Magazine article USA TODAY

Unconventional Fantasies. (Sports Scene)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Unconventional Fantasies. (Sports Scene)

Article excerpt

THERE'S THE LONG-HELD MYTH that most sportswriters are nothing more than frustrated athletes who turned to the lettered keyboard as a way of compensating for their deficiencies on the field. "Hrrumphh!," is my reply. I wanted to cover sports long before I turned into an overweight has-been between the lines. Even as a kid, despite my stated ambition to be the next Willie Mays, I much preferred watching baseball (or football or hockey or basketball) than actually playing them.

Still, like any youngster (then adolescent, then man), I had (and have) my sports fantasies. After all, who doesn't dream of a perfect world? Here's mine:

* The Cleveland Browns, playing at home in the snow, finally earn a trip to the Super Bowl by winning the American Football Conference championship, avenging title-game losses in 1968, 1970, 1987, 1988, and 1990. However, the big news isn't in the victory as much as in how it is accomplished. A 75-yard TD strike with seconds remaining provides the winning margin. Yet, there's no showboating or flagrant chest-pounding or check-me-out strutting by the receiver. He simply runs into the end zone, doesn't even raise his hands to signal touchdown, then quickly and quietly hands the ball to the referee before hustling back to his sideline. Actually, it's been like that all game as the Cleveland players, both offense and defense, act as if they're from some bygone era of good sportsmanship. There's no in-your-face trash talk. There are no dirty hits or head-hunting. There's no playing to the crowd. Furthermore, studying the Cleveland roster, one is amazed to find that a vast majority of the players actually has earned a college degree. Not only that, none of the Browns has a criminal record: no rapists; no sexual predators; no wife-beaters; no druggies; no drank-driving convictions; no charges of assault and battery; no obstructing-justice blemishes. In other words, no way is this modern-day reality.

Moreover, viewers can hardly believe the sights and sounds coming from their television sets during Cleveland's long-awaited triumph. The cameras actually are focused on the action on the field. Nowhere to be found are crowd shots of bare-chested drunks chanting obscenities; oversized high-tech graphics that clutter up the screen with who-needs-them statistics; blowhard announcers more interested in network-promoting blather than the game itself; or sexually laced commercials better suited for late-night cable than Sunday afternoon network broadcasts.

When the game ends, there aren't any silly on-the-field interviews or tired, endless rehashes of what we've just seen by a bunch of screaming ex-jocks and banal studio hosts. What we do get is a succinct, to-the-point, evenhanded recap and a brief goodbye.

* I own a baseball team that wins its division title, advances to the League Championship Series, then captures the pennant, thus earning the right to compete in the World Series, the lifelong dream of every player, manager, coach, and owner. Only this CEO has a loftier goal in mind. Instead of just whining about the wrong-headed greed that has infested our once-priceless National Pastime, I'm going to do something about it. I convince the players and my staff to stand up for what's right and, the day before the World Series is to begin, announce that my club refuses to take the field unless the game's first pitch is moved from prime time to one o'clock in the afternoon. I explain how we cannot afford to lose another generation of fans to late-night starts and wee-hour-early-morning finishes. …

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