The Cooler throws a Tony party
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

The Panthers, unbeaten? The Rams, winless? The NFL, taking hold in Week 2?


James Gandolfini
Make no mistake, Cooler dwellers: Tony Soprano is one of us.
Here at The Cooler, we know what fills our Dixie Cups with joy -- and it isn't always a cold shot of Sparkletts.

To be the Cooler-master, naturally, you must have a Ph.D in pop culture. This dates to my days as an 8-year-old, when my older brother made me do my J.J. Evans imitation for his pals. This Jimmie Walker rip-off would come complete with hand-clap, wrists out by the shoulders, and the exaggerated enunciation: "Because I'm the Kid ... Dy-no-mite."

My brother's pals would point at me and laugh, but I felt like the coolest kid in the neighborhood.

I could hear the theme song in my head: "Good times!/Any time you meet a payment/Good times!/Any time you need a friend ..."

In retrospect ... man, what a dork I was.

No wonder it took until late in my high school years to get any kind of action at school dances.

So anyway, what it all means is that this weekend of sports was not about Anna or Oscar or JoePa or Barry.

It was about Tony and Christopher and Ralphie and Carmela.

And A.J. and Uncle Junior and Meadow.

See, we value pop culture as highly as sports, and all it took was the season opener of "The Sopranos" -- and, let's be frank, the equally-anticipated season opener of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" -- to get us all tingly over today's Cooler intro. A sports hook? Simple. Opening scene, as Afrika Bambaata and Johnny Rotten sing the highly-underrated and long-forgotten "World Destruction," Tony heads down his driveway, picks up the Newark Star-Ledger, and turns right to ...

Adam Vinatieri
Adam Vinatieri and the Patriots really hurt Tony's family with their Super Bowl upset.
The business page?

The front page?

His horoscope?


Tony Soprano leafs right to the sports page.

God bless this pinky-ring-wearing sanitation consultant.

As if we needed any more sports angles, he later tells Carmela that the reason her allowance is down is because the syndicate overestimated the take on Super Bowl bets.

Tony Soprano, dwellers, is one of us.

More to the point, he's a pop culture brother of the Evans family in Chicago, isn't he?

James and Florida and the kids had their wants, lyrically posed:

    "Not getting hassled, not getting' hustled ...
    Keepin' your head above water,
    Makin' a wave when you can ...
    Temporary layoffs (Good times)
    Easy credit rip-offs (Good times)
    Scratchin' and survivin' (Good times) ..."

And really, dwellers, ain't we lucky we got 'em?

For Tony, for the Kid Dy-no-mite, for any of us who go through this mortal coil just scratchin' and survivin', we dedicate the Weekend List of Five:

1. College Football: What's up with the unis?
When the aliens land, will they be wearing the New College Football Uni?

Onterrio Smith
Onterrio Smith and Oregon have been out of this world since switching to their "alien" uniforms.
Oregon started this trend. The mysterious "Wave of Color" down the sides of our college football heroes. Sort of an aerodynamic splash down the outer edge of the rib cage, and working its way down the sides of the pants of our college football heroes.

Cal, of all places, turned up in these unis this year and are now winning as if every team they face is on the take from Tony Soprano's point-shaving syndicate. Nebraska, on the other hand, turned up in these unis and wound up getting their lunch force-fed to them by Penn State, of all places, where the uniforms are still the same from when a baby-faced Joe Paterno scored three touchdowns on the British Army in the Revolutionary War.

Oregon turned up with these things a few years ago, and since then they've been playing like they're on amphetamines.

Side note: What is up with Oregon football? Since when did this place decide that it was going to turn its college football program into Notre Dame plus Alabama plus Oklahoma? These tree-huggers are getting cocky on us. They post the billboard in Times Square, which was written off to a Phil Knight bender that got out of control when someone opened his checkbook and handed him a pen. Now, they've got billboards right near the USC campus in L.A., and just off the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, sort of an equidistant in-your-face on Stanford and Cal.

Wait a minute: Shouldn't these guys be making me a Frappucino, and not worrying about running trips right? What in this world can you have faith in if you can't count on Oregon to be a place where the co-eds' armpit hair outmasses the male students' armpit hair, and where football is sneered at as the fascist glorification of mindless competition?

Memo to Oregon Duck fans: Drop your season tickets. Come out with your hands up. Grab the nearest acoustic guitar, and sing the first James Taylor song that comes to you.

End of side note.

So anyway, that's what I'm thinking about these New College Unis.

Meanwhile, it's good to see that Penn State must be back to cheating. How else can you explain that pantsing of Nebraska? As our favorite Happy Valley alum, the I-Man, said: "We had two losing seasons in a row. We got a lot of high draft picks."


2. The NFL: random thoughts on Week 2
Kordell Stewart
Kordell Stewart is feeling the heat from all sides in Pittsburgh.
Hey, everything's coming up roses in Detroit, huh? Remember when Marty Mornhinweg split from practice last year and got on his Harley and just, like, took off as a protest to how lousy his team was? I'm thinking Marty's due for another Harley ride, only this time going Peter Fonda/Dennis Hopper on us and taking off across America in search of peyote and Mardi Gras. It's his only hope. ...

