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So did you hear ESPN's celebrating its 25th anniversary this year? I know, it snuck up on me too. And you know whenever there's an anniversary, there's a reason for a party. In ESPN's case, that meant throwing the biggest sports bash since SI took a blank check to Athens and threw Olympic parties that made the Carnaval in Rio look tame.
As most of you already know, I wasn't one of the lucky ones to go to Athens, but I wasn't about to be shut out by two major parties in the same year. Who am I, Ralph Nader?
So with a notepad and pen in hand (the international "press pass" to almost any event) I walked over to the ESPN Zone in Times Square on Tuesday night to wish my friends in Bristol a happy anniversary. After all, ESPN won't be throwing another party like this until, what, its 26th anniversary? I hear the Worldwide Leader will be rolling out those promos next week.
Getting in the party was easier than I thought as I told the woman at the front door that I worked at ESPN Deportes. "Oh yeah, I knew you looked familiar," she said as she wrapped a silver VIP bracelet around my wrist.
It was clear from the get-go that I had walked into one of those parties you read about in a Cindy Adams or Page Six column but can't believe actually happened. The Harlem Globetrotters, wearing their red, white and blue warm-ups, were fighting over a girl on the dance floor. Richard Petty, wearing his patented cowboy hat and permanent Joker smile, led a conga line to the main stage. Great stuff. No matter how many free Amstel Lights or mini-cheeseburgers you scarf down, you can't make this stuff up.
Chris Berman, wearing his old ESPN logo jacket, and ESPN president George Bodenheimer opened the festivities by bringing up prominent sports figures such as Bill Walsh, Franco Harris, Dean Smith, Bill Walton, Jalen Rose and Jim McMahon. Once they were all on stage, Bodenheimer exclaimed, "Have you ever seen a greater collection of stars?" Not since the ESPYs three months ago.
Then it was time for some live entertainment. Berman introduced the B-52's, who for this one special night would be known as the B-25's. Yeah, I know. Look for UB40 to become UB30 in five years.
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Plenty of amazing female athletes were also in attendance, such as Jennie Finch, Amanda Beard, Natalie Coughlin (and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, if we want to stretch the definition). Michael Phelps was also there, taking pictures with all the ladies and raising the bar for every other guy in attendance.
As the party raged on, every floor of the ESPN Zone was overflowing with celebrities and ESPN personalities (the folks in Bristol would probably say that's redundant), who were taking full advantage of the open bar and fly-by hors d'oeuvres which were in your face as much as Stephen A. Smith, who nearly broke a smile when he finally hit the dance floor.
After the B-52's, er B-25's, called it a night, it was time to go from old-school rock to new-school hip-hop as DJ Spinderella got on the main stage and busted it on the one and twos. And just in case you forgot how gangsta he really is, Stuart Scott partially untucked his shirt, rolled up his sleeves and gave the crowd a little freestyle rap that was probably better than any catchphrase he's come up with in the past year. Big ups, dog.
Realizing nothing short of a Chris Berman SportsCentury would top that, I sidled past Lennox Lewis, Nancy Kerrigan and the Philly Phanatic and finally called it a night.
As Cindy Adams would say: "Only in New York, kids, only in New York."
Let's open up the bottle and pour out the week that was.
FRIDAY -- Shaquille O'Neal admits to losing 24 pounds since he was traded to the Miami Heat. "I do what I'm told," says the sleeker Diesel, who plans to lose at least 10 more pounds. Oh yes, after years of having Phil Jackson and the Lakers management encourage Shaq to gain more weight than William Perry after Thanksgiving, he's finally on a team that can introduce him to the South Beach Diet.
SATURDAY -- De La Salle (Calif.) High School's record streak of 151 consecutive football wins comes to an end when they are defeated by Bellevue (Wash.). After the game, De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur did what he did the last time his team lost -- he listened to his new Color Me Badd tape, watched an episode of Saved By the Bell and drank a six-pack of Crystal Pepsi all by himself.
