The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 23.0°F | Overcast

Loss of Johnson Is Beginning of the End

By Mike Duffy and Andrew Heitner
Sports Columnists

Greetings all. A big Let's Argue welcome back to our sun tanned readers. Hope you has as much fun as we did on your spring excursion. We spent the week bronzing in Panama City, where the stiff breezes ensured that not a single "light" was off...

Good news for NFC East teams: Jerry Jones and his million dollar ego finally drove Jimmy Johnson out of town. Despite the Cowboys' winning the last two Super Bowls and making piles of money, Jones was not satisfied. He was disgusted to give Emmitt Smith so much money last fall and appalled that he did not get as much credit as Johnson did for turning the Boyz around. The biggest credit Jones should be given is that he brought Johnson in as the coach.

Now that Johnson has skipped town and Jones has brought in a parole officer (former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer) to replace him, it will become painfully obvious who the person most responsible for the rise of the Cowboys was. Considering that the Boyz were lethargic in the first two games last season while Jones was disrupting the team with contract talks with Smith, it is doubtful that the team will want to give its all following the turmoil of the firing of a popular coach. This is not to say that Switzer will even have the same cast of characters as Johnson did to deal with. Some of the big money free agents of Dallas may opt for greener pastures now that their favorite coach is gone (including Nate Newton, who was offered a contract by the Speagles). And don't be too sure that Troy Aikman is pleased to see Barry come to town, either. Aikman, remember, transferred from OU to UCLA after his freshman year. Somewhere in Phoenix, Buddy Ryan is smiling. ...

Where have you gone Max Runager? A nation's football league will soon turn its lonely eyes to you. One of the rule changes in the NFL -- spotting a missed field goal at the place of the hold rather than the line of scrimmage -- will certainly bring about the intended fewer field goals, only it won't be in exchange for more TDs, but rather for more emphasis on the punting game. The rules committee has made the mistake of not changing the probability that a field goal will be successful, but rather put a heavier penalty on those times when they are missed. The NFL would have been better off either making the uprights closer together or else moving the goal posts back 5 yards behind the end line. It will be an easy decision for coaches to go for it on 4th and 1 from the 30, but what about 4th and 5 from the 30? With the risk of the ball coming out to the 37, coaches may opt to let their punters "pooch" the ball and pin the opposition within the 5. Sure TDs are more exciting than FGs (especially after a Rison, Givens, or Prime Time score), but punts are to field goals what Al Gore is to James Brown. ...

Another rule change that may backfire on the Lords of the Gridiron is moving the kickoffs back to the 30-yard line, done to increase the number of kickoff returns, and, hopefully, the number of kicks run back for a TD. While this may be the case initially, coaches will catch on and either kick the ball out of bounds or squib kick it to the up-backs. Worse yet, this will likely cause teams to carry two kickers (a field goal kicker and a "long distance" kickoff specialist) like the Giants' David Treadwell and Brad Daluiso. This will take an important roster spot away from another player (a lineman or reserve running back), who could actually help the team score more points. ...

Lastly, the NFL should stop trying to imitate Arena Football and heed your humble scribes' advice about a rule change: make a safety worth 5, not 2, points. A safety is an impressive team accomplishment (culmination of efforts by offense, defense, and special teams), and should be worth more than a field goal, but less than a TD. Moreover, in the hierarchy of football scoring that all bookies have memorized, a field goal and a safety should beat a touchdown. Of course, if the same jamokes who installed the 2-point conversion have anything to say about it, the 5-point safety has about as much chance of going through as Libertarian Party candidate Howard Stern does of winning the election for governor of New York. ...

It's nice to see another former professional athlete whining once his record has been broken. It started with Jim Brown and continued with Wilt Chamberlain. The great ones just aren't able to live with the idea that someone else will ellipse their records on paper, even though they will still be revered as greats. This past week, after Wayne Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's once-immortal record of 801 goals scored, Howe turned to trumping his own horn rather than congratulating Wayne. Instead of saying how Gretzky is classy guy (The Great One still says that Howe is his idol), has a boxy wife, and is well deserving of the scoring record, Howe went on to proclaim that he still is the all time leading scorer because he scored 170 goals in the WHL, goals not counted in his NHL total of 801. Of course when Wayne scores 1,000 this will all be moot. ...

