`New' Sanders shows his old stripes, but only if you used to wear a star

September 08, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

FOR THOSE of you keeping score at home, the humble and understated new Deion Sanders lasted four days, which is just fine with me.

He showed up for his first news conference at the Ravens' training complex last Wednesday and said all the right things about being a complementary piece of the Ravens' Super Bowl puzzle. Then the old Neion Deion turned up on SportsCenter's Sunday Conversation on ESPN and pumped up the volume - trash-talking his way right under the skin of the Cleveland Browns.

What's next, a tryout with the Orioles?

Deion hooked up with former Dallas Cowboys teammate Michael Irvin in a free-wheeling interview during which "Prime Time" called out Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia and challenged him to "throw out" in the season opener against the Ravens on Sunday in Cleveland.

"Throw a five," Sanders said, pointing at the camera. "You know what a five is. Throw a four. Throw out."

That is either highly technical football language, or Deion was daring Garcia to play him in a game of Fish, which - based on the surprising success of ESPN's World Series of Poker coverage - might be the next big thing in televised crap sports.

I went to the Ravens' complex yesterday to get some clarification, but Deion was unavailable for comment (probably because I didn't bring a camera crew and never played for the Cowboys). Instead, franchise player Chris McAlister was nice enough to translate.

"A five is a 10-yard or 15-yard out pattern," McAlister said. "That's the one I ran back for the touchdown against the Giants. If you pick that one, you better score because you're running right downhill. A four is a curl."

The Browns didn't need any explanation, of course. They were already stewing over a Ray Lewis quote in ESPN The Magazine that targeted rookie Kellen Winslow as the player he most wants to hit this season.

Garcia didn't even dignify Deion's comments with a response. He had his hands full with Terrell Owens earlier in camp, so he probably was just happy that he didn't have to have another "I'm not gay" news conference.

NASCAR supplied this week's great moment in the commercialization of sports - the debut Sunday of the Pop Secret 500 at California Speedway.

Motor racing is moving away from a long history of tobacco sponsorship, which has opened the way for a variety of new product tie-ins.

But popcorn?

Maybe I'm too sensitive, but in a volatile sport like stock car racing, it just seems wrong to name a race after an exploding vegetable.

News flash: The baseball players union in Japan is threatening to go on strike to prevent the merger of the Pacific League's Orix Blue Wave and Kintetsu Buffaloes.

The view from here: A players strike? Contraction? And they said Japanese baseball would never catch up with the major leagues.

Orioles broadcaster Joe Angel on the possibility that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays would be forced to forfeit the first half of Monday's rain makeup doubleheader against the New York Yankees: "I heard the pitching staff was in favor of it, because the 9-0 score would lower the team ERA."

In the interest of equal time, I present this anti-Ravens e-mail from Eagles fan Jeff Fink, who takes understandable offense to the frequent barbs that have been directed at the "Iggles" and their fans in this space over the past few weeks:

"Greetings from Philly, where we prefer our criminals in the stands instead of on the field. ... Why don't the Ravens go after Marcus Vick when he becomes eligible for the draft? Marcus would be a perfect fit for the Ravens. He's an erratic passer, but can hand the ball off with the best of them. He plays at Virginia Tech, so he's used to wearing an ugly uniform. And best of all, he's already had numerous run-ins with the law, so he should fit right in with the Bisciotti Crime Family.

"P.S.: T.O. sends his love."

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