50 yards of nostalgia
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

The reunion, dwellers, was emotional.

As powerful as a long-lost P.O.W. coming home to America's shores; or as powerful as the "Saturday Night Live" reconnection between Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel sometime in the late '70s.

(Who could forget the emotions when Simon, disdain dripping from every word, turned on his stool to Garfunkel and said: "So, Artie ... you've come crawling back."

Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel
And on backup, well, everything -- Art Garfunkel.
After an awkward pause, Simon made it more awkward with his follow-up: "You done with the movies?" Guess that Garfunkel turn in "Carnal Knowledge" really ticked off Simon. After all, he was just writing great music ... While Garfunkel got to see Ann Margret in the buff.)

Anyway, about reunions: Yours truly ... and Arena Football.

Back together again.

After all these years, the emotional bond was as strong as ever. There I was, flipping the dials between a Giants-A's interleague tilt and the riveting playoff between Jonathan Kaye and John Rollins (Watson-Nicklaus at Turnberry, eat your heart out), when I stumbled upon NBC's crown jewel:

ArenaBowl XVII.

Not the Arena Bowl Championship.

Not the Arena Bowl.

Arena Bowl XVII.

Hot damn, I'll be a soldier in the Indoor War.

But ArenaBowl XVII?

That means it's been XV years since Arena Football and The Cooler were one.

Yes, dwellers. In 1988, my boy Sully and I took the plunge, investing our hard-earned college wage-level cash into two season tickets for the Los Angeles Cobras.

We were 21. We were seniors at UCLA. We could drink, legally.

Pat O'Hara
The Cooler never had someone as solid as ArenaBowl XVII hero Pat O'Hara.
Put it all together -- especially the beer part -- and we were ringside for the birth of a dream.

For the low, low cost of -- I believe -- around $150 a head, we not only had tickets to four or so L.A. Cobras tilts at the low-rent Sports Arena, we also had access to the coveted "Snake Pit." The Pit was the "VIP" area, where a disgruntled caterer manned a lone Budweiser tap on the cold concrete of the Sports Arena floor. The key was ... he manned it behind a giant blue curtain, a partition which separated us from the unwashed, and where we could drink that Budweiser at a card table behind said curtain, under the romantic fluorescents of the Sports Arena.

To think, we were granted safe boundary between ourselves and those who refused to invest in the dream, the dreaded "single-game" ticket holders. As season ticket holders, we had access Behind the Blue Curtain.

We ruled.

Alas, the on-field product refused to cooperate. Despite our passion -- we actually left the Snake Pit to watch at least two quarters of every game -- the Cobras proved an impotent bunch. Notwithstanding the surefire hookup of ex-UCLA QB Matt Stevens and former Raiders WR Cliff Branch, who was pushing 40, the Cobras were getting outscored by record rates.

We took drastic action, attending a game with brown paper bags over our heads, with inked-in teardrops falling from below our eyeholes. Written on the top of the bag, where our forehead would be: "NOBRAS." Written below the cutout mouth: "WHERE'S THE VENOM?"

The family of a backup receiver sat near us, and were disgusted by our act of betrayal. We would have explained to them that our brown-bag protest was actually the act of a true believer, but that Saturday eve, the Cobras exploded. They must have scored eight TDs in the first half, and to the delirious cheers of our section, we stood on our seats and tore up the brown paper bags. Ah, memories.

The Cobras never won an ArenaBowl. Not even before the Arena League started using Roman numerals. Soon, the Snake Pit dried up. They wheeled away the Bud tap, took down the blue curtain/partition, and the Cobras were nothing but a distant memory.

So, Tampa Bay Storm fans, take heed. One day, the "Storm Cloud" -- or whatever you name your Budweiser tap room -- may move on out, on a jet stream. One day, your team may leave you. And what will you have left? The tattered scraps of a torn brown paper bag, the memory of the whiff of disinfectant on concrete floors, the sight of a sallow-faced man in a black vest and clip-on bow tie manning the Bud tap ... under the fluorescents.

