|What's going down the toilet in sports?|
Page 2 staff
The sports world is filled with plenty of waste, but only a few things are so wretched that they make Page 2's list of "What's Going Down the Toilet in 2002." Check out our six candidates and then vote in the poll at right to let us know what's headed down sports' toilet the fastest. Then, you'll move on to our list of toilet-bound things from the real world.
New York Knicks
This much is now apparent: Jeff Van Gundy is one of the smartest men in sports. The coach famous for his tortured expressions bailed out on the Knicks before the real torture was about to begin. The Knicks are not just bad (a recent eight-game losing streak was their worst in 15 years, and they appear destined to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1986-87), they are boring, noncompetitive (on Monday, they suffered their worst home loss ever, a 43-point embarrassment at the hands of the mediocre Hornets), and their two best players man the same position. All that, and the biggest payroll in the sport, which suggests salary-cap woes until well after most of their current fans are dead. Keep hiding under those towels, guys ... we'll let you know when it's safe to come out.
North Carolina men's basketball
Given the limits of applied science, it would be hard to measure in conventional terms how far the Tar Heels have fallen in just one season. Consider Wednesday night's disaster, a 77-59 loss to rival North Carolina State, the Wolfpack's most lopsided victory over North Carolina in nearly 40 years:
Smooth coaching transitions
Notre Dame and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two of America's most respected football institutions (well, one anyway), demonstrated in classic style how not to handle a coaching change. Totally smitten by his hair and surname, the Irish precipitously hired George O'Leary without checking his references -- a mistake usually covered in Hiring 101. As the world knows only too well by now, O'Leary had a slight accuracy problem -- it turns out his competitive history and master's degree were figments of an overactive imagination. Tampa Bay fired Tony Dungy, by far the most successful coach in its sorry history, without first securing on a contract the signature of Bill Parcells, a man who makes Hamlet look decisive. Oops. Hey, how about Steve Spurrier? What, he already signed a five-year deal with Washington? Our bad.
Boxing's problems are almost too numerous and absurd to remember them all, but let's try:
Contraction in 2002
If we didn't know better, we'd suspect Bud Selig's real purpose was to make sure contraction could not possibly happen for the upcoming baseball season. Because, beginning a mere 48 hours after one of the all-time feel-good World Series, Selig began to stagger around like a one-legged man in a monsoon. First, he ruined the mood by announcing baseball was going to contract two teams before the start of the 2002 season. Then, he refused to say which ones -- though everybody knew the Expos and Twins were the prime targets -- which led many to believe that the whole contraction thing was an elaborate blackmail scheme to get recalcitrant cities and states (like Minnesota) to build expensive new stadiums at no cost to owners. When Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura vowed not to spend any public money on a new stadium, Selig began to maneuver for baseball to buy out his old pal Carl Pohlad, billionaire owner of the Twins, for twice what the franchise was worth. A smidgin of doubt began to hover over the proceedings when it was revealed that a company owned by Pohlad had once loaned a company owned by Selig $3 million without the approval of baseball's other owners, in direct violation of baseball's rules. That Selig was acting commissioner at the time of the violation was, in the eyes of some critics, particularly unfortunate. Also unfortunate was the fact Selig never informed the powerful players' union of his contraction plans -- let alone negotiated with them -- thereby assuring their opposition, along with that of some members of Congress (one of whom called for Selig's resignation), thousands of loyal Twins fans and, apparently, the legal system of Minnesota, which has ruled that the Twins must play the 2002 season. Baseball has, of course, appealed. And, as is its custom, baseball has lost the appeal. Moreover, while baseball was crying poverty as an excuse for the need for immediate contraction, a group of businessmen -- including one man who already owned parts of two other teams -- was in the process of acquiring the Boston Red Sox for $660 million. The dissonance was noted. Of course, if Selig's hope is really to bring competitive balance to baseball, the two teams that should be contracted are the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, who, like the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins, will surely continue to do business in 2002.
It's been one of the worst years on record for Men Formerly Known As Geniuses.