- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2005

“Sorry, Cal, I know you’re about to break Gehrig’s record, but you’re gonna have to sit tonight. You don’t fit into our packages.”

— Orioles manager Phil Regan, Sept. 6, 1995

OK, OK, I know that’s a little extreme, but I keep wondering what some superduper players of the past might have said or done if they had been in LaVar Arrington’s unfortunate flip-flops.

Now, I’m not gonna knock Joe Gibbs and Gregg Williams for their debatable decision to give Arrington almost total R&R; on game days. I don’t have to knock them, because everyone else in D.C. and environs already is. Never mind President Bush, John Roberts, Harriet Myers and Tom DeLay — the area’s No. 1 topic these days seems to be L’Affaire LaVar.

I don’t think many gridiron old-timers would have taken such a demotion as well as Arrington seems to be. For example: Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds might have turned defensive guru Williams’ car into a heap of scrap metal at Redskin Park.

Mike Ditka might have swallowed the team bench instead of parking his posterior on it.

Jim Brown and John Riggins might have run over the entire coaching staff in their rush to get on the field.

O.J. might have made a few cutting remarks about the coaching staff’s intelligence while muttering something like, “Even if the packages don’t fit, I can still hit.” Lawrence Taylor, snorting at such a notion, might have broken somebody’s leg.

Clyde “Bulldog” Turner might have needed to be muzzled on the sideline.

Sam Huff might have given Coach Williams a private look at his “Violent World.” And I don’t even want to think about how Johnny “Blood” McNally might have reacted.

Because all star athletes are intense competitors, this rationale applies to other sports, too. Can you imagine Michael Jordan being told by any coach (certainly not personal lapdog Doug Collins), “Um, we’re going to start Jeremy Journeyman in your spot tonight, Mike, because, you know, we can package him better with Jack Hack and Seymour Stiff on defense”? Or Red Auerbach calling Bill Russell aside and whispering sweet nothings into his ear regarding playing time? Russ probably would have drop-kicked Red clear into Boston’s Charles River.

Or any of Earvin Johnson’s coaches informing him, “You’ll be a cheerleader tonight because the Magic is gone”? Baseball suggests some senseless scenarios, too. Had Detroit Tigers manager Hugh Jennings told Ty Cobb to steal a seat in the dugout any time from 1907 to 1920, the Georgia Peachpit might have filed his spikes in the skipper’s royal rump.

How about New York Yankees pilot Miller Huggins — like Jennings a little guy — grabbing Babe Ruth and pointing toward a seat in the dugout? The Bambino probably would have unfurled his home run swing on Hug’s head.

Steve Carlton wouldn’t have spoken to his manager for years, and Carlton Fisk simply would have waved off such an idea. Don Drysdale might have knocked down his manager with a fastball. Eddie Murray would have stared him down. Pete Rose would have given odds that he’d play anyway.

Arrington surely would have gotten this advice from ageless but hardly sageless Satchel Paige: “Don’t look behind, because some benchwarmer may be gaining on you.” Casey Stengel, one of the winningest guys in pro sports history, might have scratched his head and wondered, “Can’t anybody in Washington coach this game?” As I said, I’m not going to criticize Messrs. Gibbs and Williams, because they’ve won 166 more games (Gibbs 149, Williams 17 with Buffalo from 2001 to 2003) than I have. In fact, maybe we should be grateful to them for momentarily relegating politics to the bench, so to speak, in the political capital of the Western world.

As for LaVar, let me just return to the glorious ‘90s and paraphrase Slick Willie: I feel his pain.

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