Should the city of Pittsburgh just cut through the politically-correct crap and go ahead with the public stoning of Kordell Stewart at high noon by the meeting of the three rivers? Spare us the delay and be on with it. ...

Reminder: It's the Patriots' world. We just live in it ... (I learned that when a pack of Irish and Italian Pats fans unleashed vulgar fury on The Cooler last January via e-mail. I'd say their mothers would be ashamed of the e-mails I got, but I think some of their mothers were the ones who sent them.) ... Repeat: It's the Patriots' world. We just live in it. ...

I read somewhere where the AFC North was the worst division in football. The AFC North. What is the AFC North? Who is in the AFC North, Saskatchewan? ...

3. We still love baseball
Our little forgotten treasure, now that football season hath started. We know that football is the opiate of the masses, but we're still clinging true to the belief that September belongs to the grand old game, baby.

Torii Hunter
Torii Hunter's glove: Where Bud Selig's dreams of contractions go to die.
And what better time to salute the Official Cooler Team, our plucky little Minnesota Twins?

The Cooler dispenses champagne today for the guttiest team on 50 legs that plays inside a giant vat of microwaved popcorn.

The Twins, for the love of Mike! The evil man Bud Selig tried to contract this squad! I don't think you understand, so let me use my fonts again. Ahem:

The evil man Bud Selig tried to contract this squad!

Here's how my Twins responded to a teamful of Bud Seligs all season: By firing Brad Radke at Selig for the first seven innings. By building a lead on Bud Selig after a Cristian Guzman triple and a Doug Mientkiewicz base hit. By protecting that lead with defensive gems by Corey Koskie. By bringing in LaTroy Hawkins in the eighth, and Everyday Eddie Guadardo in the ninth.

And just when Bud thought he had hit one deep to tie the score ... our guy Torii Hunter went to the wall to rob him.

Torii Hunter's glove: Where Bud Selig's dreams of contractions go to die.

God bless our AL Central champions.

4. Tim Montgomery is the World's Fastest Man
While you were picking pepperoni out of the folds of your Strat-o-Lounger, a cat named Tim Montgomery covered 100 meters in 9.78 seconds.

Tim Montgomery
Ladies and gentlemen: The world's fastest man, Tim Montgomery.
Nine point seven eight seconds!

Here are the things I can do in 9.78 seconds: Take a long pull off a cold beer.

Let's see, what else can I do in 9.78 seconds?

Uh ... did I mention taking a long pull off a cold beer?

I can't believe our nation's total disdain for this epic achievement. It used to be cool to be the fastest cat in the world, man! It used to be cool to be Jesse Owens. You could race horses and stuff. It used to be cool to be Carl Lewis.

Well, wait.

It was never really cool to be Carl Lewis, 'cause he had that whole King of Pop thing going, that we could never really grasp.

Still, the cat could roll out.

Now, a guy named Tim Montgomery ran 9.78 in front of about 100 people in Paris. The glorification of track and field, the ancient sport, is over. They could never re-make an epic flick like "Chariots of Fire," because they'd have to do it in front of stands that were 90 percent empty, as if at an Expos game.

Still, 9.78! It was just 14 years ago that Ben Johnson ran 9.88, and when everybody looked at his yellow eyeballs, they thought he looked like "An American Werewolf in London" and had him urinate into the nearest beaker.

Now, dude rolls out 9.78 and all he can get is page C9 of the sports section!

Sad days, dweller. Sad days.

5. Anna! Anna! Anna!
Anna Kournikova
If Anna Kournikova had won Sunday, it would have changed the world for millions of male sports fans.
Yes, it's true. We came within two sets of our sports fantasy reaching fruition: Anna Kournikova, champion.

The Hottest Woman Athlete Ever made it to the finals of the Shanghai Open, and to think of what could have unfolded had she won!

You could legitimately post a life-size poster of her in your bedroom, and when your babe came down your road, you could say: "But honey, I'm just glorifying a true female champion!"

You could download every screen-saver that showed Anna's skirt in a compromising position, and when a female co-worker came down your road, you could say: "Hey, I don't know where your mind is at. All I know is, I'm paying homage to a tennis champion, and you have a People magazine with Ben Affleck on the cover stuffed in your desk drawer."

You could bookmark every website with Anna photos in your company computer, and when your boss came down your road for inappropriate use of company computers, you could say: "Inappropriate use? Huh. I never thought that my tribute to Title IX was such an inappropriate thing."

Meanwhile, Anna goes down in straight sets to some bird named Smashnova.

Hey, Anna: Thanks for nothing, babe.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



Brian Murphy Archive

Murphy: Celebrating our youth in the rearview mirror

Murphy: Cooler moments in sports cinema

Murphy: Toasting Beem, a sportswriter's dream

Murphy: Barry owes it all to my burrito

Murphy: Not ready for some football -- yet

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