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Pass the Golden Chalice
By Mark Kreidler
Special to Page 2
|Folks, thanks again for coming, and we'll get to the first annual Prima Donna Golden Chalice awards in just a moment. But first, we'd like to thank our sponsors, Mr. and Mrs. John Quillig Public, for continuing to shovel forth insane amounts of money to celebrate people who indulge in the very types of behavior we're about to describe.
Not that we stand against you! Far from it! In fact, here's a John Rocker 21-Slur Salute for persisting in this remarkably odd little enterprise of overpaying wildly to slake your sports jones. Without it, several hundred current elite athletes -- to say nothing of thousands of former jocks, coaches, assistant coaches, front-office executives, electro-gadget-heads, deep-fryer-greased scribes and Fred Edelstein -- would be facing the most terrifying notions of their lives: It might be time to
get a, you know, job.
Help us help you! That's what this world is all about.
Very quickly now, a word about methodology: There was none. No, no, again we kid. These Golden Chalice winners represent merely the final cut
in a lengthy process of elimination that began with a trip through the Usual Suspect List they keep over at league headquarters.
What can you say? The danged thing just keeps getting longer. It's like Redford and Hoffman plowing through those library index cards during
that one scene from "All the President's Men" -- how much time, exactly, do you have?
So, to recap: Tough year. Competitive field. Ten recipients.
She put her tennis career temporarily on hold while engaging in an elusive, spiritual search for the perfect anklet. She is chosen here not so much for the stock-portfolio commercials or her involvement in the NHL dating scene or her full-makeup regalia or the fact that every publication in the land has come up with some incredibly lame excuse or other to stuff her into a Brandi Chastain sports bra just in time for the cover shot. No, she was chosen for a simpler reason: She accomplished virtually nothing on the pro tennis tour that correlates to the massive hype she aggressively pursues and happily receives.
The public is still pondering whether the I-man wore a "What-Would-Jesus-Do?" bracelet into the recording studio to cut that CD on which he spoke so glowingly of murder, misogyny and racism. The resulting collection of tracks was so repugnant that noted hip-hop savant David Stern was compelled to comment negatively. There's no truth to the rumor that the disc's title, "40 Bars," refers to a Thursday night spent in the company of Dennis Rodman. ("40 Juice Bars," maybe?)
He exacerbated his reputation as a perennial Golden Chalice contender by twice attempting to cut off traffic disputes with other Salt Lake City drivers by waving a ceremonial badge and pretending to be affiliated with actual cops. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is said to be considering attaching a "rider" complaint related to Polynice's repeated attempted impersonations of an NBA center. 7. NBC Sports
The network came up several Fosters short of a six pack with its utterly ludicrous decision to televise zero (0) hours live from the 2000 Sydney Olympics, instead foisting upon viewers ghastly prepackaged prime-time pap. Program master Dick Ebersol reassures viewers everywhere by stating that, as long as he is in charge, this exact format will be the preferred method. (Note to those unable to fly to Sydney in September: At the Olympics themselves, organizers went ahead and held each athletic event from start all the way through to finish.)
They teamed up to run Paul Westphal out of the SuperSonics coaching job with a combination of pathetic attitude, disdainful demeanor and shocking on-court ineptitude. A special citation of merit goes to Payton, who, on the final weekend of Westphal's tenure, came in for a timeout during a game against the Sacramento Kings and took a seat at the farthest end of the bench, down by the fans, while the rest of the Seattle team met near the scorer's table -- only days after he claimed he supported Westphal and didn't want the situation to deteriorate into a typical NBA whacking via whiny mutiny.
The beaded divas received several first-place votes after a year of high-caliber tennis and tremendous off-court, uh, presence. Included in the latter category: father Richard's suggestion that the tennis tour should begin thinking of cutting his daughters in on a percentage of the gross (see Woods, Tiger, below) and his adamant but suspect discussion of Venus Williams retiring from the sport after missing time on tour because of tendinitis in her wrists. "Not that seriously," Venus said when asked how seriously she was considering leaving the sport. Hey, good thing: At 20, it's still possible she might have things left to accomplish.
This is a group entry, because any attempt to separate Alex Rodriguez from (a) agent Scott Boras, (b) leaked rumors of contract demands or (c) confirmed facts about what he actually received in his $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers is damned to futility. One interesting side note: While Rodriguez and his tamed sympathizers criticized Mets GM Steve Phillips for going public with his contract requirements -- a personal memorabilia tent at spring training, etc. -- no one involved has asked for a retraction on the basis of factual inaccuracy. Rodriguez clinched a chalice himself by stating that free agency was about playing for a proven winner, then signing with a Rangers club that finished last in the AL West in 2000, 20 games behind the Seattle team that A-Rod is leaving behind.
He raised meddling ownership to a fine art form by investing 100 million mostly new dollars in several mostly old players, failing to pay the slightest attention to the kicking game and/or special teams and creating his very own QB controversy out of whole cloth by insisting that the 'Skins sign noted cancer Jeff George. He also left coach Norv Turner and his family waiting inside the stadium for several hours after a 9-7 loss to the Giants for a state-of-the-team conversation that never took place. He elevated assistant coach Terry Robiskie, who asserted that he wouldn't even consider moving his office furniture without consulting the tiny owner. He also asked to be called "Mr. Snyder" even in the hallways of notoriously informal football-team offices. He can't understand why no Super Bowl parade has yet been scheduled for downtown D.C.
The greatest player in modern golf history endured a rare failure to top every list by finishing only second in the Golden Chalice chase. His atom-smashing season in 2000 was marred by some major diva behavior re: the PGA Tour, with a suggestion by Woods that he begin taking a cut of the Tour's profits. Woods' unassailable logic -- that the Tour's explosive growth and TV ratings owed almost everything to his appearances at the PGA's tournaments -- was undercut by his true motives: to get satisfaction from the PGA after his father did not receive a cart to ride around in during one tournament, and because Tour commissioner Tim Finchem never stopped by just to say hello. One other possible motive: greed. This was the first serious sign that the most powerful man in sports won't be afraid to wield it like a blunt instrument. Not the happiest moment of his year.
The second definition of "prima donna" in Webster's New World College Dictionary: "(Informal) A temperamental, vain, or arrogant person." Sweater optional. We have a winner. Mark Kreidler, a columnist for the Sacramento Bee, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com and Page 2.
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