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CHRIS ERSKINE

He knows the issues in sports, and the solutions

Fan of the house:

February 05, 2009|CHRIS ERSKINE

Incoming columnists don't normally give State of the Union speeches, but given the extraordinary circumstances at hand, this year will be an exception.

My fellow Americans,

Thank you for letting me address you here today. The world of sports -- our refuge, a rare font of national glee -- has become a very unsettled place. Manny remains unemployed. Ticket prices are through the roof. The other day, I went to a grade school basketball game and they weren't even serving beer.

But, my friends, those are not the only challenges we are facing today. For example, the NBA has way too many misspelled tattoos. And have you seen this year's Sports Illustrated models? Sadly, some of their swimsuits don't even fit.

America, there are problems in every gym, playing field and putting green across our great land. Golf is too boring, the goals in soccer just way too small. In fact, most everything is too small -- golf balls, hockey pucks, the nachos grande at Staples Center.

In pro football, meanwhile, someone has kidnapped all the flashy, jitterbugging running backs. Where'd all the roadrunners go -- the Tony Dorsetts, the Walter Paytons? It's become a game now of quarterbacks, wide receivers and referees. Not that most fans really care, for the NFL is now bigger than Christianity itself. It has begun to sweep across Europe and will soon enter Asia and portions of the Antarctic.

Which brings us to baseball . . . poor baseball. This is America's "affordable family sport," if by affordable you mean "under a grand."

As if that's not enough -- and it is -- you've got this Torre fella writing a tell-all book about his years in New York, which would be a bigger concern if most Yankees players could actually read.

In the Yankees' case, I suspect what will happen is that their agents will read it, then highlight all the really nasty parts and place indignant calls to their clients after a couple of glasses of $75 Chardonnay.

Initially, I predict their clients will be hugely offended, but then have a rare moment of personal reckoning and turn their scrutiny inward -- start going to church more, start paying their back taxes. But that's just a theory. No sign yet of any of this actually occurring.

Honestly, who can blame J.T. for venting a little? Can you imagine coaching those nut bags in New York for 12 years? Far as I'm concerned, Jeter can enter the Hall of Fame right now, and Paul O'Neill was a rock -- the Yankees were never the same after he left. But the rest of those loonies probably deserve to hear what Torre has always wanted to say but just couldn't.

Call it "tough glove."

In fact, it would be a better world if we all wrote tell-all books. Me, I'm planning an expose right now about managing last year's T-ball team. You wouldn't believe the attitudes of some of today's 6-year-olds. When I'm done, feelings are bound to be hurt. Reputations compromised. So be it. Some things just need to be said.

Chapter One: "My star player showed up for practice today, dumped everything out of his batting bag, climbed in and zippered the thing shut. Note to self: How do I encourage more of this?"

Finally, we come to the miracle that is college football, which may have the biggest issue of all.

Someone, bless his or her heart, infused the universe with moonbeams and polka dots, robber barons and con artists -- all of which seem to reside within this wonderful and maddening sport.

Except for the airlines, I know of no business that snubs the customer as frequently as college football. Every season, the fans beg "Please-please-please, won't you give us a playoff system . . . please?" after which fat dudes in blazers shrug and order another round of prime rib, medium rare.

Here's one sensible playoff plan, which I'll be sending to Congress this afternoon: Each year, the BCS champ would play the winner of the Super Bowl, which would then face off against the winner of the previous fall's World Series.

The winner of that game will challenge the NBA champs to a game of H-O-R-S-E, the victor of that advancing to a winner-take-all tournament against a bunch of blond Russian tennis players, the kind of weapon Moscow now pumps out instead of tanks and guns. How do they do it? It makes no sense to me. Like Marv Albert's toupee (a close cousin of the common raccoon).

But I digress. Point is, this is the big national championship that America wants and needs. The time is right. I call on Congress to put everything else aside and consider this simple playoff system immediately. Only then will Pete Carroll quit throwing heart-wrenching hissy fits.

Because, frankly, I have no more tears.

Erskine's Man of the House column appears Saturday in the Home section.

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chris.erskine@latimes.com

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