The owner's smile disappeared. He took the two sportswriters to the bar, opened two beers and returned to work without saying a word. The two sportswriters drank their beers in silence as the waiters and waitresses continued to mop and the room filled with the smell of disinfectant. Five minutes later, beers unfinished, the sportswriters quietly left, nodding to the owner on the way out.
The feeling was a bit like the feeling now—Harry Caray, dead this week. The night was not as much fun any more. The brass band had moved along to someplace else.
Nolan the Greek
A Razorback Talks Hogwash
Given the chance to put sneaker in mouth last week, Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson was up to the challenge. Asked to describe the lackluster play of forward Sunday Adebayo, Richardson had a simple, albeit unenlightened, explanation: "He got married. He's not as aggressive and as hungry as he used to be."
A few days earlier, during an SEC coaches' teleconference, Richardson offered the opinion that the SEC is blessed with outstanding athletes. Pressed to theorize on exactly why, Richardson said, "Let's face it. Where did most of the slave ships stop? In the South." His remarks conjured up those made a decade ago by Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder, whose ruminations on genetics and American slavery ("The slave owner would breed his big black with his big woman so he would have a big black kid") got him canned from his job as a CBS prognosticator.
Richardson is married and black. Maybe that's why there wasn't much reaction to his remarks. But he's also a guy who has groused that racism has prevented him from getting the professional respect he deserves.
The Olympics' Cruel Side
It's All or Nothing at All
There's no swifter path from near fame to anonymity than to arrive at the Olympics as an American gold medal hope and to leave with something less than gold. Three days before the flame was extinguished on Sunday in Nagano, 22-year-old U.S. slalom skier Kristina (Koz) Koznick failed to deliver her anticipated victory—she didn't come close, finishing ninth in the first of two runs and missing a gate while trying to make up time on the second—and thus will disappear for at least four years. By March, the only Koz (or Cos) on anyone's radar screen will be Dr. Huxtable.
To U!S!A! U!S!A! fans, the Games have become nothing more than a cruel star-and story-making machine. The pattern is predictable: Athlete is introduced to the public—up close and personal—wins gold medal, celebrates in front of the nation and gets to do motivational talks and sports-drink ads. The athlete who doesn't win is forgotten more quickly than Hammer.
It's not just that the Olympian who comes up short loses out on financial opportunities. It's that the athlete's lifetime of achievement is demeaned by a single day's failure. Dan Jansen was the best male sprint speed skater in history, and people made jokes about him because he kept slipping at the Games. Given the tiny period of time in which an athlete must be healthy and in peak form to earn Olympic gold, it's silly to assume that the best athlete always wins at the Games; indeed, reaching the Olympics as an odds-on favorite can be as substantial an achievement as winning a gold medal.