The New Yorker runs a David Remnick piece on "The Pope in Crisis," quoting lots of eminent Vaticanisti, which is what they call the Kremlinologists of Vatican City.
And then Notre Dame lost on consecutive Saturdays to the Jesuits (Boston College) and the Mormons (Brigham Young). You know how Popes feel about those pushy Jesuits. But when you lose to the Church of Latter-Day Saints, abandon hope!
Pray for the soul of Lou Holtz.
Elsewhere in sport, other strange things were happening.
In an NFL game I actually saw a player make a routine tackle who didn't then spend the next two and a half minutes strutting, raising his arms in triumph, woofing, pounding his chest and doing the Charleston.
A college basketball player from Purdue named Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson, who has never played a professional game, wants between $102 and $109 million or he isn't going to lace up his sneaks.
The same week this demand was aired (with baseball and hockey strikes on, it was major news), a more modest AP dispatch out of Pittsburgh said that Bryan Trottier, who starred on six Stanley Cup champions, filed for bankruptcy. Assets, $141,000; debts, $9.5 million.
Who was Trots' agent? Who was his money manager? And who is advising "Big Dog"?
A Texas wide receiver named Adams enjoyed a thrill-filled three college years. He was suspended this season from one game for driving a loaner car. Which sounds innocent enough. But it reminds folks young Adams was earlier booted from his dorm for a water fight. Then he left school to work to repay bills. Later he was charged with aggravated assault on a cop and bodily injury to a woman. Last spring he needed surgery to his hand after a knife fight with another University of Texas athlete. But can he run the down & out!
Those stuffed shirts at Augusta who run the Masters rarely have knife fights. But they did arrange to have CBS Sports drop Gary McCord, maybe the most delightful golf commentator on television, from next year's coverage team. The reason? Gary isn't sufficiently solemn.
Then, at that Oxford of the West, UNLV, they fired Rollie Massimino.
Of course Rollie should probably never have gone to Vegas in the first place. His spot was Villanova, the Big East and low-scoring basketball. Not quite Pete Carril of Princeton, but low-scoring. Mike Francesa of WFAN radio may have said it best when, during a roast of Rollie, Mike reminded the coach, "Rollie, in Las Vegas they think 61-60 is a halftime score."
Harvey Araton of The New York Times did perhaps the ultimate piece on trash talk, getting Reggie Miller to speak on the record.
"It's a new era," said Reggie. "Traditional basketball, when a guy dunked and just ran downcourt, that's gone.*.*.but how does it hurt the other team if a guy dunks, then looks into the camera or grabs his crotch?"
Said Coach Don Nelson, who led the U.S. team in the world championships at Toronto, "These are grown men. Some of them can't control themselves. I can only request, I can't demand."
Araton, in his piece, described a dunk by Larry Johnson who "then caressed himself from his face down to his waist as play went the other way..." and Shawn Kemp, "who went below the waist following a slam."
If all this is just too depressing to contemplate, someone borrowed your copy of "Stover at Yale," and you're fed up with the baseball strike and the doleful sight of all those amiable Canadian lads without teeth lining up for unemployment, cheer up. There are still good sports stories. Great sports stories. Like this one in the Times by William N. Wallace all about Marshall Goldberg, the All-American football player.
What's this? First we have Notre Dame losing to Mormons with all those wives and now we have All-Americans named Goldberg? Just what is going on here?
This was 1937 and Goldberg was the star of a "dream backfield" at the University of Pittsburgh that had gone undefeated (there was one scoreless tie against Fordham and a guard named Lombardi). Goldberg was voted third in the Heisman voting after Clint Frank of Yale and Whizzer White (later Supreme Court Justice) of Colorado. In '38 Marshall would again lose out on the Heisman, coming in second behind Davey O'Brien of TCU (who would pass up pro football and join the FBI on the not unreasonable grounds that in those days FBI agents made more money, maybe $4,800 a year!).
Back then the Rose Bowl was the big deal. Pitt had gone out there in '36 and whupped up on Washington 21 to nothing. So with another great season behind them, the Pitt Panthers were invited back. But the team voted on it and decided, by one vote, to skip the Rose Bowl and stay home.
Marshall Goldberg explained why. For that 1936 game, he said, Washington gave each man a new suit and a hundred bucks for expenses. The Pitt guys got a pair of pants and a sweater. "We showed up for a reception with them [and] imagine how we felt," said Goldberg, a trifle bitter even after all these years. So the Pitt coach, Jock Sutherland, "sold some bonds he had and the other coaches threw some money into a pool. They gave us each $2, all they had. Then the bowl people took us out to the Santa Anita race track for an outing. Big deal. Two dollars at a race track. So we all threw in a dollar to make pools to bet. And tapped out quickly. You know what it's like to stand around a race track with no money?"
Unlike Davey O'Brien, Marshall joined the pros, playing for the Chicago Cardinals both before and after the war, in which he served in the Pacific as a Navy lieutenant. And in 1947 his Cardinals won the NFL championship with Marshall playing defensive back. He's 76 now and but for a touch of arthritis gets around fine, works out and runs a bit.
And you wonder who in the end are the happier men, the hundred million dollar guys with their agents and their woofing and trash talk? Or a gent like Marshall Goldberg who knew the value of a new suit to a college kid and how long two bucks lasts at Santa Anita?