I am going away. Taking a break. When the biggest news on the sports page is two boats sailing around a stick, it’s time to take a powder.

Besides, if I watch the Chicago Bulls win one more NBA title, I might jump off a ledge.

So I depart. Just for a while. In some businesses they call this a
“sabbatical” or a “leave of absence.” In our business they call it “last seen running down the hall in a diaper, screaming about deadlines.”

To be honest, I wanted to go quietly. But my boss said I should mention my departure in this column, just in case someone might miss me over the next couple of months, or, more likely, your pet parrot looks in the bottom of his cage one morning and doesn’t see me there.

He cares about animals, my boss.

Being one himself.

But I digress. Where will I go? That is a good question. It will be far away. A different time zone. A place where they don’t get “Love Connection.”

All I know is it’s time for a break. I try to live by two rules on this job: 1) Don’t get stale in your writing. 2) Use all your comp time.

Off I go.

Besides, I have been doing this column pretty much non-stop for seven years. I have seen the Pistons win two titles, the Lions win the NFC Central, the Red Wings win the Norris, the Wolverines win the NCAA basketball crown, Tommy Hearns leave Emanuel Steward, Jacques Demers leave coaching, and Tom Monaghan leave the planet Earth.

And now? Now the Pistons are done, the Red Wings are done, the Tigers will have a really big party if they ever reach .500. Football hasn’t started. Colleges are out. Our best young team, the Fab Five from Michigan, is bouncing around Europe like something out of a Gidget movie, losing to a bunch of teams whose names they can’t pronounce.

And the top story is the America’s Cup, two boats racing around a stick.

As they used to say about Slim Pickens, “Hmm, that’s slim pickens.” No butts about it

By the way, one story about the America’s Cup. Some of you might recall that I went to one five years and 8,741 lawsuits ago. The thing I remember most is how the Italian boat was quickly eliminated from competition, and no one knew why. Later we found out why. In between “tacking” — which is a yachtsman’s fancy way of saying “turn” — the Italian sailors, who were pretty bored with nothing to do but stand there hoping the ESPN cameras were on them, would light up cigarettes to pass the time. Then someone would yell “Tack!”
(or, in Italian, “Taco!”) and they would throw their cigarettes into the ocean and get to work.

Well. The other teams caught on to this and started watching the Italian boat in their binoculars. Whenever they saw the sailors throw their cigarettes in the water, they knew Italy was going to tack, and they beat them to it and won the race.

Great story, no? Only this year I see an Italian boat, Il Moro de Venezia, is in the finals against America.

Must have a no-smoking section.

Anyhow, much as I dearly love yacht racing — I would be out there on the high seas right this minute were it not for a pressing dental appointment — I would have to say, overall, our sports plate is a little empty now.

What better time for a break?

Did I mention the predictions? See you in the summer

Hey. You didn’t think I would leave without predictions, did you? I have been concentrating really, really hard, in between putting up my hammock, and I have determined everything that will happen while I am gone. So here it is:

WEEK 1: Chuck Daly is offered the New Jersey job, the LA job and the NBC job. Ron Rothstein is offered the Pistons job and bursts into tears. “It’s such a . . . surprise!” he sobs. The Red Wings want to trade players. The Tigers want to trade rosters. The Fab Five loses to a group of Somalian monks. Two boats sail around a stick.

WEEK 2: Your parrot really misses me.

WEEK 3: Chuck Daly is offered the head of production job at Paramount Studios. Ron Rothstein stops crying and orders all Italian suits removed from the locker room. The Fab Five loses to a group of Sherpa priests. Two boats sail around a stick.

WEEK 4: Your dog really misses me.

WEEK 5: The Chicago Bulls win the NBA championship in a dramatic seventh game after Phil Jackson jumps on court, grabs the referee’s whistle and starts making foul calls himself. Baseball cancels its All-Star Game because it has no stars left, only egos. The Red Wings and Tigers decide to trade with each other.

WEEK 6: I have no idea.

WEEK 7: This hammock is stuck. Can you . . .

WEEK 8: . . . give me a little help here?

WEEK 9: Summer Olympics.

There you have it. And now I go. Thanks for sticking with me. If something big happens, I might fall into this spot for a day. Otherwise, I plan on doing little more than finding a quiet corner of the world, giving a seven-year stretch, and dropping, head first, into a hammock.

Once in awhile, maybe I’ll tack.

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