Sports Nut

The Sports Pages: Tyson’s Chicken

A weekly look at the sports commentariat.

The Super Bowl story lines are set: Underdog vs. Overdog; Bledsoe vs. Brady; Mike Martz the offensive genius vs. Bill Belichick the defensive genius; Marshall Faulk’s journey home to New Orleans; the Patriots as a team of destiny. Now on to something interesting:

KeystoneState Kops: Diverging perspectives from the losers. The favored Steelers “failed miserably,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook writes. “That’s three times in four AFC title games at home in the past eight seasons.”

On the other side of the state, the Philadelphia papers shrug off the Eagles’ loss. “Just a hiccup in time. A pause before better things to come,” the Inquirer’s Bill Lyon writes. The Daily News’ Rich Hofmann concurs, “This is what people feel: crushed by the defeat and simultaneously energized by the possibilities.”

The Daily News’ John Smallwood falls into the crushed-by-the-defeat camp. “When you factor in all the variables that can put a team in or keep a team out of the Super Bowl, you know that, as bright as this team’s future looks, a tremendous opportunity was missed, one that might not come again any time soon,” he writes. “The Phillies have won one World Series in 118 years. The Sixers haven’t won an NBA title since 1983. The Flyers have been to the Stanley Cup finals five times since they last won the Cup in 1975. The Eagles still have played in just one Super Bowl. Let’s face it, Philadelphia is the city of tomorrows that haven’t come.”

Tyson’s chicken: Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis brawled in anticipation of their April 5 title bout. In the melee, Tyson allegedly bit Lewis’ leg—an eerie reminder of Kid Dynamite’s habit of gnawing on opponents. Later, he shrieked to a (male) reporter, “You white bitch. … I’ll fuck you ‘til you love me.” Most pundits bemoaned the lurid state of boxing and compared the fight circuit to the WWF, but a few found a fresh angle. The Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock writes, “I realize Tyson isn’t the only man who had a tough childhood. But he’s the only man I know who doesn’t appear to have one single friend. … As Tyson exploded and imploded Tuesday, none of the 20 or so members of Tyson’s posse did a thing to prevent the former champion from embarrassing himself and putting Tyson’s $20 million payday in jeopardy.”

The Washington Post’sMichael Wilbon suggests: “He didn’t want to land that punch because if he wanted to he would have. Instead, he wanted to create hysteria and chaos, deflect attention from the fact that he’s washed up, get the whole thing canceled, which is easier than telling his own lackeys he just can’t summon the discipline or courage to fight anymore and live with the consequences of finding out he’s just another man’s pigeon.” The Los Angeles Daily News’ Michael Rosenthal has a possible solution: “Gary Shaw, Lewis’ promoter, suggested that ‘maybe we shouldn’t have faceoffs?’ Maybe?” (Click here to visit Tyson’s official Web site, which features teddy bears and backpacks for purchase.)

I dream of Jeanie: After a 16-1 start, the Los Angeles Lakers have gone into a tailspin, going just 13-11 for their last 24 games. Sunday’s loss to the Sixers means coach Phil Jackson won’t have to schlep to Philadelphia to captain the Western Conference All-Stars (Dallas’ Don Nelson, by virtue of a superior winning percentage, gets the honors). The Los Angeles TimesT.J. Simers wonders if Jackson didn’t blow a few games just to shirk All-Star duty: “When the Lakers were 16-1, and everyone else considered the task almost impossible, I still had Phil Jackson in the hot tub with Jeanie [his girlfriend] when it came time for the NBA All-Star game on Feb. 10. … I’m not clairvoyant; I’ve just seen Jeanie.”

Long in the booth: The Kansas City Star’s Joe Posnanski pays tribute to the quiet competence of Pat Summerall. “He comes from that time when television announcers let pictures tell stories. Frank Chirkinian, the brilliant CBS producer who first put a camera in a blimp and microphones in boxing corners, gave Summerall this advice before golf tournaments: ‘If you ever say ‘The putt is in the hole,’ you’re fired. They can see the putt is in the hole,’ ” Posnanski writes. “Summerall never said the putt was in the hole. … He called the game—’Aikman back. Going long. Michael Irvin. Touchdown.’—with the fewest words. He let cameras tell the story on the field.” (Slate’sTuesday Morning Quarterback begs to differ.)

Obligatory Super Bowl items: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz can’t resist taunting the Rams’ peskiest rival, the New Orleans Saints. “As the Rams prepare for the Super Bowl in New Orleans, they will use the Saints’ practice facility. The Saints, of course, mouthed off about the Rams all season, and coach Jim Haslett taunted Martz for using trick plays after the Saints upset the Rams in St. Louis this season,” Miklasz writes. “Martz will be using Haslett’s private locker room this week. Maybe Martz can call ahead and see to it that Haslett stocks the room with Martz’s favorite shampoo and deodorant.”

Las Vegas bookmakers are giving the Pats 14 ½ points, the third-largest spread of any NFL game this season. The Dallas Morning NewsRick Gosselin points out that the Pats were 10-point underdogs against the Steelers last week—the same odds that Vegas gave the Lions (2-14) for their matchup with Pittsburgh earlier in the season.