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Sex and sports don't mix

Many moons ago, in one of the more memorable sports movies of all time, Rocky Balboa was warned by his crusty trainer to lay off the ladies if he wanted to win his big bout with Apollo Creed. "Women weaken legs!" hissed the venerable Mickey, who was played by the marvelously wizened Burgess Meredith.

Those words have been pretty much gospel in the wonderful world of sports, though athletes rarely take 'em to heart. Exhibit A is one Alex Rodriguez, who has been wallowing in a slump that many attribute to his recent hip surgery or perhaps his swearing off the performance-enhancing emoluments he copped to using in the past. But this space thinks the real reason can be found in this era's ultimate source of inside info: the gossip pages.

On Sunday, the New York Post ran a zesty little item that suggested the A-Rod has been worn out by his dalliance with actress Kate Hudson, with whom he was seen painting South Beach various shades of red until the wee hours of the morn the night before a game against the Marlins. Makes sense. In the past year or so, A-Rod has reportedly been linked to Hudson, Madonna, a stripper and assorted other spirited fillies. So no wonder he's been flirting with the Mendoza line and needs days off. But it's not like A-Rod's any different than most pro athletes. Given the amount of attention they attract from the fairer sex, it's a wonder these randy lads can stand up at all, let alone play a sport at peak performance.

If you still doubt the effects of carousing before a match, we present Exhibit B: Egypt's Confederations Cup soccer team is fending off charges that it failed to score and got bounced from the tournament by the U.S. on Sunday because it had left its energy and stamina with a bevy of Italian streetwalkers with whom these swarthy men of virtue celebrated a previous win. "The players have been really subjected to terrible damage in Egypt and they are in a very bad mood right now due to the false allegations that were published in the newspapers here," said a team spokesman.

If only they'd listened to old Mickey...

Spicy chatter in the wonderful world of tennis where broadcaster Michael Stich raised some dust with his observation that the women's portion of the Wimbledon tournament is really only a big peep show complete with prurient grunting on the part of the often comely participants. As one might expect, Stich is now sleeping on the public sofa, so to speak, for his unseemly remarks. "Unfortunately, commentary about female tennis players isn't always about their skill on court," Harriet Foxwell of the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation has lamented, and rightly so. But such commentary from the male segment of the media and citizenry will continue until women's tennis is populated entirely by battle axes whose appearance can turn a man to stone.

If you are the proud owner of a Y chromosome and feeling oppressed, then you can take heart in the recent courtroom triumph of Alfred G. Rava, an attorney who successfully sued the Oakland A's for failing to hand him a plaid sun hat at a game on Mother's Day in 2004. Apparently, the fetching headwear was made available only to the first 7,500 women through the gates. Rava screamed sex discrimination, filed a class action suit, and bagged a tidy $510,000.

Lawd knows what he'll do when he gets wind of the Hudson Valley Renegades' "Ladies Night: A Ball-Free Ballgame" on July 7. The Tampa Bay Rays' New York-Penn League affiliate will not allow males into Dutchess Stadium until the fifth inning of the team's tilt with the Staten Island Yankees. Hopefully, a planned tailgate party will keep the menfolk from storming the gates with torches ablaze, although we can imagine Mr. Rava boldly charging with legal brief in twitching hand. Apparently, he's making a career out of this kind of thing.

It is disconcerting enough to this hockey-lovin' space that such a great game is often treated like a rented redheaded stepchild by the vast majority of the American sporting public. It was even more galling to read that 19 NHL players were allegedly bilked by a sharpie who took $25 million of their investment dough and, instead of using it to erect a Mexican golf resort as they expected, lavished major league stars such as Roger Clemens, Reggie Jackson and Pete Rose with clambakes populated by porn stars, trollops, hussies and courtesans. As if major league stars need help acquiring such entertainment. But there's no need to shed a tear for the ice men, who do quite well on their own when it comes to hormonal pursuits. Witness Rangers bad boy Sean Averylocking pieholes withHilary Rhoda, who had apparently sacked new New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez. Avery, who has been famously linked to Elisha Cuthbert and Rachel Hunter, does pretty good for someone who looks like an extra from Revenge of the Nerds and acts like Chucky from Child's Play.

One of the best things about watching sports talk TV and highlight shows are the commercials. Personal favorites of this space include the demented dude in the Enzyte "male enhancement" ads, and Giuseppe Franco, who seems to have disappeared after months of pitching the virtues of a mop-restorer called Procede while avidly disavowing any knowledge of the company that makes it. But for our samoleons, no one beats Vince Shlomi, the wild-eyed "Slap Chop" pitchman who looks like he stuck his finger on a light socket or was separated at birth from Bill The Cat, from the old Bloom County comic strip.

This space was saddened to learn that ol' Vince was recently involved in a head-on car crash in Miami Beach, where even he seems to have great trouble keeping his schnozz clean. In February, Shlomi had a little run-in with a lady of the night he claims bit his tongue and refused to let go. One suspects she was seeking a refund.

Apparently the search for a new mascot for The College of William and Mary has yielded some inspiring ideas, among them an asparagus stalk that would presumably rival the Stanford Tree for top sideline vegetable honors. This institution of higher learning in Virginia, whose teams go by the Tribe even after ditching the old Indians moniker, has prompted suggestion for a green blob called Colonel Ebirt (Tribe spelled backwards). For the record, this space casts its plaid sun hat into the asparagus bin.

So what's the connection between Indians and asparagus? Some fun facts to know and tell: Asparagus has been used since ancient times as a vegetable and medicine, due io its diuretic properties and strange propensity to, as literary big wig (or former Canadiens defenseman) Marcel Proust put it, "transform my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume." Its growing season runs from April to June, but its fragrance, firmness and flavor can't be beat in May. Spears should be straight and green, stems shiny, plump, and smooth. Asparagus can also be pickled -- just like the Stamford Tree.

With Iran in the news, this space pauses to recall the 1989 fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who demanded the head of author Salman Rushdie on a bed of rice for penning the supposedly blasphemous Satanic Verses. Rushdie had to go underground and has spent years dodging and outfoxing assassins while in the constant company of bodyguards. So whatever became of ol' Salman, you ask? Well, according to our potted plant down at local law enforcement in Beantown, Rushdie was given a new name -- Peter Chiarelli -- and gig as general manager of the Boston Bruins, a team that has taken on a distinct literary quality in recent years. And, hey, photos don't lie, right? Neither do we . . . well, not intentionally...

Okay, here you are at the end of the column and your mind is probably reeling. You may even be sputtering and clawing your eyes. Well, we'd gladly refund your time, but we're a little light at the moment. So why not enjoy the unprecedented opportunity to speak what's left of your mind by placing your thoughts, or your laundry, in the handy space-time portal on the right? The proprietor will respond as promptly and politely as his medication allows. Please indicate if you want your boxers starched. Smaller dogs will be dry cleaned.

Thank you.

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