Attention ESPN, FOX Sports, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and any other media outlet considering the release of a list of the "Century's greatest athletes ... most electrifying performers ... top CBA power forwards" or other such ridiculous countdowns -- don't.
Take a hint from Roberto Duran, once known as "hands of stone," now known as "head of stone" after his constant refusal to store the boxing gloves in the attic: no más. Make me listen to a 24-hour Van Earl Wright Marathon on FOX Sports Primetime, make me challenge the "Sports Reporters"' Bob Ryan to a shouting match -- make me do anything, just please, no more lists.
Alright, fine -- I give in. The millennium only arrives once every thousand years (if my math is correct), so if you really want to know who the most influential figure in modern athletics is, I'll let you in on this little secret. It ain't MJ. And for those in Muhammad Ali's corner, we have some lovely parting gifts for you as well. So if it's not his Airness and it isn't Cassius, then who could it be? Naturally, it's James "Bruiser" Flint.
Question number one: Who in the heck is James "Bruiser" Flint?
Answer: No, he's not a James "Buster" Douglas poser: he's the head basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts -- the heir to John Calipari's throne.
Question number two: How in the world is he influential?
Answer: Well, besides tutoring roundball legends the likes of Carmelo Travieso and Tyrone Weeks, he's also the first player/coach/athletic director in recent memory to suspend himself. After accidentally blurting an expletive on his post-game radio show following a home loss to Marshall, "Bruiser" gave his ego a little purple mark by imposing a one-game ban.
That's noble of the Minuteman to realize his mistake and punish himself for it, but the most influential athlete of the century?
Without a doubt.
If only other personalities from the athletic arena would follow Flint's lead, sports would be purged of its parasites forever ... or at least until they cleaned up their act. Self-imposed suspensions -- what an ingenious idea, especially if your name happens to be:
1. Charles Barkley
We all know 1999 marks your NBA swan song Chuckles, but did you have to sing quite so loud on your way out the door?
First there's the infamous tiff with Scottie Pippen (Pip's foolishness merits its own column), then the infamous tiff with Shaquille O'Neal (Greco Roman style), then the infamous tiff with referee Mike Mathis that cost "the round mound" a cool 20 Gs.
After being docked for belittling Mathis -- one of the true maestros behind the whistle, the Chuckwagon offered this oh-so remorseful apology:
"He's a bad official ... I hate that he's back in the league."
Yeah, I really want this guy to be the governor of Alabama.
2. BCS Commissioner Roy Kramer
Paging Roy Kramer, paging Roy Kramer -- the BCS does not work. I repeat, it doesn't work.
Yes it's original: using a desktop PC to determine the national title and alliance bowl participants is likely a safer idea than handing the controls over to Beano Cook (if that was the case, then Penn State and Army had better start packing their bags for New Orleans).
It's also destined to fail. Roy lucked out this year -- the computers crunched their numbers and placed the two most deserving teams, Florida State and Virginia Tech, in the Sugar Bowl. But what if they don't next year? What if a squad with one loss vaults ahead of an undefeated? What would happen then? College football mutiny and a playoff in Switzerland ... that's what.
It's only a matter of time before someone gets screwed, and when that happens, I'm going back to Beano.
3. Bobby Bowden
He's a cuddly grandfather with a great sense of rumor, a Southern accent that puts Willie Nelson to shame and an unparalleled relationship with the media, but it's time to get a grip on things.
The Foot Locker Free Shoes University scandal ignited things back in 1993, and in 1999, Peter Warrick and Laveranues Coles dumped a $412.38 can of kerosene (that he got when he traded in his free Tommy Gear) on the Seminole bonfire by committing felony theft. Then a week later, police uncovered traces of marijuana in the automobile of starting cornerback Tae Cody. Now the program is looking into whether star defensive end Roland Seymour violated an NCAA rule by working out with a professional trainer for no charge over the summer.
Bowden could suspend himself for letting the nation's finest collection of talent deteriorate into a juvenile delinquency center, but he's probably too busy suspending every player on his roster to have time.
4. Pete Rose
Oops. Forgot. He's already suspended.