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The Inside Track | Chris Dufresne SECOND THOUGHTS

Read Along, He Will Cast You Under His Spell

June 02, 2003|Chris Dufresne

A quick recap and rehash of a sports week in which pitcher Roger Clemens got stuck on 299, a plain old kid from Plano didn't get stuck on the word "pococurante," the Mighty Ducks went overtime to win and Kenny Perry, yes that Kenny Perry, won his second consecutive golf tournament to establish himself as one of the favorites for the upcoming U.S. Open -- yes, that U.S. Open.

Fortunately, all these events and billiards are considered sport under ESPN's giant song-and-dance tent.

As that old Chinese saying goes, "may you live in interesting times."

News: Thirteen-year-old Sai Gunturi wins National Spelling Bee on ESPN.

Second thought: Spelling televised as sport? You bet. Watching those brilliant kids stall for time before having to answer reminded me of the way Mike "the Human Rain Delay" Hargrove used to buy time in the batter's box.

News: NBA Finals begin this week.

Second thought: Spelling judge: "The word is ennui."

Me: "Could I have a definition, please?"

Judge: "From the Old French word meaning 'annoyance.' It can also suggest physical depression, languor as well as boredom."

Me: "Ennui. Could this word also describe a person's complete lack of interest in the San Antonio-New Jersey final?"

Judge: "Yes."

Me: "Ennui. E-n-n-u-i. Ennui."

News: Mighty Ducks beat New Jersey in overtime to cut Devils' Stanley Cup finals lead to 2-1.

Second thought: It didn't take a Rocket (Richard) scientist to know how badly the Ducks needed to win Game 3.

News: Proposed NFL stadium on landfill in Carson faces environmental challenges.

Second thought: I only wish legendary NFL Films voice John Facenda -- "the autumn wind is a Raider" -- had lived long enough to recite passages from Saturday's story in The Times: "Methane leaks are regularly plugged with earth, and extraction wells soon will be installed to vacuum out the gas."

News: Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati ousted from French Open.

Second thought: Obviously, this only proves some Americans still want nothing to do with France.

News: Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive introduces five-year plan to make his league free of NCAA probation by 2008.

Second thought: Credit Slive for trying to clean up the country's most renegade conference, although I'm not sure how kicking every school out except Vanderbilt is going to go over with boosters.

More on the SEC: An Atlanta paper reported this week that the revenue pool shared by SEC schools increased from $16.3 million in 1990 to a record $101 million this year. In that time, SEC schools have been cited for 13 major NCAA infractions.

And they say slime doesn't pay.

News: In court case, attorney argues traffic cop could have gotten out of the way of Randy Moss' vehicle last Sept. 24.

Second thought: Oh, that defense again. Could this be the same lawyer who years ago argued that Rudy Tomjanovich's face could have gotten out of the way Kermit Washington's fist?

News: Angels are fading fast in American League West

Second thought: You know, some folks believe Edison Field was built on an ancient Indian burial ground.

News: High school basketball star LeBron James signs $90-million endorsement deal with Nike.

Second thought: Why not? To paraphrase that old line by Shaquille O'Neal, the guy has won at every level except college and the pros.

News: Freddy Adu, 13-year-old soccer star, signs $1-million endorsement deal with Nike.

Second thought: Four out of five child psychologists surveyed guessed that Adu's lawn-mowing days are probably over.

News: Clemens chases career win No. 300.

Second thought: We interrupt this column for a brief, nerd-like, get-a-life, inside-baseball historical analysis. Clemens, still stuck on 299 after Sunday's no-decision against Detroit, may go down as the best right-handed pitcher ever, yet it seems he also has had a charmed career in terms of run support and bullpen help (Sunday's Yankee breakdown a rare exception).

The middle-aged man in me simply can't come to grips with some of these baseball disparities. Consider that Clemens, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan and Gaylord Perry essentially have the same career earned-run averages, still the best statistical measure of a starting pitcher's impact.

Clemens was at 3.16 entering the weekend. Carlton finished at 3.22, with Ryan at 3.19 and Perry at 3.11.

Yet, Clemens' loss total of 154 seems astonishingly low in comparison to Carlton (244), Ryan (292) and Perry (265).

Clearly, the old-timers took the mound more often, pitched deeper into games and took more decisions, but I sometimes wonder if pitchers in today's set-up man/closer world are playing the same sport.

That said, Clemens' numbers, judged against any era or standard, are almost stupefying. We now return to regular Second Thoughts programming.

News: Another Brazilian wins Indianapolis 500.

Second thought: My idea on how foreign Indy circuit drivers can tap into NASCAR's enormous popularity requires only a slight tweak of nicknames: Gil de "Bobby Joe" Ferran and Helio "Backwater" Castrovenes.

News: Perry wins PGA Memorial tournament at Dublin, Ohio.

Second thought: Sorry, but I switched channels to the Spelling Bee on Thursday after learning there were no women playing the golf tournament.

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