Posted: Thursday August 25, 2005 5:04PM; Updated: Saturday August 27, 2005 1:31PM
Eight in the Box
1. Speaking of women's college basketball and the name Jacki(e), remember Jackie Stiles? She's no longer playing basketball, but she has found another sport in which to excel: Cycling.
Four years ago Stiles led tiny Southwest Missouri State to the Women's Final Four on the strength of her Maravichian scoring prowess. Stiles is the NCAA D-I all-time scoring leader, with 3,393 points. She was the fourth player selected in the 2001 WNBA draft and was the league's Rookie of the Year that summer.
But injuries, all due to overuse, began to plague her. In the past three years Stiles has endured 13 surgeries to her right wrist, shoulder and ankle. She retired earlier this year and took up cycling. In her first four races, two of them Category Four (the lowest level) Criterium races and two others road races, Stiles finished first three times and second the other time. This weekend in Texas she'll move up to Category Three for the first time.
"I kind of lost my identity a bit when I realized basketball was over for me," admits Stiles. "I really struggled with that. I love to compete."
Now she's back. But Stiles admits that Criterium races, where cyclists navigate sharp turns in laps through city streets, scare her. "Before my first Crit, I watched a race before mine on the same course and some kid crashed," Stiles told me yesterday. "They took him away in an ambulance. I was so nervous after that. I played in the Final Four, and I wasn't as nervous before that game (a loss to Purdue) as I was before my first race. I shot out to the front, I believe, because I was scared of having to round a turn next to another cyclist."
Stiles won that race, she claims, as much because of fear rather than skill. "I just don't want to be hurt any more," she says.
Here's hoping she won't be.
2. This is less a sign of the apocalypse being upon us as the a-poker-lypse: On August 8 Mississippi State assistant track coach Michael Cunningham put in his two-week notice that he was leaving in order to pursue a career as a full-time professional poker player. That is to say he is going from coaching runners to begging, "Runner! Runner!"
Cunningham has already relocated from Stark Vegas (a.k.a. Starkville) to Las Vegas and says he will attend Black Jack dealing school. You can follow Cunningham's exploits at mikecunningham.blogspot.com.
3. What do you call it when you find yourself loving a person and loathing that person simultaneously? Because I cannot think of a word that accurately describes this condition, I've coined my own: loaving. If someone says they loave you, they love you and they hate you.
4. Chris Berman will surely endear himself to SportsCenter's internal medicine demographic if, the next time he narrates an Atlanta Braves highlights package, he refers to their rightfielder as Ryan "Islets of" Langerhans. Because, let's face it, there just aren't enough pancreatic references in sports these days.
5. The Associated Press story on Lawrence Phillips' latest moment of miscreantism referenced five crimes the former Nebraska running back was being sought in connection with: three counts of felony domestic violence, one for driving a stolen vehicle and one for driving a Honda (the aforementioned stolen car) into three teenagers who argued with him after they played in a pickup football game ("Eight Mississippis!" "No, 10 Mississippis!" You just know it was something like that). The story led the Web site The Mighty MJD Sports Blog to muse, "What's the world record for crimes referenced in one AP article?"
6. Last week I solicited responses for best college football names. Here are a few of the replies: Sonny Sixkiller, QB, Washington Michael Stonebreaker, LB, Notre Dame Buck Belue, QB, Georgia Stanley Shakespeare, WR, Miami Amp Lee, FB, Florida State Major Ogilvie, HB, Alabama Walker Lee Ashley, DE, Penn State Ali Haji-Sheikh, K, Michigan Elvis Peacock, TB, Oklahoma Roosevelt Leaks (he should fix that), RB, Texas Marques Tuiasosopo, QB, Washington Julius Caesar Watts, RB, Oklahoma Major Applewhite, QB, Texas Jim Bob Cooter, QB, Tennessee Johnny Jones, Back, Texas*
* Because in the mid-70s the Longhorns had three Johnny Jones, who went by the nicknames Ham, Jam and Lam. In the 1978 Sun Bowl each of the Ham-a-Jam-a-Lam-a trio scored a touchdown as Texas romped over Maryland, 42-0. You can't make this stuff up. Well, Dan Jenkins, arguably the funniest writer Sports Illustrated ever employed, could have. But you and I couldn't.
7. Professional sports has lost all perspective on the value of a dollar, and I'm not talking about players. I'm talking about fans. In the seventh inning of the New York Yankees-Chicago White Sox game last Saturday, Yankee catcher Jorge Posada hit a ground-rule double for his 1,000th career hit. Afterward the Yankees offered the fan an autographed bat and ball in exchange for the ball Posada hit, but the fan demanded "a large amount of cash" (reportedly more than $10,000).
Also this past week, a piqued Livan Hernandez tossed his glove, cap and jacket into the stands at RFK Stadium. When the Washington Nationals hurler tried to retrieve his glove, offering the man who had it an autographed jersey and a new glove in exchange, the man demanded $18,000 plus season tickets.
Both the Yankees and Hernandez, to their credit, told the fans, in not so many words, "Good luck on eBay."
8. Thursday's matinee matchup at Yankee Stadium featured Shawn Chacon (Yankees) versus Gustavo Chacin (Toronto Blue Jays). Here's hoping that some day, for poetry's sake, these two hurlers face off at Dodger Stadium. Imagine: "Chacon, Chacin, Chavez Ravine."