The death of Eugene Ionesco reminds us of these two items from the real-life version of the "Theater of the Absurd," professional boxing. First, manos-de-jello, Roberto Duran knocked out something named Terry Thomas in a super middleweight fight in Mississippi on Tuesday night. Unlike George Forman or Larry Homes, Duran will never again be able to beat the top-ranked fighters in his weight class; he ought to return to Panama and live off his still tremendously popular name before he really gets hurt (see Vinny Pazienza). Second, Merciful Ray Mercer has been acquitted of trying to bribe Jesse "The Body" Ferguson during their first fight. Although his loss to Ferguson was recently avenged, Mercer lost a big payday versus Riddick Bowe and his credibility as a heavyweight challenger. Maybe this will teach Mercer the lesson: either bribe your opponent before the fight, or else make sure your opponent's name rhymes with Mommy Horrison. ...

If you can believe it, major league baseball kicks off their season this Sunday night when the Cincinnati Reds host the St. Louis Cardinals. With the new TV pact between MLB, NBC, and ABC, there will be a lot fewer games shown this season (ESPN was forced to cut down to 4 games a week). There will also be new ballparks opening in Arlington (the original Ballpark in Arlington) and Cleveland, along with six divisions and a wild card round in the "playoffs." As we got Aloe Vera all over our baseball preview sheets on the plane ride home last week, a comprehensive preview will not be presented. Instead we will offer some predictions for the upcoming season.

In the American League, look for a classic race in the Home Run department. Theway Mo Vaughn (Sox), Albert Belle (Cleve), and Jose Canseco (Tex) have been stroking the ball this spring. Combined with Cecil Fielder (Det), Juan Gonzalez (Tex), and Frank Thomas (Chi), it would not be surprising to see five guys with 40 dingers come October. Roger Clemens (Sox) has regained his form and will be out to wrestle the Cy Young crown away from Jack McDowell (Chi). Other competition will come from Kevin Appier (KC), Dennis Martinez (Cleve), and Randy Johnson (Sea). Our divisional winners read: Toronto, Chicago, and Seattle, with the wild card going to Boston.

In the National League, Barry Bonds (SF) should feel the heat from Lenny Dykstra (Phil), Dave Justice (Atl), Kevin Mitchell (Cin), and Larry Walker (Mon) in the MVP race. The Cy Young contenders include Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, and Greg Maddux from Atlanta, Jose Rijo (Cin), Billy Swift (SF), Pete Harnisch (Hou). Our playoff entrants are: Atlanta, Houston, and San Francisco, with Montreal slipping in through the cracks.

On to our Final Four preview. It was disappointing to see Simson do so poorly in his tourney predictions, so we reverted to fan favorite Sir Vix for an outlook on tomorrow's games.

Final Four

Arizona vs. Arkansas. Although played first tomorrow (5:42 tip), this is the marquee matchup of the day. Each team poses match up problems for the other, so it should be an entertaining, as well as high scoring, game. For the Wildcats, the key to victory rests is in the hands of their three guard lineup -- Damon Stoudamire, Khalid Reeves, and Reggie Geary -- as they have led 'Zona to date (67 of the 92 points versus Mizzou, and 52 of 82 versus Louisville). It is especially important that Geary stays out of foul trouble as he normally defends the opposing teams' best outside player (i.e., Scotty Thurman for the Hogs). This allows Reeves and Stoudamire to rest a little on D and for Reeves to kick out on the break for an easy duece when there is a shot taken. Their inside game, Owes, Blair, and Williams, is not very strong. They did a respectable job of holding Jevon Crudup in check (Mizzou), but Crudup is no Corliss Williamson.

Additionally, 'Zona will have to contend with 6-11 super frosh Darnell Robinson. Robinson played very well against Michigan and should not be daunted by the Wildcats front line. As Arkansas will have trouble matching up against the three guard set of Arizona, they will be forced to play zone most of the time (at least until Clint McDaniel, Thurman, and Corey Beck are all on the court together), which they would prefer anyway. Michigan had success against Arkansas' zone D because Juwan Howard demanded attention. Howard was able to get the ball inside and kick it to an open man when the perimeter players doubled down. However, the Hogs were able to take away the outside shooting game of Gary Collier and Tulsa, because the Golden Hurricane had no big scorer underneath and had one who could penetrate the creases.

Therefore, how well Stoudamire is able to drive the splits and dish to the open man will be a key for Arizona. Arkansas, meanwhile, loves to shoot (47 percent from three-point land in the tourney so far). 6-9 Pillsbury Dough Boy wanna-be Dwight Stewart (9-12 in three-pointers for the tourney) can, and will, launch from anywhere. He is a guard in an offensive tackle's body and loves to showcase his handle. Under the boards, Corliss and Darnell will feel like they are at a Sunday buffet as there should be plenty of seconds for the two.

