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Thursday, March 14, 2002
Go Underground for heart of D.C. sports

By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

Like politics, most of the juicier items involving scandalous intrigue in big-time D.C. sports are conducted inside billowing clouds of diversionary public relations, while behind closed doors.

  You know Sweet Bobby D. A baby-faced, willowy, 6-7 forward, Bobby Dandridge of Norfolk State helped shoot the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA title in 1971 with the O and Big Lew. Then as a grizzled, bearded, incommunicado jazz soloist with the Bullets, he won Final Victory with the Bullets in 1978. D's sweet j ranks with Sam Jones, Dave Bing, Lou Hudson, Jerry West and Joe Dumars.  
  

The Public Face has little to do with Real Deal.

In other words, Whatever.

In the special interests of the PACs, lobbyists and Beltway bobble-heads everywhere, the following are one twisted correspondent's look at enduring Washington Underground Sports Urban Legends.

Sweet Bobby D
Most remember that the Washington Bullets did too win the NBA title once, in 1978, though it was hard to tell due of that eerie, tomblike lighting in the Cap Centre. (One reason Abe Pollin moved to MCI Center was so everybody could freaking see). For this one-time-only title, most locals credit workhorses Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld, and coach Dick Motta, along with point guard Kevin Porter, also known for a time as the Ugliest Man in the NBA. (Watching them play was like watching gears grind.)

But it was the sweet j of Sweet Bobby D. true aficionados recall. You know Sweet Bobby D. A baby-faced, willowy, 6-7 forward, Bobby Dandridge of Norfolk State helped shoot the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA title in 1971 with the O and Big Lew. Then as a grizzled, bearded, incommunicado jazz soloist with the Bullets, he won Final Victory with the Bullets in 1978. D's sweet j ranks with Sam Jones, Dave Bing, Lou Hudson, Jerry West and Joe Dumars. Allen Iverson over at G'Town replaced Sweet Bobby D. as Solo Instrumentalist Gunslinger Who Came To D.C from Down the Way in Hampton. You can't argue with Alley I.'s game.

But you can think of this: Who would post whose narrow butt up?

Monte Coleman, Dave Butz and Alvoid Mays
Frederick Jones
Monte Coleman was underrated at LB, but he does have three Super Bowl rings.
Think Redskins, you normally think of, say, Jack Kent Cooke stretching the limits of Roget's thesarus, dating if not marrying wild Brazilian women who have INS issues when they aren't dragging boyfriends behind sports cars through the streets of Georgetown. Or of Sonny, being Sonny. Or Riggo and diesel horns groaning at the same time. Or Kenny Houston cracking open helmets like so many walnuts. D. Green running down Tony Dorsett; George Starke, blocking Too Tall and dating Eleanor Mondale. Counter-Trey, Timmy (They Call Me Mr.) Smith, Douggie Unconscious, or Art Monk, Redskin for He Who Goes Over Middle In Tatanka Stampede.

But Monte Coleman was the real bomb diggity. He was a looong-time Redskin linebacker who played more games at linebacker than any other Redskin in history. Coleman was one of the original stuff-run, edge-rush, cover-back school of new-wave LBs. Played in parts of three decades, '70s, '80, '90s. Hollywood Henderson without all that yap. Coleman had reverses put in for him by Joe Gibbs too. Monte cashed three winning Super Bowl checks.

Monte Coleman was like, Lawrence Taylor, South.

Of course it might be hard to convince Joe Theismann's tibia, fibula and every other bone in his body on that bit of speculation.

Defensive Kitchen Fixture Butz was Originator of the Really Big Shoe. He supposedly wore a size 19-EEEEEK!

Scouted during the Mesozoic Age, Butz played in the '80s and helped originate the position of D-Tackle As Immovable Object. Offpsring include Tony "Goose" Siragusa, Gilbert "Jabba" Brown.

Butz also makes this list because of his sense of humor. Nothing wrong with ethnic humor. Some of that stuff is the funniest stuff because it riffs and resonates on the true and the real. That's what makes humor funny. Because it's true, see. But if it doesn't do that (see George Karl), then it becomes lame ethnic humor, and nothing is worse than that. Butz retired the Lame Ethnic Humor award by being credited with relating a joke that somehow included loose shoes, tight, um, arrears and the Brotherhood of Monte Coleman.

Alvoid Mays was a Redskin nickel back, a cover guy, during the late '80s and '90s. He was from the Florida panhandle and a university in West Virginia. He makes it as a D.C. Urban Legend because Alvoid would save his best plays for the precise Redskin playoffs games John Madden happened to do on national TV.

