By Tom Knauer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
I was ready. Monday morning, eating a bowl of sludgy cereal and watching ESPN, I was all set to come home that evening and write this column. I even had an idea in mind - rare for that early in the writing process.
I was going to comment on the ridiculousness of the plays made Saturday by both teams in Arizona's football game at UCLA. It would be harsh, it would be funny. Sitting on my couch and poking my Mini-Wheats with a spoon, I knew it would be good entertainment.
Then, something caught my eye. The words "Arizona" and "critical condition" were running across ESPN's Bottom Line. I looked down from the current highlight on Sportscenter - a recap of the Miami Heat-Houston Rockets preseason game - and scanned the bar from left to right.
Yeah, there was the "NCAAF" note, proving its reference to the UA football team. Yeah, there was the name of Sheldon Watts, a freshman offensive lineman.
And there, still running, were the present circumstances:
Shot at an off-campus party
At this point, I didn't launch into a series of clichés. I didn't do a double take. I didn't drop my bowl down forcefully and let out a guttural roar. I didn't do any of that. I just sat there. And changed the channel.
I found ESPN2 and its early-morning equivalent of my breakfast, Cold Pizza. I'm not terribly familiar with the show, so I couldn't tell you who was talking. To be honest, all I saw was a women's powder-blue sports coat. My real focus was lower, on another Bottom Line. A blurb, from baseball's National League, sped by:
Former Astros OF/3B Ken Caminiti, 41, dies of an apparent heart attack. Again, no clichés. All I could remember were the myriad ESPN interviews Caminiti gave after his retirement, after admitting he had used steroids throughout his career and that many major leaguers still did. The press jumped on him for the comments, and Caminiti bamboozled the whole lot, using his mistake to exploit the masses and later cleanse his name. Still, this was Ken Caminiti. I grew up with this guy pounding homers over the fences and downing beer mugs (full of 'roids, I guess) in the dugout after the game. Yeah, he had odd advice for the kiddies - don't use juice or you'll end up an MVP like me - but this was one of the best players I had ever known, at a time when my interest in sports was peaking.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Powder-Blue was speaking with Annika Sorenstam about her new book, "Golf Annika's Way." Smile, smile, wink at the camera. The next segment dealt with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, whose newest chapter begins tonight. Another Cold Pizza guy was standing on a sidewalk, wedged between two men in New York and Boston jackets. Any predictions? Any predictions? The guy went on, his face warping like a pumpkin under a blowtorch. He kept the microphone to himself.
Meanwhile, I learn that actor Christopher Reeve dies at 52. Superman is dead.
Back to ESPN. Stuart Scott is speaking of the New England Patriots' 19-game win streak, the longest (including playoff games) in NFL history. Scott, perhaps the catalyst of the channel's now-perpetual catchphrase culture, is holding up a colored piece of paper. It's pink, people, so obviously this news is important. Listen up: Patriots coach Bill Belichick may have cracked a smile after their victory Sunday.
Running below: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera will return to his home country of Panama due to deaths in his family. He is expected to play in Game 1 of the ALCS in New York today. From one Superman to another. Turns out, two of Rivera's cousins were reportedly electrocuted in a swimming pool at the pitcher's mansion. But, no, go on. Keep going with the facial expressions. By now, my cereal is spent. The bowl is on my coffee table, and I'm already writing down notes. Surely, these so-called sports news channels will stop now. They'll realize what they've missed and spend a minute or two discussing it. It's only balanced coverage, giving equal time to both the jovial and the germane.
Instead, SportsCenter breaks to a piece on maligned baseball umpire Don Deckinger. Deckinger was the first-base official during Game Six of the 1985 World Series. Toward the end of the game, Dane Orje of the Kansas City Royals hit a groundball toward the second baseman and the fielder appeared to have him out by a step. But Deckinger saw the foot and the ball reach at the same moment and he called the runner safe, igniting a city's ire and soon inspiring death threats. This being timely and all, nearly 20 years later, ESPN featured interviews from Deckinger and his wife. When asked about the decision and its later impact, Mrs. Deckinger called it "very, very sad. Alarming to me."
She later added, "It's a reminder that we're all human and we all make errors."
"We're not always on top," he said. "Sometimes, that's life. That's what life is all about."
Then what about death?