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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

To Avoid Stress, Consult Your Local Astrologer

July 16, 1998|MARK HEISLER

It's hard to get a fix on the globe-enthralling, hooligan-beset World Cup, which, depending on what you read, was either exhilarating, dangerous, unforgettable or unmemorable.

For sure, it was zany enough.

The New York Times' Jere Longman remembers, "Glen Hoddle, the English coach, hired a faith healer. The Romanian players dyed their hair gold. Miroslav Blazevic, the eccentric Croatian coach, got through the tournament on cigarettes, chocolates and faxes from his astrologer."

Then there was supposed superstar Ronaldo of Brazil. The mystery ailment that slowed him in the final is now being called simple stress, the result of such burdens as his $125-million Nike contract.

Said Brazilian team doctor Lidio Toledo, who took Ronaldo to the hospital before the game: "His illness was due to stress. I took him to the hospital and asked for a thorough test, like electrosonography and electrocardiogram."

Said the 21-year-old Ronaldo: "There's too much pressure. I need to change my life. I need a better life."

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Our national no-show: Who is to blame for the American World Cup debacle?

Coach Steve Sampson has resigned, to his players' delight.

"From the beginning, this whole World Cup has been a mess," Tab Ramos said. "I blame the coaches for the losses. I have no problem saying that."

The players have looked better, themselves.

"American players such as Tab Ramos, Eric Wynalda and Alexei Lalas blamed Sampson without assuming any personal responsibility," Longman wrote. "It was the failure of experienced players, not Sampson's dereliction, that contributed most significantly to the American embarrassment."

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Trivia time: At the 1983 British Open at Royal Birkdale, what player missed a three-inch putt trying to backhand the ball into the cup and finished one stroke behind winner Tom Watson?

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Missed opportunity: Controversial talk-show host Jerry Springer made his TV debut in 1960 as a ball boy at the U.S. Open.

Springer, who lived near Forest Hills, passed up a chance to see the Yankees with friends to volunteer to work for 55 cents an hour. He was chosen, worked the Rod Laver-Neal Fraser finale and has never regretted it.

"My friends saw me on television." Springer says.

Just think what we might have been spared if tournament officials had chosen some other tyke.

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The 40-40 club: Toronto's Jose Canseco, the first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season, could do it again, with a bonus thrown in.

Through Tuesday's games, Canseco was on a pace that would give him 47 homers, 41 steals and a .240 batting average.

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Trivia answer: Hale Irwin.

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And finally: Jayson Stark of the Philadelphia Inquirer, on Mark McGwire's complaint he didn't get the pitches where he wanted them in his first-round homer derby exit: "Boy, how feared is this man? They even pitched around him in a home-run derby."

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