Happy New Year to all of you. It's one of my favorite days, New Year's. A lazy, restful day. With 364 to go, there's no sense in coming out of the blocks so quickly you're exhausted by June. Let's all resolve to go at a reasonable pace. And toward that end I want you to think of today's column as a buffet, a leisurely brunch where you'll try little samples of everything -- even that frightful yellow jello mold with the bits and pieces of dried weasel fruit left over from a 1953 Harry & David catalogue.
Have you watched enough bowl games yet? I hope not, because there are eight more today. That's right, eight. Anybody who watches them all can go to a Pearle Vision Center and receive a free cornea transplant. My favorite so far was the Holiday Bowl between Texas A&M and Brigham Young. This was the 65-14 nail-biter where A&M's coach, a doink named R.C. Slocum, was so terrified of the BYU air game that even with a 57-14 lead -- and Ty Detmer out with two, count 'em, two shoulder separations -- he felt the need to pass for a TD with 2:10 left. "I have a great deal of respect for how explosive they are," Slocum said afterward. Oh puh-leeze. How explosive could they be, already down 43 points, and the Heisman Trophy winner on his way to the Mayo Clinic? Exactly what are the qualifications to become a coach in the Southwest Conference these days, a movable thumb and direct lineage from the Visigoths? This is the SWC where that schmendrik at Houston, John Jenkins, had his quarterback, David Klingler, pass for 11 touchdowns against a Division I-AA opponent.
Amazingly, it's even money who was the bigger bozo at the Holiday Bowl, Slocum or BYU's LaVelle Edwards. Edwards is the guy who rightfully disdained to shake Slocum's paw afterward, and cursed out A&M's offensive coordinator, Bob "Holy" Toledo. But Edwards is also the guy who sent Ty "Me Both Shoulders Down" Detmer out to start the second half, even though Detmer had separated his left shoulder in the first half. The good doctor Edwards was down 37-7 at the time. Detmer was forced to the sideline in the second half after his right shoulder was separated, but presumably Edwards might have used him to quick kick, since Detmer's feet were still intact.
Speaking of irresponsible coaching, Paul "I May Not Know Defense, But I Can Quote King Lear" Westhead is still at Denver despite the Nuggets serving up 161 points to the Bullets and 155 to the Orlando Magic over the weekend. That's two losses by a total of 67 points to teams with a combined record of 18-40. And to add insult to injury, Scott Skiles, who averaged 4.8 assists a game for Orlando last season, set the NBA assist record against Denver with 30! Westhead's team plays no defense whatsoever. They do more waving than Queen Elizabeth. Rule No. 1: If you're going to let the other teams shoot at will, you'd better outshoot them. The Nuggets are shooting 45 percent, about the same as Hawaii Loa. The Bullets went for 63 against them; the Magic, 57. All Westhead's doing with his Keystone Kops game plan is shooting his undersized, undermanned team in the foot. Still, the Nuggets owner, Bob Wussler, stands behind him. "We're not going to fire Paul Westhead. That would be silly," Wussler said yesterday, noting how the Nuggets aren't a very good team anyway, and might win only 25 games even if they weren't so gruesomely injured. "I love the coach. I want to give him every opportunity to prove his system works," Wussler said, adding philosophically, "We're in the entertainment business. We gave the Bullets a sellout. You have to look on the bright side."
Then let's turn to the bright side: A seasonal bouquet to Bernard King for his 52 points, albeit against Denver. You all know what a great comeback story King is, but the nicest thing about his success is who he shares it with. After scoring the most points by a Washington Bullet, he went on TV and said he'd be giving the game ball to Norman Scott, the surgeon who did the reconstruction of King's exploded knee. King warmly recalled Scott telling him, "When you get your first 50-point game following this reconstruction -- that's the ball I want."
And a bouquet to Maryland's Terrapins for winning the Holiday Festival, and upsetting No. 12 South Carolina en route. Only the truly basketball-addled like me would stay up to watch the replay on HTS, but what a pleasure it was to see a scuffling team like this working overtime to be everything they possibly can be -- not unlike Les Boulez, actually -- despite the sanctions and anonymity.
Finally, we turn to the NFL. (A moment of empathy for the Babe, please, a stand-up guy in a duck-and-cover world.) And the big questions are: Does Bill Parcells install the single wing for Jeff Hostetler? Who is Cody Carlson, and will Ditka trade for him? Can the Redskins beat the Eagles? No. No. Maybe. The Redskins shouldn't win. They've acquired this distressing habit of not being able to punch in touchdowns inside the 20; they get in the red zone and turn blue -- now comes Lohmiller Time. The last time they played the Eagles the Redskins acted like they'd willed their bodies to medical science. The Eagles are hot. Indeed, Philly may have the best chance of derailing the 49ers. But there's comfort in small favors: The Eagles are O-for-Buddy in the playoffs. Except for the Moby Fumble (Thar, they've blown it!) game last year, when he threw for five touchdowns and 447 yards, the Redskins have been able to restrain Randall Cunningham. And, as the Chicago experiences of 1986-87 remind us, the Redskins have been able to win their first road playoff game before. Of course, we'd all feel better if Philly was starting Doug Flutie.