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How the Grinch Stole Christmas--Again

All the Fans out in Fandom loved hoops a whole lot....
But the Grinch, a Stern fun-Hunter, surely did NOT!
As the season drew near he grew antsy with ire,
And said, "Who needs hoopsters who keep jumping higher?
All this slammin'
and jammin' for Fan girls and boys
Is a waste, and the Fans make a NOISE that ANNOYS!"
Then he got an idea.
An awful idea!
The Grinch got a lawful, god-awful idea!
"For re-openers," he said, "I have every right
To instantly douse every hoops fan's delight.
I'll do it by fiat, for I have the key
To freezin' the season contractually!"
He jumped in his sports car and off the Grinch sped,
A plan for door-slammin' a-jammin' his head.
The Summit, the Garden, the Forum--he LOCKED 'EM!
As deadlines ticktocked and Fans squawked, he just mocked 'em.

union and management both shared the blame
For helping that mean, stingy Grinch pinch the game.
Now the Sonics were silenced, Hawks grounded, Knicks nixed,
The Blazers extinguished, the Sixers deep-sixed,
The Suns all eclipsed, the Heat on the blink,
The T-wolves D-fanged, and the Raptors extinct.
"I'm putting the Fans on a cold-turkey diet!
With X-mas X-ed out, I'll seize Z's--PEACE AND QUIET!"
Said the Grinch, kicking back in his luxury box,
Glad he had iced all the owners and jocks.
It was Ewing's undoing, no Falkin' around--
From this, neither players nor clubs could rebound!

a sound, passing strange, dribbled into his ear.
A sound sounding more and more now like a CHEER--
It was quiet at first--
the cruel creature'd heard worse--
But soon the old Grinch thought his eardrums would BURST!
For soccer, the Fans cheered, and wrestling and hockey,
Sailing, hay-baling and reruns of Rocky,
Rodeo on radio, bingo and Ping-Pong,
And Carmen a-ringing the Worm's wedding ding-dong!
Fan fun can be found in far more than one way,
As the Grinch learned that day to his utter dismay.
And you'll hear him hiss this as he slinks out of sight:
"Lockout schmockout--
they're all watching football tonight!" --K.C.

Solo Adventure

On the morning of Dec. 15, Isabelle Autissier of France was
leading Leg 2 of Around Alone, the 27,000-mile round-the-world
sailboat race, when she sent an E-mail from her 60-foot monohull,
PRB, to event headquarters in Charleston, S.C. "The waves are
starting to get a little of them blindsided the
boat while I was brewing a cup of tea," Autissier wrote from
3,000 miles off Africa's southeastern coast. "Result: Mainsail
hit the drink."

Rough seas and damaged equipment--along with bone-chilling waters,
70-knot winds, loneliness and fatigue--are daily concerns for the
15 Around Alone competitors, who began their nine-month solo
journeys from Charleston in September. The current leg, a jaunt
of nearly 7,000 miles from South Africa to New Zealand, is the
longest and most taxing, due in part to unpredictable snow
squalls and fierce winds. "This is not an area made for human
beings," read a recent dispatch from France's J.P. Mouligne,
aboard Cray Valley, the leader among the race's nine
40-to-50-foot vessels.

The sailors competing in the fifth quadrennial Around Alone (ne
the BOC Challenge) subsist mostly on freeze-dried or boiled
food. They seldom get more than four hours' sleep in a day. They
can communicate by cell phone, but since those satellite signals
are spotty over the Southern Ocean, E-mail is often their most
reliable link to the rest of humanity. When Russian sailor
Viktor Yazykov suffered a gangrene infection in one of his
elbows, he followed instructions E-mailed by a doctor in Boston
to perform life-saving surgery on himself.

Despite worsening weather, the sailors were festive last week.
Feodor Konioukhov of Russia distributed his recipe for an
antidote to solitude and grueling work: a warm cocktail of rum,
vodka, red wine, pepper and spices. Several skippers received
clues by E-mail telling them where to find Christmas gifts their
land crews had hidden onboard before the boats left Cape Town on
Dec. 5.