Treasure these times, ArenaBowl fans. Treasure these times.

On then, to the Weekend List of Five:

1. Lennox Lewis: the proper heavyweight champ
There is something inherently amusing about Lennox Lewis' reign as heavyweight champ -- never mind his win over Vitaly (The Bleeder) Klitschko -- and it lies entirely in his accent.

Vitaly Klitschko
If you don't think Lennox is tough, ask Vitaly.
No question, Lewis is a bad-ass. But when he talks, you want him to sound more like 50-Cent and less like Queen Elizabeth. The Champ can't shake the fact that he has a British accent, and his reputation as a Bruising Menace to be Feared takes a serious hit when his post-fight interviews sound like Rex Harrison in "My Fair Lady."

This phenomenon, this curse of the British Fighter, was never on display in more comedic fashion than when Britain's last heavyweight threat, the long-forgotten Frank Bruno, recently popped off about another British fighter, a cat named Audley Harrison. Turns out Audley Harrison's mettle was being called into question, and the tabloids were calling him "Fraudley," even though Harrison had won an Olympic gold medal.

Bruno, in enunciating his desire for a fight with Harrison, praised the embattled pugilist with this immortal line:

"You don't get an Olympic gold medal out of the sweetie shop."

I repeat, in case you were napping:

"You don't get an Olympic gold medal out of the sweetie shop."

Contrast this with Mike Tyson, who, if memories serves, once said something like this about Evander Holyfield: "Listen, motherf-----; that p---- Holyfield is going to go crying his p---- a-- after I beat the s--- out of his punk a--."

With a lisp, to boot.

Bruno, meanwhile, in his proper British accent, didn't stop there. He bragged: "I will knock him out, then pick him up, give him a cuddle and tell him: 'That's cricket, old bean!'"

Contrast this with Tyson before the Spinks fight, when he said something like: "I'll knock his punk a--out, kick him in the b---s and say, 'Eat my s---.'"

What was it George Bernard Shaw once said? England and America -- two countries, separated by a common language.

That's cricket, old bean.

You can't make this stuff up.

2. Interleague, intercity: classic stuff
I feel sorry for those American towns without the Obvious Interleague Rival. So many classic matchups went down this past weekend: Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox, Giants-A's, Dodgers-Angels, Cards-Royals, Astros-Rangers. (I'd put Marlins-Devil Rays on that list for the sake of our friends in the Sunshine State ... but then I'd have to actually type the words "Marlins-Devil Rays," and I'd lose whatever shards of credibility I have left.)

Rod Beck
Something tells the Cooler that Mariners-Pads isn't the hot matchup the MLB had in mind.
But how about our sad friends in Seattle, San Diego, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit and Colorado? When every other city was going to the cool party (yes, I know, Colorado's a state, technically, but the Rockies play in a city), these ball towns were left on the couch in the front room, like Flounder, the blind guy, and the Arab in the opening scenes of "Animal House."

Whoo. Pads-Mariners: Sorta like Red Sox-Yankees, only minus 100 years of tradition, obvious rivalry stakes and any semblance of geographical rivalry.

What's a Padre fan going to heckle a Mariner fan with?

"Dude, you reach our yearly rainfall total on JANUARY THIRD!"

And what's a Mariner fan going to fire back with?

"At least our wardrobe has some variety ... you've never even been in a NorthFace outlet!"

Or the Tigers-Rockies showdown? What can they say, except for both fan bases to agree: "This rivalry would be way better in hockey!"

Ah, the ups and downs of Interleague ball.

3. And lest we forget: Pirates-Tribe!
There was something beautiful about the 30 innings of ball Friday and Saturday nights at PNC Park. Nine hours and 30 minutes of ball -- man, that's, like, longer than "Titanic."

