National | sports

Issue: "Gay marriage backlash," Dec. 6, 2003

Around the Horn

There were lots of frozen fingers at the Edmonton vs. Montreal game on Nov. 22, and not just from the hockey players. Fans packed a 60,000-capacity stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, for the first-ever outdoor NHL game. Officials had no problems with the ice-the temperature for the night game was minus 1.

What does a sports personality do once he has been ousted from the team? Run to the microphone. NFL star Keyshawn Johnson, who was basically fired by Tampa Bay in mid-November, reappeared in the studio with the "Fox NFL Sunday" show. Mr. Johnson didn't exactly receive a warm welcome from his new colleagues: "Aren't you embarrassed?" asked FOX's Terry Bradshaw. "If I were you, I'd be embarrassed." Former Orlando Magic coach Doc Rivers, within a week of his firing, joined ABC as an NBA broadcaster.

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Freddy Adu isn't your average American soccer player. For one, he's good enough to sign a multiyear deal with Major League Soccer, America's premier league. For another, he's just 14 years old. When Mr. Adu makes his MLS debut, he will be the youngest player in the modern era of professional team sports. But he's not the youngest ever. That distinction goes to Fred Chapman, who at 14 years, seven months, and 29 days made his only major league appearance by pitching five innings for the 1887 Philadelphia Athletics. c

The anti-LeBron

The consensus pick for the next LeBron James isn't very flashy at all. There's no dazzling Hummer for Dwight Howard Jr. Rather, the 6-11 high-school phenom drives to and from basketball practice in a dark blue 1984 Crown Victoria. Call him the anti-LeBron. And although there's no real mania yet, that could change quickly. His tiny school's basketball team embarks on a road trip this winter to Delaware, California, South Carolina, and New Jersey. His father, Dwight Howard Sr., the school's athletic director, is also trying to organize a game to be broadcast on ESPN.

Draft analysts say that Mr. Howard is a can't-miss NBA prospect-strong enough for the post and smooth enough for the wing. But in an age where high-school phenoms making the leap to the NBA miss often, it's Mr. Howard's head and heart that may make him especially attractive to NBA scouts. Mr. Howard doesn't get a free pass at his tiny private high school, Southwest Atlanta Christian, where he's taking AP English, statistics, and eschatology. c

Like hero, like prodigy

If American League MVP Alex Rodriguez really wants to emulate his childhood hero, former Baltimore shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., then there's a real danger that the league's best shortstop may end up like Mr. Ripken: the bulwark of a mediocre team. No sooner had the news of the Rangers shortstop's winning of the MVP award spread than Mr. Rodriguez was answering questions about his relationship with manager Buck Showalter with a loaded "no comment."

If Mr. Rodriguez has learned the value of hard work and fan interaction from the Orioles legend, he may too be learning the art of squabbling with a manager. When manager Davey Johnson joined the Orioles before the 1996 season, he nearly immediately challenged Mr. Ripken by asking him to play third base, a position he hadn't played since 1982. The new manager wanted to get the aging Baltimore icon into an easier defensive position and also pushed for a return to a normal manager-player relationship in the Orioles clubhouse. Mr. Ripken, who had become a power player in the Baltimore organization, balked. And even though Baltimore went to the playoffs twice under Mr. Johnson, club owner Peter Angelos let him go after a 98-win 1997 season. The Orioles shortstop didn't support Mr. Johnson and the Orioles have had lean years since.

It should be no surprise then that Mr. Rodriguez chafed when the Rangers manager took on the Texas clubhouse icon. Mr. Showalter exerted himself by not letting the shortstop pinch-hit in a late-season game on a deserved day off for Mr. Rodriguez. The move snapped the MVP's consecutive game streak and may have shattered the pair's relationship. Since the end of the season, the two haven't spoken.


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