- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2006

First Phil Mickelson said it, then Bruce Arena — in the same week, no less! I’m talking, of course, about the I-word: idiot.

Mickelson after blowing the U.S. Open with a double bogey on the last hole: “I’m such an idiot.”

Arena after his U.S. soccer team’s sorry 0-2-1 performance in the World Cup: “Right now, I’m just an idiot.”

Perhaps the triumph of the Red Sox’s band of “idiots” in 2004 has made the term fashionable. (Or maybe, these things being cyclical, “idiot” has just replaced “knucklehead” for a spell.) Whatever the reason, sports sure have had a lot of “idiots” lately. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t National Idiot Month.

Other recent “idiots”:

• Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: He hasn’t come out and called himself an “idiot” just yet, but how else would you describe a professional athlete who rides a motorcycle without a helmet — and ends up caroming off the windshield of a car?

• White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen: “If a comedian says something’s wrong, it’s great. If I say something’s wrong, I’m an idiot.”

• ESPN sportscaster Mike Greenberg: His new book is titled “My Wife Thinks I’m An Idiot.”

• CBS golf jokester David Feherty: His upcoming book is titled “An Idiot for All Seasons” (and follows his earlier effort, “Somewhere in Ireland, A Village Is Missing an Idiot”)

• • •

It all started, I suppose, with Roberto De Vicenzo. He was the poor guy who lost a chance to win the 1968 Masters by signing an incorrect scorecard — and then muttered the immortal words: “What a stupid I am!” (which actually ran on the cover of that week’s Sports Illustrated).

• • •

Getting back to Arena, I’m not entirely convinced he wasn’t trying to work some kind of angle with that “idiot” business. We’ll know for sure if he comes out — just in time for Christmas — with “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Coaching Soccer.”

• • •

Like I always say, soccer in the U.S. is like hockey in North Carolina.

Wait, let me rephrase that …

• • •

Look at it this way: The United States might not have made it to the Round of 16 but, hey, neither did Togo.

• • •

Speaking of soccer, Italy’s match-fixing trial is scheduled to begin Thursday. Am I the only one who thinks that, instead of prison terms, the guilty parties should be subjected to penalty kicks?

• • •

Adieu, Booz Allen Classic — the only PGA Tour event in which the “Thanks for coming” signs are directed at the players and not the fans.

• • •

Confession: After defending champ Sergio Garcia pulled out last week with a bad back, I was hoping the paparazzi would catch him doing the limbo at some hot spot in Monaco.

• • •

Or working on his American Twist serve with old flame Martina Hingis.

• • •

Reminds me of the old Three Stooges shtick:

Curly (trying to avoid some heavy lifting): “I’ve got a weak back! I’ve got a weak back!”

Moe: “You have a weak back, eh? When did it start?”

Curly: “Oh, about a week back.”

• • •

Little-known fact: Geoff Ogilvy, winner of the Match Play title and the U.S. Open, is one of the few golfers to claim a World Golf Championship and a major in the same year. Who are the others? (Answer below.)

• • •

Guillen Redux: I’m picturing a kind of “Clockwork Orange” scene at Ozzie’s Bud Selig-ordered sensitivity sessions — a contraption holding his eyelids open, forcing him to watch “Brokeback Mountain.”

• • •

Can I be the one who keeps his eyeballs lubricated with an eyedropper?

• • •

You’ll be pleased to know America’s new poet laureate, Donald Hall, is a baseball buff and author of “Fathers Playing Catch with Sons” (a copy of which I used to have until I made the mistake of lending it) and “When Willard Met Babe Ruth,” a children’s book. Hall has called baseball “the preferred sport of American poets” … but we won’t hold that against him.

• • •

“Baseball carries its own time with it,” Hall once wrote, “its own motion and stillness; baseball runs counterclockwise.

“In ‘The Natural’ — the 1983 Robert Redford movie about a baseball player equally talented and unlucky — the director goes into slow-motion whenever a baseball moment enlarges itself in the direction of Myth. The distortion of clock-time, possibly a touch pretentious, seems almost correct to the imagination seasoned by baseball: Variations on tempo and stasis allow baseball to abandon the everyday streets. Baseball leaves city and suburb behind to engage a strange simultaneousness, a great single continuous day, where — in the words of Meister Eckhart, who was not speaking of baseball — God cancels the successiveness of men.”

• • •

I think I speak for all of us when I say: Huh?

• • •

Must be a Poet Laureate Thing.

• • •

According to Chris Snow of the Boston Globe, the Red Sox front office has a computer program that enables it to “place American League teams as presently composed in the National League and simulate a 162-game season. The club’s conclusion: There is a 10-game difference (which is considered gigantic) between the leagues. In other words, an AL team that projects to win 85 games in the AL this season projects to win 95 in the NL.”

Through Friday night, the Sox were 18-2 in their last 20 games against the Other Loop.

• • •

When Peter Angelos gets wind of this, he’ll probably try to swap leagues with the Nationals — offering, as payment, to give them their TV rights back.

• • •

Memo to Ted Lerner: Take the deal.

• • •

Idle thought: One of the Phoenix papers should get Edgerrin James to write a diary about his first year with the Cardinals. They could call it “Postcards from the Edge.”

• • •

Answer to trivia question: Ogilvy is just the second player to win a World Golf Championship and a major in the same year. The other is Tiger Woods, who has done it five times (1999, 2000, ‘01, ‘02, ‘05).

• • •

And finally …

Former heavyweight Clifford Etienne was sentenced to a century-and-a-half behind bars last week in Baton Rouge, La. The breakdown goes like this: 145 years for a crime spree that included an attempt to shoot two policemen and the other five for his 49-second “fight” against Mike Tyson in 2003.

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