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Be Careful When You Try On a Pair of Genes

September 14, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

My daughter fell on her face walking home from school and cut her head open. I mention this not because she is a klutz, who had no choice but to become an accountant, but because that day I realized I would never watch my child compete in the Olympics.

I was more interested in other things when I met my wife than a discussion of genes or heredity, so I didn't realize if you marry a short woman with no hops who has lumbering brothers who struggle to bowl, it's probably going to lead to the breeding of a klutz.


I WOULD HAVE been a wonderful father to Janet Evans, contributing to TV's demands for an "up close and personal" view of our boring life as a supportive family, but instead I was stuck with a klutz who has to be retrieved by the lifeguard from the bottom of the pool every time she goes wading.

It's only recently that I realized that even if she had inherited the genes only from my side of the family, she still wouldn't have made it as a big-time Olympian, because to do that today you must:

Have overcome cancer. Or, someone in your family must currently have cancer. Or, someone in your family must have died of cancer or some other nasty disease, or have been tragically killed, giving you the opportunity to dedicate your performance in his memory.

An Aboriginal background will work, but if you want to carry the American flag, you're going to have to top the kayaker who survived 30,000 volts of electricity in a construction accident.

Davey Johnson is a dead man and just doesn't know it--so he'd be pure gold if he were on loan from the Dodgers and coaching the Olympic baseball team instead of Tom Lasorda.

It takes some creativity. You can be an ex-con, like U.S. heavyweight boxer Michael Bennett, who was sentenced to the big house for trying to rob a Toys "R" Us, so long as NBC can get video of the penitentiary, and come up with the soft backlight for the obligatory repentant speech. Proclaiming, "I want to win for my mother," as Bennett did this week, puts a very nice wrap on the package.

The headline in Wednesday's USA Today about runner Suzy Favor Hamilton was a harbinger of what is to come: "Injury, brother's death sharpened her focus."

TV has focused on this Triumph of the Human Spirit in the Olympics for some time, which is what makes rhythmic gymnastics so compelling. But with NBC now showing everything on tape delay, these Games are going to be even more about the dramatic buildup than the results seen in the final minutes of every show.

The athletes with the best sob stories will dominate.

It's like swimming Coach Mike Bottom put it in an interview with the Denver Post, talking about 50-meter freestyle swimmer Gary Hall Jr.

"He's what we need. He's what the sport needs," said Bottom, about the once-wayward youth, who was an admitted recreational marijuana user, coming off a drug suspension--on the right track now fighting for a gold medal while weighted down by diabetes.

Unfortunately, my kid is normal. A klutz, but if she could put the shot without dropping it on her foot, she'd still never make it on NBC, because, other than her incredible dislike for USC, there's nothing there.

I checked. I know my wife told me once that someone on her mother's side of the family had died in jail, but knowing my wife's side of the family, they die where they belong.

Even if the klutz had turned out to be a stud athlete like her old man, she'd still be lost on the tape-delayed cutting room floor. Her only chance to make it big in the Olympics, I guess, would have been to appear nude, like all the other women athletes.

Well, thank heavens, she's a klutz.


GREEN BAY WILL apparently not have to be boarded up and abandoned. Brown County cheeseheads went for a higher sales tax so the Packers don't have to disband and can build a five-story, mall-like atrium on the side of the stadium, which will house stores and a stadium club.

Soon the team will begin entertaining offers to rename Lambeau Field in favor of whomever comes up with the most money. It's too bad the folks at don't have more financial backing.


LET'S SEE IF I have this straight. Cedric Ceballos, Chris Dudley, Christian Laettner, Chris Mullin, Horace Grant, Lorenzen Wright, P.J. Brown, Kendall Gill, Brad Miller, Eddie Jones and Toni Kukoc were on their way--at one time another--to the Lakers. It can be a tough city to get around, but every one of them seems to have gotten lost. I can understand, Glen Rice is having the same problem--he can't find a way out of town.


THE RAIDERS HAVE failed to sell out 24 consecutive games, but need to sell only 7,000 more by noon today to lift the TV blackout so everyone in Oakland can watch the Broncos defeat them.


THE UNIVERSITY OF Michigan couldn't guarantee recruits a Rose Bowl appearance, but they could promise a regular-season game in Pasadena against UCLA. It worked. Michigan will suit up 10 players from California on Saturday.

UCLA could have promised them many more games in the Rose Bowl, but who knows if the Bruin recruiters remembered to mention it?


OLYMPIC OFFICIALS ARE troubled by the open gambling in Australia, and now have another problem. Australian customs officials have served a summons on a Uzbekistan coach accused of trying to bring 15 vials of a performance-enhancing drug into the country.

You bet this will impact the Uzbeki betting line.


TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Bob:

"Bob Knight wants to coach again 'in the worst way.' He looks to be the right man for the Clippers."

Thank you, Bob, for the suggestion. As soon as you send your resume with appropriate cover letter, I'll pass it on to Donald.


T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address:

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