazette.com, a Web site that bills itself as “Indiana’s first source for inaccurate news and commentary,” “posted a fictitious story,” the Indianapolis Star reported, “detailing the [Purdue] Boilermakers’ signing of Jason Paul Smith, a 6-6 blue-chip prospect from Yorktown High School.

“The Gazette ‘reported’ a mix-up when Purdue received the NCAA letter of intent. It was signed by Jason Parker Smith, a 5-6, nonathletic geek at the school.”

About 25 members of the national media called Purdue’s sports information office thinking the story was legit. The San Diego Union-Tribune swallowed it whole, running a bylined story that included quotes from the Hoosier Gazette.

3. May 2004 — Canadian premier Ralph Klein thought he was having a phone conversation with Arnold Schwarzenegger — and even made a $1,000 bet with him on the outcome of the Calgary-San Jose playoff series — but it turned out to be a computer-generated impersonation of the actor-turned-California governor. The Edmonton radio station behind the ruse “issued a letter of apology,” Klein’s press secretary said, “and offered to donate the $1,000 wager to a charity of the premier’s choice, which is the Special Olympics.”

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Sports Web Site of the Week (courtesy of colleague Rick Snider): whoshurt.com. “Make Yourself a WINNER This Season!” the ad reads. “Stay on top of ALL the Football Injuries and Important Football News! Whoshurt.com gives you all the tools you need to ensure your Fantasy Football success!”

Cost of the service: $29.95 a year. (Less than an obstructed view seat at FedEx Field!)

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If you subscribe to whoshurt.com, you’ll be the first to know if Clinton Portis suffers an “injury … in the weight room” that will keep him out “eight to 12 weeks.”

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On the financial front, Dan Snyder is the ninth-richest American under 40, according to Fortune magazine, sitting atop a fortune estimated at $823million.

Imagine how much more he’d be worth if he still charged admission to training camp.

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To put this figure in perspective, $823million was the size of the University of Virginia’s endowment in 1996.

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Another way to look at it is that Dan has more dough than P. Diddy (13th, $315million), the Olsen twins (tied for 31st with $137million each) and Britney Spears (38th, $123million) put together.

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Brother, can you spare a luxury box?

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Speaking of the Redskins, I can hardly wait to ask practice squadder Pita Elisara where he was born and bread.

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Not that it means anything, Neal from Gaithersburg e-mails, but the Redskins might have kept Pita “just to even things out. The Seahawks, after all, cut Taco Wallace.”

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Did you see Deion Sanders is going to wear No.37 with the Ravens (his preferred No.21 belonging to Chris McAllister)? It works out pretty well, actually. In addition to being his age, it’s also his number of career tackles.

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It would be great if Deion played another 15 years. Then he could arm wrestle Ray Lewis for No.52.

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Don’t rule out the possibility that, at some point, Mr. Sanders will find a way to wriggle into an Orioles uniform.

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How about this dream scenario: Deion bats leadoff in the first game between the O’s and the Washington Expos?

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Trivia question: Two members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame wore No.37. Name either of them — or any other well known “37” in NFL history. (Answer below.)

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FYI: The rescheduling of the Dolphins-Titans opener isn’t the first time a hurricane has interfered with a pro football game in Miami. Back in 1946, the city’s first pro team, the Seahawks, wound up playing the San Francisco 49ers on a Tuesday because of Hurricane Somethingorother.

Before the storm hit, the 49ers helped sandbag their hotel, and afterward they cleaned up debris in the streets. When the game finally got played, they also cleaned up on the home team, winning 34-7 before a sparse crowd of 7,621.

“I remember the wind was blowing like [heck],” one of their players, Bill Fisk, once told me. “It wasn’t like it was calm. But it was much better than it had been the day before.”

A mere 72 hours later, Miami was in Buffalo for a Friday nighter — and came away with a 17-14 victory. Boy, those old pros were tough, weren’t they?

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Virginia Tech plays its first ACC game Saturday against Duke at Blacksburg, prompting this musing from Randy King of the Roanoke Times: “My biggest question … is not whether Tech will win, but will former Roanoke Times sports editor Bill Brill have the kahunas to show up at Lane [Stadium]? Brill, who never attempted to conceal his lack of passion for Tech during his four decades at the Times, would certainly rank high on the list if someone took a poll asking: ‘Who is the most hated man in Blacksburg?’”

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With apologies to Quentin Tarantino, sounds like a lot of Hokies fans would like to “Kill Brill.”

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So I’m reading about the impending release of “Rocky VI,” and I’m thinking: Is it just me, or has Rocky Balboa defended his title more times than Lennox Lewis?

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You noticed, no doubt, that the last team to allow 26 runs in a major league game — before the Royals did it Thursday — was the Orioles vs. the Rangers on April19, 1996. Just to refresh your memory, Texas had the biggest eighth inning in MLB history that day, scoring 16 times against Armando Benitez, Jesse Orosco and backup O’s infielder Manny Alexander, who walked in three runs but did manage to get the last two outs.

What got Baltimore manager Davey Johnson steamed, though (according to BaseballLibrary.com’s account of the game), was when the Rangers’ Mickey Tettleton, a former Oriole, took third on a flyout with his team ahead 20-7. “I’ve seen it all,” Davey ranted, “but guys tagging up from second with a 13-run lead, it’s ridiculous.”

Texas skipper Johnny Oates [another ex-Oriole], “who still carries a clipping from a 1983 [International League] game when Johnson, with a nine-run lead, had his team stealing against Oates’ squad, counter[ed], ‘Davey didn’t have to use an infielder to pitch in that inning.’”

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By the way, that was quite an explosion by the Royals the other day. Not only did they set a club record for runs in their 26-7 trampling of the Tigers, they also had 347 yards passing and enjoyed a huge edge in time of possession.

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Answer to trivia question: The two Pro Football Hall of Famers who wore No.37 were Doak Walker and Jimmy Johnson. (Two other famous 37s were Lester Hayes and longtime Redskins cornerback Pat Fischer.)

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And finally …

News item: ESPN to unveil network devoted to college sports — ESPNU.

Comment: Next on the agenda, ESPND — all dodgeball, all the time.

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