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Apparently, we can't all just get along

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Apparently, we can't all just get along.

Not in the sports world, anyway.

It was nice to think that after the events of Sept. 11 wiped the pro sports calendar clean for a few days, something had changed. That the players, coaches, owners and fans who returned to the games would be a little less edgy, less greedy and a whole lot less juiced.

My bad.

Over the weekend, two basketball players from Texas chased a loose ball into the seats at Oklahoma State and one of them, T.J. Ford, collided with a pregnant woman.

Instead of tending to his wife, a man identified by school officials as the her husband grabbed Ford around the throat. As teammate Royal Ivey tried to pull the fan off Ford, a third Texas player, James Thomas, waded into the scrum and, just for good measure, started throwing wild overhand rights.

The result of all this was a technical foul assessed against the Longhorns because Fredie Williams left the bench. Nobody got ejected.

Texas coach Rick Barnes defended his team, saying "James and the players went over there and obviously were trying to get him out of there."

At least all's well that ends well.

The fan who went after Ford did take his wife to the hospital afterward as a precaution.

Last week, police revealed that somebody sent a letter containing cyanide and threats to disrupt the New Zealand Open to the U.S. Embassy there.

Some people would argue the tournament was already being disrupted.

After Tiger Woods signed on for a $2 million appearance fee, tournament officials hiked the cost of a weekly pass from $22 to $198, and several other golfers threatened to pull out.

Proving once again that all's well that ends well, youths under 16 now will get in for free, Woods will take his private jet from Hawaii to New Zealand to pocket the appearance money and all his fellow pros who committed to the tournament will be on hand.

The not-so-surprising fact that ticket sales have slowed didn't faze Woods, either.

"I can't sit at the ticket office and answer phone calls for tickets," he said.

Randy Moss quit trying to sell tickets a long time ago. The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver said last month that he only plays hard when the spirit moves him and defied anybody to do anything about it.

Owner Red McCombs, who earlier in the season gave Moss an eight-year, $75-million deal, finally did. He fired coach Dennis Green, who let Moss take all those plays off in the first place.

As fate would have it, the Vikings wrap up the season Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens. The game was originally scheduled for Sept. 17, but was postponed when the NFL suspended play in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Back then, the game was billed as an early test between the defending Super Bowl champions and a team that came within one win of facing them. The undercard featured Green facing off against Baltimore's Brian Billick, a former coaching disciple.

Now, what's at stake is a playoff spot for the stumbling Ravens.

Said Minnesota veteran Cris Carter, who had been a mentor to Moss since he came into the league as a rookie since 1998, but has since dropped the title: "We'll try to do our best to ruin their season the way our season has been ruined."

In that sense, baseball has already succeeded. Days after the best World Series in at least 10 years, commissioner Bud Selig emerged from an owners meeting and threatened to wipe two franchises off the major league map.

All that talk when baseball resumed after Sept. 11 about owners and players cooperating on a new labor agreement has evaporated already. Now the two sides are feverishly at work preparing to make next season disappear.

Not that some fans would notice. In Cleveland, and twice already in New Orleans, some knuckleheads found flimsy enough excuses to throw bottles, batteries, coins, cans and at least one portable radio from the stands and disrupt football games.

The latest incident came at the Sugar Bowl. After Louisiana State's first two scores against Illinois, fans in one of the Superdome end zones threw a cup and a bottle on the field, sparking warnings from the stadium announcer and referee Steve Usechek.

"If you throw things on the field, you'll be taken to the biggest hotel in town, parish prison," announcer Jerry Romig warned the crowd. "Please stop it."

If only it were that simple.


Jim Litke is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org


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