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Know when to walk away

Sports | Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers is not only pitching like a young man, he's acting like one

Issue: "Africa: The new frontier," July 16, 2005

Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers recently showed what an odd relationship he has with reporters. Since the beginning of the season when one local newspaper leaked details of a contract negotiation, Mr. Rogers has refused to speak with the press (with one exception). Of course the lefty's complaint was misguided from the start. His beef should have been with the Rangers official who leaked details of the closed-door negotiations, not reporters who published it.

Not that much recently makes sense about Kenny Rogers, anyway. Pitchers pushing past 40 shouldn't be near the top of the American League in ERA. And men over 40 should be in more control of their tempers. But Mr. Rogers is not only pitching like a young man, he's acting like one. Following one game in June, the pitcher slammed his off-hand into a water cooler, breaking a finger. Later he yelled at some media types for getting too close to him in the locker room. That time a framed picture was the victim. But when talk shows began to question Mr. Rogers' manhood, saying it was the contract squabble, or even fear-not the finger-that forced him to miss a start against the division-leading Angels, he reacted strangely.

Instead of telling his side of the story, Mr. Rogers sought out-apparently at random-two television cameramen who were filming what TV insiders call "B-Roll" (the filler footage used during a report) and tried to flip their cameras off their shoulders. One cameraman, Larry Rodriguez, held onto his equipment only to have Mr. Rogers circle back and wrench the 35-pound camera off his shoulder and to the ground where the Rangers pitcher added a swift kick to the equipment.

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Apparently the Kenny Rogers media gag rule only works one way. Mr. Rogers shuts the media off from approaching him, but he felt at liberty to approach cameramen and commit what police may eventually call an assault. But once again, Mr. Rogers' anger was misplaced. Neither cameraman had anything to do with rumors swirling about Mr. Rogers' missed start.

Athletes often try to make the media take the fall for their foolish and immature actions. Kellen Winslow Sr. blamed the press for creating a firestorm after his 21-year-old son and Cleveland Browns tight end, Kellen Winslow Jr., ended his 2005 season with an injury suffered during a motorcycle crash. Barry Bonds blamed the media for making his children sad amidst the coverage of the BALCO scandal. And Mr. Rogers wasn't the only one trying to blame the press for his own ugly actions, which ultimately cost him $50,000 and a 20-game suspension. Rangers owner Tom Hicks told reporters, "You guys are a tough group at times with people."

Apparently not as tough as Kenny Rogers. When the going gets tough, he finds things to hit.

Around the Horn

• Move over Serena. Venus Williams is ready to take back her place as the preeminent Williams sister. Previously dismissed as an inferior tennis player to 23-year-old sister Serena, Venus' success at Wimbledon proves the elder sister, at 25, can still be a force on the women's circuit. Her July 2 victory returned Venus to the top-10 ranking in women's tennis, as Wimbledon runner-up Lindsay Davenport retains No. 1 and Serena fell two notches. Don't think Serena didn't notice: "[Serena] called me to say, 'Can I have your autograph?'" Venus said.

• His time with the famed yellow jersey at the Tour de France ended quicker than Dave Zabriskie hoped. In the early stages of the monumental cycling race, Mr. Zabriskie of Salt Lake City was a surprising leader. Fellow American Lance Armstrong or a host of other contenders would have eventually overtaken the cyclist, but not like this. With about one mile remaining in a grueling team time trial with speeds exceeding 40 mph, Mr. Zabriskie lost control, tumbled off his bike, and skidded across concrete into a barrier. A teammate has called the 26-year-old the future of American cycling. But not this year.

• This upcoming football season, Seattle running back Shaun Alexander appears ready to make himself the league's premier holdout. The Seahawks offered Mr. Alexander a one-year deal worth $6.32 million, but the runner refused. Mr. Alexander, who rushed for almost 1,700 yards last season, told reporters he'd be willing to sit out the first part of the season if Seattle won't offer him a multi-year deal.


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