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The Kuerten rises on a new week

Special to Page 2

Wait a sec. Something's not right.

Gustavo Kuerten
Just because Gustavo Kuerten is the world's No. 1 tennis player doesn't mean he'll be recognized.
Check the clock: Yeah, 9:01 a.m. Check the calendar: Yeah, it's Monday. Check the site: That is the water cooler, isn't it?

So why is that dude with the scruffy beard and the yellow shirt chilling at my H20 hole? Why isn't my boy Johnny waiting for a cool libation in a paper cup, ready to rehash a weekend of sports bets lost?

"And you are ..." I said.

"Hello," the earnest young man said, "I am Gustavo Kuerten."

"Gustavo Curtin?" I asked. "Any relation to Jane?"

"No, Gustavo Kuerten," he said, still smiling, still scruffy, still wearing that yellow shirt. His knees were stained with clay.

"Gustavo," I said, uneasy with the situation. "So, you're the new guy in ... Customer Service?"

"Service is a part of my game, yes," the man replied. I noticed he was sweaty. And wearing shorts. And he had strange bulges in his pockets.

"Say, Gustavus," I said, "are those tennis balls in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"

"They are tennis balls, yes," he said.

My Monday would only get worse.

"Coming through," barked a stockboy, barreling down the aisle.

I stepped aside, only to notice the stockboy wearing a St. Louis Rams No. 13 jersey.

"Kurt Warner?" I asked. "Say what?"

"You've got to dance with the girl that brung ya," Warner said, busily stocking shelves in the office. "This is what I do, Murph."

I glanced at the sports page I had tacked above the water cooler. (Great idea, huh? Stole it from a Bennigan's restroom urinal. Multi-tasking!) The sports page said Warner threw four picks in a Rams loss.

"You?" I said to the stockboy. "But you're the MVP."

"Not when the little guy in the red suit with the trident wants his deal re-done I'm not," Warner said, still re-stocking.

I turned to the scruffy man in shorts. He was busy pounding tennis balls against my cubicle wall.

"So," the young man said, "how 'bout that Davis Love III? The only thing more surprising than D.L-Three outshining Eldrick and Sergio was Navy pulling out "W" numero uno in its only game that matters."

I stood in stunned silence, watching him talk sports and hit balls.

"And Felix Trinidad!" he said, still roping forehands off my cubicle. "What a great fight, man. Just goes to show you: The middleweight classes produce the best moments in the sweet science."

At this point, I shifted into jonesing-for-Johnny overdrive. Failing that, I was looking for Alan Funt's hidden camera. Failing that, a glimpse of Rod Serling.

I looked around the office. Past Warner stocking shelves, past this cat Kuerten tearing up my cubicle, I looked for sanity. All I saw was that cute girl in cubicle No. 2 working on a computer program charting the projected demise of Denny Neagle's career based on 20 starts a year at Coors Field.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to drink Sparkletts. I wanted ...

"Johnny!" I shouted out, spying my man stalking through the cubicles. He was, uncharacteristically, in a sportcoat and jeans. His hair was, uncharacteristically, slicked back. He wore, uncharacteristically, Italian loafers with no socks. He spoke on a cell phone.

This is my boy Johnny? Usually, he wears Toughskins for Adults, a Terry Bradshaw game jersey and a baseball cap that reads "I've Fallen and I Can't Reach My Beer." And the cell phone? Geez, our boss at work had to take away Johnny's calling card because of all those calls he made to his bookie in the Bahamas.

He high-fived that Gustafson character in the shorts and cried out to me: "Irish! Glad to see you've made my boy feel at home."

"Your boy?" I said.

"Murphster, wake up and smell the ATP, baby," Johnny said. "You've just spent 10 minutes at the water cooler with the number-one tennis player in the world, Brazil's own Gustavo Kuerten.

"Better known," Johnny said, "as my latest client."

"Client?" I said. "You ... an agent?"

"What, baby, you think I spend all weekend watching sports on TV, napping and eating Doritos?" he said. "Come on, Gustavo, let's go. I've got coffee scheduled at the Brazilian café down the street. We're meeting with some Hollywood types."

"But I can't even spell Gustavo Kuerten," I shouted out to Johnny as he headed out the door.

"That, my man," Johnny said, furiously pounding digits on his cell phone, "is why you're still working under the flourescents. Ciao, babe!"

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle will find refreshment at the Monday Morning Water Cooler every week on Page 2.

hit the cooler 

Murphy: Phat weekend

Murphy: A rose is a rose ...

Murphy: All washed up

Murphy: Cooler heads prevail

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