- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

Relations between the Patriots and holdout Deion Branch had completely broken down by the end, I’m told. The sides couldn’t have reconciled if his name had been Olive Branch.

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Did you read about Evelyn Wray, the 72-year-old Texas woman who balked at selling her property for $351,000 — it’s needed for the Cowboys’ new stadium — and eventually worked the price up to $2.75 million?

No truth to the rumor that Terrell Owens has dumped Drew Rosenhaus and hired Wray to renegotiate his contract.

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Note: That’s Evelyn Wray, not Evelyn Mulwray. Evelyn Mulwray was the ill-fated character played by Faye Dunaway in “Chinatown,” the one who got shot in the end.

Of course, the same thing might have happened to Evelyn Wray if she hadn’t sold those four acres, dadgummit.

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Are you like me? When you see a hyphenated name on the back of a jersey — a hyphenated name that didn’t used to be a hyphenated name — do you immediately think: vanity license plate?

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In Buffalo, linebacker London Fletcher is now going by Fletcher-Baker. And in Jacksonville, running back Maurice Drew has opted for Jones-Drew. I’ve got no problem with it, really, as long as they don’t claim an extra dependent on their tax returns.

• • •

Maybe it’s just a defense mechanism. As in: “Hey, don’t blame Fletcher for that missed tackle, blame Baker.”

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Still, some rules are needed for these situations. For instance: You shouldn’t be allowed to hyphenate your name unless (a) you’re in line for the British throne; or (b) you went to some school like Louisiana-Lafayette.

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My all-time favorite is when Joe Johnson, the erstwhile Redskins receiver-returner, reinvented himself one year as Joe Howard-Johnson. If he had any sense of humor, he would have switched from No. 80 to 28 (HoJo’s being famous for its 28 flavors of ice cream).

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I’d love to be the judge who hears the case involving the Northern Colorado backup punter who’s suspected of stabbing the first-stringer. In fact, I’ve already come up with a couple of possible sentences:

1. “Hang time? I’ll give ya hang time!”

2. “The statutes don’t allow for the death penalty, but they say nothing, interestingly, about the coffin corner.”

• • •

I wouldn’t be surprised if this Northern Colorado kid practices pooch punting with real pooches.

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Conspicuously absent from last night’s Navy-Stanford game in Palo Alto was the incorrigible Stanford band, which has been shut down for at least a month for trashing its campus trailer last spring. Just as well, I suppose. The band probably would have come up with something “hysterical” for the Mids, such as a re-enactment of the U.S.S. Cole bombing.

• • •

The band’s punishment also includes no travel for a year, a ban on alcohol consumption and reimbursement for the damage wreaked (estimated at between $30,000 and $50,000). Avoided, however, was a stiffer penalty that called for the group’s mascot, the Tree, to be chopped into kindling.

• • •

You know what I always say about the Stanford Tree: Its bark is worse than its bite.

• • •

Quote of the Week comes from Boston University junior Tim Sullivan, who had this to say about the school’s new policy prohibiting swearing and sexist and racist chants at sporting events (as quoted by the Boston Globe):

“I really don’t know how they’re going to enforce it. The hard-core fans … you’re not going to stop them. … They’re going to kick out the whole [student] section.”

• • •

Moving to basketball, Virginia Tech, which wants to improve its free throw shooting, recently purchased the “Noah System.” And why, exactly, is it called the “Noah System”? Well, as Hokies coach Seth Greenberg describes it, it “charts the arc of your shot and provides immediate feedback in an effort to develop a consistent release point.”

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Gee, I would have thought it was called the “Noah System” because college hoops is drowning in a flood of missed foul shots.

• • •

Too bad Joakim Noah is still an amateur and can’t endorse the product. He shot 73.3 percent from the line last season for national champion Florida — not bad for a big man.

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A new phrase has entered the language: “the George Mason of …” It’s been great fun tracking it across the Internet since last spring, when the Patriots shocked college basketball by reaching the Final Four. Some of the places it has turned up:

• Terry Petrie, theater department chairman, Utah Valley State University: “Through the performing arts, the world is going to come to our campus and get to know our campus. I know my department can become the George Mason of this campus, but first we need to have the facilities.”

• Chris Rich, tennis player at the Community College of Rhode Island, on this year’s National Junior College Athletic Association championships: “We’re going to be the George Mason of this tournament.”

• Amy S. Rosenberg, Philadelphia Inquirer: “In recent weeks, Bucky Covington has become a giant killer, the George Mason of ‘American Idol.’”

• Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Boise State could be the George Mason of NCAA football.”

• Brett Pauly, ESPNOutdoors.com: “At a mere 72 surface acres, Dixon Lake is ‘The Little Engine That Could’ of big-bass waters in southern California. In more current terms, [it] is the George Mason of the March madness that is spring sightfishing for spawning largemouth bass.”

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The Web site hello.typepad.com, meanwhile, bills itself as “the George Mason of weblogs.”

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Why am I so suspicious of these $15 sneakers being endorsed by Stephon Marbury? Why do I keep wondering if the laces cost $99.99?

• • •

Line-call challenges at the U.S. Open — made possible by the new Hawk-Eye review system — produced the following results:

Women were right 36 percent of the time.

Men were right 31 percent of the time.

And doubles challenges were right 29 percent of the time.

There you have it, folks — conclusive proof that two sets of eyes are not better than one.

• • •

And finally …

A woman in Norwich, Conn., gave birth to a boy last week weighing 14 pounds, 13 ounces, and measuring 23 inches. It’s the biggest baby ever born at William W. Backus Hospital. The biggest baby in history, though, is still John McEnroe at 5-11, 165.

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