This time of year, the sports calendar gets crowded as all the major team sports compete for space in the newspapers. You've got the culmination of the baseball season with the playoffs and the World Series. You've got college and pro football in full swing. Already in training camp and waiting in the wings, you've got basketball and hockey. (And somewhere out there, lost in space, the sport of the '80s, soccer, in its championship round, pleading, "See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.")
Sportsworld moves fast in October.
And you've got to move fast to keep up.
So as a public service to you overtaxed readers who might not have had the time to fully digest some of last weekend's action, here is a recap of some of the stories and events that are worthy of special commendation.
The "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" award goes to the Baltimore Orioles for announcing Friday that four players, most notably Ken Singleton and Al Bumbry, have been dropped from the roster. As in, write when you get work. This kind of decision is not arrived at as hastily as, for example, ordering a bacon cheeseburger at a fast food drive-thru window, and could have been handled more gracefully. After all, Singleton spent 10 years and Bumbry 13 in the orange and black. Dumping them may have been the prudent baseball move, but the least that the Orioles could have done is make it official before their last home game, so the fans had the opportunity to come and say goodbye to two veterans who served long and well.
The "Did You Get The License Plate of That Truck?" award goes to Nebraska's football team for losing to Syracuse Saturday, 17-9. Bloooompff. As they say in political debates, there they go again. Last year, Nebraska was trumpeted as the greatest college football team ever, but in the Orange Bowl the Cornhuskers were shucked clean by Miami's freshman quarterback, Bernie Kosar. After a summer of requisite woodshedding and weightlifting, Nebraska came back this season to rave reviews. The Cornhuskers were No. 1 last week, and some people were saying they were better than ever. I can't wait for next year. Their problem may be color; each time they play a team wearing orange, they turn into lemons. Memo to Tom Osborne: It could be worse, believe me. (Signed) Foge Fazio.
The "Reports of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated; I Was Just Lying Down" award to Gerry Cooney for finally making his long-awaited return to the ring Saturday. For those of you who didn't major in ancient history, Cooney was once the No. 1 heavyweight contender, having carved out an unbeaten record by quickly knocking out a bunch of grandfathers. But Cooney made the mistake of renting himself out to Larry Holmes as a speed bag, and for the last 27 months he hadn't fought a round. Nice work if you can get it. Sure, he wanted to fight again, but his comeback kept being delayed because of injuries: killer pollen, tummyaches, razor burn and the like. Now he's back, scoring a fourth-round TKO over the apparently comatose Phil (I Never Promised You a Thrill) Brown. What a fight! Maybe it was the Anchorage climate, but Cooney looked so slow you'd have thought he hadn't quite thawed out when the bell rang. Rumor has it that Cooney inspired Bruce Springsteen's new single, "Lurching in the Dark."
The "What Do You Mean The Party's Over? I Just Put A Lampshade On My Head" award to Mike Witt of the California Angels for pitching a perfect game Sunday, in the last game of the regular season. Since there have only been 13 perfect games in major league baseball history, obviously you stand up and applaud whenever one comes along. But think how much more a stunner like this -- 10 strikeouts and still only 94 pitches -- might have meant to the Angels last week, before they went belly-up and out of the pennant race in Kansas City.
The "Now You Tell Me It's 'Parity.' All Game Long I Thought We Were Aiming For 'Parody' " award to the Philadelphia Eagles' offense for their impersonation of boxed laundry Sunday against the Redskins. Eagles? How about Beagles? As in, Woof-Woof! That had to be one of the least creative, least effective, most brain-dead game plans in NFL history. This is Watergate Country. Philadelphia's got the wrong Jaworski. Bench Ron. Remember Leon. Give 12. How bad were the Eagles? They were worse than inept; they were even worse than un-ept. They are so far away from being ept, it's a toll call. The only thing that kept the fans at RFK awake in the fourth quarter was the local debut of The Wave. Both the upper and lower stands had independent Waves going. (Attention stat geeks: the upper Wave made seven revolutions; the lower Wave, five.) I'd willingly defer to the great wavers of our time, like Richard Nixon, Queen Elizabeth and the Pope, in a Wave Judge-Off. But from the press box it looked like the lower Wave, which included the Redskin Band, was crisper and faster. So all you people in the upper stands have until Oct. 14, when Dallas comes in, to get your Game Wave on.
And finally, the "If That's A Bandwagon, This Must Be My Stop" award to the millions and billions and zillions of people who can trace their loyalty to the Chicago Cubs back to 1945, or at least last Friday. How they must have suffered all those years, or minutes. I wonder how many know the difference between Jody Davis and Garfield the Cat. Pity the poor San Diego Padres. They not only have to beat the Cubs, they have to beat every editorial writer and columnist in the country. Outside of San Diego, they are about as popular as The Plague. Here in Washington, however, there is a small cell of Padres' fans led by Pete Wilson, the junior senator from California and former mayor of San Diego. "It doesn't feel as lonely as it did last year in RFK, rooting for the 49ers against the Redskins," Wilson said yesterday. Ironically, Wilson was born in Lake Forest, a Chicago suburb; he comes from a long line of real Cubs' fans, not this nouveau instant. Just add tears of joy and heat variety. "I hate to say it, but my own father's rooting for the Cubs."