Anti-rocket fuel
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

I think there should be a permanent Cooler left in the city of Chicago.

It can be toted wherever it needs go: To Comiskey if the Ligues -- the Chicago Ligues -- are planning a family reunion; to Soldier Field on a December day; or to Wrigley, on pretty much any of 81 home games.

Like, this weekend.

This weekend would have been nice.

This weekend would have been Cooler Central.

Roger Clemens
There's always next time, Rocket.
We might have even allowed the Sparkletts to be spiked with some Old Style. Dixie cups for everyone.

What a scene at Wrigley: Blue skies, huge crowd, Clemens, Sammy the Corker, Yanks, Cubs and two national TV games on the slate.

I have a good pal, B.H., who is a White Sox fan -- for that, he is more to be pitied than censured -- and he has often written off Wrigley as "the world's largest outdoor gay cocktail party."

If that's the case, then rent out "La Cage Aux Folles" and break out the Judy Garland CDs.

I'm a Wrigley Believer.

I knew it was special in my only visit, three years ago, but that was only re-enforced when Cubs first baseman Eric Karros said that the Yanks-Cubs/Clemens-299-Saga was the most electric atmosphere he'd ever played in, even comparing it to "some pretty heady Giants-Dodgers games I've played in."

Yes! No doubt he referred to the Candlestick Era, where even the Ligue Family -- of the Chicago Ligues -- would take out a personal insurance policy before entering the Candlestick bleachers wearing anything blue.

But Saturday was Wrigley's Day. We won't take anything from it.

Ah, Chicago. Sweet Chicago. Love it.

My buddy B.H. has moved to the leafy suburbs known to the rest of the movie-going world as John Hughes Country, and he gave me a tour of the tony townships that played as backdrop to those '80s cinema staples. We passed a colonial-styled brick home with a massive lawn, only to see it had been T.P.'ed, with soggy toilet paper hanging from the mature trees. I nearly got a tear in my eye: It looked almost precisely like the morning-after scene from the house party in "Sixteen Candles." I closed my eyes and imagined Long Duk Dong falling from a tree branch, or a pizza turning slowly on a stereo turntable.

No way would this town roll over and play dead for Clemens' 300th. It's got too much going for it: quality beef, quality artistic pedigree with the Belushi Brothers and the John Cusack/Jeremy Piven mafia, and endless barrels of peanuts at The Lodge.

No, Roger. You would not win 300 at Wrigley. You will continue to be a nomad, wandering the ballparks of America in search of a home. Meanwhile, we're drawing a pint over at Murphy's Bleachers.

While we do that, you move on to the Weekend List of Five:

1. These NBA Finals: What to make of them?
They say the Spurs-Nets Final is the first NBA Finals made up of former ABA teams, but then they showed the halftime score from Game 3 -- 33-30 -- and you had to wonder: Did they mean the first NBA Final made up of former CYO teams?

Still, I like Spurs-Nets, if no one else does. The ratings are down, but you've got your Tim Duncan (drop-step like no other), your Jason Kidd (Bob Cousy with a hot wife), your Euro star Tony Parker (chicks dig the accent), your graceful Admiral David Robinson (we'll miss you, pal) ... I've got no beef with these NBA Finals.

I did not, however, know what to make of Jewel at halftime. Granted, the snaggle-toothed Alaskan native has that whole earthy sexiness thing going -- but if it's not Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem, I say keep recording stars away from the NBA pregames, halftimes or postgames. Give me dunking gorillas using trampolines, and overweight fans needing to make a layup, free throw, 3-pointer and half-courter in 30 seconds to win a year's supply of Domino's Pizza.

That's entertainment, dwellers.

2. Paul Kariya: toughest cat going
Any loyal dweller knows The Cooler is not hockey territory (which, by the way, made it such a shock to receive e-mails from outraged Michiganers after The Cooler labeled Detroit the most desolate sports city in America. The Red Wings? Good? Hey, who knew? I was talking Lions/Tigers! Get a hold of yourselves. To the Cooler, the "blue line" is the one at the DMV for renewing your license.).

Paul Kariya
Paul was down, but by no means out.
But I digress.

Caught the highlight of Scott Stevens' positively lethal hit on Paul Kariya, and wondered immediately: If a guy dies on the ice, do they cut out a hole right there, like ice fishing, and just drop him in and keep playing? I didn't need to wonder. Kariya not only did not die, he came back to score a goal after a hit that would have had you or I filing the paperwork for about 18 months of workmen's comp.

This might have been the most impressive feat I've seen on ice since Paul Newman as Reggie Dunlop baited Hanrahan the Goalie into a brawl by revealing private details about Hanrahan's wife's personal proclivities in "Slap Shot."

