Notebook > Sports

A rerun for Prime Time

Sports | Deion Sanders is expected to return to the NFL this week

Issue: "2004 Election: Dubyafest," Sept. 11, 2004

When Cleveland host Baltimore on Sept. 12 for the opening Sunday of pro football season, it won't just be Browns fans' chance to get back at part-owner Art Modell. The game may start in the early afternoon, but it will have elements of Prime Time-Deion Sanders, that is.

Though part-time preaching, women's basketball coaching, and studio analyzing has kept the seven-time Pro Bowler busy since 2000, Mr. Sanders couldn't resist the spotlight. Assuming he's ready, the 37-year-old will return to football and play for the Ravens in the opening week.

Back in his heyday, teams employed Deion Sanders as the ultimate NFL mercenary. First with Atlanta, and then with San Francisco, Dallas, and Washington, Mr. Sanders was the Barry Bonds of cornerbacks. Opposing coaches feared him so much, they rarely tested him. Now Prime Time will have to find a new moniker. Baltimore won't initially use him at the position he made fashionable during the 1990s. Instead, Ravens coach Brian Billick said he'd use the 37-year-old as the team's fifth defensive back, or nickel back.

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How does Nickel and Dime Time sound? "Based on people we've talked to, opinions we trust, I'm sure there's no question he's going to be able to compete. . . . What he will bring to the table for us will be substantial."

Poor bet

How insatiable is the American appetite for gambling? Not even the four cable stations televising Texas Hold 'em poker tournaments seem silly compared to the big-money industry of NFL preseason football betting. Yes. People do it. And handicappers even think they've figured out a way to predict the outcomes of the games coaches and players use as formal practices.

The conventional wisdom of several online sports books made the Dallas Cowboys a five-point favorite against Tennessee on Aug. 30 (Dallas won by three). Many things in the world of online betting make little sense. For instance, Washington safety Shawn Taylor is a 5-2 favorite to win defensive rookie of the year. Oddsmakers made Chicago defensive lineman Tommie Harris a 10-1 longshot. Silly? Of course. But not as silly as betting on the winner of Fox's new reality show, The Next Great Champ, or the next season of Survivor where Brook Geraghty is a 5-1 favorite on an internet sports book. Don't worry. Someone's getting rich-the oddsmakers.

Price is right

Former Washington State and Alabama football coach Mike Price didn't just need a change of scenery. He required a change in setting-like from a Florida strip club to a Cormac McCarthy novel or Marty Robbins song. When Mr. Price fell out of favor with the University of Alabama after a well-publicized night on the town, the embattled coach finally landed in El Paso.

So how does the new Texas-El Paso head football coach reflect on his downward spiral now that he's in charge of a program with only three winning seasons since 1971?

"I went to the Rose Bowl (with WSU), stayed in a Beverly Hills suite as nice as you can get, took limos everywhere. At Alabama, I had drivers and Lear jets. Then, coming here to El Paso, I drove a pickup truck with two dogs."

Like resumé-padding George O'Leary, who accepted a position at Central Florida after being forced out of Notre Dame, Mr. Price took what he could get: "This could be it for me."

Around the Horn

  • Julian Tavarez's stuff wasn't just filthy-it was grimy. Major-league baseball suspended the St. Louis reliever for using a foreign substance on balls as he pitched. An umpire who checked Mr. Tavarez's cap during a game said the player as much as admitted his hat was smeared with pine tar. But after his own pine tar incident, Mr. Tavarez said he didn't use the sticky stuff to enhance his pitches.
  • More proof the NHL is in trouble: Hockey's keeper of the Stanley Cup lost the trophy. Walter Neubrand traveled to British Columbia to deliver the Cup to a Tampa Bay Lightning scout. But Air Canada baggage agents never loaded the Cup, saying it was too heavy. Finally the trophy was returned to Mr. Neubrand, but not before one angry fan lost his opportunity to see the Cup: "It's not like it's a brown paper bag; it's the Holy Grail. It's probably the most important nonreligious artifact in Canada."
  • Good thing Charles Barkley said he wasn't a role model. Police said they were investigating a woman's claim that she was assaulted by Mr. Barkley outside of a Philadelphia nightclub.


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