If sports and society are to coexist, we must find a way to get all athletes safely to and from the stadiums. "We'll have to have their mamas pick them up after practice," Barry Switzer, then the Dallas Cowboys' coach, proposed nine years ago after a 17-day span in which four Cowboys were in car crashes, including modern sport's greatest automotive mishap: Emmitt Smith's running his Lexus into a Honda driven by Troy Aikman's personal shopper.
World-class athletes, unlike Rain Man, are not excellent drivers. Why is it they know what to do in the clutch but not with one? The only solution is to let all athletes drive but have the government label their cars so the rest of us can steer clear of them.
Of course, we already have this system. Police once stopped Jose Canseco in a red Jaguar whose license plates helpfully read MR 40-40, while Scottie Pippen was stopped in a car whose vanity plates heralded DA PIP. (The plates on his other cars, at the time, were MR PIP and BULLS 33.) Florida State's Rix had his uniform number, 16, on the side of his SUV, even as he had a disabled tag hanging from his rearview mirror. (As a freshman, Rix famously arrived on campus in a black Mustang with vanity plates LK OUT DB.)
On the road, from behind smoked windows, athletes want you to know they are who you think they are. (And so O.J. Simpson owned a red Ferrari whose plate said JUICES.) Nonathletes want you to know they're nor who you think they are. (Which explains these plates on a white Bronco once seen in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot: AINT OJ.)
Is that Karl Malone? IT is, declared the Mailman's motorcycle plates. Is that Allen Iverson? Uh, no: AI-MVP hangs on a Philadelphia postal worker's Hyundai Elantra.
Still, as a public service, we should point out that it was Warren Sapp you saw (QB KILLA), or Kory Bailey (THRW2ME), or Maurice Greene (MO GOLD), or Red Auerbach (CELTICS), or Lisa Leslie (LL WNBA), or Michael Irvin (PLYMKR), or Gary Payton (2 GEE PEE), or Ken Griffey Jr. (WICKID 1), or Shaquille O'Neal (7XLARGE, DUNKON-U, SHAQNIFCNT).