Notebook > Sports

Criminal pride

Sports | Polish soccer fans are feeling a bit put out that their hooligans aren't as feared as their English cousins

Issue: "The people have spoken," Feb. 4, 2006

Forget supporting their nation, some Polish soccer fans have their own ambitions. According to the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Polish soccer hooligans are planning to create a fan menace when Poland heads to the World Cup finals this summer in Germany. Their motivation? To prove that Polish soccer hooligans can be every bit as destructive as the infamous English soccer hooligans.

"The hooligans want to use the World Cup to show that they are just as dangerous as their English, Dutch, or German counterparts," Jacek Purski from the Warsaw-based anti-racism and soccer magazine Nigdy Wiecey (Never Again) told Der Spiegel. "We must quite simply expect the worst."

Hooliganism in the European soccer world has been a problem for years and now, apparently, Polish soccer fans are feeling a bit put out that their hooligans aren't as feared as their English cousins. That should strike fear in the hearts of this year's World Cup organizers, who estimate nearly 300,000 Poles will cross into Germany for the global sporting event.

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Just last December, Polish soccer hooligans helped organize a staged brawl in a forest between more than 100 Poles and Germans. Already skittish World Cup organizers had reason enough to fear hooligans, who light fires, pick fights, and vandalize. But now the chip on the Poles' shoulder could add to the danger.

Takin' it to another level

How does Kobe Bryant like life without Shaq? Count the baskets. In this, his second season since legendary center Shaquille O'Neal departed Los Angeles for the Miami Heat in a 2004 trade, Mr. Bryant has scored at a pace not seen in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain. Fitting, then, that Mr. Bryant dropped 81 points on Toronto Jan. 22-the second most points in a game since Wilt Chamberlain's famous 100-point game in 1962. "That was something to behold," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "It was another level. I've seen some remarkable games, but I've never seen one like that before."

And Mr. Jackson has seen the best. Michael Jordan, who played for the current Lakers coach, mustered only 69 in his best-ever scoring performance. Only four players outside of Mr. Bryant and the legendary Chamberlain have scored more than 70. Teammates say it was anger that fueled Mr. Bryant's Herculean performance-anger that his team had been trailing the Raptors.

That's bad news for the rest of the league, because Mr. Bryant has been angry a lot lately. He's been hit with multiple flagrant fouls this season, has sparred with teammates, and has earned a two-game suspension for elbowing Mike Miller in the face.

Around the Horn

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher sure picked a good time to start winning road games. In his previous 13 seasons with the Steelers, Mr. Cowher hadn't coached his team to victory as a visiting playoff team. This playoff season, he's done it three times in a row, earning his Steelers a date in the Feb. 5 Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks.

Marathoners now have something else to run for-big-time cash. Organizers from marathon races in Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York City, and London have agreed to pool resources and create a cup series, awarding the top male and female marathoner in the five races a $500,000 grand prize. "Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S. and French Opens are to tennis," New York City Marathon race director Mary Wittenberg said.

When Barry Bonds makes his return to the San Francisco Giants lineup this spring, it won't be at the top of the lineup. After hearing that Giants manager Felipe Alou was considering batting Mr. Bonds second in the San Francisco lineup, the aging slugger laid down a mandate, saying he planned on staying at No. 3 or 4 as he makes his assault on the all-time home-run record.

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