Sports Nut

The Sports Pages: Mr. O’Leary’s Fire

A weekly look at the sports commentariat.

The Denver Post’s Jim Armstrong says Denver Nuggets coach Dan Issel should be fired after Issel yelled at a heckler, “Go drink another beer, you (bleeping) Mexican piece of (bleep).” Not because Issel is a racist, but because people will always think he’s one: “Fuzzy Zoeller is a good man, too. So were Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek. But what does the world remember them for? … Moral to the story: This isn’t going away. Not in four games, not in 400. Since it won’t go away, Issel has to.” But the Post’s Woody Paige counters, “Issel ought to be forced to coach the Denver Nuggets in every game. That’s appropriate torture.”

The Post’s Mark Kiszla wants to fire Issel, too. Not because Issel is a racist, but because he’s a bad coach with a 178-205 record. In another column, Kiszla says Issel’s tirade is part of a pattern. Kiszla writes, “His credibility as coach of the Denver Nuggets has been destroyed one profanity-laced tirade at a time. He has lost control of his team and lost respect in the NBA, because Issel has been unable to control his darkest emotions.”

The Los Angeles Times’ J.A. Adande may have had the best Issel-related line: “My favorite element of this story was the part about Nick Van Exel trying to defuse the situation Tuesday night and lead Issel back to the locker room. When Van Exel is the voice of reason, it’s time to get out.”

Another Mickey Mouse operation: Last week, the Anaheim Angels were set to ship outfielder Darin Erstad to the White Sox in a five-player deal. But at the last second, somebody overruled the team’s general manager and nixed the trade. Who’s the culprit? The Los Angeles TimesRoss Newhan, quoting White Sox sources, thinks it might be Michael Eisner, the chairman of Disney, which owns the team. Perhaps Disney, thinking like a movie studio, didn’t want the team to trade its most marketable star. Newhan wonders, “Can any club now dealing with Disney trust that handshake?”

Boston Red Sox management encountered no such resistance when they dealt mercurial outfielder Carl Everett to the Texas Rangers. The Boston Globe’sDan Shaughnessy rejoices: “Carl Everett was the Ebola virus of the Boston clubhouse. The Sox should have dealt him for a sack of doorknobs if that’s what was offered.”

How do the Rangers feel? “For most of the past 30 years, Arlington has been an easy place to lose,” the Dallas Morning News’ Tim Cowlishaw writes. “Everett’s disturbing presence will change all that. The Ballpark is about to become a miserable place to lose.”

The Kansas City Star’s Joe Posnanski, an eternal optimist, sees a similar logic behind the Royals’ inexplicable desire to sign Chuck Knoblauch. “1. You never know what an angry player can do. 2. He’s kind of a jerk,” Posnanski writes. “The Royals need a jerk. They need someone who snipes at the other players, creates a little electricity in that clubhouse.” Surprisingly, eternal pessimist Rany Jazayerli of the Baseball Prospectus agrees. “It is true that Knoblauch’s career path bears an uncanny resemblance to Enron’s stock price,” Jazayerli writes. But maybe Knoblauch will finally get his head screwed on straight. “Who’s to say that, freed from the big-city glare of New York City, playing for a team with no pressure and no expectations, that Knoblauch might not find his stroke again? It wouldn’t be the first time a poor-fielding middle-infielder enjoyed a renaissance after fleeing the coast for Kansas City. Just ask Jose Offerman.”

Finding defeat in victory: After blowing a 13-point lead, the Detroit Lions rallied to beat the Minnesota Vikings and win their first game of the season. The Detroit Free-PressMitch Albom writes, “To be honest, the Lions played Sunday’s game the way they’ve played most of their games this year: close and hard-fought, but also mistake-prone, sporadic and lacking a killer instinct. The only difference this time was that they won.”

Mr. O’Leary’s fire: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Dan Barreiro finds three fewer things to like about former UNH benchwarmer George O’Leary (“the first undefeated coach in Notre Dame football history”): 1) O’Leary’s graduation rate at Georgia Tech was 33 percent. 2) “The NCAA once admonished him for making an improper loan to a player.” And 3) “At Georgia Tech, he once punished an underachieving offensive lineman by ordering four defensive linemen to simultaneously take a run at him at the end of practice. The player, who stayed down for 15 minutes, quit the team and left school.”