Sports Nut

The Sports Pages: Just Win, Barely

A weekly look at the sports commentariat.

The King and Mike: Now that the Lennox Lewis-Hasim Rahman fight is over, a new matchup looms in the heavyweight division: Mike Tyson vs. Don King. The promoter fires some shots at the former champ (who is suing King for $100 million) in Dave Anderson’s column in the New York Times: “I really feel sorry for Mike,” King says. “When I promoted him, he made $170 million as a convicted rapist. Now he doesn’t want me.”

Anderson has more details on the King-Tyson feud in another column: “The last two times they were anywhere near each other, according to witnesses, Tyson reacted violently. In one outburst, Tyson threw a pitcher of water at King. In the other, when King attempted to get into Tyson’s limo, Tyson literally kicked him out.”

King also tells Anderson how he signed Rahman before the Felix Trinidad-William Joppy middleweight title fight: “I happened to have a manila envelope from the bank with $200,000 in $100 bills to pay the Trinidad undercard and other people,” King said. “When Rahman sat down with me, I turned the envelope upside down and shook all that money out. I said, ‘Count it, man.’ I told him, ‘That’s your down payment if you sign with me.’ When he did, he later got a check for another $4.8 million for me to be his exclusive promoter for three years.”

Profiles in futility: The Detroit Lions kept their bid for a 0-16 season alive, blowing a 10-point lead before falling to Arizona, 45-38. “It was as though the Lions were playing themselves in the Cardinals,” the Detroit Free PressDrew Sharp writes, “a foe so self-destructive no lead was safe, nor was any deficit insurmountable.” The Free PressMitch Albom says that Matt Millen, the Lions’ rookie general manager, “is a dedicated man, an intelligent man, a passionate man and a focused man. And he is finding that dedication, intelligence, passion and focus don’t gain a yard in the actual game.”

In a related story, the Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock has taken to calling the Chiefs’ quarterback “Tr-INT Green.”

Bounty hunters: A Cleveland Browns player says the team is preparing to punish Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward for his “vicious—but legal—block” on Browns safety Earl Little last week, the New York Times’ Mike Freeman writes. “The nasty part came when Ward stood over Little—who was knocked unconscious and later carted off with a concussion—and taunted him. Ward later apologized for the taunting but not for the hit.” The NFL fined Ward $5,000 for taunting. “The player, who spoke on the condition on anonymity, added that there had been talk among a small group of Browns players about putting a bounty on Ward. Anyone to get a good hit on him would collect an unspecified amount. But what would most likely happen, the player said, is that Browns players would exact bounty-less revenge by simply trying to hit Ward the way he hit Little.” The Browns-Steelers rematch is Jan. 6.

Just win, barely: The Oakland Raiders have the look of a Super Bowl team, but they keep dithering with inferior opponents. What’s wrong? “The Raiders don’t have the quick-strike speed to make long-yardage plays on offense,” the San Jose Mercury NewsSkip Bayless writes. “They don’t create many game-changing turnovers on defense. And they have a nasty habit of giving up shockingly cheap touchdowns.”

The new Dave Kingman:’s Tom Verducci says Jose Canseco will likely break Dave Kingman’s record for the most home runs by a player never elected to the Hall of Fame. Canseco hit 462 homers, 20 more than Kingman.

Give Freddy Garcia the Cy: Roger Clemens didn’t deserve his sixth Cy Young Award, the Miami Herald’s Dan LeBatard suggests. “Clemens’ impressive 20-3 record was something of a lie. He had zero shutouts, zero complete games. His teammates gave him an absurd average of seven runs a game, the second-best run support in the American League,” LeBatard writes. “He left nine of his 33 starts trailing (nearly one-third!). By happenstance, his teammates rallied to either win him the game or get him a no-decision in six of those (he lost the other three).” Clemens’$2 3.51 ERA is the second-worst ever for an American League Cy Young winner, and the Rocket may not have been even the best pitcher on the Yankees: “Mike Mussina pitched more innings than Clemens while giving up fewer hits, runs and walks, and striking out more batters.”

LeBatard also got off a great line after the Dolphins fell to the Jets for the eighth straight time: “Rivalry? This is not a rivalry. A hammer and a nail do not have a rivalry.”

Does anyone deserve the Heisman Trophy? The nation’s two premier running backs—UCLA’s DeShaun Foster and Boston College’s William Green—earned suspensions for off-field indiscretions, and outside of Nebraska’s Eric Crouch, no quarterback has broken from the pack. The Dallas Morning NewsKevin B. Blackistone argues that mediocre Heisman Trophy winners tarnish the award, and “the ‘01 season seems headed to repeat such devaluation.” The solution? Treat the Heisman like the Pulitzer: If no athlete is worthy, shelve the award until next year.

The sun also sets: Phoenix Suns guard Penny Hardaway, who has missed 163 games over the past four seasons with injuries, is healthy and averaging 20.1 points per game. But the Suns would have preferred that he didn’t play at all, the Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith writes. If Hardaway had retired before Sunday, insurance would have paid most of his $67.5 million contract, and the league would have removed the contract from the Suns’ salary cap figure. If Hardaway goes down now—and recent history says he will—the team is out of luck. “Everyone has been there with, say, an automobile, a computer or a washing machine,” Smith writes. “Two weeks after that warranty ends, something goes wrong.”