Uncanny. Did it every year. Alvoid, who had barely made the stat sheets all year long, would be standing around a pile, and a ball would pop out into his arms. Or Emmitt Thomas would call a blitz off the slot, and it would be Alvoid sacking Jim Kelly in the Super Bowl -- his one sack of the year. Pat Summerall would said, "Al-Void-Mays." Madden would say, "Alvoid Mays is always around the football, isn't he? That's no accident. I like a guy like Alvoid Mays. He's the kind of guy I want on the field." Later on, Alvoid's new-found friends -- and I include myself in that number -- would congratulate him, not on passes defensed, but on being hooked up by Madden on national TV. Once Madden annoints a guy, a guy stays anointed, if John has anything yo say about it, and he does. Alvoid got 10 years in this way, without Deionizing his chassis.

Alvoid is legend. On a team with maybe the most offensive team nickname in history, he had the least offensive nickname ever.

His friends and teammates called him "Void."

I loved Void. Just wish I could remember his jersey number.

Michael Jackson
Epitome of Georgetown. Most people uninitiated think of, say, Patrick Ewing as such. Maybe they think of the Baltimore Dunbar Expatriate Poets, David Wingate and Reggie Williams. Or they think of smoke coming out of Michael Graham's nostrils. But for the down, Georgetown was epitomized by point Michael Jackson. Not that Michael Jackson, although it would've been interesting to see how far Big Bad John would've gotten, trying to get the King of Pop to play hardnose D and stick tight to opposing quick and firm-fleshed young men. Come to think of it, it may not have been much of a stretch for Jacko.

  On court, Mike Jackson was 6-1, kind of thick and chunky, but quick. Not fast, necessarily. Quick. Not fast from A to D. But quicker from A to B. Solid. Better to not be knocked off the ball in practice by Gene Smith.  
  

But the Mike Jackson we're talking about, D.C. Michael Jackson, was a four-year starter at point guard between the fall of 1982 and 1986 at G'Town, after coming from out of Reston before Reston was there. Started two national title games. Engaging personality, fun, full of life, impossible to back down or intimidate. Laughed at your intimidation. Hard for him to adhere to the No Freshman Interviews edict hung around Hoya necks like scarlet A's.

On court, Mike Jackson was 6-1, kind of thick and chunky, but quick. Not fast, necessarily. Quick. Not fast from A to D. But quicker from A to B. Solid. Better to not be knocked off the ball in practice by Gene Smith. Big John didn't like point guards. Liked point rocks. Bay-Bay Duren, Smith, Mike Jackson.

In the 1984 NCAA semifinal against Kentucky in Seattle, in an early Hoya offensive set, 7-0 Sam Bowie, the man about to be picked in that year's NBA draft by Portland instead of Michael Jordan, said out loud, "I got him, I got him," to his teammates as Jackson held the ball on the deep left and Sam flexed out against him. Then, tor some reason, Sam sloughed off MJ, down inside on Ewing. Mike Jackson muffled his incredulity -- you giving me that? -- then hit one of a series of unerring jump shots, then got into the storied Hoya full-court pressure, all while smiling and reminding Bowie of his famous last words: "You got me, Sam. You got me, all right."

Mike Jackson was a good-looking guy. If he'd been a Redskin instead of a Hoya, he'd be mayor by now. Never would have heard of Anthony Williams. Who's Anthony Williams? Never mind.

Mike Jackson had a cup of coffee in the NBA, then settled into a media corporation. Thought he might be the next Kimberly Belton. Belton was a former great college hooper at Stanford, but made his bones and his living as a television producer. Last I heard, Mike was down in Atlanta, biding his time, waiting for Anthony Williams to make the mistake of campaigning for Mike Tyson.

Well, in the meantime, we ain't forgot you, MJ.

You've got our vote.

Underground hoops: The Stage I, II & II
Victor Page
Ex-Hoya Victor Page's lefty game lit up ballers behind the stage at McDonough arena.
Stage I is the little hidden court behind the stage at McDonough arena at Georgetown. Close quarters. Warmup games of three-on-three often conducted while the Jabbor Kenner League games are being played out on the formal McDonough court. Many dudes have been busted behind the stage. That's where Georgetown assistant coaches smile tight little smiles and evaluate talent. Victor Page used to throw down on borderline NBA types in there. Killing 'em. Victor was hard, had mad lefty game. Problem is, his handle-game was too lefty. Left early from Georgetown to go hardship. That was a beginning of finding out what hardship is really all about.

