By Tim Keown
Page 2

David Stern rules. He rules in ways that are both mysterious and obvious, often at the same time. He wants to clean up the league's image, so he throws down a dress code. He wants to clean up the court, so he throws down a behavior code.

Or did he? He says he didn't. He says rules haven't been changed and edicts haven't been issued. He says the NBA's just enforcing what's already there.

Fine. The evidence, however, suggests edict. Actually, it screams edict. NBA referees rolled out 30 technicals in the first 17 games of the season, and such demure existentialists as Rasheed Wallace and Mike Bibby were tossed in their teams' openers. Avery Johnson got the heave Monday night.

Stern says the game "should not be unfairly burdened with whining and complaining." Even down to the language, the guy's practically Caesar.

Players and league apologists will complain -- and whine -- that this is unfair. They'll say it gives officials too much power, that it's bound to be far tougher on guys like Sheed and others with bad reputations, that it's legislating out the emotion of the game.

I could have gone along with that way of thinking, but then I watched part of the Raiders-Seahawks game on Monday night. The Raiders, who have been mistaking classlessness for toughness for quite a while now, put on a display that made Rasheed look as volatile as Henry Kissinger.

Raiders defensive end Tyler Brayton capped it by kneeing Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens in the groin at the end of a rasslin' match.

And I realized something: This is exactly what Stern doesn't want to happen. He doesn't want his league to turn into an embarrassment, especially with everybody watching. (He also wants his players to stop carrying guns every time they so much as check the mail, but he'll concentrate on controlling what he can control.)

I also realized something else: The NFL is clearly the league most in need of some serious housekeeping. From Albert Haynesworth's stomp to Brayton's knee, there's too much sociopathic behavior taking place on the field. The league's response has been minimalist, taking every incident separately, mainly because the NFL knows it treads a very fine line when it tries to legislate abhorrent on-field behavior.

Oh, but the NFL has taken steps to make sure no one spikes the ball or does some stupid post-touchdown choreography. And how about those socks -- not a shred of shin showing!

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So … well … so there: After Terrell Owens pretended to use the ball as a pillow after a touchdown catch, Bill Parcells told him, "We don't need that at this particular time," to which Owens told reporters, "That's what I do."

You can be surprised about a lot of things from Terrell Owens, but this should never be one of them: Dropping passes.

So it's not sports, but damn is it funny: Borat.

That settles it -- no Hall of Fame for him: Former Braves outfielder Lonnie Smith, as reported in Columbia, S.C., newspaper The State, hatched a plot to kill Braves GM John Schuerholz, whom he blamed for blackballing him from the game when Schuerholz was GM of the Royals.

If this is perceived as a negative, I'm guessing the Colts will be able to live with it: Indy, despite being 8-0, is just fifth in the league in scoring margin.

And the really creepy thing is, they don't need a warrant to tap his calls anymore: The Elias Sports Bureau reported that Peyton Manning completed two passes from the far left side of the field Sunday night, and over the previous 4½ years he had completed just one pass from that area of the field.

What the people in Texas should expect from new manager Ron Washington: (1) better infield defense; (2) big emphasis on fundamentals; (3) wild, stream-of-consciousness talk littered with copious amounts of random profanity.

Like I've always said, Mario Williams was a no-brainer: Reggie Bush rushed 11 times for -5 yards on Sunday, becoming the seventh player since the merger to carry more than 10 times for negative yards.

Good thing he's not a surgeon: An NFL color commentator who shall remain nameless said the following about an NFL receiver who will remain nameless -- "If you throw it to him five times, he'll come up with two of them, so the percentages are in his favor."

And finally, cocktails at 4, dinner at 5, in the rack by 8:30: There's an item on right now that enables you to spend $3,399.99 for the privilege of spending an evening in Arizona with Yogi Berra and Bob Uecker.

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Page 2 here.


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