From Magic to Bo to Schottzie, it was a sports year to forget

December 30, 1991|By Ron Rapoport | Ron Rapoport,Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES 8 — LOS ANGELES -- Magic got sick. Lonnie lost sight of the ball. Schottzie died.

So tell me. How was your year?

There is one good thing to be said about 1991, I suppose. It's over. Would somebody please slam the door? It might decide to come back.

Is it sports or is it us? They are supposed to be a diversion, after all. So why is it so hard to find things that aren't ultimately as depressing as the latest unemployment figures?

Nothing seems to work any more. Nothing lasts. Victories turn sour in an instant. Triumphs march from the headlines to the counting house with the speed of light. Or to the criminal courts.

Take the World Series. It had no sooner ended in one of the great moments in its history -- Jack Morris' 10-inning shutout in

the seventh game -- when Morris is reviled as a scoundrel for following the dollar sign to another town. Me? I say if the Twins can't pay Morris' value as determined in the marketplace, that's their problem not his. But what do I know?

Or how about the heavyweight championship of the world? This year, it alternated between an unholy mess of legal machinations and a pleasingly plump consumer of waffles. Honest fistic integrity? Surely, you jest.

It does lead to the only New Year's resolution I will make in this NTC space, however. Never again -- not ever -- will I find anything amusing about Don King. Not after he stood up in public and, in the name of fairness and equal justice, shouted out the name of the woman who has accused Mike Tyson of rape. The worst is yet to come in this department. Trust me.

But do you want to know how bad things really got in the year we are drawing the shades upon? They got so bad that we aren't even allowed to feel sorry for people who are in trouble any more.

Not for Magic Johnson, who has exchanged his basketball for a football -- the political kind. Not for Lyle Alzado, who proved there are certain things in life you can't outbluff or outshout. Not for Bill Shoemaker, who traded his horses for a wheelchair.

And not for Marco Lokar, who came here from Italy only to learn that freedom of expression does not extend to being allowed to decide for yourself whether or not to wear an American flag on a basketball uniform.

They, and others like them, are the stuff not of our dreams but of our frustrations. They should be better, we insist. We would be if we were given the chance. Wouldn't we? Of course we would.

But if we have lost the capacity to be exalted through sports, we have not entirely been stripped of the opportunity to learn from them. Even if what we learn is not always what we want to know.

Magic Johnson was not the only one to be reduced to mere mortality this year. Bo Jackson was, too. And Mike Utley. And Mark Spitz.

Not that it was all so bad, I suppose.

The Atlanta Braves were a hoot, even if Otis Nixon and the occasional surliness of their fans' defense of the tomahawk chop kept them from being a total triumph. Mike Powell came along, too, to prove that nothing lasts forever, not even Bob Beamon's time-out-of-joint long jump.

There was George Foreman, who, by the time he got into the ring with Evander Holyfield, had us laughing so hard it didn't seem to matter that he didn't really belong there. And there was Bert Cooper, who had no business fighting Holyfield either, but who gave the champion all the business he could handle and then some.

There were the Pittsburgh Penguins, my kind of Stanley Cup winners. And there were the Chicago Bulls, playing basketball as if they had invented it. There were the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills, who finally gave us a Super Bowl worthy of the name.

There was John Daly coming out of nowhere and Orel Hershiser coming back to somewhere. There was Nolan Ryan pitching another one, Rick Mears winning another one, Cal Ripken playing in another one and Wilt Chamberlain . . . never mind.

So we face the New Year bravely and we try to dispel the gloom. It will be better, if only because it cannot be worse.

This just in. George Steinbrenner is coming back.

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