SUNDAY -- Syracuse opens its football season by getting blanked by Purdue, 51-0. Fans blame the administration for the loss after the school changed the team's nickname from The Orangemen to The Orange in the offseason. Overnight, Syracuse players went from playing like their 18th century warrior namesakes to being squeezed like a fruit.
MONDAY -- New York Yankees president Randy Levine demands that Tampa Bay forfeit a game after the Devil Rays were late for a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Apparently Levine, giving new meaning to the phrase "Evil Empire," couldn't understand why the Devil Rays had to take care of their families and homes from being swept away by Hurricane Frances before playing an afternoon baseball game. At least "The Boss" knows his staff's priorities are in order.
TUESDAY -- In another match made in reality TV heaven, Mike Piazza and Anna Kournikova confirm that they will be among the celebrity participants in the second season of The Apprentice. But don't look for Piazza to attempt a move to first base with Kournikova. No, that's not why. The pair will appear as dinner guests as a reward for contestants. No truth to the rumor that Martina Navratilova and Antonio "Six Fingers" Alfonseca will appear as dinner guests as a punishment.
WEDNESDAY -- The Philadelphia Eagles extend Andy Reid's contract through 2010. Eagle fans across Philly brace themselves for six more losses in the NFC Championship game.
This week's encounter between athlete and celebrity gives us the heartwarmingly vicious battle for the throne of teen queen, as we pit gold-medal winning gymnast Carly Patterson against Mean Girls star Lindsay Lohan.
While Lohan's popularity has grown quicker than her pop's rap sheet this past year, there's no telling where Patterson's career could go after winning the gold in Athens. Well, actually there is. She's going to do the whole late-night circuit thing, appear on a box of Wheaties, tour the heartland of America (think Disney on Ice with balance beams) and give motivational speeches at gymnastics camps in a couple of years. Lohan, meanwhile, is what every Seventeen-reading girl wants to be these days -- a scantly dressed, club-hopping, chain-smoking party girl who hangs out with Tara Reid and Paris Hilton. Until Patterson learns how to party like Charles Barkley and can hook up with a Latin lover like Fez from That '70s Show, this round goes to Lohan.
Obligatory List of the Week
Our weekly six-pack, brought to you this week by Birra Moretti La Rossa (Italy), gives us the Top Six Signs That You're On A MLB Team That Has No Chance Of Making The Postseason:
6. You answer every question about the team's performance with an apology to the fans and your family.
5. When your manager asks the front office to make a move to improve the team, he is met with laughter, followed by an awkward moment of silence and then asked, "Oh, you were actually serious?"
4. Your manager implores the team to finish the season strong and, if nothing else, to play every game for pride. This request comes on April 1 ... and it's not a joke.
3. Whenever one of your teammates gets traded, he gathers everyone together in the clubhouse and, with a tear in his eye, says, "I just got called up."
2. Your manager constantly tells your team to play each game as if it's your last -- not as a motivational tool but as a helpful reminder.
1. Your GM is just 28 years old, but instead of a Moneyball trend, you realize the GM position also doubles as an internship program for the local community college.
Time to make a prediction for the upcoming week.
Hoping to increase the popularity of its sport, FIVA, the international federation of volleyball, will reach out to the Maxim-reading/Anna Kournikova-loving/"Dude, what sport are we watching again?" crowd by mandating women wear bikinis at all future events, indoor and out. After all, that's the only way to gain respect and worldwide attention, right? It did wonders for Lisa Guerrero and look at her now. OK, OK, look at her 12 months ago.
Whatever happened to ...
...Craig Hodges? He won the NBA All-Star three-point Shootout champion while playing for the Chicago Bulls (back when the Windy City used to have a real NBA team). He was last seen defending his Shootout title at the 1993 All-Star game in a generic white NBA uniform after being released by the Bulls and not latching on with another team.
(Cue the late, great voice of Unsolved Mystery's Robert Stack) If you have any information that could lead to the discovery of Craig Hodges, please contact The Hot Read.