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The Inside Track | SECOND THOUGHTS

Somebody Wake Him When February Is Over

February 03, 2003|Chris Dufresne

The team doc says what I have is a mild case of February-itis.

He says I am not alone.

The technical term is "Post-Traumatic Sports Syndrome," described as the dreary bridge-the-gap days between Super Bowl Sunday and March Madness.

February is interminable for a lot of us, like flying cross-country scrunched in a middle seat between two Subway sandwich weight-loss candidates. You stare at your wristwatch but the hands never move. You eat a box lunch, watch an edited-for-airplane Jackie Chan movie, yet somehow you're still only over Topeka?

February has only 28 days most years but that's 27 too many. I propose a constitutional amendment to make it a "leap month."

Tick, tick, tick, is it the Nissan Los Angeles Open yet?

Nope, not even close and, besides, Tiger Woods has a bum knee.

February, not April, is the cruelest month, so monotonous grown men pine for news of "pitchers and catchers reporting."

February's problem is too much junk in its trunk. It's a cacophony of crud, starting with the NFL's Pro Bowl, an all-star dodge ball game players pay agents good money to get them out of -- "I must have this bunion removed now!" -- and an event that would cease to exist if not played on a tropical island.

Then there's the NHL All-Star game, at which skaters gather to compare French accents and paycheck stubs. Ottawa players: You guys get paychecks? We only get hip checks. This frozen-in-time event will be followed soon by the annual NBA All-Star game, a free-for-all bucket brigade and, this year, a game in which Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal have been deemed not worthy of starting positions.

February is so doggone dull the Westminster Kennel Club sniffs its way into some of our sports sections. Let's go over this axiom again: Dog shows are to athletics what Jell-O is to vegetables.

February's compound headache is compounded this year by truly uninspired efforts by our sporting forces.

February's saving grace used to be college basketball. You could always kill a few hours tuning in a Bob Knight episode or the soap opera "As Steve Lavin's World Turns," but Knight is suddenly Mr. Rogers, while flipping the remote to UCLA ranks you no higher than ambulance chaser on the food chain.

That said, one way to get through this month is trying to name all the starting lineups Lavin has employed this season (it was eight through the Oregon defeat).

It beats counting sheep, or kennel dogs.

The prospect of UCLA's first losing season in 54 years is not the only bad news on this month's boring blotter.

There's a fair chance not one school from Santa Barbara south is going to make this year's NCAA men's tournament.

Southern California's fortunes appear hinged to UC Irvine, UC Irvine, yet even the Anteaters need to win the Big West tournament to earn an automatic invitation.

How can we expect to produce basketball players here with all this lousy weather and lack of population base?

This is not to say February is completely devoid of intrigue.

Amazingly, the low-level Lakers have become must-see TV at a time when they're usually on cruise control. Shane Mosley is fighting this month, and men in fire-retardant suits will make left turns at Daytona.

You might also consider fencing's Ipswich Cup, or the Welsh national cross-country championships, or table tennis' Bournemouth Open butterfly grand prix (I NEED TICKETS!!).

Or, you may just want to sit this month out.

News item: Arizona basketball players accused of taking candy from vending machine in Kansas.

Second thought: The punishment meted out by the Wildcat athletic director includes making the players eat black licorice while watching "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

Also, coming to a store near you: The Walton Bar (Nothing but Nuts!)

News item: Ohio prep star LeBron James ruled ineligible for receiving free clothes.

Second thought: With five games left in the regular season, James tells disappointed teammates not to sweat it. In a few months, he'll be able to buy them each a state high school basketball championship. Any state they want.

News item: Indianapolis kicker Mike Vanderjagt says teammate Peyton Manning doesn't show enough emotion and Coach Tony Dungy is too nice.

Second thought: This reminds me of the time Miami Dolphin kicker Garo Yepremian ripped into teammates when they failed to provide adequate protection after he skillfully attempted a pass against the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.

News item: Lincoln Journal-Star editor says the word "Redskins" is offensive and won't be allowed in the Nebraska newspaper.

Second thought: Editor says first non-winning football season in 40 years not yet enough to initiate ban on "Solich." Los Angeles-based papers consider a moratorium on the offensive terms "Clippers," "Bruins," and "Rodman."

News item: Augusta National fails to extend Greg Norman an invitation to this year's Masters.

Second thought: Independent panel concludes the next correct decision Hootie Johnson makes this year will be his first.

News item: Congress lashes out at the United States Olympic Committee.

Second thought: I'll remember this week in USOC history the next time a 16-year-old gymnast is stripped of her Olympic medal for taking asthma medicine.

News item: Penn State football Coach Joe Paterno says he may retire after the 2006 season.

Second thought: Bill Parcells, Michael Jordan, Reggie White and Cris Carter tell Paterno to think long and hard about it because, once you make the decision, there really is no turning back.

News item: Los Angeles Avengers open season.

Second thought: Pop quiz: The name of the Avenger coach is (a) Fred Snodgrass, (b) Ted Sunkist, (c) Ed Hodgkiss or (d) Todd Elmquist.

Answer: C.

News item: National Geographic publishes its first "Swimsuit Issue."

Second thought: At first glance, the antelope look terrific but some of the hippos definitely need to mix in a salad.

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