|Shrimp, shrimp -- everywhere there is shrimp!
Good thing I wore my special suit, the one with the plastic-lined pockets. An old sportswriter's trick.
This is one A-list party, man. The Year-End, Anybody-Who-Is-Anybody Sports Holiday Bash. Streams of Jack Daniel's from the open bar, the '70s cover band playing "Grooveline", and oh! -- did I mention the shrimp? Hiding in Shaquille O'Neal's back pocket turned out to be a good move at the door.
Plus, I got to see Al Davis get hassled.
"Jacket required," said the stone-faced bouncer, who bore an eerie resemblance to an XFL player I will see soon on a TV near me. (You know, the look of an
unemployed baggage handler.)
"But I am wearing a jacket," said Davis, whose voice bore an eerie resemblance to Mayor Quimby of "The Simpsons."
"No sweatjackets allowed," XFL said.
"But it's white, and it's shiny, and my team is back, the Greatness of the Raiders is back, you Samsonite-swinging swine," Davis said.
"Jacket required," the large bouncer said, then stepped aside. "Evening, Mr. Woods."
Tiger made it. Sweet. I figured I'd corner him near the bar. I brought the fake nose and glasses for him, and had my pitch all ready for him to join my weekly four-ball game down at the local muni. I'd pass him off as my new friend, Eldric. When my friends would protest, I'd say: "Dudes, my new buddy in the fake nose and glasses doesn't spell it with a k, you tools."
But he was in no mood for any golf swindles.
"You think they invited me to this party because they like me?" Woods said. "Man, the guy throwing this party is just like Finchem. He just wants me here to say '
'Oooh, Tiger's coming.' Figures he can get Kournikova, some TV execs, maybe even Trey Wingo if the word is out I'll be here. I'm tired of being used."
Woods produced the laminated invite. Sure enough, there was his image promoting the party, right next to a corporate ad for White Castle Burgers.
I was almost ready to make my skins game push for the world's No. 1 player when ...
A huge hunk of ice crashed against the wall. The place fell silent. The '70s band stopped briefly, then kicked right back into "Boogie Nights." The party raged again. And there, near the wall, stood Mike Piazza, brushing ice crystals off his tux.
Next to the ice sculpture -- a gorgeous, 15-foot-high rendition of Alex Rodriguez signing his contract -- stood Roger Clemens, hands outstretched.
"I thought it was the ball!" Clemens said.
"Say what?" said Bud Selig, sipping a glass of sour grapes nearby. "It was a piece of an ice sculpture!"
"I mean, I thought he needed some ice," Clemens said, hands on hips.
"Dude, you almost hit me with a three-foot chunk of ice that used to be A-Rod's leg," Piazza said. "I think you're unstable."
"Don't you dare call me unstable," Clemens said, charging Piazza.
I was glad LaVar Arrington and Courtney Brown were there to each scoop up one of Clemens' arms, as they led him away, kicking and screaming and pointing at Piazza.
|Everyone at the party wants to rub elbows with Tiger Woods.|
"Dude is whack," Piazza said, resuming his conversation with Derek Jeter.
"I'm staying out of it, Mikey," Jeter said. "You know, protect the image and all. Keep it cool, keep it real. I ain't going to maintain this next-DiMaggio thing if I get all caught up in chucking ice and that nonsense."
"That work for you?" Piazza said.
"Have you met my date, Miss Universe?" Jeter said.
"Don't bring up birds," Piazza said.
"Bro, what about the Playmate of the Year?" Jeter said.
"I'm stag, yo," Piazza said. "Hey, man. A woman is like a bus anyway. You miss one, there's always another one coming along and -- yo, man, just as I said ..."
Brushing past us in a slightly sweat-stained yellow tennis dress was Anna herself. I gotta admit, the girl looked good. Again, the '70s band stopped briefly, to emphasize how scorching hot Kournikova was. They then resumed play, right back into "September."
Behind her, a ruckus broke out.
"Now, why is everyone staring at her?" screamed a man who was either Richard Williams, or a frightening combination of Don King and Marv
Marinovich. "What has she won? What ... has ... she ... won?"
The unabashed right to any of our hotel rooms, I thought.
"Serena and Venus are here, and they are champions!" Williams continued. "Give it up for the tennis-playing champions! Not the future Playboy pictorials!"
Venus and Serena could have cared less. They were over at the piano, happily playing "Heart and Soul." Cute stuff, I thought. Those women turned out OK, after all. I wonder if they could get me an audience with Eldrick -- I mean, Eldric -- when I make my big push to ...
I felt a small object bounce off my head. It lay near my feet. It was a cherry pit. Standing 15-feet away was an apologetic Shaquille O'Neal.
"Sorry, bro," Shaq said. "See, they had some cherries at the buffet table, and I was getting my grub on and had to dispose of the cherries, and the wastebasket is right near you and ..."
I glanced at the floor. Some 20 to 25 cherry pits lay on the hardwood.
"Still can't make a freebie from 15 feet, huh, big man?" I said.
"Yeah, I guess the weight of this ring," Shaq said, flashing the 4-pound championship diamond on his hand, "is throwing off my balance."
Dude is very cool, and very funny, I thought. I'm down with him winning a title. We performed a soul shake, and I went searching for my boy Tiger.
My route took me past the door. Al Davis had been joined by another party-crasher who was getting rebuked. She wore a frilly outfit, and looked vaguely familiar.
"But I'm Brenda Warner," she said again, producing an NFL Films video entitled "Brenda Warner: Reactions, Cheers and Crowd Shots" from last January's playoffs.
"No dice," the bouncer said. "Honey, says here on the invite that if your 15 minutes are up ... no holiday party for you."
Finally saw Tiger near the dance floor. By now, the band had kicked into "Got To Be Real" and the joint was jumpin'. Several New Jersey Devils swilled beer from the Stanley Cup, passing it back and forth on the floor. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo did "The Sprinkler" with a cut basketball net around his neck. George Steinbrenner had somebody feeding him grapes.
Just as I was ready to approach "Eldric," he was led away.
The figure approaching him from the dance floor wore a slightly-stained yellow tennis dress, and bore an unmistakable come-hither look.
"Vill you come dance with me ... Tiger?" purred Anna.
The world's greatest athlete handed his drink to an IMG handler, and shoved a napkin full of shrimp into my gut. He took off his coat. He was wearing his Sunday red. Before he hit the dance floor for a night full of holiday party possibility, he flashed that familiar grin at us hangers-on.
Said Eldrick: "It's good to be the king."
Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle is a regular contributor to Page 2.
|Anna Kournikova had the whole party wrapped around her fingers.||