The Sports pages

Hog Hell

Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson blasted the media last week, saying reporters have roughed him up because of his race. “My great-great-grandfather came over on the ship. Not Nolan Richardson. I did not come over on that ship. So I expect to be treated a little bit different. Because I know for a fact that I do not play on the same level as the other coaches around this school play on. I know that. You know it. And people of my color know that.” On Friday, Richardson accepted a buyout and left the Hogs.

The Fayetteville Morning NewsDana Caldwell writes: “Richardson said he plays on an ‘uneven field’ with the rest of the UA’s coaches. Yet he is the highest paid. By far. And his is not the pressure-packed job that football coach Houston Nutt’s is. He doesn’t have an ex-football coach (athletic director Frank Broyles) looking over his shoulder, nor did he inherit a program that was near the bottom of the league.” The Dallas Morning NewsTim Cowlishaw argues, “As much as it’s a shame to see the race card played indiscriminately, it’s unreasonable to think that the mostly white media corps intuitively understands the methods and even the madness that drives a successful black coach. Richardson deserves to be remembered as one of the finest college coaches ever to work this area of the country. Any race. Any era.”

Sammy, Barry, or the youth? Forget the Schwab commercial. The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers argues that Sammy Sosa, not Barry Bonds, has the best shot at breaking Hank Aaron’s career record of 755 home runs. The key difference is age. Bonds turns 38 in June, the point where many sluggers begin to break down (see Mark McGwire). Sosa, on the other hand, is just 33. The math wizards at STATS Inc. give Sosa a 47 percent chance to pass Aaron, Bonds a 43 percent chance, and Alex Rodriguez, who is 26, a 27 percent chance.

Out of their depth: Which conference has the worst depth in college basketball? “The Big 12 is weak,” the Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock argues. “Take away Kansas and Oklahoma, and the league is weaker than the Missouri Valley Conference.” The New York Daily NewsDick Weiss says the Atlantic 10 might have just one representative in the NCAA Tournament. Temple coach John Chaney responds, “I wish the guys who are the brokers in the business would just keep their mouths shut. I’m talking about Digger Phelps and Billy Packer. They’re not on the [tourney’s selection] committee, but if you keep shouting about the same leagues—the Big East, the Pac-10 and SEC—in one guy’s ear, after awhile it becomes a herd mentality.”

Will the Bolts bolt? The San Diego Chargers will hold training camp in Los Angeles next summer and may move there in 2004. The Los Angeles TimesT.J. Simers says that if the Chargers are serious about changing cities, they must secure the blessing of the sportswriters. “The Chargers left L.A. in 1961 because Jack Murphy, sports editor and columnist for the San Diego Union, convinced team owner Baron Hilton that San Diego was ready for football, and then Murphy urged city politicians to build a stadium, which later was named after him.” When the Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals contemplated their own moves to L.A., their owners were trashed by Times writers, and the city lost interest.

John Madden, liar? The New York Post’s Phil Mushnick writes, “The oddly pathetic thing about John Madden fulfilling his longtime ambition to be on Monday Night Football is that if he hadn’t been a greedy guy—or had he been a man of his word—he’d have likely been there since 1994.” Madden agreed to terms with ABC in 1993, then stiffed the net for a better offer from Fox. He used ABC as leverage against Fox during contract negotiations in 1998, which so enraged MNF execs that they publicly declared they didn’t want him. “And for all of his couldn’t-have-done-it-without-ya-pal tributes to longtime partner Pat Summerall, in Summerall’s final days at Fox, Madden twice previously was ready to bolt for ABC without him.”

Read a good sports column lately? Post a link in “The Fray.” The best entries will be mentioned in future columns.