The least powerful people in sports
By Hampton Stevens
Special to Page 2

The Sporting News' latest "100 Most Powerful People in Sports" list came out last week.

Meaning no offense to our own Mr. George Bodenheimer, who (quite rightfully, don't you know) topped the charts, but ...

Yawn.

This "Richest, Most Powerful, Sexiest" conceit is getting old. Whatever happened to America's affection for the underdog? What about our romance with loveable losers? Are we not mutts, one and all?

So for schlubs like me who have never been named on any list other than "Most Likely to Need a New Liver," Page 2 offers a look at "The 10 Least Powerful People in Sports."

Gamboa attack
Gamboa is so unimportant, he didn't even make the cut in this photo.
10. Tom Gamboa
Chicago wasn't toddling for Tom. The father and son who attacked him got off with probation. Then, after the Royals dropped the season's last game to the Sox, he was fired. Tom's kind of town, Chicago ain't.

9. Tonya Harding
Once, she dominated an entire industry: celebrity amateur porn. Then a little film called "Pam & Tommy" came along, and the rest is cinematic history. Today, better acting, higher production values and the rapid moral decay of American society have left Harding a has-been. Worse, a celebrity boxer.

8. PPA'ers
Yes, the gentlemen of the Professional Putters Association. That's right. Putt-Putt. Green turf. Orange bumpers. No windmills. Don't get wise. You think the Masters has pressure? The PPA has $30,000 purses -- and these guys don't moonlight for Nike. Baby, when you got two kids and a mortgage and you hang drywall to pay the bills, $5,000 is a pressure putt. Yet, the PPA'ers don't even have enough pull to get good seats at Denny's. For shame, America. For shame.

7. Keyshawn Johnson
Just show him the damn door.

6. John York
With no football experience at any level, York's sole qualification for running one of football's glamour teams is his marriage to the (ex-) boss's sister. Basically, it's like the 49ers putting Mel Cooley in charge of "The Alan Brady Show." Niner fans, welcome to Hell.

Maurice Clarett
Maurice Clarett appears in court in his street clothes -- his self-imposed uniform for the past years.
5. Maurice Clarett
From Fiesta Bowl to Franklin County Courthouse in four easy steps ...

A.) File a false police report, alleging a $10,000 theft.
B.) Accept gifts from the proverbial "family friend," and thus be suspended from the team.
C.) Tell THE Ohio State University to go jump in THE lake.
D.) Sue the company you want to work for.

After all this, the kid pleads guilty to a misdemeanor, pays a lousy $100 fine and decides campus life ain't so bad. Addressing reporters after his sentencing, Clarett said, "I look forward to shifting all my attention back to my studies, and the team, at the Ohio State University."

Attention "back" to his studies? Funny.

4. Bill Callahan
Coaching under Al Davis would put anybody's manhood through a meat grinder, but 2003 was more like a wood-chipper for Bill. First came the Super Bowl. Then his players mutinied. His owner mutinied. A future Hall of Famer went on local radio and accused the coach of throwing games. Then, after the inevitable firing, Callahan made the inexplicably masochistic decision to head for Huskerland, where real-life Children of the Corn will sacrifice him unto He Who Walks Behind The Rows.

3. Pete Rose
You know what gets me? How Rose always orchestrates these little tantrums to steal attention from guys like Molitor and Eckersley -- the ones who deserve it. But frankly, this subject got colossally dull five years ago. Sports talk on AM might rule my car radio, but a bunch of Kinsella-philes arguing about Rose, Cobb and Shoeless Joe sends me straight to AOR.

And speaking of AOR: How in the name of Elvis did a folk act like Simon & Garfunkel get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Doors? Is my grandmother on the selection committee? Do songs like "Roadhouse Blues," "Black Dog" and "Comfortably Numb" sound tinny when compared to the rock majesty of "Scarborough Fair"? It's an outrage, I tell ya!

(See, wasn't that more fun than another Pete Rose debate?)

2. Dave Bliss
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villain. - Richard III. Act v. Sc. 3.

And you thought Callahan had a bad year? Losing your players' respect is a bummer. Demanding that your players lie to law-enforcement officials by depicting their slain teammate as a drug-dealer is simply beyond comprehension.

Bill Romanowski
Apparently you can't spell Romo without THG.
And the No. 1 Least Powerful Person for 2003 was ...

1. Bill Romanowski
On Jan. 26, Romo walked onto the field at Qualcomm for his fifth Super Bowl appearance. After the first snap, Bill's life got bad. Then it got worse. And it hasn't stopped going downhill since.

In training camp, Romanowski shattered Marcus Williams' eye-socket, prompting a civil suit. In September, concussions ended Bill's consecutive-game streak, his season and (probably) his career. In November, Romanowski, among others, tested positive for the steroid THG.

Topping off this grand 2003, Bill went before a grand jury investigating the distribution of THG.

Congrats, Billy! When it comes to being at the bottom, you're the tops.

Hampton Stevens is a contributor to ESPN The Magazine and Page 2.





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