Could the Steelers and Browns have produced something as epic as the Indians and Bucs, tussling for almost 90 outs on consecutive nights? I doubt it, unless Browns fan "Big Dawg" pledged to eat chili dogs for nine hours and 30 minutes, mask on.

What made it so compelling was the fact that both teams, plainly, stink, and neither is within a long-distance calling card of the pennant chase. And here is where the Ball Fan can get all sappy and dust off the cliches:

Every game is the most important game of the year... When you head to a ballgame, you might see something you've never seen before.... There is no clock in baseball.

Listen. I buy all these platitudes, wholesale, but try trotting out that last nugget to the beat writers from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. They're covering two teams who are already D.O.A. In June, all they want are fast games, and they get 15-innings ... On back-to-back nights?

For scribes who are already tallying Marriott points and United miles, and figuring out how to get the wife to Kauai for two weeks in December, cost-free, it must have been a sad, cruel joke.

Then again, 15 innings on consecutive nights? Plenty of time to destroy the pile of hot dogs in the back of the press box.

4. This latest Tyson incident
As I understand it, some cats in New York this weekend wanted a piece of Mike Tyson.

Mike Tyson
At this point if you provoke Mike, you deserve to be knocked out.
Let me repeat that:

AS I UNDERSTAND IT, SOME CATS IN NEW YORK THIS WEEKEND WANTED A PIECE OF MIKE TYSON.

OK. Let's review: I'm at a hotel in New York. It's 3 a.m. I'm deboned. I see Mike Tyson. I keep my freaking mouth shut. I avoid eye contact. End of story.

Apparently, these superheroes felt otherwise. They jousted Tyson with a metal pole, said "harassing things" and "started the fight," according to the AP.

This, of course, is Sign No. 1 that you've OD'ed on the crystal meth.

And they survived.

These two Mensa candidates should now walk the Earth every day thanking their particular gods for every breath they draw. The fact that they are still alive and inhaling oxygen means they should help every old lady they see across the street, aid in the task of getting every cat down from every tree and read to kids at their local library. They have been granted a new lease on life. I would expect both to spend their weekends coaching Special Olympics, painting rundown buildings at the local high school and sponsoring kids on Walk-A-Thons.

They baited Mike Tyson on the street in the middle of the night, and lived to tell the tale.

Christ on a bike, these guys are lucky Tyson isn't feasting on their vital organs with a glass of Chianti and a side of fava beans.

5. Golf talk: best slang around?
Put every sport on the table, comparing lingo, and you'd have to say it comes down to golf and baseball with the most colorful vocabulary.

In baseball, a curveball can be called "Uncle Charlie," a home run can be called "dialing 9," and a manager's tirade can be summed up by the immortal words "flip the spread."

Quality, quality stuff.

Curtis Strange
Curtis tries to come up with a slang term for the Ryder Cup trophy.
I would submit that golf is neck-and-neck with ball. You've got the majesty of the word "shank," to describe the horrors of a shot off the hosel.

You've got the "chili dip" for the chunked chip. And you've got the varied ways to describe a putt that is either left far too short, or run too far past the hole, as in:

"There's a little chicken left on that bone," Curtis Strange said on ABC this Sunday at the Buick Classic in Westchester, describing a putt left short by John Rollins.

Love that chatter. I'd always heard "a little meat left on that bone," but my boys and I have kicked that to a new level, and I'd encourage you to do the same. A putt left short or run too far past can be greeted with varied takes. Be creative.

You can go College Dorm and say, "There's a little pizza left in that box."

You can go '90s and say, "There's a little rice left in that Bento Box."

Or you can create a gag reflex by saying: "Hmmm ... there's a little Jager left in that shot glass."

Try it, dweller. It's fun!

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





THE WATER COOLER

ALSO SEE:


Brian Murphy Archive

Murphy: TigerSpeak 101

Murphy: On a hot streak

Murphy: Anti-rocket fuel

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





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