Uncivil defense

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A lot of folks are all wee-wee'd up about the snarky outbursts by Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Michael Jordan, Kanye West, Joe Wilson, the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, assorted college football players, the lovely folks who vandalized Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin's lawn after that unfortunate Monday night loss to the Patriots, and more. It appears -- once again -- that Western Civilization is going to hell in lovely little handbasket, and even ESPN's Outside the Lines: First Report was moved on Tuesday to ask a panel of experts if our society is suffering a sudden loss of civility.

This space humbly wishes to ask: When were we ever civil?

This entire decade has been littered with talk show hosts shouting down and flushing guests and listeners, smack talk from athletes, celebs and polticians, plus pleasantries like Detroit's Malice In The Palace or Todd Bertuzzi's attack on Steve Moore. The '90s had Tonya Harding, fan riots in Denver, and Mike Tyson coming off the spool. The '80s were pretty much taken care of by Andrew Dice Clay, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, Bobby Knight and John McEnroe. The '70's had George and Billy, too, plus the rise of shock jocks on radio, and Kermit Washington nearly killing Rudy Tomjanovich during an on-court brawl. The 60's had riots and antiwar protests and Juan Marichal clubbing John Roseboro. The 50's had fans in Montreal tossing a riot after Rocket Richard was suspended, plus African American athletes serving as lightning rods for racists after Jackie Robinson arrived in the 1940s, a decade that featured a rather nasty World War...

We've barely skimmed the surface of any decade, and you can go back to mean old Ty Cobb receiving death threats and, probably, justifying them with his behavior in the wooly era around the turn of the century. Heck, you'll find riots and dust-ups and general rudeness carrying the days when Romans raced chariots. Which goes to prove there are no Good Old Days. As Bob Dylan sings, "It's all good."

From our MMA page comes the following Q&A with one Mr. Kimbo Slice. Whilst reading his responses, it occurred to this space that he was channeling the departed spirit of Casey "The Ol' Perfesser" Stengel. Contrast and compare:

Kimbo: Mentally, I don't let nothing get in the way of anything now. The difference with that fight was that Ken [Shamrock] didn't fight. So, mentally, I knew I wasn't gonna fight no more, so I kinda unwound. The fire blazed down. I had me a drink, and I was just chilling, and I said, 'Let's just go and watch the other fights.' And then when we got there it was like, 'Hey you're going to fight.' But mentally, I wasn't there anymore. When I walked to the cage with Seth, literally, I was going through the motions.

Casey: I had many years that I was not so successful as a ballplayer, as it is a game of skill. And then I was no doubt discharged by baseball in which I had to go back to the minor leagues as a manager, and after being in the minor leagues as a manager, I became a major league manager in several cities and was discharged, we call it "discharged," because there is no question I had to leave. And I returned to the minor leagues at Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Oakland, and then returned to the major leagues.

We see that three active NFL players -- Matt Birk (Ravens), Lofa Tutupu (Seahawks) and Sean Morey (Cardinals) -- have agreed to donate their gray matter to science, presumably after they're done with it. Yes, a good many people have expressed surprise that NFL players have brains, and that old wag Jay Leno observed that Brett Favre's won't be accepted because he's likely to change his mind and want it back. But in all seriousness, the Boston University/Sports Legacy Institute program for the study of brain injury is a worthy one that may even lead to a viable transplant for Pacman Jones and other seemingly hopeless denizens of police lineups and unsavory tabloid headlines.

The WNBA's Atlanta Dream need not feel alone or shame in the wake of their being booted out of Philips Arena by a Sesame Street extravaganza scheduled during the first round of the playoffs. Such is life among the stepchildren of the sports world. NHL teams like the New York Rangers certainly know what it's like. Even though they've long been a marquee tenant of the world famous Madison Square Garden, the Rangers have taken a back seat to a circus and even played Stanley Cup Final (!!!) "home games" in Toronto in 1950. Last season, the Penguins had to play rare back-to-back playoff games because of a Yanni gig at Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena. And in January, the Canucks will be forced into the longest road trip in NHL history -- six weeks and 14 games -- due to the Winter Olympic circus coming to Vancouver. Okay, being squeezed out by the Olympics won't quite fry your shorts like having to make way for Big Bird, but the NFL doesn't seem to have to put up with this stuff.

If Brett Favre and Claude Lemieux weren't enough evidence that the modern athlete never knows when to go away and stay away, we have Michael Jordan threatening a comeback and 41-year old firebrand Theoren Fleuryattempting a return to the NHL with the Calgary Flames after six years. (Lemieux's comeback with the Sharks last season at age 43 lasted all of 19 games before he decided to hang 'em back up, but never say never again, eh?).

Meanwhile, there are those who, in a manner of speaking, die and forget to lie down. Case in point: pitcher Mike Hampton, who went on the Houston Astros' DL this week for rotator cuff surgery that will keep him out next season. Thanks to groin, calf, elbow, oblique, hamstring, pectoral and shoulder woes (his eyes are all that remain unscathed), Hampton, 37, has managed to throw in all of 46 games since the start of 2005, having sat out all of 2006 and '07. What's really scary is that Astro third sacker Aaron Boone has opined, "I could see him coming back, just because he's had so many injuries. To his credit, he's always fought back. He takes of himself, and he's in great shape." At that rate, Hampton will pitch -- on and off -- until he's 80 or really does go belly-up, whichever comes first.

If our ham radio is coming in correctly -- the cloves and pineapple slices don't seem to improve reception all that much -- the virtuous organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are planning to flood the streets with ruthless mechanized "monitors" entrusted with the awesome power to confiscate "non-Olympic material" that "violates the Olympic experience."

According to our no-particular-reason-to-doubt-'em sources in lovely Lausanne, Switzerland, the International Olympic Committee jumped ugly with the Vancouverl organizers, demanding beet-faced that they ensure that all venues are kept "clean" of commercial, political or religious publicity, vermin, riff-raff, undesirables, small children, cute animals, and anything that does not bear the logo of an approved sponsor displayed where it can be clearly seen at all times, such as on your forehead. Anyone not so adorned will be hauled off and never heard from again.

As this will be the final edition of this space, we encourage you to take advantage of the handy space-time portal on your right (our left). Step right up....Take it away Mr. Waits...

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