Shame on Leaf, Strawberry for these awards
It’s time once again for the annual Ricky Awards — the handsome statuette given to those athletes who have distinguished themselves in the arena of loutish, unexplainable behavior over the past year. But before we get to the actual 2002 prizes, we have two very special Lifetime Achievement Rickys to present:
First, we’d like to welcome Ryan Leaf into the Ricky Hall of Fame. Leaf signed with the Seattle Seahawks back in May — his fourth team since 1998 — and of course never saw a snap. Ryan is, to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, like Larry of the Three Stooges — you don’t really need him, but it wouldn’t be the same without him.
Next, we just shake our heads in wonderment as Darryl Strawberry continues to make the news. He was thrown out of a drug rehab center in January for trying to solicit a prostitute, and you just don’t see consistency like that anymore.
Now, on to the awards:
Special Orders Don’t Upset Him Award: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is seen working the counter at a Coppell, Texas, Dairy Queen. It was Cuban’s way of saying he’s sorry after his Jan. 5 comment that NBA officials weren’t fit to work in one.
Most Complete Whuppin’: Sure, WBC president Jose Sulaiman was pummeled by Lennox Lewis’ bodyguard during a press conference for the Lewis-Mike Tyson fight in January. But the award clearly goes to actress Tawny Kitaen, who was arrested for spousal abuse and battery in April for allegedly attacking her husband, Indians’ pitcher Chuck Finley, as they drove home from dinner.
Least Visited Web Site: Even though their playbook was stolen and posted on the Internet, the Miami Hurricanes still went 11-0.
Outstanding Performance By A Sports Memorabilia Item: A San Francisco judge ordered joint custody of Barry Bonds’ record 73rd home run ball between two fans — Alex Popov and Patrick Hayashi — each who claimed to have caught it.
The two must sell it and split the proceeds, which could reach $1 million. But ounce-for-ounce, nothing beats the wad of chewing gum spat out by Arizona Diamondbacks’ outfielder Luis Gonzalez that fetched $10,000 on e-Bay — putting a twist on our old method of keeping the baseball cards and throwing away the gum.
Car & Driver Vehicular Mayhem Award: So many candidates in 2002. First, Winston Cup driver Elliot Sadler is fined $5,000 by NASCAR for throwing his helmet at Ryan Newman’s car on May 18. Then Tony Stewart punches a photographer following the Brickyard 400. But we like finesse, and so the award goes to Vikings’ wide receiver Randy Moss, who was arrested for felony assault for allegedly bumping a traffic control agent with his car in September.
Most Shameful Performance Involving Ice: Well, Swedish goalie Tommy Salo did allow Vladimir Kopat’s 80-foot slapshot to get by in a 4-3 loss to Belarus in the men’s hockey quarterfinals in the Winter Olympics. And who can forget French ice skating judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne, who was suspended for three years by the IOC in a vote-fixing scandal involving the Canadian and Russian Olympic ice dancing teams? But really, who could compete with John Henry Williams, who went to court to have his late father, Ted Williams, cryogenically frozen? The case’s effect on late-night comedy shows alone will be felt for decades.
Worst Performance by a Pitcher: Baseball commissioner Bud Selig ran out of them and declared a tie after 11 innings at the All-Star Game, but that doesn’t really count. So the award goes to Mets’ hurler Shawn Estes, who threw a weak fastball behind Roger Clemens in an interleague game on June 15.
It was the Yankee pitcher’s first at-bat against the Mets since his feud with catcher Mike Piazza began two years ago. All I’m saying is that if we go to war with Iraq, I don’t want Estes in my foxhole.
Trent Lott Progressive Vision Award: Augusta National club chairman Hootie Johnson suspended corporate sponsorship at the 2003 Masters rather than bow to pressure and admit a woman member. The only surprise here is that it didn’t happen in Florida.
Stupidest News Involving Watercraft: Yes, Latrell Sprewell broke his hand trying to punch the boyfriend of a woman who vomited on his luxury yacht. But this award clearly goes to O.J. Simpson, who was cited on his speedboat and had to appear in court for “speeding in a manatee zone.” This one occurred in Florida, where such things belong.
Signing His Pink Slip: Terrell Owens may have cost Mike Holmgren one of his jobs. In November, Owens scored a touchdown on Seahawks’ defensive back Shawn Springs, then pulled a marker out of his sock and signed the ball, flipping it into the stands. The 49ers won the game on Monday Night Football, 28-21.
Following the season, Holmgren stepped down as Seattle general manager, although he stays as head coach.
Quote of the Year: “The fans needed a relay to throw it back on the field.”
— Angels’ hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, when asked about Barry Bonds’ home run in Game 2 of the World Series that traveled an estimated 485 feet.
That’s it folks, thanks for coming and enjoy the post-awards party. Just a word of warning, though — Alex Popov and Patrick Hayashi are jockeying for position in the buffet line, and there’s only one Swedish meatball remaining.
— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at
NBCSports.com. Contact Rick at RickChand@earthlink.net.
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