Just leave, baby.

A weekly look at the sports commentariat.
Feb. 18 2002 6:42 PM

Just Leave, Baby

If Canadian skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier can be given gold medals, why can't the International Olympic Committee rectify other miscarriages of Olympic justice? The Kansas City Star's Joe Posnanski wonders if a gold medal can be given to boxer Roy Jones Jr., robbed of the gold in 1988, or to skier Karl Schranz, disqualified from the giant slalom in 1968.

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"Mostly, though, you wonder what happens to that amazing 1972 United States Olympic basketball team," Posnanski writes. He ends his column with these words from Bobby Jones, a member of the '72 squad: "'I've always kind of felt like, well, you know they gave Jim Thorpe his gold medals some 70 years after they stripped him,' Jones says. 'I've always felt like, one day, they would see the injustice and give us our gold medals. I've always believed that would happen someday.' He paused. 'Maybe,' he said with real hope, 'now they will.' "

Other ghosts of Olympics past: The 1980 U.S. hockey team got to light the torch at this year's opening ceremonies. They've been immortalized as the "Miracle on Ice." But the Denver Post's Woody Paige wants to know why the 1960 U.S. hockey team that was the first American hockey team to win the gold has been "forgotten and ignored."

"I don't want to sound bitter, but it's a little disappointing," 1960 team captain Jack Kirrane tells Paige. "We beat the Soviets and the Canadians. We're the only unbeaten, untied team. They (the 1980 team) were tied once and didn't play the Canadians."

The Star's Posnanski investigates the flip side of the Miracle on Ice, as embodied by 1980 Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak. Tretiak, the first non-NHL player elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, was mysteriously yanked at the end of the first period of the 1980 game. "You have to understand, I have never been pulled in a 2-2 game in my whole life," Tretiak says. "It's a big secret. Ask my coach. I still don't know."

Ghost of Olympics present: The Miami Herald's Dan LeBatard finds a greater tragedy than the figure-skating judging in Salt Lake City: Bob Saget warming up the crowd before the medal ceremonies. LeBatard writes, "The only thing worse than enduring what remains of Saget's career is enduring it in 14-degree temperatures."

Just leave, baby: After a late flirtation with Steve Mariucci, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired Jon Gruden away from the Oakland Raiders. (The Bucs will reportedly compensate the Raiders with four draft picks.) ESPN.com's Merril Hoge predicts that Gruden will dump his West Coast offense for a more smashmouth style.

The San Jose Mercury-News'Skip Bayless says that Mariucci's dalliance with the Bucs means his tenure in San Francisco is all but over. In the last few months, Mariucci has interviewed for head coaching positions with Tampa Bay and Notre Dame. His likely replacement? The University of Washington's Rick Neuheisel, who "has done everything but win a national championship," Bayless writes.

Gruden's departure (and Mariucci's, if it happens) marks a trend: Good NFL coaches leaving good teams because of disputes with management. (Call it Parcells Syndrome.) The next refugee might be Chicago Bears coach Dick Jauron, who has refused to sign a contract extension, the Chicago Tribune's Melissa Isaacson reports. Despite a 13-3 record last season, "the Bears still have not established themselves as an organization on which a man like Jauron would necessarily want to stake his future and, ultimately, his reputation."

Will Nick be a Knick? The New York Times' William C. Rhoden wants the Knicks to trade Marcus Camby, Mark Jackson, and Travis Knight to the Denver Nuggets for Nick Van Exel and Raef LaFrentz: "Van Exel is dynamic. He brings much-needed fire. He is being portrayed as Public Enemy No. 2, but we can all remember when Latrell Sprewell was portrayed as No. 1." As for Camby, he's never played more than 63 games in any of his five NBA seasons. But the Denver Post's Marc J. Spears says the Nuggets shouldn't part with LaFrentz just to satisfy Van Exel's trade wishes. Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe sees LaFrentz becoming a Dirk Nowitzki who blocks shots. (The Times' Rhoden sees LaFrentz as another Camby, an inconsistent player reaching only 70 percent of his potential.)

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