Wiley's believe it or not!
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

Sometimes the SportsInnerWorld we all inhabit seems like one big carny freak show.

Vladimir Guerrero
Vlad "The Impaler" Guerrero swings a hell of a bat.
We meander down the midway, scarfing popcorn, avoiding games of (fat) chance, keeping a hand on our wallets if we've walked this way and been bumped into before.

Freaks, geeks, flotsam and jetsam -- that takes care of us, not to mention them, the athletes, the sports mogul-owner types, coaches, commissioners, agents, hype artists, flacks, flat-foots, Annies and floozies galore.

All that's missing, really, is an organ grinder and a monkey in a bellhop's pillbox hat.

The barkers bark us in, we ogle, we go "Ooooo!" Basically we scare ourselves to death, if we're so inclined. Sometimes athletes amaze us with feats of physical freakdom. Sometimes they don't.

Whether they do or not, we'll find some way to amuse ourselves.

Here are some more recent exhibits mounted for our more rabid tastes.

See!! Amazing vampires from French Montreal!!
Expos manager Frank Robinson is Lestat; the Montreal Canadiens, No. 8 seed who, as soon as they saw their own blood, coldly dispatched No. 1 seed Boston from NHL playoffs; last but not least, Vlad "The Impaler" Guerrero, the Expo who walks like a man and played like a bat out of hell for the first month of the season ... they have the few English-speaking Quebecquers saying of the Montreal ballclubs, "It's alive! It's alive!" Well, not the Habs. Not anymore. Ran into a buzzsaw out of Carolina.

Hear!! Cursing, raging, cild-chewing, balls-stomping two-headed heavyweight bull-beast!!
E-ticket line to this one. Half-hour wait, minimum. Bring a lunch. Mike Tyson causes heads to turn a little bit. Where once he did it with his fast ham-fists, he now does it with his mouth in recurring, redundant interviews. A real snake-charmer production to produce righteous indignation in all who step right up and place their bets. Will Mad Mike Tyson's latest intentionally antisocial outburst, eerily similar to other recent outbursts, hype up the live gate for the Tunica casino-Memphis nuptials between him and the Bride of Frankenstein, a k a Lennox Lewis? Is it "Doomsday in the Delta?" Here's betting the fight breaks all pay-per-view records. That's how repulsed we are.

Watch!! Jolly Green Giant, painted black, agile as a caffeinated ballerina, jumps over buildings in search of candy, fast food!!
Shaquille O'Neal
We're just talkin' 'bout Shaq.
According to this, Shaquille O'Neal eats Nestle Crunch bars and Burger King "value meals," a contradiction in terms, if ever there was one. One wonders if one could grow to that size on that diet. The Jolly Green Giant hook is not the high-concept movie character that will allow him to segue from hardwood to screening room. Ah-nold got "The Terminator" franchise from James Cameron back in '84 and, boy, did he get over on that. No more nuclear milk shakes for Big Boy after that little godsend. Duane -- sorry, "The Rock" -- got hooked up recently with "The Scorpion King." Shaq got "Shazam." Or was it "Kazaam"? Whatever, it was not the Iverson. It was not The Answer. "Shaq" as "Shaft" in BK ads is by definition once warmed-over, but hey, it's still a living. Basketball? Oh yeah, wake Shaq up when a worthy challenger arrives.

Wait! Check the next tent. It's ... It's ...

See!! Amazing German-made animatronic man-made ball-launching machine score millions & millions of hoops like Swiss clockwork!!
Deadeye Dirk Nowiztki, The Thing, the Inhuman Howitzer, is dropping 30-15 and 30-20 playoff games like he was Shaq littering BK sourdough bacon burger paper wrappers. Threes are layups to this curiosity. Must see. And, he'll even drop 3-balls into those shrunken-crooked rim, wopsided balls, con-game Hoop games that they set up out on the midway, one of many ways the carnival of life has to separate you from your wages. You know the ones we mean. They've gotten your money too, so don't complain about ticket prices. You're gonna spend on sports one way or another. For less than the cost of a luxury box, Dirk will happily go win you a large purple dinosaur you can give to that new girl you're trying to impress. And even she could play defense as well as the Mavs. Haven't seen this many layups since the high school debutante buffet line ...

Feel breeze!! Chattering excuse-making, smoke-puffing, blow-harding, blame-shifting numnutz of general managership!!
Bobby Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers, leads cast of hundreds -- Garry St. Jean of Golden State, Scott Layden of Knicks, artist formerly known as Dan Duquette of the BoSox, etc. -- including your general manager for your own favorite team, assuming your team is eliminated from or did not make the NHL or NBA playoffs. See your guy? Over there, licking his wounds. PG-13 exhibit, not particularly scary for kids, who can throw peanut shells, ice, used gum and heckle to their hearts' content.

