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Monday, February 18, 2002
Updated: February 19, 12:14 PM ET
Fur-get about it

By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

The best part about setting up The Cooler in Salt Lake City for a fortnight? That's easy -- watching Johnny hit on Mormon chicks.

Marie-Reine Le Gougne
Fur was flying in figure skating, thanks to Marie-Reine Le Gougne.
The worst part? Watching Johnny -- you remember him, the shoeshine guy from the old "Police Squad!" episodes -- inject himself into the sacred Olympic Games.

I knew there would be trouble when I saw Johnny, clad in his Dubai Olympic parka -- made by Roots -- escorting fur coat-clad French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne to an all-night Utah dance club shortly after the opening ceremonies.

Sure enough, Le Gougne winds up on the front page of every newspaper from Provo to Perth. And sure enough, I later saw Johnny accepting a briefcase full of unmarked bills from a Russian judge in a subterranean parking garage.

"Follow the money, Murph," Johnny said, checking his Palm Pilot to see where and when he and Jonny Moseley were hooking up with Jamie Salé and a girlfriend she promised was cute. Johnny told me he made Jamie promise she'd wear a short skirt.

I shook my head in disapproval, wondering what the ancient Greeks would think of all this.

I've got a pretty good idea.

If Zeus could be contacted through IMG, he might issue a quoth along these lines:

That's what you get, ice skating fans. Now pass the ambrosia.

On this one, I'm with Zeus. You put nine judges in fur coats rinkside and ask them to determine your sport's champion ... you're asking for big trouble.

Are ice skaters phenomenal athletes? Absolutely. Would I immediately tear ankle ligaments if I laced up a skate? Absolutely. Is their sport compelling? Quite often.

Sale & Pelletier
Jamie Salé, with partner David Pelletier, gets perfect sixes for her wardrobe.
Does Jamie Salé look dynamite in a short skirt?

Don't ask stupid questions.

Another set of questions then:

Is it a sport if a woman in a fur coat can vote on where you place? Questionable. Is it a sport if you can protest because you don't like the Fur Coat Woman's vote? Questionable. Is it a sport if you get a gold medal because you whipped up enough of a frenzy against the Fur Coat Woman? Highly questionable.

Does Jamie Salé look dynamite in a short skirt?

We've gone over this.

In conclusion: Allowing Fur Coat Woman to decide a gold medal -- bad. Allowing the court of public opinion to force a change of gold medal -- bad. Sports that aren't decided by scoreboards, but rather by ballots -- bad.

Jamie Salé -- good.

Forthwith, then, to the List of Five:

1. That wipeout in speed skating
Apolo Anton Ohno
Who can forget that wacky short-track race when all the skaters fell down?
There it was -- the much-anticipated wipeout. Bummer for Apolo Ohno. But it immediately proved my boy T.C.'s theory: For those of us who don't have the last name Klammer, the Winter Games can be boiled down to one riveting reason to watch -- Is somebody going to eat it in the next few seconds?

Skiing, ski jumping, figure skating, bobsledding, speedskating -- let's face it, if we're not Norwegian, we're watching to see if someone eats it. About five dudes ate it on Saturday night, and some freaking Aussie wound up winning a gold medal. This is somewhat akin to a Mormon winning a drinking contest against an Irishman and a Russian.

The only other reason to watch speed skating: The off-chance that a 1970s version of Raquel Welch will show up to compete for the Kansas City Bombers. This is Roller Derby on ice, people. And can you imagine a 1970s Raquel Welch in one of those bodysuits?

Gold medals for everyone!

2. Live concerts at the Games
Sale and Pelletier
David Pelletier and Jamie Salé liven up a Barenaked Ladies concert at the Olympics.
Am I being a wet blanket when I say that it seems a little Super Bowl halftime show-ish of the Olympics to put on live concerts? (Quick side note: U2 might have single-handedly saved the Super Bowl halftime concept with that performance in New Orleans. Well done, lads. You can always count on the Irish to come through.)

At the very least, it is NBC's way of telling my parents' generation: We Do Not Want Your Viewership. Why should my dear sweet Mom, all of 71 years, be subjected to Smashmouth's Steve Harwell and his scratchy-voiced cow yodeling, when all she wants is a little Jim McKay docudrama on some heartwarming Olympic tale about a U.S. biathlon skier who overcame an allergy to pine trees to finish 14th, best in U.S. history? If Led Zeppelin wasn't good enough to play the 1976 Winter Games at Innsbruck, if the Clash wasn't good enough to play the '80 Lake Placid Games, and if the English Beat wasn't good enough to play the '84 Sarajevo Games ... then don't give me Sheryl Crow in Salt Lake.

But like I said, maybe I'm just being a snowy-wet blanket here.

3. Can you go home again?
Lady Luck found yours truly back in L.A. this week, where I conned an old UCLA sports info chum into scoring me a courtside seat for the Arizona-UCLA tilt at Pauley.

Ah, the memories.

The fight song, the 8-clap, the enduringly tasteful UCLA unis ... the epic sight of The Wizard himself, 91 years young, sitting behind the UCLA bench. John Wooden: Add him to that short list of Things American Culture Can Be Proud Of, up there with Springsteen, Sinatra and the church of baseball.

Jason Kapono
Jason Kapono, left, helped lift UCLA past Arizona 77-76 Thursday.
(Side note: Bill Walton was there. Love that guy. Still remember his emotional speech when they retired his jersey in 1990. It should be inscribed in stone and placed at the main entrance to Pauley. It was poetry. Then again, he was there to watch his son play great ball for Arizona. Come on, Luke Walton! You're killing me!)

Anyway, the plucky lads beat 'Zona, which was nice, because it's always good to think of Lute Olson getting that Bite-into-the-lemon look. Out into the Westwood night I went, the February air a little chilly for L.A. Fans streamed into the Village, and I scooped up a meal and headed for a nightcap at Maloney's, the watering hole for these new kids that wasn't even there when I went to school.

There I was. Alone. Thirty-four years old. Surrounded by 21-year-olds.

Came down from my high real quick. Nothing like getting the "Is he a narc?" look from a gaggle of coeds. I might as well have worn a blue windbreaker that read "FBI" on the back. Two pops, and I was out of there.

Meanwhile, Steve Lavin took the gag two days later vs. Arizona State. I can only imagine the Wizard sitting in his seat, wondering why it is his fate to play Yoda to Lavin's Darth Vader.

What a downer.

4. My new golf slogan
Another West Coast Swing Sunday, another Gack Job down the stretch. If it was hard to watch Pat Perez tear up the turf on the Monterey Peninsula at the AT&T, and if it was harder to watch J.L. Lewis three-putt with a dead look on his face at Torrey Pines, it became excruciatingly hard to watch good guy Scott McCarron throw up two bogeys in his last three holes and fall on his long putter at Riviera.

Marketing idea: The PGA Tour can start stringing together highlight reels of all the bogeys, snowmen and three-putts and flash "These Guys Are Chokers" across a black screen with that familiar Tour logo. Might bring the Tour players in touch with the common man.

Just a thought.

5. Spring training hath begun
And that, my friends, is balm on all wounds.

I can't think of a better note on which to close.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.