Autissier, who was forced out of the race by equipment failure in
1994, didn't join in the fun. PRB righted itself after the spill,
but with communications and tracking down and her mainsail
damaged, Autissier lost her lead in the race.

As of Monday, Autissier was staying in touch with race officials
by radio. She had fallen 470 miles behind new leader Giovanni
Soldini of Italy in the 60-foot FILA. Autissier was heading north
toward calmer waters, hoping to repair her battered boat.

Fighting Cancer

It was a fine end-of-summer afternoon in New York City, and Nanci
Donnellan, the nationally syndicated sports-radio host known as
the Fabulous Sports Babe, flirted with the idea of blowing off
her scheduled doctor's appointment. "The sun was shining, and I
wanted to go out and play," she says, "but then I figured, Oh
hell. You need to go."

The appointment was for a routine mammogram, something Donnellan
made sure she had every two years. During that Sept. 1 visit, a
mass the size of a small olive was detected in her right breast.
A biopsy showed the mass to be malignant. Says Donnellan, "My
first reaction was, You people are crazy. I'm not going to
die--I'm too busy."

She underwent a lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy, a new
diagnostic procedure, at the Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical
Center on Oct. 6 and was released two days later. The Babe was
back on the air four days after that. For the last few weeks she
has been broadcasting from Tampa instead of New York City so that
she can stay at her Florida home, near friends and family. Each
afternoon after taping her show, she undergoes a radiation
treatment, a regimen that will continue until mid-January.

The prognosis is promising. Because her cancer hadn't spread to
her lymph nodes, Donnellan hasn't needed chemotherapy. "I'm
lucky," she says. "They detected my tumor very early. In my case
there was no lump. You couldn't feel the tumor. That's why it was
so important to have a mammogram. If you are a woman, or love a
woman, or know a woman, that's the message."

Partying with the Pros

The holidays haven't been as jolly as in years past for
employees of some sports teams. Locked-out NBA players and their
families weren't invited to the usual team parties, most of
which were scaled down or eliminated. In Los Angeles, owner
Jerry Buss went ahead with his tradition of sending every Lakers
worker a honey-baked ham, but broadcaster Chick Hearn left the
club's playerless party at the Great Western Forum on Dec. 15
after 10 minutes, saying the place was too depressing with no
game to call.

The Denver Broncos canceled their celebration out of
superstition. Last year the team put off its party until the
season ended, then spiked it after the Super Bowl. Denver won't
tempt fate by holding one this winter.

Baseball's big bash was the one Baltimore Orioles owner Peter
Angelos threw for 200 guests, who danced and dined on crabcakes
and duck in the warehouse beyond Camden Yards' outfield wall.

The most poignant performance was that of George Karl, coach of
the locked-out Milwaukee Bucks. He spent part of last week at a
Milwaukee mall, ringing a bell for the Salvation Army.

McEnroe Attacks

Tennis, sorely in need of a shot of excitement, has been getting
it from a familiar needler. John McEnroe has been lobbing verbal
missiles in all directions. Recently Big Mac, 39, has chewed out
Pete Sampras for skipping the Davis Cup, declared himself still
"the best doubles player in the world" and said he wants to be
the U.S. Davis Cup captain and/or tennis's first commissioner.

Not everyone has welcomed McEnroe's comments. Firebrand Jeff
Tarango, angered by Mac's claim that he could still beat most of
the singles players on the tour, recently challenged McEnroe to
a $200,000 winner-take-all match. "It's asinine," says the
72nd-ranked Tarango of McEnroe's boasting. "I don't think he
could beat anybody in the top 100."

Reached on Sunday at his Manhattan art gallery, McEnroe said he
appreciates Tarango's invitation but has other opponents in mind.
"My goal is to be the George Foreman of tennis," said McEnroe.
"He's very smart in selecting his opponents. But I welcome Jeff's
offer, and I'll put him on the list." McEnroe already has one
high-profile tournament on his 1999 schedule: He says he plans to
play mixed doubles with Steffi Graf at Wimbledon.

As for his increasingly outspoken role as the self-styled
conscience of tennis, Mac says that he intends to keep charging
the net. "I love the game, but let's face it, it has problems,"
he says. "Tennis needs someone with a strong personality who has
the respect of the players and can go to bat for them. I think I
have what it takes."

