It's a whole new game, and, with luck, we'll get the hang of it together

Game Face

August 01, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

WELCOME to my new little corner of the sports world.

Wipe your feet.

Chances are, you've dropped by here before, maybe to pick up a TV listing or just to browse the Sports Digest for news of the latest NFL bail hearing. Chances are, you didn't stay very long, because it was obvious to you and everybody else that something was missing from the second page of The Sun's award-nominated sports section.

Me.

How frustrating it must have been to wait until Sunday and leaf through page after page of mundane sports copy to find Peter Schmuck's "On Baseball," only to begin the cycle again and again until that terrible day when all there was at the bottom of the page was a small gray box that said, sadly, "Peter Schmuck is on vacation," replaced on an interim basis by Joe Christensen or Roch Kubatko or - by popular demand - major league statistics.

Now, it's much easier to experience the blazing ego and amazing intellect of the only sportswriter in America confident enough in his own identity to go through life with a name like Peter Schmuck. Just turn the front page.

The first thing you'll notice is that "On Baseball" is conspicuously absent after my name. There will be plenty of baseball in my new column, which will appear each week on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, but there will be plenty of everything else, too.

There was a time when the end of baseball season meant months of inactivity, idle trade speculation, Christmas shopping, household repairs, high school band competitions, college trips, traffic school and Hot Stove Night on WBAL with Orioles television broadcaster Jim Hunter (who paid for this mention). Now, the baseball season will bleed into the football season and the football season will give way to the college basketball season and there won't be a minute to power-wash the deck, so quit hounding me about it.

It may take awhile to get up to speed. I haven't covered the NFL since the late 1970s, when I spent a couple of years with the San Diego Chargers during the Dan Fouts era. I haven't covered the NBA since Kobe Bryant was a toddler and Magic Johnson was the one getting Lakers owner Jerry Buss to fire the head coach. I think the guy's name was Paul Westhead.

I have never covered lacrosse, so let's just agree that I know nothing about it and leave it at that. If you want me to chime in on lacrosse, it will be up to you to educate me with letters, e-mails and money orders. I grew up in Southern California, where lacrosse was known first and foremost as a city in Wisconsin, though I did hear someone say it was a game the Aztecs played right before they sacrificed a virgin. That pretty much sums up my knowledge of the game - that and the fact you can use one of those oversized goalie sticks to get a cat out of a tree.

Now for the ground rules:

1. This column will include real information, speculation, opinion, attitude, vague literary references, cinematic allusions, sporadic humor and the occasional cheap shot. If you don't get something, join the club.

2. This column will not include blatant character assassination, outright lies or discrimination based on race, creed or gender.

3. No one associated with the column will make disparaging remarks about Sun sportswriter Milton Kent, unless he tries to take me to another WNBA game.

4. There will be very few references to my family, though the kid from Blockbuster Video who thinks he's dating my daughter is fair game.

5. Anyone who gets skewered on this page gets to "Swing back." More on that later.

The only other rule is that rules are made to be broken. I may deal with a single theme occasionally, but this almost always will be a multi-subject column that can be broken up in a standard notes format (see "On Baseball") or broken up even further with ellipses.

For those of you who think ellipses are what happens when the moon passes in front of the sun, let me clarify. The use of three periods in succession indicates a change in subject in the middle of a paragraph. This was the style used by television personality Larry King when he wrote a much-parodied sports column for USA Today. ... Boy, that Newhan kid can hit. ... Brian Billick is, in my opinion, the most articulate football coach in America. ... Is it just me, or are Brussels sprouts the most underrated vegetable? ... Get the idea?

There also will be some graphics and, with your help, a lot of interactive stuff. I may impose on readers to relay their opinions on a certain subject by e-mail, or let you pick a "Schmuck of the Week." Letters and e-mails are encouraged and will be used regularly, particularly those that are brief, clever and point out some flaw in my character. I'm not sensitive. You shouldn't be, either.

In short, we're going to have fun, fun, fun 'til sports editor Randy Harvey takes the column away ... and if you understand that reference, we're off to a good start.

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