Sports Nut

The Sports Pages: The New USFL 


A weekly look at the sports commentariat.

10,000 lakes but no baseball team: Does anyone like contraction? “These baseball owners are so laughably clueless, so absurdly incompetent, so cartoonishly greedy and stupid, that, upon arriving in Chicago for their meetings Tuesday, they all should have tumbled out of the same crammed, purple Volkswagen—or Nate Newton’s van,” the MiamiHerald’s Dan LeBatard writes. An interesting factoid from LeBatard’s column: From 1985 to 1994, the Twins’ attendance was better than the Yankees’.

After Bud Selig said there were “a lot of people in the game who were in favor of four-team contraction,” the Kansas CityStar’s Joe Posnanski piles on. Posnanski’s retort: “Oh, I’ll just bet there were. There are also some owners who are in favor of going back to a 12-team league, train travel, paying players minimum wage, the Negro Leagues, etc.” He adds: “You start cutting teams, you are a dying business. And everybody knows it. You are the Major Indoor Soccer League. You are the United States Football League. You are the American Basketball Association.” The Star’s Jeffrey Flanagan puts it this way: “The owners, in spirit, voted for contraction seven years ago when they couldn’t come to an agreement on any meaningful revenue sharing. That decision basically contracted baseball by about 15 teams—turning the game into two factions, the haves and have-nots.”

CNNMoney’s Chris Isidore says contraction will hurt baseball’s bottom line, not help it. The Rocky Mountain News’ Dave Krieger has a more colorful take: Contraction “solves baseball’s economic problems in the same way that killing poor people would solve poverty.”

The MinneapolisStar-Tribune’s Sid Hartman fears the Vikings will follow the Twins out of town. His colleague Dan Barreiro recaps the prevailing sentiment toward baseball in the Twin Cities: “We renounce your system as failed and corrupt. We refuse to play by the sleazy rules of your contemptible little game. We don’t like you and we don’t want you. But don’t you dare try to leave us, or there will be hell to pay.”

OK, there is one guy in Boston who likes contraction. Hey, if they contract 27 more teams, Boston might win the World Series.

Mark McGwire  

Big Mac to go: Lumberjack/slugger Mark McGwire provides a graceful retirement. The Los Angeles Times’J.A. Adande points out that injuries and the 1994 strike “cost him about 1,750 at bats. Based on his career rate of 9.42 home runs per every 100 at-bats, that would have given him an additional 165 home runs—enough to put him at 748. And counting.” Where does Big Mac rank among all-time first basemen?’s David Schoenfield says fifth: way back of Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx, a smidge behind Eddie Murray, and by the time Jeff Bagwell retires, behind him, too.

Rocky Mountain low: The crankiest sports town in the nation right now must be Denver, where “the Broncos, to be kind, are not very good,” writes Denver Post columnist Woody Paige. In another column, Paige derides new defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes as “Harpo The Bronco” for his silence in the face of a defense that gave up 182 points in its first eight games. And Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla has grown tired of the dirty play of what he calls the “lowdown, dirtiest team in the NFL.” “The Denver Broncos have devolved into a cheap-shotting, chop-blocking bunch of losers,” he writes.

Rocky Mountain News columnist Sam Adams says AFC West opponents have figured out how to stop Mike Shanahan’s system. Adams notes that Shanahan’s intra-division record in his first four seasons was 23-9, but since 1999 it’s fallen to 11-9 (12-9 after Sunday’s victory over the Chargers). What Adams overlooks: A certain car dealer left the Broncos after the ‘98 season.

Do the Rams pass too much? Kurt Warner passed for 10,000 yards faster than any quarterback in history, but that may be too much of good thing, saysSt. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz. “According to STATS Inc., the Rams have attempted passes on 63.8 percent of their offensive plays this season,” Miklasz writes. “The 1999 Rams team that won the Super Bowl tried passes on 56.6 percent of its plays. Only one team, the 1996 New England Patriots, has gotten to a Super Bowl by throwing the ball 60 percent of the time.”

Foster’s wheels fall off: UCLA could have used star back DeShaun Foster in Saturday’s 21-20 loss to Oregon. Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers has the details on the illegal gift that provoked Foster’s suspension: A Hollywood director rented a white Ford Expedition for Foster but made the mistake of blabbing his plan to the auto dealer. The dealer then told an associate, who e-mailed the NCAA. The whistle-blower “has unspecified loyalties to USC and therefore took umbrage at a Bruin getting the chance to tool around town in a white Ford Expedition,” Simers writes. “If we ever get the chance to talk with her, we’ll ask her what she thinks about a former Trojan tooling around town in a white Ford Bronco.” USC and UCLA meet next week. Foster’s eligibility has yet to be determined.

Brigham old: At 10-0, BYU is screaming toward its 20th conference title in the past 28 years. Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly says the school wins by fielding a squad of ex-missionaries in their mid-20s who throttle younger opponents—it’s like “a special-ops force crushing webelos,” he writes. “That stuff just isn’t Christian.”