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Scott Ostler

Today's Kids Know How Tough Life Is for Their Heroes

November 10, 1987|Scott Ostler

Sports arguments, I've noticed, have changed since I was a kid.

Back then, we argued about who was a better hitter, Williams or Mantle, that type of debate.

Now it seems kids are more issue oriented, more into personalties. Take these two kids I heard going at it the other day on a street corner. They were busting each other's chops about their respective sport heroes--Irving Fryar, the football player, and Mitch (Blood) Green, the former heavyweight contender.

"Heard the latest about the fabulous Fryar?" asked the little kid, sniffing the air pompously.

"What? More fumbles?"

"C'mon. Check out this clipping. 'New England Patriot wide receiver Irving Fryar said he might have been shot at while pursuing a mugger in Boston.' These three guys jumped him coming out of a jewelry store, stole his stuff, and he chased 'em and got it back."

"Kid stuff," scoffed the big kid. "He didn't even get arrested. He probably made the whole story up."

"That's the point, potato brain. This guy makes up better stories than Walter Mitty, or Joe Biden."

"I deal in reality, squirt. Seen the latest on my man Mitch Green?"

"Don't tell me-- He's the guy who mugged Fryar."

"No, no, no. My man Mitch . . . "

"What, he's got three first names?"

"Hey, listen up. The other day Mitch drives his '79 Lincoln--a classy car, not that you'd know--into a gas station in Queens, fills 'er up, then threatens the pump jockey, who takes a fast hike. Mitch assumes control of the station. He starts filling up other cars and collecting the money."

"Does he clean windshields, too?"

"Don't be cute. He's grabbing a $100-bill from a cabbie when the cops arrive. The cabbie sees the cops, tries to take back his bill and Green punches the cabbie in the face. He's up for robbery and grand larceny."

"Is that the first fight he ever won?"

"C'mon. Mitch took Tyson 10 rounds in '86 and he only lost because the promoter shortchanged him. He said he woulda won, but, and I quote, 'I couldn't get motivated because of the money thing.' I used the same line on my old man when he refused to double my allowance, then asked me why I didn't cut the lawn."

"The gas station caper is impressive, I admit. Greatness, however, is not measured on one feat, but on longevity and versatility. Hey, last year Irving was accused of attacking a man in a hotel who insulted his wife."

"Big deal. I remember that non-event. Judge threw the charge out of court. Don't even bother me with that lame stuff."

"OK, what about Fryar's alleged gambling on NFL games?"

"He passed a lie detector test. Clean as a whistle."

"Lie detectors have been known to lie. And what about the drug rumors?"

"Never proven. Same with the assault, vandalism and trespassing rap back in college. This guy can't do anything wrong right. He's a shadow of his own self."

"Let's not forget the knife caper. Fryar slices a tendon in his finger, claims it's a kitchen accident. But we find out he had a parking-lot beef with a pregnant woman who turns out to be his wife."

"Interesting, but not big league stuff. Maybe you saw where my guy was busted for allegedly refusing to pay a toll on an expressway. Disorderly conduct and driving while intoxicated. Next, he's driving around Harlem, watching a TV on his dashboard. The cops stop him. They find pills and angel dust in the car. Top that ."

"OK, Fryar gets injured in a game, leaves the stadium at halftime, goes for a cruise, and he's talking on his car phone when he goes out of control and runs into a tree. Totals his Benz. Gets himself a concussion."

"I've done worse on my skateboard. Look, I thought you'd be reasonable, but I can see I have to go to the well for my A stuff. When my man Mitch gets busted on the TV and angel dust charge, the cops check and find out his driver's license has been suspended 54 times."

"You're making that up. After 40 suspensions, they put you in a dungeon or something."

"This was in New York, twerp, where they believe in giving a guy a second chance."

"Wow. Fifty-four! I don't think Babe Ruth ever got 54 license suspensions. I can't wait 'till I'm old enough to have a driver's license suspended."

Observing the discussion, I felt so much better about this young generation. They haven't lost the old sports-debating spirit. They have their heroes. They have their goals. I gave the two lads a buck to go buy some baseball cards. They thanked me politely and left.

I hope they bring back my car.

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