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THE INSIDE TRACK | Morning Briefing

It's Good They Only Play It Every Four Years

July 13, 1998|MARK HEISLER

Another World Cup has ended, having transfixed huge audiences everywhere in the world but here.

Of course, we already had a full schedule of sports before we heard we were supposed to care about soccer. Also, we don't care about anything the way the rest of the world cares about soccer, which may be a good thing for us.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Dan Barreiro notes this tournament had it all:

"Sportsmanship. An 'inexcusable mistake' by the referee in the Cameroon-Chile game prompted the Cameroon cultural association to sue FIFA for damages. The referee voided a goal and kept Cameroon out of the quarterfinals.

" 'We consider the referee is a FIFA official, FIFA being the civil party responsible for the damage suffered,' a lawyer said. . . .

"Competitiveness. According to the French newspaper Le Monde, German soccer fans, upon hearing that English fans were flooding Lens, announced plans to also visit the city 'to try to gain the title of best hooligans of Europe.' . . .

"Class. A despondent Diego Maradona traveled to Paris even though he was shut out of the World Cup for the first time since 1982. The Argentinian recently received a suspended jail sentence for wounding a reporter with an air rifle. . . .

"Generosity. Michel Platini, chief organizer of the World Cup and a former French soccer star, refused to participate in a match to benefit a French policeman who was beaten into a coma by German thugs using an iron bar after the Germany-Yugoslavia match in Lens. Platini said it was too soon for the game and he was unhappy he had not been told about it before it was organized."

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Caring, Brazilian style: Some 3,000 fans followed their team around France. They not only attended practices, which were free, they created a market for tickets, which, because of limited capacity, were scalped.

Back at home, the stock exchange shut down for the tournament opener and practices were televised.

Of course, this caring comes at a price. When the team slumped in the spring, Lance, a Rio de Janiero sports daily, said the only thing that could help was "Viagra."

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Trivia question: Which manager was replaced in 1961 by the Cubs' College of Coaches?

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Long, winding road: It took a lot to get Ken Griffey Jr. into that home run derby, which he won, like being booed in Coors Field and lambasted in the Denver papers.

Days before, some Denver writers approached Griffey to get his comments on the derby, being the leading vote-getter, etc.

"I've got people here to deal with," Griffey said as he entertained a sunglass manufacturer and a friend. "I'm not talking today, tomorrow or the next day. I'm going to be like Albert Belle. That's A-L-B-E-R-T B-E-L-L-E."

To which the Rocky Mountain News' Bob Kravitz responded, Griffey was being a "J-E-R-K."

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Trivia answer: Lou Boudreau.

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And finally: Instead of naming a manager in 1961, the Cubs hired Vedie Himsl, Harry Craft, Elvin Tappe, Lou Klein, Charlie Metro and Bob Kennedy as coaches and rotated the managerial job among the six of them during the season.

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