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Quick hits (cont.)

Posted: Thursday June 2, 2005 3:12PM; Updated: Thursday June 2, 2005 5:31PM
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1. Where should the final 12 seconds of last Saturday's Johns Hopkins-Virginia Division I men's lacrosse semifinal rank among the most dramatic finishes in NCAA sports history? Even if you are lax in your lax fandom, this was great theater.

Matt Ward of the Cavaliers (11-4) scored what seemed to be the game-winning goal with 12 seconds remaining. Virginia led 8-7 and it looked as if top-ranked Johns Hopkins (15-0), which has fallen in the semis or the final 10 times since winning its last national championship in 1987, would once again make the drive home unhappy.


Then something magical and memorable occurred. The Bluejays Greg Peyser won the ensuing faceoff and raced downfield. He threw a crossfield pass, right to left, to Jake Byrne. A natural righty, Byrne feinted right, then went left, shooting cross-handed toward the goal from about 15-feet out. As his shot zoomed through the legs of Cav goalie Kip Turner, you could see two UVA defender racing in vain to stop it.

GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAL!!!! With 1.4 seconds left.

It was almost anticlimactic when Hopkins won in overtime, then defeated Duke on Monday for the national championship. What everyone will remember is Peyser's and Byrne's miraculous play. It was every bit as dramatic as Grant Hill-to-Christian Laetner.

2. There is poetic justice and then there is Paris Hilton reportedly getting engaged to someone named Paris ... which is just amping poetic justice up to 11.

3. Inspired by last week's Modern Moose Classics (novel titles that have had one letter switched or are homonyms), we bring you "More Modern Moose Classics:"

Ab Salon, Ab Salon
A Liver Runs Through It
A Massage to India
Mullet Park
A Farewell To Army
The Sun Also Rinses
The World According To AARP

4. If you saw highlights of Mississippi State's 3-2 victory over Tennessee in the semifinals of the SEC baseball tournament last Saturday, you noticed pinch runner Ben Grisham scored the winning run. And, like me, you might have wondered if he had any relation to John Grisham? After all, John is a Mississippi State alum as well as the most avid of baseball fans (he has built a few Little League ballfields in his dual hometowns of Oxford, Miss., and Charlottesville, Va.). John also happens to be the best-selling author of the 1990s.

The answer is yes: Ben is John's nephew. And he's legit: The redshirt freshman was an all-state baseball player at Senatobia (Miss.) High, led the team to a state championship and was valedictorian. This year he batted .353 in limited duty (17 plate appearances).

5. Thanks to the good folks at The Learning Annex, I was able to attend a screening of Cinderella Man on Tuesday. Even better, it was followed by a Q&A with Russell Crowe (oh, he IS so dreamy), Ron Howard (who directed) and screenplay co-writer Akiva Goldsman, hosted by Joel Siegel. I'm no film reviewer, but:

• It was four months ago that this magazine swooned that, as boxing films go, "Million Dollar Baby, just may be the greatest ever." Well, I never bought that and now, just a few pages of the calendar past that hyperbole, there's already a better boxing movie out. And, might I add, one that is more believable.

Paul Giamatti, as Jimmy Braddock's manager, Joe Gould, may finally receive the Oscar that he has deserved each of the past two years.

Craig Bierko as Max Baer is sinister and charming at the same time. He is a wonderful, menacing rogue, though as Goldsman, added, "the real villain was the Depression." If your parents or grandparents grew up during the 30s, this movie will rivet them.

• It's easy to tag Cinderella Man as Seabiscuit in the ring, and the parallels are many. Yet this is a far less pretentious film, and the most poignant moments contain no dialogue. And no David McCullough voiceovers were necessary.

6. At the outset of this particular rant, or screed if you will, let me say that I am anti-cancer. And pro-philanthropy. And so I'm gladly pledging money to a friend who is participating in the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon this weekend as one of the thousands of entrants running for Team in Training.

I support it; I don't agree with it.

If you do not know about Team In Training, they are an admirable organization that raises money to combat leukemia and lymphoma. Since forming in 1988 Team In Training (which prefers the acronym TNT, for obvious reasons) has reportedly raised roughly $500 million in the fight against those types of cancer. That's extremely impressive.

But a marathon is not a telethon. It's not a walkathon. A marathon is a race. It's not a fun run. It's not run three miles, walk a mile while chatting with your friends, lather-rinse repeat. It's 41 kilometers of lactic acid buildup and, for the last few Ks, agony. A marathon is hard. It's supposed to be. You know the old line from A League of Their Own: "If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard ... is what makes it great."

It's this simple: If you have not run a marathon, then you have not done a marathon.

Honestly, I've never understood the concept of asking people to donate money for your recreational activity. I mean, if an organization pledged to clean up your neighborhood, or do your laundry, if you were to donate money to its cause, wouldn't you be more inclined to throw them a $20? Am I alone on this one?

Everyone who entered the Indianapolis 500 last weekend could drive an Indy car. Not everyone entered in Rock and Roll this Sunday can run a marathon. But we are supposed to cheer them on and write uplifting stories about them because they're fighting cancer? Good intention. Bad execution.

Send the hate mail to john_walters@simail.com. Thanks.

7. I owe an apology to Alex Smith and to all Utah Utes everywhere. In a blog of mine posted after the NFL draft, I wrote that of the last two No. 1 overall picks (both of them QBs), I believed Eli Manning would eventually be the better pro signal-caller. Nothing could be further from the truth (blame the error on me not communicating well with my editor.)

What I was trying to say is Manning has always been football's version of Britney Spears to me: I've never understood what all the fuss was about. I'm sure that Brit's a wonderful woman and will be the second coming of June Cleaver as a mom, but c'mon: Crossroads? ... Baby One More Time? Five years ago I said (cruelly, I admit) that by the time she's 30 (2011), Britney wouldn't be looking all that hot. Who knew she'd cut that prediction in half?

As for Eli: nice quarterback, good college numbers. But how many magic moments did he orchestrate? In the biggest game of his college career, Ole Miss at home against No. 1 Louisiana State, Eli tripped stepping out from center on fourth down with the Rebels trailing by less than a TD late in the fourth quarter. End of game.

It was one play and you cannot judge an entire career on that. Still, I've yet to seem him play, or even speak, with passion.

Bottom line: Smith will be a far better NFL quarterback.

8. More marathoning: The Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, Vt., which is held every Memorial Day weekend, is an outstanding event. Excuse me as I use this space to thank race director Andrea Sisino and her trusty sidekicks Larry Kimball and Zeke Zucker, as well as all of the volunteers, for a memorable Sunday. Also, thanks to whoever was playing Journey's Don't Stop Believin' at around mile 18 (Oh? You're too cool for Journey? I got seven words for you: "He took the midnight train goin' anywheeeeeere.")

9. A bonus entry that's too good to pass up. I'm just wondering: How many times over the past three decades do you think someone casually asked W. Mark Felt, "Can you keep a secret?" And don't you think inside he was saying, "Can I keep a secret!?!"