In sports, 1993 a loser of a year

December 26, 1993|By JOHN EISENBERG

And so, the end of the year is near.

Hear, hear.

If years were fish, we'd have thrown 1993 back long ago.

From beginning to end, locally and nationally, it was a year of loss.

Real loss. Sporting loss.

The toy department, supposedly a joyful place, reeked of sadness.

The big national story of '93? Michael Jordan's retirement, of course.

He wins, we lose.

The big story in Baltimore? We get whacked in the expansion game. Paul Tagliabue kicks us in the teeth.

Isn't that special?

And look at what else happened:

The Orioles missed out on the postseason for the 10th straight year.

Union City became the first modern-era Preakness horse to suffer fatal injuries during the race.

The Preakness winner, Prairie Bayou, did not survive his next race.

The Skipjacks became the 893rd team to leave town.

Jack Kent Cooke.

L And then there were the real losses, which just kept coming.

And coming.

Reggie Lewis, one of East Baltimore's best and brightest, the loser in an unseemly doctors' quarrel.

Alton Grizzard, the estimable former Navy quarterback, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Earl Banks, the pied piper of Morgan State football, who had just been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

A Dunbar basketball player, Stevie Green. Seventeen years old.

Who dreamed this stuff up?

We weren't the only ones grieving, either. Tragedy was a constant blight across the entire sporting landscape in '93.

It just kept coming. And coming.

So many people, dying too soon.

Arthur Ashe, a man of infinite grace and wisdom, with so much to share.

Jim Valvano, who showed there could be life in the approach of death.

Drazen Petrovic, the New Jersey Nets' young Croatian star, a hero to so many young sons of a miserable war.

Steve Olin and Tim Crews, out for a ride on Little Lake Nellie.

Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison, two of auto racing's best, killed in air crashes, of all things.

It just kept coming. And coming. Heather Farr. Jeff Alm. Don Drysdale. James Jordan. The Zambian soccer team.

Cliff Young, yet another pitcher for the Indians.

You can't help wondering: Who's next in this crazy business?

Every year, there are intrusions of genuine tragedy on the sporting seasons. But never this many in a year.

Never close to this many.

The bad news just kept coming. Close calls. Stunners.

L Mario Lemieux, forced to the sidelines by Hodgkin's disease.

Bobby Hurley, found face down in a ditch by a teammate.

Paul Azinger, discovering cancer in his shoulder at the peak of his career.

And the craziest of all: Monica Seles, stabbed in the back in the middle of a match in Germany, a happy kid robbed of her innocence by some nutball.

Some nutball who, it winds up, doesn't have to serve time in prison.

Sheer madness!

The year of loss.

A year when losers, almost more than winners, colored the news.

Think about it.

What happened at the Final Four?

The Timeout.

The World Series?

Wild Thing.

The Super Bowl?

Nine Bills turnovers.

It was a good year for the four C's: Cowboys fans, Carolinians, Canadians and Chicagoans (until Oct. 7).

For Jacksonville.

For the rest of the NBA.

For Larry Johnson, Troy Aikman and Anfernee Hardaway, whose new contracts totaled $202 million.

But that's about it.

A lousy year here in Bawlmer, by just about any reckoning.

Except for the one loss that shone. The one loss that thrilled everyone.

The loss of Eli Jacobs, replaced as Orioles owner by Peter Angelos.

Finally.

With Eli shoved aside, the club is making a good-faith effort to build a winning ballclub. Treating the fans with respect, not taking them for granted.

Maybe it's a foreshadowing. Maybe things are going to get better in '94, here and elsewhere.

But then, of course they will.

They can't get much worse.

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