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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

The Art of Whining Prevails in Playoffs

May 06, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

Playoffs often show athletes at their best--Michael Jordan's 55 points, Rex Chapman's acrobatic three-pointers, Wayne Gretzky's hat trick.

Playoffs also can bring out the worst in people. Who would have thought Dolph Schayes, father of the more docile Danny, would stoop from his Hall of Fame pedestal to throw a punch at Burnie, the Miami Heat's mascot?

That's extraordinary. But one aspect of both the NBA and NHL playoffs that has become all too ordinary is the incessant whining by the players and coaches.

Karl Malone whines about a non-call.

The Lakers whine about Malone whining.

Duck Coach Ron Wilson whines about liberties taken with his stars, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne.

Red Wing Coach Scotty Bowman says his players didn't do anything. But if they had, he whines, it would have been because the Ducks did it first.

I always thought Mitch Kupchak, the Laker general manager, had the right approach to the playoffs when he was a player. It went something like this: Shut up and play!

In the sixth game of the 1985 NBA finals between the Lakers and Celtics at Boston Garden, Kupchak scuffled over a loose ball with Danny Ainge, whose face, like that guy in the Edvard Munch painting "The Scream," is shaped into a perpetual whine.

Ainge whined.

"Hey," Kupchak reminded him, "we're playing for the championship."

The Lakers, indeed, were. They won that night to triumph over Boston in a championship series for the first time.

I called Kupchak on Monday to discuss this subject. He told me to quit whining.

"If there wasn't so much press around, you wouldn't hear anybody talking about this stuff," he said.

But because there is so much press around, he said, coaches and athletes figure they might as well use us to some gain. It's their way of communicating with referees without having to pay five-figure fines that often result from face-to-face confrontations.

It's not poor sportsmanship, Kupchak assured me. It's good gamesmanship.

*

The Reds are in town, at Dodger Stadium and the Pond of Anaheim. . . .

I was never so glad to be a writer instead of a broadcaster than during the Duck-Red Wing game Sunday. . . .

Not only did those radio and TV guys have to call a game that lasted 5 1/2 hours, they had to pronounce the names correctly when Vyacheslav Kozlov took a pass from Vladimir Konstantinov and scored on Mikhail Shtalenkov in the third overtime. . . .

Cincinnati's Reds have shortened the sleeves on their road uniforms as a tribute to Jackie Robinson. The players plan to autograph the shorn material and auction it, with proceeds benefiting the Jackie Robinson Foundation. . . .

Mike Ditka can no longer complain that Deion Sanders doesn't hit. Before Monday night's game against the Dodgers, he was fifth among National League batters with a .386 average. . . .

If the Lakers need a bulldog to chase the Mailman, Spike is available. The Ice Dog mascot is in Salt Lake City with the team as it prepares for Wednesday night's IHL playoff game at the Delta Center against the Utah Grizzlies. . . .

Greg Ostertag will never be confused with "The Big 0," either Oscar Robertson or Dennis Rodman. . . .

If a former sportscaster like Ronald Reagan can become President, I have no objection to President Clinton becoming a sportswriter. . . .

In the June edition of "Golfing" magazine that appears on newsstands today, Clinton writes that even the most exclusive golf courses should open to the public to accommodate the Tiger Woods generation. . . .

Good idea. Clinton should lead the campaign by playing only at country clubs that adopt it or at municipal courses. . . .

Lothar Osiander received the dreaded vote of confidence Monday, but Galaxy officials insist it's a real one and not one of the traditional ones preceding a coach's ouster. . . .

"He's nervous, but he's not in trouble," team spokesman Ron Acosta said. . . .

After winning the Kentucky Derby with Silver Charm on Saturday, Gary Stevens didn't get his hotel wake-up call the next morning. He complained to the front desk, before figuring out he hadn't returned to his room until after the wake-up call had been scheduled. . . .

That must have been some celebration, but Stevens still caught a flight to Los Angeles, and like the Hall of Famer he is, rode three winners at Hollywood Park.

*

While wondering whatever happened to Robert Horry, I was thinking: It seems like John Stockton and Karl Malone broke into the NBA about the same time as Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, I hope Kevin Johnson changes his mind, I hope Riddick Bowe doesn't.

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