By Bomani Jones
Special to Page 2

Larry Bird has lent his name to a line of wines. No, seriously.

Bird's first release is a Meritage produced by Cosentino Winery of Napa Valley. The winery's Web site describes it as an "extraordinary blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc ... from the most proven Napa Valley Vineyards of Oakville, St. Helena and Carneros."

wine bottles
AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko
Joe Montana, Dick Vermeil, Larry Bird . . . if every athlete had a bottle named after them . . .

Uh, OK. Fine description, I suppose. But none of that really says "Larry Bird's wine" to me. If athletes want their fans to support their ventures into wine making, they must insist each bottle truly captures who and what they are.

For instance, the Larry Bird Chardonnay that is set for release next month should be described this way: "Surprisingly good for a white. However, those who don't tend to enjoy whites may find it to be extremely overrated. It looks somewhat bland and unexciting at first glance, but once uncorked it exhibits characteristics that belie its somewhat disgusting appearance. Be sure to drink within 10 years because it ages horribly."

See? That says "Larry Bird" more than does "an extraordinary blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc."

And it can be done for all athletes who have made the jump into the wine business.

Greg Norman? The official tag line for his wines is: "Wines you would expect from a man with his standards." That's well and good, but I like this better: "A solid all-around wine that has fared well in minor competitions, but it often comes up short in major competitions due to its characteristically uneven finish."

Jeff Gordon's wines are all labeled "Jeff Gordon Collection." But that doesn't really say anything about Gordon the driver or Gordon the man. NASCAR fans might like this better: "Consistently one of the best wines on the market. However, it is not well respected next to some of its contemporaries, as detractors claim it is too fruity."

The possibilities are endless.

Barry Bonds, who lives just a short drive from the heart of California's wine industry, could very well decide to release a wine. It might be described this way: "Biting, almost bitter initial taste mixed with hints of flax seed and cattle meat. The aging process miraculously transforms it from a thin to a full-bodied wine. Winemaker believes he is despised by the wine press despite the fact that he has been voted Winemaker of the Year a record seven times."

Michael Vick's wine would be captured with this: "One of the most anticipated wines in recent memory when it hit the market in 2001, it has often failed to live up to expectations. Rumors claim its troubles stem from being tainted by diseased Mexican grapes. The next Vick vintage is said to be even worse."

Bode Miller's: "Intended to be consumed straight from the bottle, it is fortified with additional alcohol to get you drunk faster. Rarely fairs well in big competitions due to its poor balance and lack of maturity."

Peyton Manning's: "Meticulously crafted over hours and hours at the family's famous winery, the Peyton performs wonderfully with light dishes. Avoid pairing it against heartier dishes, however, as its delicate taste and structure is easily overwhelmed."

The more the merrier, as far as I'm concerned, because I love sports and I love wine. In fact, I'm a lot like Jim Bowden in that way -- only I'm not chubby, I don't have scratches all over my face and I've never been arrested for DUI.

Headlines ...

Kobe vows to never pass again after losing Game 1 to Suns

Clippers progressing right on schedule with Elgin Baylor's 25-year rebuilding plan

San Jose, Nashville knotted at one game apiece in battle of historic NHL "Original 27" rivals

LaVar Arrington excited for opportunity to play out of position for the Giants

Notre Dame inks star quarterback recruit with Ron Powlus-like potential

Four Things I Thought I Thought While Chucking Octopi at Random Passersby ...

1. Nuggets coach George Karl thinks Sam Cassell would make the best future coach out of all the current NBA players (or so said TNT's Jim Gray on Saturday night). And I have to agree. Cassell would be an outstanding coach. All he would have to do is review the game plan before tip-off with his players and then say: "Remember, if you don't execute this perfectly, I'm going to keep calling timeouts and you'll have to come over to the bench and look at my face over and over again." It's a cruel threat to make, but I doubt there's a single player who would dare cross coach Cassell and risk having to face his face.

2. Easily the best hit of the NHL playoffs so far was Buffalo's Brian Campbell's laying out Flyers center R.J. Umberger in Game 1 of their series. And while I'm not a Flyers fan, I bet watching a low-scoring center get knocked senseless in a playoff loss made many Philadelphians nostalgic for the days of Eric Lindros.

3. Rockies star first baseman Todd Helton was hospitalized Friday and then placed on the disabled list with what was described as a "mystery ailment." By Sunday the team reported he was feeling better and would continue recuperating at a Denver hospital. Contrast that to the tale of With a City -- a colt expected to compete in the Kentucky Derby next month. On Thursday he was stricken with an "unknown illness." By Sunday his handlers euthanized him. I guess what I'm saying is -- if this doesn't prove racehorses need to form a union, then I don't know what will.

4. Former All-Star first baseman Keith Hernandez is being criticized for his comments during Saturday night's Mets broadcast about Kelly Calabrese, San Diego's massage therapist who was in the Padres' dugout: "I won't say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don't belong in the dugout." And while you can think what you want about Hernandez's statement, no one should be surprised at what he said. It's nothing new from him. He has been espousing his misogynistic "Just For Men" viewpoint all over the airwaves for years. And if Hernandez is going down, then Clyde Frazier should go down with him. Re-jected!

DJ Gallo is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine as well as the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He also contributes headlines to The Onion.