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Friday, December 28, 2001
2001: A very strange odyssey

By Jim Caple
Page 2

Whew! What a year. So many wild, amazing things took place in the wide world of sports over the past 12 months that fans were left as dizzy as if they had smoked the entire payload of Nate Newton's van.

If the BCS computers proved unable to make sense of 2001, how could anyone else sort out everything that happened? We said goodbye to Dale Earnhardt, Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, Mark McGwire and McGwire's home-run record, hello to Ichiro, Danny Almonte and He Hate Me, and welcome back to Michael Jordan.

Britney Spears
The Super Bowl had plenty of Britney, but the XFL didn't have enough.
By the time the last lap dance was performed at the Gold Club, the last book cooked by baseball's auditors and the last verse of "God Bless America" sung at the stadium, most fans probably had worse migraines than that pigeon did after meeting Randy Johnson's fastball.

In fact, with so much going on this year, you might have forgotten these moments ...

Jan. 1: New Yorkers usher in 2001 in their traditional method ... gathering by the thousands to watch Derek Jeter sprint across Times Square and relay the New Year's ball with a no-look shovel pass to Dick Clark.

Jan. 27: In the final minutes before kickoff of Super Bowl XXXV, patriotic Americans nationwide stand in rapt attention as they watch a Marine color guard solemnly carry Britney Spears' pants onto the field. The Ravens easily beat the Giants, only to struggle while trying to carry Baltimore coach Brian Billick's ego off the field. Linebacker Ray Lewis is named the game MVP despite pleading guilty to obstructing the halftime show.

Feb. 3: The XFL's season-opener draws huge ratings, but viewership quickly tumbles when fans realize that neither Britney nor her pants are going to perform during halftime.

Feb. 12: Millions of computer users receive the Anna Kournikova virus, a worm that attaches itself to a computer hard-drive, then does nothing but sit around and look gorgeous.

Feb. 15: The three-time defending champion Yankees open spring training by voting on World Series shares. Jeter, however, misses the first week after straining a hamstring while putting his pants on two legs at a time.

Rob Dibble
ESPN Radio's Rob Dibble became the butt of many jokes after he lost his bet over whether Ichiro would win the batting title.
March 3: ESPN analyst Rob Dibble promises to run naked through Times Square if Japanese rookie Ichiro leads the league in batting. A Japanese magazine immediately offers $2 million for a naked photo of Dibble.

March 12: Michael Jordan denies rumors that he is contemplating another comeback, saying, "There's a 99.9 percent chance that I will stay retired." Jordan also says it's 2-1, against, that the sun will rise in the east.

March 13: Dibble promises to run naked through Times Square if Jordan comes out of retirement.

April 2: After Duke beats Arizona 82-72 to win the Final Four, Jordan lists the Blue Devils as 10-point underdogs.

ESPN Baby
It's OK to love ESPN, but don't name your kids after us.
April 3: Jason Curiel of San Antonio admits to national reporters that he named his son "Espn" after his favorite cable channel.

Sadly, that is a true story (though we at ESPN appreciate the gesture).

And in a related story, Shawn Kemp admits that he has named his newest illegitimate child after his favorite channel. SpectraVision Kemp weighed in at 10 pounds, 2 ounces.

April 24: Two days after the dramatic Million Dollar Bowl championship game, XFL commissioner Vince McMahon announces a controversial contraction plan. In order to solve the league's financial problems, McMahon reduces the number of XFL teams from eight to zero.

April 25: Los Angeles Xtreme coach Al Lugenbill says he should have known the XFL was doomed when his team became the only league champions not to be invited to the White House.

Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon's XFL contraction plan went even further than Bud Selig's.
May 3: Shaquille O'Neal is forced into a public retraction and apology after he tells a Los Angeles radio station that he slept with Cindy Crawford, Venus Williams, "Out" magazine editor Brendan Lemon, Ridgefield Press film critic David Manning and Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary.

May 15: President Bush's Little League field on the White House lawn draws criticism when reporters discover an old ad showing several of the current players endorsing Chesterfield cigarettes.

May 20: Toronto's Vince Carter misses a morning shoot-around before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals so he can fly to North Carolina for graduation ceremonies. The diploma is Carter's second, having already been awarded a degree from the University of Minnesota when then-Gophers coach Clem Haskins recruited him as a high school senior in 1995.

May 31: Following Milwaukee's narrow loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Ray Allen claims the NBA has conspired to rig the playoffs so the biggest markets get into the finals. Commissioner David Stern calls the accusations ludicrous, then fines Allen $50,000 and instructs CIA operatives to take the player to the secret Nevada desert laboratories where they erase his memory, implant a global positioning chip at the base of his skull and replace his precious bodily fluids with fluoridated water.