As these two should dominate the glass and be in position for easy putbacks, the outside players of Arkansas will have no conscience when it comes to shooting the rock from downtown. Arkansas' deep bench (the best from 1 to 13 in the country) allows Coach Richardson to play a fast paced and frenetic style of ball. Although Lute Olson will play nine players, he rather stick with the starting five. Look for victorious pig squeals both Saturday and Monday night, as Sir Vix sees Arkansas prevailing with Williamson tipping in the winning basket at the buzzer, 92-90.

Florida vs. Duke. Lon Kruger has done an excellent job down in Gainesville since arriving from Manhattan, Kansas (K-State). After posting just seven wins a couple of years back, the Gators have ripped off 29 wins this year. The key to Florida's success is their defense, as evident by the fact that teams are shooting at a 35 percent clip against the Gators in the tourney. They like to slow the tempo down and get into a half court game. They are also a well disciplined team that rarely makes mistakes.

Once in their half court set, Florida is led by its guards, senior Craig Brown and junior Dan Cross. As evident from the BC game, Brown has the capability to light it up from downtown. If the outside shots are not falling, however, the Gators get it inside to Andrew DeClercq and Dametri Hill. Hill, a svelt 286 el bee's, uses his patented "DaMeat" hook shot when getting the ball on the post. It will be interesting to see what sort of D Kruger plays versus Duke as the Blue Devils have the weapons to play versus zone or man.

The Gators would be best to follow the lead of Marquette and play a match up zone. Contain Jeff Capel outside and not allow Grant Hill to drive, but force Cherokee Parks to beat you inside would be their best bet to win. Hill has had trouble shooting the J in the tourney, but is deadly off the dribble. Brian Thompson (6-6, 218) would be matched up against Hill in a man set, but would not be able to contain him. Hill would be able to drive the middle for an easy flush, or for an easy dish to Antonio Lang or Parks if Dametri Hill or DeClercq helped out.

Capel has performed brilliantly in the tourney (named to the all Southeast Regional team). He is fearless in his shot selection and exhibits the emotion needed to spark the Devils. Still, Capel is a freshman, and he combines with Chris Collins, a soph, to form a young backcourt. Brown and Cross should be able to exploit this matchup. Still, experience and coaching prevail in tight Final Four matchups. Sir Vix likes a low scoring affair in the nightcap (though he often scores big time in his nightcaps), and sees Coach K going to the finals against Clinton's posse, 59-53.

Where Are They Now?

Former Final Four Standouts: Michael Graham, Larry Micheaux, Michael Young, Stevie Thompson, Kenny Battle, Steve Bardo, Lowell Hamilton, Pete Chilcutt, and Tommy Amaker.

Race for Futility

Maverics: 0-16

Dallas' losing 15 straight would normally not even put them in the starting blocks for this race, considering their lofty standards over the last two seasons, but it bears noting that this is the third time this season that Mighty Quinn's bunch has lost 15 or more in a row.

Sports Paraphernalia For Sale

With the coming graduation of your humble scribes, this is a new feature that we'll be presenting each week. This week you can purchase an Nordic ski machine, autographed by all your favorite Tech personalities, which would have put us in the peak of physical conditioning had we ever used it. Act now, and maybe we'll throw in a couch as well. Send all bids to sports@the-tech.mit.edu.

Mondongo's Hueso de la Semana

This week's award goes to Chelsea Clinton's friend who slammed into the open door of a parked pickup truck while the two girls were bicycle riding Sunday. The friend (not named in the media reports), who accompanied Chelsea and the Clintons on their vacation to California, suffered minor injuries and was released from a hospital shortly thereafter.

This is not to say, however, that the omnipotent Mondongo has overlooked the contribution of Donyell Marshall to this space. The alleged star for UConn bricked two free throws with 3.4 seconds left with the Huskies tied with Florida. The misses sent the game into OT, where Florida moved on in the dance and sent UConn packing.

Trivia Question of the Week

What major league player has hit the most home runs (190) without hitting a grand salami? Send answers, comments, and pictures of your most creative tan lines to sports@the-tech.

Answer to last week's question: North Carolina, Duke, and Arizona. Kudos to Theresa Joyce in the MIT Alumni Office, who provided the only correct answer. She wins five trips to the ladies' room under Campus Police escort. The CPs will ensure that the MIT bathroom flashers are not lurking about, preparing to show Theresa their "goods."

Rumblings From Around the 'Tute

This just in from Jake Olson '94: "Attention nerds and sports fans alike: I have just stumbled across a gold mine -- an electronic archive of all the back issues of Let's Argue on the World Wide Web. Just do

% add sipb

% mosaic &

Then click on the "Fun Stuff" hypertext to access the sports column that has made our humble scribes famous."