Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Where would we be without technology?
By Chris Connelly Special to Page 2
I'm late on almost everything these days -- "Stacy's Mom," Kevin Harlan, "Capturing the Friedmans," Elisha Cuthbert -- but I was early on Joe Horn.
Back when I was hosting "Unscripted," we did five minutes with Joe Horn on the set in New Orleans. Five minutes that -- for us, anyway -- was the comedic equivalent of Martin Short, Robin Williams and Calvin Trillin on the old "The Tonight Show," or Fred Willard on anything. Rest assured it had nothing to do with me. I just lobbed in the questions, and Joe responded with the Mantle & Maris of sports-talk-show answers: "Joe Horn did not sleep with Willie Roaf's wife." And, "Joe Horn is not the father of Willie Roaf's baby."
Joe Horn's taking advantage of his free nights and weekends.
It was the best use of the third person since Harry Lime. When my next question offered praise for another player, Joe's response was -- of course it was! -- "Well, he can play on Joe Horn's team."
By that point, ESPN really should have given him the rest of the show to host. (Though I'd have missed getting to ask Rebecca Romijn-Stamos for her Super Bowl pick. She explained that she knew absolutely nothing about sports. I pointed out she'd been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Her response: "I was wearing a bikini!" She did predict that U2 would give a great halftime show, which turned out to be 100-percent correct.)
As you can imagine, I've had nothing but love for Joe Horn ever since. So it's delightful to see Joe's hilarious cell-phone stunt putting the perfect punctuation mark on Sports 2003, a year riddled with malfeasance, nearly all of it taking place or coming to light thanks to some kind of cutting-edge technology. Think this was the year of coaches, athletes and administrators behaving badly? Nope. This was the year we saw it, or heard about it, or gossiped about it online, in ways that might not have been possible 10 or 15 years ago. In 2003, sports really did Go To Tech in a hand-basket.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and surmise that Larry Eustachy and Mike Price are not the first coaches in collegiate history to do the things these two did. Eustachy, as far as I know, never groped a coed or got a beer for an underage kid, but he lost his job because those embarrassing (if PG-rated) photographs seemed to head for a desktop computer near you at twice the cyberspeed of the Paris Hilton tape. I think he got a raw deal, personally, but I knew his playbook was 15 years out of date when, in an effort to keep his job, he declared himself to be an alcoholic. So late-'80s.
In Price's case, the technology that did him in was the website -- drive-time sports radio in easy-to-use form no matter where you live. So that the story which began with the same we-can't-say-what-it-is mystery as this year's Royal Family brouhaha eventually became public in all of its humiliating glory.
Price's lawsuit against Sports Illustrated argues that the magazine didn't get the details of the story right -- but Price didn't lose his job because of the alleged details. He lost it because the Internet offered a place for fans to have a huge, derisive collective belly-laugh at the addled, boozy behavior he admitted to, and the way it reflected on the University of Alabama.
The BALCO investigation? There's no clearer example of Sketchier Living Through Chemistry. The Kobe investigation? Mike Tyson's accuser was a public figure, a beauty queen, and we didn't know half the things about her life we now know about Kobe's accuser, right down to her ridiculously-easy-to-find-on-the-web real name and address. The BCS mishegas? How many computers does it take to screw in a light bulb, or screw over a football program?
Sure, sometimes technology is a force for good. Think that assistant coach could have eavesdropped on Dave Bliss' scurrilous conversations about the late Patrick Dennehy without a micro-cassette recorder or something like it? And the amazing procedure known as a cochlear implant has enabled Rush Limbaugh to hear all about the good games Donovan McNabb has played the latter part of this season.
Nonetheless, if you want a Unified Theory for so much that went wrong this year in sports, it sure looks as though it was high technology paving 2003's low road. But that's nothing new to Joe Horn.
Chris Connelly is a regular contributor to Page 2.