Let’s finish up 2004 laughing

Dec 28, 2004 5:46 AM

There is little humor in sports these days, with professional players’ salaries violating the obscenity laws in every state but no prosecutions in sight.

So it was refreshing to pick up the Los Angeles Times and read a collection of one-liners by columnist Larry Stewart. He wrote them in the five days earlier this month between the time Rick Majerus took the job as basketball coach at Southern Cal and the time he quit. All of the gems were delivered by Majerus over the years, and as a belated Christmas gift, here are a few:

"Nobody thought I’d be a great coach. I’m the kind of a guy you’d expect to be driving an 18-wheeler through town."

"I like living in hotels. There’s clean towels, my bed is turned down every night, and there’s a mint on my pillow, no matter what psychological or emotional crisis the maid is going through."

On eating, the corpulent Majerus said:

"I’ve been eating celery sticks, something I never thought I’d do. Like I always told Bobby Knight, nothing good happens around a salad bar. I microwave nachos. If they can’t be done on a grill or in a microwave, I won’t do it."

After Rick Pitino, then coaching Kentucky, told Majerus his Utah team should be favored before a 1996 game between the two schools, Majerus commented: "If we’re getting in a sumo ring, he and I, then he’s the underdog. I’ll crush him. But on the court, we’re in trouble. When I die, they might as well bury me at the finish line at Churchill Downs, so they can run over me again."

When asked about his bachelorhood six years ago, Majerus told the Arizona Republic. "Some guys smoke. Some guys drink. Some guys chase women. I’m a big barbeque sauce guy. I’m like that guy on the ”˜Odd Couple,’ and it’s not the neat guy. I go into my room and find pieces of pizza under the laundry."

In a conversation once with another very funny and smart man, Marquette’s great coach Al McGuire, he advised Majerus never to marry a beautiful woman, because she might leave him. Majerus said, "An ugly woman might leave me too." McGuire replied, "Yeah, but it won’t matter."

Some of sport’s best one liners, not surprisingly, deal with divorce. Muhammad Ali, when asked about his toughest fight, said it was with his first wife. Boxer Willie Pep, divorced six times, said, "Three of my wives were very good housekeepers. After we got divorced, they kept the house." Joe Pepitone, another multiple divorcer, topped them all, saying, "The next time I marry it’ll be a man, and with my luck he’ll get pregnant."

My favorite one-liners, though, center around my least favorite person, the late Howard Cosell. While it may be ungracious to spike a guy after he’s gone, I have no hesitation with Cosell. He could be venomous. I was scheduled to do a network racing show with him one year and, after a New York columnist wrote that it would be a good show because I would know the subject matter, Cosell called network headquarters and had me booted. The one liners that follow, from Glenn Liebman’s collection of 2,000 called Sports Shorts, indicate others shared my views on Howard.

Bob Costas: "If you split this guy open, demons and poison would spill all over the floor. He’s one of the least attractive human beings I’ve ever been associated with."

Burt Reynolds: "In the next issue of Cosmopolitan, Howard Cosell will be the centerfold with his vital organ covered — his mouth." Red Smith: "I have tried terribly to like Howard, and I have failed miserably." Muhammad Ali: "Sometimes Howard makes me wish I was a dog and he was a fireplug."

Jackie Stewart: "In one year I traveled 450,000 miles by air. That’s 18½ times around the world, or once around Howard Cosell’s head." Irving Rudd, the late, great New York racing and fight publicist, on Cosell’s statement that he was his own worst enemy: "Not while I’m alive."

I feel better already, knowing I have company, and the new year hasn’t even started. I hope it’s a healthy and happy one for you.