By Stove Rushing
To pass the time in hotels, senior writer Steve Rushin discovered a very '90s name game.
For no particular reason, one day I decided to run the name of a famous athlete through spell-check, the software tool that searches for misspelled words in my copy and offers suggestions for the "correct" spellings. At the time I was watching the O.J. Simpson trial on CNN. Dr. Henry Lee was on the witness stand disparaging LAPD criminalist Dennis Fung before Judge Lance Ito when I typed in Oriental Simpson, and, as God is my witness, the computer gently corrected it to Oriental Symposium.
Soon I was serving up Bjorn Borg, and the computer was returning Born Bore. When I wrote the name of born-boor Ilie Nastase, spell-check spat back Ill Nauseates. Clearly I was onto something. Spell-check could crystallize the essential character of an athlete, offering a new name that fit the person better than his or her own.
For instance, Fergie Jenkins, the Hall of Fame pitcher once convicted of cocaine possession, was rechristened Forgo Junkies. Gary Moeller, who resigned as football coach at Michigan after his drunken display in a Detroit restaurant, became one Gamy Mauler. As every NBA defense knows, Orlando Magic hotshot Anfernee Hardaway is Inferno Hardware, and Chicago White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen indeed Oozes Guile.
Spell-check also shattered illusions as if they were glass backboards. When I wrote the name of a 6'9" basketball great from the mean streets of Houston, it exposed Elvin Hayes as Elfin Hayseed. Similarly, wholesome Cleveland Indian hurler Orel Hershiser became the hedonistic Oral Hashish. Who knew that Los Angeles Dodger ace Hideo Nomo was in fact a Hideous Gnome? With the deft dropping of a letter here, the apt addition of a letter there, spell-check saw into the human soul.
As for a certain 7'7" basketball player, spell-check kicked in a couple of corrections to his name, both of them unflattering but nevertheless accurate summations of his basketball skills. I wonder which suggestion is preferred by Manute Bol: Manure Bowl or Manure Boy?
Two Wrongs Do In a Wright
For 23 years Ben Wright was a capable CBS golf announcer whose chief skill was knowing when not to talk. But off the air Wright, an Englishman who affected an aristocratic accent, did not follow his credo of restraint. He was relieved of his on-air responsibilities on Jan. 9 not for anything he said in the booth but for his off-duty commentary. In an interview last May with Valerie Helmbreck, a reporter from The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., Wright, 63, exposed himself as crass and homophobic on the subject of women's golf. Of the LPGA, for instance, Wright said, "It is going to a butch game, and that furthers the bad image of the game."
After the interview was published, Wright revealed himself as sexist and dishonest, and that's what ultimately did him in. He disparaged Helmbreck publicly and privately, calling her story a "pack of lies." For a while his bosses at CBS, wanting to believe him, believed him. But over time, through comments Wright made privately and in an interview with SI for its GOLF PLUS section (Dec. 4), it became clear that Helmbreck's story was true and that the pack of lies was being delivered by Wright.