Deja Vu Vols

A much-hyped son of a former NFL star commits to playing
quarterback at Tennessee. Hailed as the nation's best high
school passer. A real leader. Poise out the wazoo. A few days
later a less-hyped high school quarterback also commits to
Tennessee. Hailed as one of the nation's best high school
passers. Strong arm. Runs well.

Sound familiar? It does to A.J. Suggs, who remembers the hoopla
five years ago when Peyton (Son of Archie) Manning committed to
play for the Volunteers. Suggs also recalls that during the same
week, blue-chip passing prospect Branndon Stewart announced that
he, too, would join the Vols. (Stewart ended up transferring to
Texas A&M a year later and has had an up-and-down career in
College Station.) "Both those guys were great quarterbacks," says
Suggs, "and they wanted to compete. It's not much different now."

Now, though, the man in Peyton's place is Chris (Son of Phil)
Simms, and the new Stewart is, well, Suggs. "I know I'm the
underdog," says the 6'4", 205-pound Suggs, who passed for 2,227
yards and 23 touchdowns this year as a senior at McEachern High
in Powder Springs, Ga. "I've seen Chris on tape. I know what
everyone says about him. But I'm a competitor. Whatever the
situation, I do everything I can to win."

Simms, a 6'5", 218-pound coach's dream from Ramapo (N.J.) High,
is "the whole package," says Allen Wallace, editor of the
recruiting magazine SuperPrep. "He's a quarterback with no

Suggs has negatives. His throwing motion is less than classic,
and while Simms has benefited from his father's tutelage, Suggs
remains a neophyte when it comes to such advanced skills as
reading defenses. Still, A.J. has plenty of pluses, starting
with his size. "He was almost 12 pounds at birth--a big baby,"
says his father, Mike, who coached A.J. through Pop Warner
football, starting him at fullback, then shifting him to
linebacker and finally to quarterback after A.J. "learned how to
be tough." He's also smart and forward-looking: Suggs hit the
books hard and plans to graduate from high school a semester
early, which will allow him to enroll at Tennessee next month,
in time to be eligible for spring practice.

"The Simms boy had better be good, because A.J. is special," says
McEachern High coach Jim Dorsey. "He's intelligent and humble,
and he's got some real god-given talent. I hate to put this on
him, but he reminds me a lot of Peyton."

Floating Football Field

Last year the Academy of Architecture, Arts and Sciences in Los
Angeles gave architects a field goal: Design a football stadium
that could lure the NFL back to L.A. Shih-Fu Peng and Roisin
Heneghan won first prize with Bigfoot, an 80,000-seat floating
facility complete with helipads, a parking lot and mall space for
anchor stores like Barnes & Noble. The proposed field, which the
architects say could ride piggyback on a supertanker moored at
the end of Santa Monica Pier, would be ideal for today's fickle
franchises. "Should the team be sold, the stadium could go along
with it," says Peng. A club Bigfooting it out of L.A. might wind
up in Florida, circled by tailgators.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY RANDY DAHLK [Drawing of the Grinch with sack of basketballs beside crying players]

COLOR PHOTO: ROB MYERS/QUOKKA SPORTS WILD RIDE Storms have assailed Josh Hall and 14 other skippers during the ultimate year-end sail. [Josh Hall sailing boat]

COLOR PHOTO: THOMAS ULRICH picture this Sunnyside Updraft When two paragliders soared off into the sunset above Castellucio, a region of central Italy near Rome that's a hot spot for the sport, they raised a pair of eyebrows. [Paragliders, setting sun, and horizon create a face]


Wish List

--That bowl names like Micron PC and byte the dust.

--That Michael Jordan four-peats in the 1999 NBA playoffs,
retires for 14 years and returns to win the 2013 Senior Open at
Pebble Beach.

--That the new year brings comfort to Joe DiMaggio.

Go Figure

Cost to Kevin Greene, in dollars, of his one-game suspension for
attacking Panthers linebackers coach Kevin Steele.

Cost to Latrell Sprewell, in dollars, of his 68-game suspension
for attacking Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo.