Stand in awe!! Yankee killing 7-foot prehistoric man-bird going, "Awk!" while throwing baseballs like BBs over small dish!!
Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson joins nuclear war and carnies on the list of things you should fear most.
Just standing in against Randy Johnson is enough to cause heart palpitations in you, me, even Burt Lancaster, if he was still with us, even now. Unit's gas can wake up the dead. Real charge. Literally. The cheapest exhibit ticket is $60. Worth it. Inhuman. Look at him. Dinosaur and California condor DNA in there somewhere. Nothing human could threaten N. Ryan's K record. Speaking of Nolie ...

Amazing!! Near 60-year-old with headache has flames shooting out from under his right arm!!
Pitching-void Rangers would suit up Nolie tomorrow, if he'd agree to do it and they could truck in enough Advil. People would pay to see it, too. Win? This is Texas. What has a win got to do with it. Shame? What shame? It's entertainment.

Touch!! Fossilized wax skin of actual active Hall-of-Famer!!
Rickey Henderson, 65 if he's a day, acting like Minnie Minoso, Gordie Howe, George Blanda, Tutankhamen, Kharis the Mummy, Piltdown Man, or somebody like that, anyway, still getting his hits, now for the BoSox, while applying to Medicare for his hammies. Exhibit subject to Rickey's feelings about showing up. Also slated for exhibit in 2003: John Stockton, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Tommy Hearns.

Be chilled by!! Padded-up crested Dodo-Goon on skates, demon who nearly beheads and makes trophies of unsuspecting men!!
Kyle McLaren, in lieu of Marty McSorley. One of the bloodier exhibits, making it also one of the most popular ones we have. Got replay of the Bruin Dodo-Goon's hit on Montreal's Richard Zednik on a perpetual loop. You can watch it until your eyes glaze over quicker than Zed's did! Don't push or shove, folks, plenty of room for all!

Believe it!! World's incredible shrinking man!!
Gary Bettman
When the going gets tough, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman starts shrinking.
Commish Gary Bettman, who should have suspended McLaren for remainder of the playoffs (seeing as how Boston lost to Montreal, in effect he did) and for half of next season as well, for his hit on Zednik. Whenever a guy's head hits the ice in the NHL Mr. Bettman gets smaller ... and smaller ... and smaller. Amazing.

Laugh with!! Perpetually smiling man dressed in PJs!! Face frozen in place like Mr. Sardonicus!! Must hurt!! Smiles anyway!!
Sammy Sosa has tapped into eternal Zeitgeist -- if you can't beat 'em, or if you do beat 'em, or if your wife beats you, whatever, smile at 'em. It'll make you look good, compared to Jim Brown.

Be intimidated by!! Caged, shaved lion-man in winter!! Fanged!! Warning: Stay behind bars unless Tiger (Woods) or Air (Jordan)!!
Charles Barkley is disappointed by Lion-Man Jim Brown growling about Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, what social responsibility Jim believes they might have. Grr! Woof. But Charles says he's mad, 'cause Tiger and Air are his "friends"; presumably we draw that they need his protection. Way to pick 'em, Charles. We all should be so lucky, friend-wise. Jim, on the other hand, though he's the one who is historically on the same level as Tiger and Air -- almost inarguably the best ever players at their chosen sports -- is the one in jail, ostracized. There've been many big names visiting exhibit at L.A. jail, Bob Costas, James Brown, TV talking head version ... you too can join in ... get documentary video from HBO, you can have a Lion-Man film festival at home. Maybe make back some of the money the carnival is costing you.

Be Buffaloed by!! Coasting Tatanka-man Buffaloing his way through on a live TV set!!
Charles can be great fun, true, as comic relief, 'til Emmy-winning TNT NBA show makes the mistake of bringing in somebody like Walt "Clyde" Frazier, the ultimate Knick, to give us the real-real. Then you get the feeling that you could talk to nearly any former NBA All-Star, championship-caliber player, and get something good out of him. But Buffalo-Man is great comfort to us all.

Dueling masked Lecter clones eat hockey pucks!! With fava beans and a nice chianti!!
Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek -- when their bellies are full, they might let a few get by, like a digesting anaconda might let a few mammals get by; but when gut-cutting time comes, Roy and Hasek eat up everything that comes off a stick. Don't slide any women or children off your stick toward the net, unless they are women and children you want to lose -- for good. Remorseless feeders. If you say the word, "Tretiak" or "Parent" or "Dryden" or "Fuhr" around them, they'll go berserk, and try to eat your face off, too, maybe.

You've been enticed, and warned. Hur-ray, hur-ray, hur-ray ...

Will we keep showing up for this?

This, and much more. You bet we'll keep showing up.

And what's more, there's another one of us born every minute.

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."



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