Hats (and towels) off to the men and women of our nation's armed, legged, and barebacked entertainment forces, who've proudly taken it upon themselves to answer the one question that's haunted 24-hour news network producers since the day after the election: "Whose idea was it to create 24-hour news networks anyway?" And, more specifically, "How many times can we run that same "we're-a-divided-nation" package before our 0.4 Nielsen rating shrivels into negative integers?"
("Hey, CNN! PETA's on the phone. It's about that dead horse you're beating...")
That's when our men in uniform sprang into action and our women wanting action sprang out of whatever they were wearing. First, it was Terrell Owens on Monday Night Football. The Philadelphia Eagles receiver known as "T.O." (Towel Off?) and Desperate Housewife Nicolette "Edie" Sheridan starred in a seductive, pregame skit featuring a just-showered Sheridan asking Owens to explain the instructions on her shampoo bottle. Well, it certainly succeeded in lathering up the American viewing audience, the most prudish of whom excoriated ABC for showing such filth and demanded that the network in the future skip the shenanigans and get right to the real reason they tuned in to watch the game: the slow-motion close-ups of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, tastefully festooned in their booby-trapped blouses and hip-hugging undies. (By the way, with the advent of High Definition technology, how soon before merely watching those cheerleaders on a big screen TV becomes a statutory offense?)
No sooner had those verbal volleys landed on ABC executives than the Pacers, Pistons, and half the city of Detroit engaged in real fisticuffs at an NBA game. It started when Pistons' big man Ben Wallace - the incarnation of that great line from Fletch, "He's 6'5", with the afro 6'9"..." - attempted to perform a tonsillectomy on Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers. Push came to shove when Artest defiantly lay down on the scorer's table, and a fan threw down from 8 rows up in the stands his $10 beer, cup and all, which hit Artest between the numbers on his jersey. How hopelessly inebriated was that guy to:
a) decide it might be a good idea to chuck a brewski onto a man who could snap him in two like pre-cooked vermicelli
b) actually hit that target from 30 feet away?
The ring toss game at the state fair would run out of stuffed animals the first night in town if sober people could do that on command. Wars have been lost because soldiers, in complete control of all their faculties, couldn't lob grenades with such precision.
Well, the Battle of Detroit was officially on after the launching of that suds scud. Artest charged into the stands along with a couple of his hooligan teammates, and before long it had the makings of a World Wrestling pay-per-view steel cage match minus the class and dignity (or a script to determine the outcome).
Athletes from around the sports world were so embarrassed by what they saw from their NBA brethren Friday night that there wasn't a single incident of on-field misconduct...until Saturday afternoon. By then, 'Cockfighting had broken out in the Clemson-South Carolina game where players from both teams employed such tactical maneuvers as slamming their fists into the other guy's helmet. Not only did contrite officials from both schools voluntarily remove themselves from consideration for a bowl game, the Gamecocks replaced retiring head coach Lou Holtz with noted good sport Steve Spurrier.
Yet not to be outdone by those brouhahas (or is it brous-haha?) was an uprising in Washington, D.C. where city officials were trying to announce that the name of the new baseball team there would be the Nationals. (They can't pass a single page of meaningful legislation in Washington, but they can name 'em a baseball team lickety-split.) Some goofball, who perhaps had hoped the nickname would be as insensitive as those of the other sports teams in D.C., commandeered the podium and began screaming incoherently before being removed by security. Onlookers decried the outburst but agreed the man had a bright future in politics. The whole debacle must have been a great disappointment to former D.C. Mayor Marion Berry, who's done so much to bring honor and civility to our nation's capital in between prison terms.
So take heart, news producers. Our athletes and entertainers are taking their skills off the sports page and onto the police blotter where their true greatness, if not their naked bodies, will be revealed. And before you overreact to these acts of foolishness and violence, I urge you to remember the words of Mayor Berry when he said - and I'm afraid this is an actual quote: "If you take out the killings, Washington actually has a very, very low crime rate."