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Welcome to Tom's Super Summer Solstice Sports Special!



We are about to enter that Sports Dead Zone between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of the college football season (unless, of course, you're a fan of the WNBA, in which case, over the next two months, you'll be one of the 17 happiest people in America). So I thought I'd share some thoughts on sports:

Something nice to say about the World Cup of soccer: You know how it's summer time, and your wife wants you to do stuff around the house? All you have to do is tell her, "I'm watching a World Cup game right now, but I promise that I'll get right to it as soon as somebody scores."

I watched the opening-day match between Uruguay and France. I could have read War and Peace before somebody scored. Who am I kidding? I could have written War and Peace before somebody scored.

Not that the game was without tension. The last two minutes of extra time were edge-of-your-seat gripping as the Uruguayans argued with the Asian ref over where he was going to place the ball for a French free kick. One Uruguayan even got a yellow card.

Still, it reminded me of that brilliant ad back in the early days of MTV. This teenage boy is watching MTV when a knock comes at the door. He opens the door, and there stands the Grim Reaper, who points and says that he has come for the young man. The kid says, "But I'm watching MTV," to which the Reaper responds, "OK, I'll come back when it's over."

A few years ago, I turned on MTV and saw some dreadful thing about Flavor Flav in a hooker hookup show, and I realized that the aforementioned young man is dead, since MTV is sooo over.

Another good thing about soccer: Those guys really are good athletes. Every year around Christmas, ESPN puts on an hour-long show with nothing but soccer highlights from around the world that year. Some of them are amazing. I could watch that show for up to an hour.

Unfortunately, in real life, those highlights are surrounded by hours, and sometimes weeks, of just running up and down the field in shiny uniforms.

Another reason those guys are good athletes: Have you ever seen Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire pretending to be clumsy? It's masterful. A soccer player has to be a good athlete in order to get kicked in the shin (which is covered with a state-of-the-art shin guard) and then instantaneously fall to the ground, writhing as though he had been shot with a molecular disruptor. It's gotta take years of practice.

The Super-Spectacular Pac-16 Mega-Conference: At press time, the Pac-10 was about to become the Pac-11, after the conference invited Colorado to join. Really?! Colorado? What, did El Paso turn us down?

I hated the idea of a 16-team mega-conference sprawling from Seattle to Austin. I hated what it would have done to University of Arizona athletics, especially the so-called "minor" sports. It would have confirmed the worst fears that college sports are only about money.

Fortunately, after days of looking like it was a done deal, the 16-team plan fell apart. It's like during the Six-Day War, when an Israeli guy asked a woman out. She said, "We can't go on a date! There's a war on." So he said, "Well, how about tomorrow night?"

A Pac-16 would have sucked on a seismic scale.

Why I hate the Lakers: Mostly, I despise Kobe Bryant, who, besides being the best basketball player in the world, is also one of the most easily despise-able people on the face of the Earth. Phil Jackson is smug; Ron Artest is a thug; and Derek Fisher is a crybaby. And then there's Pau Gasol. Did you know that "Pau Gasol" is Spanish for "whines on every play"? Oddly enough, it's also Portuguese for "bad facial hair."

Never kick a cheater when they're down. Before we begin throwing stones in the direction of USC, we should all consider that there but for the grace of God ...

I'm not so naïve as to believe that cheating doesn't go on elsewhere, but I was taken aback by the nondenial denials issued by former Trojans coach Pete Carroll and confirmed cheater Reggie Bush, both of whom are long gone from USC, which will suffer mightily from the misdeeds of Bush and former Trojan basketball player O.J. Mayo.

What kills me, however, is that besides banning USC from bowl-game appearances for two years, the NCAA will also strip the Trojans football program of 30 scholarships over the next three years.

I'm sorry, but isn't the NCAA supposed to be (at least partly) in the business of educating young people? Why take away scholarships? People might argue that the 30 kids who don't go to USC will get scholarships elsewhere, but somewhere along the line, there will be a net loss of 30 football scholarships in the NCAA. Plus, USC will save money in the process.

Why not have USC give out those 30 scholarships—with the free room and board and tutors and study table—and just have the recipients not play football? Wouldn't that make for a more positive lesson?

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