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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Buddy, Can You Spare One More Punch Line?

September 27, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

I like USC Coach Paul Hackett. In fact, if Conan O'Brien is ever replaced, I would recommend my buddy Hackett.

You know what UCLA fans are going to say when I pass on a few of the big guy's funny lines at their expense: "Dining on cream puffs like Penn State and San Jose State can sure make someone fat, and with all that sugar, sassy."

The folks at UCLA, of course, are not known for their sense of humor, but listening to my buddy Hackett on Tuesday, well, I just split a gut.

He began his weekly media monologue by announcing he would not have anything to say about shoes, his first tongue-in-cheek, smart-aleck barb directed at the UCLA clods who slipped at Oregon, because someone apparently failed to pack the proper shoes for slippery artificial turf.

Later, when asked about that opening crack, his face turned red from laughter, explaining that's what everyone wanted to talk about when he made an appearance Monday with local business leaders. "Everyone was saying they lost because of the shoes," he wheezed, and he was laughing so hard he was having trouble breathing and I was afraid I was going to have to give him mouth-to-mouth.

He also told the media he would not have music piped into practice this week to prepare his team for the noise at Oregon State, instead going with "whisper drills," something UCLA Coach Bob Toledo had discussed and used last week before his team was penalized three straight plays for false starts.

I have to remain objective, of course, so I could only laugh inside.

Then my buddy Hackett delivered his best line--with a straight face--saying there would be no quarterback changes this week.

You know he's staying up at night writing this stuff, and if the game plan suffers, hey, it's not as if USC is playing anyone tough.

*

OK, SO UCLA isn't laughing. And after losing to the Ducks it's probably not the right time to bring out the whoopee cushion.

But Hackett is a master strategist, as we all know, losing all those games after establishing big leads last year so it would fire up his team this year to play harder in the fourth quarter.

He's always worried about his team becoming overconfident because USC plays no one worth a darn. USC has beaten three teams with the combined record of 3-9, and gets Oregon State next, which it has whipped 26 times in a row, outscoring the toothless Beavers, 991-268.

And now UCLA has gone belly up, taking the luster off that game in November in the Rose Bowl unless my buddy Hackett can prod the Bruins into picking it up and eventually getting the Trojans' attention.

I know I am biased, but I think he's doing a good job.

*

SPEAKING OF UCLA, I don't know what's the fuss about UCLA rushing quarterback Cory Paus back from a separated shoulder. The Bruins are only asking him to remove the sling for three hours.

*

THE FINAL VERDICT'S a foregone conclusion now that golfer Casey Martin has found a country club jury that wouldn't think of playing golf without a cart.

*

IT'S PRETTY OBVIOUS ABC is desperate and I can see where it's going with this, and frankly, it's working. The Monday night TV crew put a microphone on Indianapolis defender Chad Cota, and then played highlights of the interesting things he had to say in the heat of battle, Cota revealing to a national audience: "This is a big game."

I know in our house we couldn't wait for Dennis Miller to come back on.

*

THE PLAQUES OF honor beneath the Coliseum peristyle, which now number 43, will add a 44th illustrious member Oct. 11 when the likeness of Los Angeles City Council President John Ferraro is unveiled.

I hope whoever makes those plaques can capture that characteristic grin.

*

THE UCLA SPORTS information department called to say there were six Bruins on the U.S. softball team that won the gold medal. I presume that includes the error-prone Dot Richardson.

*

THE USC SPORTS information department wanted it known that the combined record of its fall teams, including volleyball, water polo, soccer and football, is 27-1. The women's soccer team lost in double overtime at Florida, and I would think by now the coach has been fired.

I called UCLA's sports information department just to be fair, and discovered why no one had called me with similar information. The combined record of their dreadful teams is 29-7, and if the women's soccer coach at USC gets dumped for losing a match, you know there's work to be done at UCLA.

*

I CAN UNDERSTAND former Dodger manager Davey Johnson pleading ignorance most any day of the week, but these claims by schooled athletes that they had no idea they were doped up, or were misled by team doctors, are ridiculous.

These athletes train four years for the Olympics and are barraged with information regarding drugs to the point that you and I--with no chance of winning--wouldn't put a pill or needle in our bodies unless the last rites had already been administered.

*

USC BASKETBALL PLAYERS Brian Scalabrine and Ebony Hoffman will throw out the first pitch tonight at Dodger Stadium. Given the money Kevin Malone gave to Carlos Perez, one of these kids will have to be the fifth starter.

*

BOTH THE DODGERS and the Angels were on the verge of elimination on the same night. So how good can Mike Scioscia be?

*

TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in e-mails from Amir and Janie:

"I believe you may have judged this poor little Romanian 16-year-old gymnast too harshly for taking cold medicine. . . . Her whole team is giving back their medals in protest, and I doubt I'll read one line of apology in your article."

I'm truly sorry more teams haven't returned their medals in protest--it's the only way any of the American pixies are going to get a medal.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com

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