What Kariya did was nothing short of miraculous. It was like getting choked out by a jiu-jitsu move from a Gracie brother in an Ultimate Fighting Championship, regaining consciousness, and then coming back to defeat said Gracie brother.

It was that good, dwellers.

3. Funny Cide: Great run, kid
No, the gelding did not win the Triple Crown, but it did accomplish a few important things.

For one, eunuchs everywhere are walking a mite taller these days. Feeling good about themselves for the first time in years.

And two, it allowed the average SportsCenter watcher to enjoy the sweet versatility of ESPN's Hank Goldberg. Usually, we know him as the Miami Dolphin savant, the guy who follows the Dolphins everywhere from September to January and gives you inside info as if you know he was taking secret cell phone calls from well-placed sources at Don Shula's Steakhouse every Saturday night.

Then, when horse racing's Triple Crown rolls around, we see Hank the Pony Man, the ultimate Regular Guy Railbird. He openly rooted for Funny Cide, for the great story it would be, and revealed that he and his pals have their own horse syndicate thing going in New Jersey, hoping to find the next Funny Cide.

Hank Goldberg: ESPN reporter you most want to have a beer with -- and to pore over the Daily Racing Form with.

4. Belgians in Paris: Say what?
It was an all-Belgian women's final at the French Open on Saturday. Belgians, in Paris, vying for supremacy.

I'm not sure if that is the actual dictionary definition of "irony" -- but it is pretty damn close.

The French must have been hugely embarrassed. To our French friends, Belgium is a trifling little thing, a speck of dust that should be annexed for winemaking purposes. Even the German Army rolled through Belgium in 1940 as if it were a paper hoop held by high school cheerleaders, and the Germans were a varsity football team taking the field before kickoff on a Friday night.

Now, the Revenge of the Belgians! Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne made conquering Paris their baby, too. This makes France, unofficially, Western Europe's bee-atch.

Again, what I love about the French Open: Last week, we learned young Lapentti was a "very, very important sportsman in Ecuador." This week, we get Belgians.

Ecuadorian athletes, Belgian athletes, competing in France: Let's go ahead and vote the French Open the tennis tournament least likely to be watched by our sitting president.

5. World's Strongest Man Competition new event: the move
Took part in one of the most unpleasant human endeavors last week: We moved. What's the worst part of a move? Is it:

a) The inevitable tear in a back muscle;

Strongest Man
A competitor competes in the Murphy living room pull.
b) The humiliation of a dropped or mishandled piece of furniture, leaving a scuff or nick on a coffee table or headboard that serves as a perennial scar and reminder of your ineptitude; or

c) Realizing you've reached the point in your life where you have to pay men to move things for you.

That baritone voice of the Miller High Life ads would have little sympathy for my act. I whipped out the credit card, laid it bare for a moving company to exploit, and had three large men walk up and down four flights of stairs, carrying the worldly possessions of me and my girl, on my dime.

Later, as my babe and I reflected on the move, I told her: "Yes, they left marks on the freshly-painted wall of our new pad. Yes, they charged us $200 more than I expected. But I did get a chance to witness some of the greatest pure acts of natural strength I've ever seen -- I mean, outside of an old "World's Strongest Man Competition."

One of our movers was a Samoan who easily went four bills. Faced with a TV that probably weighed close to 200 pounds, and faced with a steep set of 16 stairs, I watched the Samoan look at the TV, look at the stairs, then bend down and dead lift the TV onto his shoulders. He blazed up the stairs with it resting on his shoulder as if it were a Walkman. He treated the stairs as if they were Belgium, and he was the German Army.

It was then when it struck me: The World's Strongest Man Competition will not be legit until they add a category called "The Move."

Take those Icelandic thunder-shakers, take those Norwegians named Thor, and give them their toughest challenge yet: A 35-inch Sony Triniton, an oak dresser with all its cabinets still attached, and a queen-size bed and headboard -- and four flights of tight stairs.

Put it on ESPN at 2 a.m., give me a six-pack, and I'm all set.

I think even the boys in the Wrigley Bleachers would enjoy it.

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



Brian Murphy Archive

Murphy: Going, going ... boring

Murphy: Raising a Tiger

Murphy: Fandemonium

Murphy: Life imitating art

Murphy: Masters of our domain

Murphy: Somebody has to lose

Murphy: Welcome to Cooler Day!

Murphy: Spring is in the air

Murphy: Here's to Ew

Murphy: A barren wasteland

Murphy: Tiger gets his Phil

Email story
Most sent
Print story

espn Page 2 index