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Issue: "Earthquake in Bam," Jan. 10, 2004

What now?

What exactly are the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers supposed to do now? Weeks of nearly public negotiations to trade shortstop Alex Rodriguez to Boston for wet-blanket outfielder Manny Ramirez culminated only in hurt feelings and nervous fans. Money, of course, sat at the heart of the impasse of the on-again-off-again trade discussions. On one side, Texas owner Tom Hicks demanded more money from Boston to diminish the sting of Manny Ramirez's contract. Alex Rodriguez earns more than Mr. Ramirez does, but is considered less overpaid than the outfielder.

But A-Rod's salary created another hang-up: How much of the $25 million a year could Mr. Rodriguez give up? The answer turned out to be more than baseball's players union would accept. The players union, not Mr. Rodriguez, balked at Boston's idea to lop nearly $30 million off of his $252 million contract. The shortstop endorsed the pay cut if it would mean getting out of a losing franchise. But the players association opposed giving any money back unless other value was added to the contract.

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Fashionistas

No one ever said the NFL didn't have style. Common sense is another question, though. In what other league would a player be fined for not pulling up his socks, or-in the case of Cincinnati's Jon Kitna-penalized $5,000 for wearing a baseball cap with a Christian cross on it? Yet no one felt surprised when the league handed down the fine against the Bengals QB; it didn't even seem like a religious matter. "That's what happens when you don't follow the rules," said Mr. Kitna of the December incident. "I won't wear it anymore. The Bible says submit to the authorities placed above you. The authorities say that's the rule." But he's appealing the fine, which is also provided for among the rules.

Consider the bizarre nature of today's NFL: A league built around explosive violence tries to maintain some manner of decorum by penalizing players who concoct absurd touchdown celebrations and put on non-NFL-approved caps. Billy Johnson's "White Shoes" wouldn't have flown in this NFL if he played for the wrong team. Tom Landry would be fedora-less on the sidelines and Bum Phillips would've been made to leave his cowboy hat and ostrich boots in the locker room. Johnny Unitas's black high tops would have landed him a $5,000 fine-if, like Chris Redman honoring Unitas by wearing the high tops in September, Unitas was a first-time offender.

There's a good reason coaches can't wear a suit on the sideline. To market NFL's $3.1 billion apparel business, owners lean on coaches to wear official sideline gear-the same garb sold in stadium concourses. Actually, all the NFL coaches look just about the same. Surely this is not what the NFL meant by "parity."

Around the horn

Through nearly 40 percent of the NBA season, Cleveland phenomenon LeBron James averaged nearly 20 points, six rebounds, and six assists per game. In the Eastern Conference, Mr. James has broken into the top 10 scorers in the conference.

Just a few weeks before a hearing scheduled for Jan. 23 in Eagle, Colo., Lakers guard Kobe Bryant told ABC Sports his impending sexual assault case is like "living in a nightmare and you just can't just wake up out of it." If convicted of the charges, Mr. Bryant could spend four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation.

Isiah Thomas found his way back to the NBA after his stint as coach for the Pacers. The new New York Knicks president will take the same "no prisoners" approach with the Knicks as he did with the Pistons as a player. "This isn't charity," he said. "It's a business."

What can a $184.5 million payroll buy you? Not a World Series, as George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees found out last autumn. That kind of team salary landed the Yankees an $11.82 million luxury-tax hit. All other teams stayed under the $117 million tax threshold, which means the Yankees outspent every other team in major league baseball by more than $65 million.

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