Two stories caught my attention this week for their tiresome predictability. One -- Barry Bonds' joyless pursuit of home runs -- is ongoing. The other -- Rasheed Wallace's guarantee of victory -- is dead for now but probably will resurface in the Eastern Conference finals.
On the surface, the Bonds story is supposed to be about success, but it sure doesn't feel like it. America is trying to decide whether it cares, and every psychiatrist -- amateur, mostly -- tries to decide why Barry isn't being embraced.
It's either racism or media bias or something other than the man and his alleged-but-documented steroid use. It has to be an outside force, something that manages to absolve Bonds and convict those who refuse to embrace him.
In the meantime, he sits on 713. More than ever, he complains about strike calls. More than ever, he stands in the batter's box and refuses to run out pop-ups or ground balls. His range in the outfield is barely larger than his wingspan.
There is no joy here. The story threatens to limp through the summer with the same grudging, frowning distaste as the man himself.
The other story has fewer angles, of course, but the question remains valid: At this point, is there anything more predictable and less newsworthy than a Rasheed prediction?
This Week's List
• I know the Times is known for reporting important leaks, but this one calls for someone to ask the fourth-grade question, "How do you know?": Tuesday's New York Times boasts a story touting Albert Pujols as "a superstar who doesn't cheat," a story that includes the statement, " he is a refreshing superstar who can say, 'I don't cheat.'"
• So you're sitting at home proud of your daughter, a soccer player at Northwestern, then you type in "badjocks.com" and nothing will ever be the same: The Northwestern women's soccer team was suspended Monday after hazing photos of the team showed up on badjocks.com.
• Gloves tight? Check. Sleeves adjusted? Check. Toes a-tappin'? Check: From where I'm watching, it looks as though Nomar Garciaparra is back.
• But here's one we didn't see coming: Brett Tomko (5-1).
• Just for the heck of it: Marvell Wynne.
• Yeah, 'cause that Ricky Williams risk worked out so well: The Dolphins think Marcus Vick is a "risk worth taking."
• There are so many things wrong with this, who could determine where to start? Texas running back Ramonce Taylor, already "excused" from the team to concentrate on academics, was found with five pounds of marijuana in a backpack in his car after he called police and gave them permission to search his car after a fight at a pecan farm 40 miles from Austin.
• This week's best headline, courtesy of The Onion: "Jim Leyland Accused of Jumping on Tigers Bandwagon."
• This proves only one thing -- despite their dumb play on the court, these guys understand chain of command: The Knicks players, in interviews with Isiah Thomas, reportedly fingered Larry Brown as the scapegoat for their horrid season.
• The question: Is Doug Flutie worthy of the Hall of Fame?
• The answer: No.
• Get Ken Burns on the line, and see whether Billy Crystal and George Will will agree to be filmed sitting on big luxurious chairs pontificating about the time their fathers told them about the time Ol' Double X hit his 19th: In the latest meaningless recitation of numbers, it has been reported -- breathlessly -- that Albert Pujols reached 19 homers faster than anyone in history.
• You know you're in charge when you decide when and how you're playing through low-level proxy: The New York Times reports that Felipe Alou's lineup card, with Bonds back in the fourth spot, didn't appear on the wall of the Giants' clubhouse until a few minutes after Harvey Shields, Bonds' stretching coach, paid a brief visit to the manager's office.
• Besides, how hard is it to find something even remotely close on the occupation line of the tax form? When people ask what you do for a living and you say you help one human being make sure his hamstrings don't tighten up, how much of your humanity dies every time?
• And not only that, but: If you're really doing your job, you should make sure those hamstrings and quads are in good enough condition to at least leave the batter's box when your man hits a pop-up on the infield.
• In the tradition of managers who go with their gut instinct -- Grady Little, Dusty Baker -- here's an unscientific reason why the Spurs won't win the title this year: Tim Duncan's ongoing bursts of disgust at the referees tell me he's a guy who feels some creeping doubt.
• And finally, a sneak preview of tonight's episode of "Bonds on Bonds": "And then I hit another pop-up."
Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Page 2 here.