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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

Just What We Needed: Mammal League Soccer

April 13, 2001|MAL FLORENCE

The British obsession with soccer is widely known, but a zookeeper in London has taken it to a new extreme--forming a team of sea lions in his care.

Peter Montague said he started the team to cheer up the staff at West Midlands Safari Park who were depressed by the country's foot-and-mouth crisis.

The 14 seals, who play against a human goalkeeper, pick up the ball on their noses, then slap it into the net with their flippers.

"They're very gifted players with their ball control," Montague told Reuters.

Montague said Manchester United could learn some lessons from the seals.

"These overrated football players get paid thousands of pounds a week; my seals do it for a couple of fish."

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Trivia time: Which NBA team holds the record for overtime games in the regular season?

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Don't do it, Mike: Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that Americans don't really care if Michael Jordan makes another comeback as a player, adding, "Why junk up the perfect career with a cobwebbed Globetrotters act? Magic Johnson tried the same sort of comeback. Wasn't it awful?"

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More Jordan: Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post takes a different view:

"It's amazing how magical [the prospect of Jordan's return] still is. Phone calls came into my office from New Zealand, Germany and Japan. The obsession with Jordan is jolting.

"He's the only person on the planet who can put Tiger Woods in the passenger seat."

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A big difference: Ron Rapoport in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Could Tiger Woods be getting ready to take over from Michael Jordan as the king of sports endorsements?

"Andy Bernstein of SportsBusiness Journal says one difference is, 'Michael sells Gatorade and Ballpark Franks, and Tiger sells Rolexes and Buicks.' "

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Dangerous transition: Chuck Knoblauch, the former infielder, is finding that playing in the outfield for the New York Yankees can be hazardous. While catching a foul ball for the final out in a 13-4 victory over the Royals at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium on Monday night, a bottle thrown from the stands almost hit him.

Stadium security found the bottle thrower, but no arrest was made.

"What's the point of having security?" Knoblauch asked. "That isn't right. Say whatever you want, but throwing stuff at somebody is silly. If it hits me, that's assault. It [ticks] you off to have something thrown at you."

Luckily for Knoblauch, the thrower's aim was no better than Knoblauch's throwing to first when he played the infield.

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Touchy: New York Met pitcher Rick Reed had just given up four hits in a complete game against Atlanta. Unfortunately for Reed, he was outpitched by the Braves' Greg Maddux, who threw a one-hit shutout.

When someone asked Reed about Maddux, he said, "The hell with him. How about talking about my game?"

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Looking back: On this day in 1957, rookie Tommy Heinsohn scored 37 points and took down 23 rebounds as the Boston Celtics won their first NBA title with a 125-123 double-overtime victory over the St. Louis Hawks.

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Trivia answer: Philadelphia, with 14 in 1990-91. The 76ers had owned the record for the most won at eight until Thursday night, when the Sacramento Kings surpassed them by winning their ninth to go 9-4 this season in overtime.

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And finally: Jay Leno, on Dallas Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman retiring and signing with Fox Sports as an analyst:

"But let me tell you something. If he's going to be as good as Terry Bradshaw, he's gonna need a lot more concussions."

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