Stupid Sports Tricks 

In honor of Audrey, who took a shot put to the groin, we bestow the following dubious honors

In honor of Audrey, who took a shot put to the groin, we bestow the following dubious honors

My friend Audrey was not stupid. It’s just that a lot of times he would do stupid things. For example, back when we were on the high school track team together, Audrey used to try to catch a 12-pound shot put. His reasoning was pretty good, actually. But his plan needed a little work.

There was a tradition on the track team: The upperclassmen got to practice throwing the shot and discus first. As they took their throws, the underclassmen had to “shank” the shot and discus, retrieving them for the next man up. As both the weakest thrower and the only registered voter among the freshman class, Audrey’s hind-teat position meant that he had to do more shanking than anyone else. I’m proud to report that he never tried to catch a discus.

Applying one of Newton’s laws of physics, Audrey had observed that, once it hit the ground, a 12-pound shot put tends to roll almost as far as it had been thrown. He didn’t want to expend any more energy than necessary. So he reasoned that he could save a lot of effort by cupping his hands in front of him and breaking the shot put’s fall a foot or two before it landed.

Audrey’s plan actually worked the first few times after he hatched it. He accurately gauged the arc of the cannonball, got his big mitts on it and then let it drop harmlessly at his feet.

Unfortunately, his streak ended at four. The fifth time, he misplayed the shot, which could not have hit him more squarely in the groin had it been carefully aimed by an expert. When Audrey finally got up, about 10 minutes later, the coach told him to “walk it off” with some laps around the track. He also wouldn’t let him be on the team anymore after that.

I haven’t seen Audrey in many years, but I still think of him whenever I see somebody who at least theoretically should know better doing something off the scale on the Ignorant Meter.

It’s been such a field day for ignorance in the sports world during the past couple of weeks that we’re going to have to give out a whole slew of Audrey Awards. The best we can do is narrow the candidates down to four or five. In no particular order, they are:

The Boston Red Sox

Frankly, it’s impossible any longer to sympathize with the Red Sox over the old “curse of the Bambino” business. Not when they keep screwing up deals that made Audrey’s shot put catch look like a mortal lock.

For just another fistful of dollars and a little more fortitude, the Bosox could have put Alex Rodriguez in one of their uniforms for the next seven years. It would have been the capstone to a smartly managed offseason that saw Boston land all-star pitcher Curt Schilling and all-star closer Keith Foulke. With A-Rod at short and fat-check Manny Ramirez off the payroll, the Red Sox could have traded Nomar Garciaparra for more pitching (or even moved him to second base). And for the first time in years they would have been solidly favored over the hated Yankees.

Instead, the deal stalled over a comparatively measly $12 million. Like the ground ball to Bill Buckner, it went right through their legs when they were an out away from victory.

Meanwhile, the Yankees—who seldom balk at using their best weapon, Steinbrenner’s checkbook—sneaked in and acquired A-Wad. The Red Sox, who dully reasoned that the Yanks were no threat since they already had a stellar shortstop, apparently never imagined that the Pinstripes would simply keep Derek Jeter and move Rodriguez to third—or that, with some clever dealing, they could get a $25 million-per-year player without spending anywhere close to $25 million per year.

If the Red Sox fall short again this year (and you know they will), they’ll richly deserve whatever mocking laughter they get. Silver lining: There’s no better teacher than a shot put to the groin.

Tom Hicks

When the Texas Rangers’ owner signed A-Rod to that now infamous $252 million contract, the Geniuses opined it was the most Pure D. Ignorant deal they had ever seen. Now they’ve changed their tune. Tom Hicks found a way to top his own bad self.

In agreeing to trade Rodriguez for Alfonso Soriano, a budding young superstar, Hicks also agreed to write the Yankees a check for each of the next seven years to cover $10 million of A-Rod’s salary. Cipher it out, and you get a total liability of $70 million for a player who’s not even on the team anymore. Given the number of holes in the dike, trading Rodriguez was an eminently reasonable decision. Giving up $70 million, even if it makes the Rangers’ overall numbers look better, accomplishes nothing except to make Hicks’ fellow owners feel smarter about themselves.

Gary Barnett

With his remarks last week, Bro. Gary may have “Audreyed” himself out of his cushy job as head football coach at Colorado. During a press conference, reporters asked Barnett about allegations by Katie Hnida, a former placekicker for the Buffaloes, who claimed she had been raped by male teammates. The moment was oddly like the Mellow Yellow commercial in which we see the ultracool main character respond to some situation in several different ways.

In Barnett’s case, instead of responding with the adroit answer, or even the acceptable one, the coach lit into the most lunkheaded, asinine possible response—suggesting, in effect, that had Hnida not been such a “terrible” kicker, she would have earned her teammates’ respect. So, in a way, being raped was her own fault.

Now, even if you grant him the generous “ignernce” allowance bestowed on old coaches whose brains have been curdled by continued exposure to the smell of unlaundered athletic supporters, Barnett established a new benchmark for insensitivity. You might think the fact that Colorado players already are under investigation over several other rape allegations—or that his boss, the university president, is a woman—might have given Barnett pause. But, then, you’d be wrong.

Of course, there’s one other possibility. Maybe it’s not that Barnett is just insensitive. Maybe he’s really that shameless.

Detroit Pistons

At first, I thought the Atlanta Hawks were the chumps. They gave up three perfectly good players to obtain Rasheed Wallace from Portland, where the sounds of civic rejoicing could be heard as far east as Boise.

But it turns out the Hawks were only the Larry of this deal. You know the old Three Stooges routine? Moe slaps Larry, Larry slaps Curly, and then Curly finds he has no one left to smack. As part of their grand strategy, the Hawks redirected Wallace to Detroit, which graciously, cluelessly, agreed to assume the role of Curly.

Inviting Wallace, the world’s only portable volcano, onto your team is like trying to get cancer. Why any general manager would inflict ’Sheed on his team and his city is a question that fairly cries out for mandatory drug testing in the front office. Meanwhile, the Hawks are laughing—nyuk, nyuk, nyuk—all the way to the bank.

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