Stage II is a court at an anonymous school just up the street from another all-new Marriott; it used to be the Washington Sheraton, off Connecticut Avenue, in Woodley Park. It's a bucolic neighborhood where you can still get torched just like it's cracked asphalt in the 'hood, if you are in the mood for it. If you've got the time, they've got the deer. You can get in on a run. Until your tongue hangs out. You might be going up against, say, a young Jerome "Junkyard Dog" Williams, or a young Don Reid, or a young Mike Sweetney, or the latest African or Yugoslavian import on his way to being shipped out to Flint Hill Prep or somewhere.

They're playing, but they ain't playing. Not up in there.

Stage III is the outdoor chain-net courts on Northwest, from the wilds of Takoma down to Cardozo High, which has the best view of the flatlands of Washington in the entire city. Just go north up 13th Street, three blocks over and maybe two miles up from the White House, climb that hill, look back, and you can see hoop played among the vistas. That was Moochie Norris' run.

Sam Lacy
Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon are the Best Show in Town. They are like, Best of Laurel & Hardy Meets "Monday Night Football," or like, Mr. Cosell Goes to Washington, and teams up with Mr. What-If-Buddha-Had-A-Love-Child-With-Harold- Washington-Who-Then-Turned-Out-To-Be-An-Incredibly-Nice Guy. They're hot, they're happenin', they can love you 10,000 ways.

Well, we could talk hot sports shows called "PTI" and men's fashions all day, and one day maybe we will, but underground D.C. has other sporting jibs who can uncoil on the unsuspecting.

  Sam Lacy is the revered 95-year-old columnist who has been writing for 60-odd years for the Afro-American newspapers in Baltimore and Washington. Until recently, Sam made the drive from D.C. to Baltimore by himself, every day. Dared you to stop him. Once was about to drive up, then said maybe he'd wait an hour. "Why wait, Sam. Traffic?" "No," said Sam. "Stroke."  
  

One is Sam Lacy, the revered 95-year-old columnist who has been writing for 60-odd years for the Afro-American newspapers in Baltimore and Washington. Until recently, Sam made the drive from D.C. to Baltimore by himself, every day. Dared you to stop him. Once was about to drive up, then said maybe he'd wait an hour. "Why wait, Sam. Traffic?" "No," said Sam. "Stroke."

Legend has it Sam wrote his best column in years that day.

Sam's son writes a column now. He's become venerable and gray. The son, not Sam. So you know what that makes Sam. Damn near eternal. Sam remembers as a boy being sent out from home in the Shaw neighborhood to the local baseball yard, to run errands and buy cigarettes for Chick Gandel with the Washington Senators Baseball Club. The same Chick later became famous as one of the Chicago "Black Sox." Sam remembers seeing his father waving his beloved I SAW BIG TRAIN PITCH pennant along U Street at the annual Senators parade to Griffith Stadium, and getting spit on for his troubles. Later, newspaperman Sam sat up late and discussed big-league diplomatic relations with Jackie Robinson, back when the Dodger rookie would just as soon as not have implanted his spikes into a heckling second-baseman's deep-tissue thigh muscle.

Sam was a cooler head, and prevailed.

Sam ... Sam ... he's a work of art.

Dodge Park Barber Shop
The Shop is just off Landover Road, not far from USAir Arena. The Shop is run by ex-G'Town baller and current Orlando Magic muscle Don Reid's dad, William Reid. And more pro ballers have gotten their hair cut per capita here than at any other real barber shop around town. It was Allen Iverson's first stop when he hit town -- of course, Alley I.'s current 'do makes barber shops obsolete, at least until the next style cycle occurs. To find out the straight real about local ball, or to get a good shape-up and temple fade, ask for Kevin, Cairo or Joe.

DuPont Circle chess
Don't bring money you can't afford to lose. I don't care how good a game you think you've got. You may have, but ever play on a 30-second clock, with a park bench full of observers commenting on your every flinch, all the while dodging pigeons on leisurely bombing runs? Ten games are going here on a decent spring morning. Money does change hands.

The characters in "Fresh" would do well to break even here.

Go. But you were warned.

Congressional Mall Frisbee Pull
We saved the best for last. Surefire recipe for the Congressional Mall Frisbee Pull. Take one Frisbee, preferably day-glo orange, banana-citrus yellow or Barney-death's head purple, the better to be seen against the backdrop of the Capitol Rotunda and the Washington Monument.

Cast your Frisbee into group of suitable females.

Frisbee will flush one out for sure.

Pretend to be injured, so that she'll have to walk it back over.

Mix well.

Bake.

Not Shake n' Bake.

But Archie Clark, he's from over this way, too.

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."