And the dog ate my homework
By Jim Armstrong
Special to Page 2

Funny how today's sports world works. Somebody loses half the time, but nobody is ever to blame. Everybody has an excuse for everything, even when they're caught cheating or embarrassing the alums enough to make them wish they had gone to a trade school.

Sammy Sosa
So Sammy, what else do you accidentally use to impress people?
Which, of course, brings us to Sammy Sosa and Rick Neuheisel, each of whom could bring an Enron spin doctor to shame. If there were an Excuse Makers' Hall of Fame, they'd be first-ballot locks.

Sammy says it's all a big misunderstanding, that he grabbed the wrong bat by mistake. The one he had corked so he could dazzle the fans who, as often as not, are waiting outside the stadium when he's taking BP. Right. Rey Ordonez routinely takes BP fastballs deep, but Sammy can't unless he's swinging one of those Formula One oversized champagne bottles.

Then there's Neuheisel, who claims to have received an e-mail from the powers that be saying it was cool for him to enter an NCAA tournament pool. OK, so it didn't say anything about betting thousands. All right, so he reportedly received the e-mail a week after making the friendly wager. Let's not get bogged down in details here, huh? Besides, only the '72 Dolphins were perfect.

That's the way it goes in the sports world of the 21st century. Ah, for the good old days, when stealing signs and honking a loogie on the old horsehide were the only things that could get you in trouble. Maybe all those teams out there have hired one too many sports psychologist. Maybe that's why so many of today's jocks and those who coach them have mastered the fine art of rationalization.

It's an epidemic is what it is. It's getting so that it doesn't matter anymore whether you win or lose, or even if you cheat along the way. As every NFL coach will tell you, the important thing is that you execute in all three phases: excuses, excuses, excuses. Or, to paraphrase my man Grantland Rice, it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the media.

Why, just in the past few weeks, we've heard some of the lamest excuses ever to find their way onto a sports page. And you should hear what today's jocks are saying after the cameras and tape recorders are turned off. Here's a sampling of excuses from the toy department that you probably haven't heard:

  • Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, when asked how the Bronx Bombers could have been no-hit by a bunch of Houston middle relievers: "There was this blonde three rows behind the dugout who kept distracting us. We're talking five-tool player. She made J Lo look like Kathy Bates."
  • Ex-Alabama football coach Mike Price on his infamous foray into a Pensacola, Fla. strip club: "I was looking for a church and the sign out front said something about angels. What was I supposed to think?"
  • Larry Eustachy
    "It just tastes so good, when it hits your lips."

  • Former Iowa State hoops coach Larry Eustachy on the drinking exploits that cost him his job: "I wanted to support the local economy. My broker didn't know anything about hog futures, so we decided to try hops and grains."
  • Marlins GM Larry Beinfest on hiring 72-year-old Jack McKeon without giving any other candidates, several well-qualified minorities among them, the time of day: "We wanted somebody our fan base could relate to. Plus, at the time we hired him, his bocci ball team at the nursing home was in first place."
  • Bucs running back Michael Pittman, when asked about charges that he rammed his Hummer into his wife's Mercedes, jeopardizing his probation from a previous domestic violence charge: "I didn't know it was her. I could have sworn she was driving the Bentley today."
  • Former Tigers GM Randy Smith on the deep demise of the franchise during his regime: "It's tough, but, as you know, injuries are a part of this game."
  • Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, when asked how he could have agreed to a contract clause that forfeits his entire $10-million signing bonus if he says anything critical of the team: "I needed the money so my mom could quit one of her four jobs. And did I mention Mike Brown's dad wouldn't have been anything without his son?"
  • Mike Tyson, when asked about his most recent asinine statements, including the part about wanting to rape Desiree Washington: "Sorry, my other personality said that stuff. Go ask him."
  • Al Davis on taking the Bucs to court for allegedly having uniforms that too closely resemble the Raiders': "Why do you think Rich Gannon threw all those picks in the Super Bowl?"
  • Mets first baseman Mo Vaughn on his ever-increasing waistline: "I wanted to be the first player ever to not hit his weight and make the Hall of Fame."
  • Mo Vaughn
    Mo's "Body by Krispy Kreme" regimen has backfired.

  • Nebraska coach Frank Solich on the Huskers' disastrous 2002 season, which included a loss to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl: "We not only finished 7-7, we had a balanced offense, too. Plus, we fired three coaches and hired three more. Not only that, we had nine players arrested and nine made the dean's list. The program has never been in such perfect harmony."
  • Red Wings sniper Brett Hull on the team's embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Ducks in the opening round of the NHL playoffs: "We would have blown them away, but the commissioner asked us to keep things close to jack up the TV ratings."
  • Agent Drew Rosenhaus, when asked about having his client, Willis McGahee, pretend to be talking to NFL teams on the phone in an attempt to drum up interest on draft day: "The media made all that up. How did we know every telemarketer in America was going to call him during the first round?"
  • Rockies right fielder Larry Walker, when asked how he could have five home runs in mid-June: "I told you guys for years that the ball didn't fly at Coors Field. I'm finally getting around to proving it."

  • Allen Iverson, when asked about his habitual tardiness for practice during the Larry Brown regime: "I didn't want to say anything until it was done, but my tattoo man is trying to recreate the Sistine Chapel on my back. Takes time, man. We're just, like, startin' the New Testament."
  • Jim Armstrong, a sports columnist for the Denver Post, is a regular contributor to Page 2.



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