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June 24, 1997|MIKE PENNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: Esquire Magazine's

"Rodman Awards."

Who are the most obnoxious people in sports?

For the last four years, Esquire columnist Mike Lupica has appointed himself arbiter in this discussion--a rather ironic pairing for anyone who has caught Lupica's shtick on ESPN's "Sports Reporters" show (known here as "Another Reason To Leave The Profession").

Lupica now calls them "The Rodman Awards." Before that they were the "Deions" (as in Sanders) and the "Andres" (as in Agassi). Obviously, the title needed updating.

This year's list of honorees?

In a word, obnoxious.

Shaquille O'Neal, Rick Pitino and Cecil Fielder, among others, are cited, basically, because they make too much money--the oldest sports writer's whine in the book.

On Shaq: "The big guy signed with the Lakers for $120 million, and he proceeded to tell us it wasn't about money. Of course it wasn't. He just wanted to get a closer look at how Lakers owner Jerry Buss gets that hair all the way across his head. Always remember this: In sports, when they say it's not about the money, it's always about the money. By the way--saw 'Kazaam' with the kids. Why don't you just go ahead and put your Rodman up on the mantle where you wanted that Oscar to go."

Likewise, Pitino is chided for signing "with the Celtics for $70 million and immediately [announcing] it wasn't about the money." Fielder committed the double crime of wanting more money and wanting out of New York (guess where Lupica lives), earning Fielder sandbox-level snipes about the size of his waistline.

Green Bay Packer fans are zinged for, what, being passionate about their team and not living in New York? ("I could deal with all that happy humping if they would just get rid of the cheesehead look.")

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