June 22: After Barry Bonds hits his 35th home run, collector Todd McFarlane's hair begins falling out in clumps.

Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds' record chase was a yearlong torment for collector Todd McFarlane.
June 23: Dibble promises to run naked through Times Square if Bonds breaks McGwire's home run record.

July 6: The International Olympics Committee awards Beijing the 2008 Olympics and then awards Khandahar the 2004 Paralympics.

July 25: Ian Woosnam narrowly loses the British Open after he is assessed a two-stroke penalty when his caddie, Miles Byrne, accidentally puts too many clubs in his bag. When Woosnam fires the caddie shortly afterward, the Bowl Championship Series hires Byrnes to run its computer system.

Aug. 31: Danny Almonte is forced to admit he is too old to play Little League when Notre Dame officials discover that George O'Leary has listed him as a reference on his résumé, saying the two were teammates for three years at the University of New Hampshire.

Sept. 14: The NFL cancels its entire weekend of games out of respect for Randy Moss, who says he doesn't feel like playing.

Sept. 15: Amid growing concern over the chain of command following the terrorist attacks, vice-president Dick Cheney goes into hiding by purchasing box seats to the remaining Montreal Expos home games.

Sept. 20: With increased airport security in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, long lines form at terminals throughout the country. The Yankees are delayed so long that they miss their flight when most of the players make the mistake of getting behind Don Zimmer in the metal-detector line.

Oct. 5: After Bonds breaks McGwire's record, President Bush phones to congratulate the new home run king. Bonds puts the president on hold for half an hour, then sneaks out the back of the clubhouse.

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter's heads-up attitude saved the Yankees on more than one occasion.
Oct. 11: After the Yankees lose the first two games of their series with the Athletics, Dibble says he will run naked through Times Square if New York reaches the World Series.

Oct. 12: Derek Jeter revives the Yankees' playoff hopes during the flight from New York when he takes Shane Spencer's wild throw over Omaha and completes a perfect relay toss to catcher Jorge Posada in Oakland to gun down Jeremy Giambi.

Oct. 15: The Yankees complete a dramatic comeback against the Athletics when they sign Jason Giambi to a $120 million contract during the seventh-inning stretch of Game 5.

Oct. 30: A huge night of sports in New York -- Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium and the first game of Michael Jordan's comeback at Madison Square Garden. President Bush appears at both games, wearing a bulletproof vest while he throws out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium and wearing a rainbow wig while holding a sign that reads, "John 3:16" at the Garden.

Oct. 31: Game 4 of the World Series ends in dramatic fashion shortly after midnight when Derek Jeter steps to the plate in the 11th inning and commissioner Bud Selig abruptly contracts the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Nov. 2: Sevilla midfielder Francisco Gallardo celebrates a goal by biting his teammate's genitals.

Sadly, I'm not making that up.

Nov. 3: Sevilla suddenly goes into a prolonged scoring drought.

Michael Jordan
The bubble burst on most of Michael Jordan's predictions in 2001.
Nov. 6: Voter turnouts approach lows across the nation, because newly patriotic Americans are too busy chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!" and singing "God Bless America" at stadiums throughout the country.

Nov. 10: The U.S. government offers $25 million for its most wanted man, Osama bin Laden. Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks instinctively counters with a $252 million, 10-year offer.

Nov. 16: Michael Lasseter causes a three-hour shutdown at the Atlanta airport when he rushes past security so that he wouldn't miss his flight for the Georgia-Ole Miss game.

And yes, this really happened.

Nov. 17: Lasseter makes another unbelievably foolish mistake when he switches the Fulton County correctional facility prisoner's lounge TV to the Georgia-Ole Miss game without permission from his fellow inmates.

Dec. 3: Following months of hype and speculation, inventor Dean Kamen unveils the Segway Human Transporter, a battery-power, gyroscope-controlled scooter that some claim will revolutionize mass transportation, lower our dependence on fossil fuels and alter the way cities are built. The PGA Tour responds swiftly, banning their use by Casey Martin.

Rob Dibble
Dibble is a little tuckered out after all that running.
Dec. 10: The final BCS standings are announced, and No.1 Miami is inexplicably matched in the Rose Bowl against the 1978 Crimson Tide. Jordan immediately lists Alabama as a two-touchdown favorite.

Dec. 14: Five days after taking the Notre Dame coaching job, George O'Leary resigns when Ridgefield Press reporter David Manning reports that O'Leary's résumé falsely stated that while completing his Masters at NYU, he slept with Cindy Crawford and Venus Williams.

Dec. 29: The 2001 years ends abruptly when Bud Selig abruptly contracts the year by two days. Nonetheless, resilient New Yorkers ring out the year by again gathering in Times Square where they thank God for their blessings and solemnly raise a toast to Rob Dibble while he runs through the intersection naked.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for Page 2.