- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2005

The sports world is awash in apologies, immersed in mea culpas, overrun with regret. Hardly a week goes by that some player, coach, general manager or even commissioner doesn’t prostate himself before the masses — and say, more or less, “My bad.”

A sorry state of affairs indeed.

Why, just last week, we had Kellen Winslow Jr. not just apologize but “humbly apologize” to Cleveland Browns fans for the motorcycle mishap that will cost him the 2005 season. Talk about your shockers. I mean, who thought we’d ever see the words “humbly” and “Kellen Winslow Jr.” in the same sentence?

Two days before that, the New York Mets’ Doug Mientkiewicz, stuck in an abysmal slump, gave himself a good going over. “Put ‘I [stink]’ with a big picture of my face on it,” he told the media. “I’ve been bad before, [but] not this bad. I apologize to every Met fan in America right now.”

Of course, if he keeps going 2-for-32, there probably won’t be many Met fans to apologize to.

In April, it was the Cincinnati Reds’ Ryan Freel throwing himself on the mercy of sportsdom after being arrested for drunken driving. “I apologize for the embarrassment I have caused my family, teammates, the Reds organization, Reds fans and the city of Cincinnati,” he said, inexplicably leaving out Hamilton County, the state of Ohio, the U.S. of A. and the Western Hemisphere.

In March, it was Alonzo Mourning saying, “I apologize” to Toronto Raptors rooters for refusing to play for their team after being acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Nets. And in February we had a doubleheader — the New York Yankees’ Jason Giambi apologizing for doing something or other (he cleverly avoided specifics) and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman telling hockey fans “we are truly sorry” the season had to be canceled because of a labor dispute.

I’m beginning to wonder whether newspapers, which publish “Corrections” regularly, shouldn’t have a similar feature in the sports section called “Apologies.” That way we could wrap up this stuff in short order — and wouldn’t have to wallow in it week after week.

“Apologies” would run on the agate page and look something like this: Dec. 20, 2004 — Rick Majerus backed out of the men’s basketball job at Southern California, saying, “I made a mistake, and I want to apologize to USC for the inconvenience and embarrassment to the university that I caused them.” He accused himself of “selfishness” and “stupidity,” given his current state of less-than-robust health.

Nov. 19, 2004 —The Philadelphia Eagles’ Terrell Owens, roundly criticized for appearing in a steamy introduction to “Monday Night Football” with “Desperate Housewives” actress Nicollette Sheridan, said, “I think it just really got taken out of context with a lot of people, and I apologize for that. Personally, I didn’t think it would have offended anyone, and if it did, I apologize.”

Oct. 14, 2004 — Florida football coach Ron Zook admitted he could have handled a scuffle between his players and members of a fraternity a little better. “I care deeply about my players,” he said, “and sometimes my emotions get the better of me. … At the time, I didn’t think the exchange [with fraternity brothers] was confrontational. If I raised my voice, I apologize.”

Sept. 28, 2004 — Los Angeles Dodger Milton Bradley expressed regret about going bonkers after a fan threw a plastic bottle in his direction in right field. Bradley, who had just made a two-out error with the bases loaded, said, “I really don’t blame that guy. He shouldn’t have thrown the bottle, but I shouldn’t have reacted that way [walking over to the stands and slamming the bottle into the first row]. From the bottom of my heart, I apologize for the outburst.”

There, isn’t that better? In a mere four paragraphs, I’ve dispensed with issues that occupied acres of newspaper space in recent months — which leaves us with much more room for crucial concerns like “LPGA Money Leaders” and the upcoming boxing schedule.

Besides, so many of these “I’m sorrys” are ridiculously overdone. Yes, it’s admirable, in this mistakes-were-made world, that sports figures are taking responsibility for their actions; but unless you’ve, oh, bitten off a chunk of another fighter’s ear or something, I really don’t see the need for these public self-floggings. A simple “I’ll try to do better next time” would suffice.

And some apologies, I’ll just point out, are anything but. After he won the 2004 BCS title game, for instance, LSU football coach Nick Saban said, “I’m a very happy person. I’ve been happily married for 32 years; I have two wonderful children. Now if I look unhappy, I apologize. I wish I would naturally smile, but it’s important for me to be who I am. So if I’m too serious, I apologize. If I’m not happy enough, I apologize.”

Anybody think Saban was apologizing there?

Or what about the “apology” once issued by Muffet McGraw, women’s hoops coach at Notre Dame: “I’d like to apologize to our fans and anyone who had to sit through that game because we didn’t play to our abilities. For that I apologize, and our team apologizes. It was the most embarrassing performance of the season.”

For the record, the Irish had just beaten Pittsburgh by seven points and were ranked fifth in the country.

So how ‘bout we cut back on Apology Coverage just to see if we can live without it? (I’m betting we can.) And if this column comes across to some readers as a bit too snide, a bit too flip, well, I’m — how shall I put this? — not sorry.

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