Fee, in dollars, to sponsor the male halftime dancers at home
games of the Minnesota Vixens of the new Women's Professional
Football League.

Reward, in dollars, offered by an Aspen, Colo., nonprofit group
to anyone who turns in a hit-and-run skier.

Dollars left unclaimed by Wayne Gretzky and former girlfriend
Vicki Moss in an Edmonton bank account since 1982.

Number of the new luxury box at Busch Stadium on the spot where
Mark McGwire's 70th homer landed, and the cost per head, in
dollars, to rent the space for a game.

Increase, in dollars, in the value of Saints nosetackle La'Roi
Glover's contract over the next four years if he gets two sacks
in Sunday's season-ending game against the Bills.


Fans fed up with baseball--whose postseason seems to have become
the exclusive preserve of big-spending clubs like the Atlanta
Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees--can take
solace in the NFL, where payroll and production are less directly
linked. In fact, the San Diego Chargers and the Carolina
Panthers, the teams with the two highest payrolls in 1998
(bonuses and incentives included), are a combined 8-22. Here's
how football's five biggest spenders have fared this season and
how much the most successful teams have shelled out (in millions
of dollars).

The Big Spenders

Team Payroll Record

Chargers $70.0 5-10
Panthers $67.7 3-12
Vikings $66.8 14-1
Seahawks $65.4 8-7
49ers $64.1 11-4

The Big Winners

Team Record Payroll (Rank)

Vikings 14-1 $66.8 (3rd)
Broncos 13-2 $63.4 (10th)
Falcons 13-2 $51.9 (23rd)
49ers 11-4 $64.1 (5th)
Jets 11-4 $53.6 (18th)


Ricky Williams's locks were dread-fully stylish and Dennis
Rodman's coifs continued to captivate, but for sheer unshorn
elegance no athlete in 1998 surpassed Indiana's Pita Elisara, a
6'5", 295-pound tackle from American Samoa. Elisara became a
cult hero in Bloomington this fall, not just for his work on the
offensive line but also for the frizzy ponytail that trailed out
behind his helmet and often obscured the name on his jersey. The
hirsute Hoosier gets an occasional trim but hasn't had a
full-fledged cut in three years.

According to Elisara, only once this year did an opponent try to
tug his massive 'do--while Elisara was blocking on a field goal
attempt against Cincinnati. (No penalty was called.) Otherwise,
he says, "everybody's cool with it." Even his parents don't mind
his long hair, Elisara says, "as long as I'm away from home."

This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us

The Asian Games, marred by poor planning, crumbling facilities
and plagues of insects in Bangkok, came to an end amid charges of
an attempted fix in the table tennis finals.


You wouldn't know it from the rhetoric emanating from the NBA
lockout, but this is the season of giving. So while cruising the
net between holiday parties and bowl games, check in with those
in the sports world for whom wins and losses--and salary
caps--aren't the most important thing. Here are four organizations
that help the truly needy. Log on to learn what they do and how
you can dish out some help to the cause.
The volunteer-driven Special Olympics have been helping mentally
retarded athletes participate in sports since 1968. Their site
explains how you can donate time and/or money to the worldwide
The Magic Johnson Foundation, created to raise funds for AIDS
research, now supports a variety of social, educational and
health programs for inner-city kids. Log on to contribute or
help out with an MJF event.
For three years Adam Reiser, 23, a former cross-country star at
Rice, has been collecting used running shoes and shipping them
to Africa, where they're handed out to young runners who can't
afford their own. Read Reiser's journals from his trips to
Africa and find out how to send your old treads to the Kenya
Shoe Expedition.
The nonprofit National Association of Midnight Basketball
Leagues runs late-night hoops programs to keep young adults off
the streets and out of trouble. Here you can find a league in
your area or make a donation to the association.

sites we'd like to see
Listing of illicit gifts by Salt Lake City's Winter Olympics
Online support group for skiers desperate for a blizzard.

They Said It


Spurs forward, claiming the lockout has forced him to move back
into his mother's house and share a room with his eight-year-old
brother: "This is it. I sleep on Rugrats pillowcases."