January 08, 1996

In 1995 sports fans in this country got a cold dose of reality
with their warm beers and $4 hot dogs. This was the year in
which the most loyal customers realized that they don't matter
anymore. They can, quite literally, sit up and bark like dogs
for their sports heroes, but if another city comes across with
more luxury boxes, their team will pack up and move like just
another boat show.

This was the year in which even the most battle-scarred cynics
among us were shocked at the headlines. O.J. walked, and so did
Art Modell. Let's hope 1996 is a little more predictable.

January. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Dallas Cowboys 21-20 in
Super Bowl XXX when Emmitt Smith is stopped on fourth-and-one
from the Chief 10 on the last play of the game. Cowboy coach
Barry Switzer explodes when he is asked why he didn't kick a
field goal to ensure the win. "We only needed a damn inch!" he
screams. "What do you think I am? A coward?" After the game,
Dallas owner Jerry Jones fires Switzer and hires the coach he
has always wanted--himself. At his first press conference as
coach, Jones gives himself a big hug.

February. Mike Tyson, claiming he is still working his way back
into championship form, defeats the fat guy who sits on the
couch next to Conan O'Brien with a sixth-round TKO. Tyson, who
continues to appear out of control in the ring, also knocks out
the ref, two judges and a peanut vendor named Mel.

March. On the eve of the Final Four, North Carolina basketball
coach Dean Smith announces that his team is moving to Nashville.
"I can sum up our decision in two words: luxury boxes," says
Smith. "We couldn't compete under our current lease
arrangement." The mayor of Nashville says he also hopes to lure
the Notre Dame football and Harvard debate teams.

April. The Cleveland Indians acquire Ken Griffey Jr., Randy
Johnson, Barry Larkin, Greg Maddux, Cal Ripken Jr. and Mo
Vaughn. The rest of the American League decides to forfeit the
1996 season and concede the pennant to the Indians. Cleveland
manager Mike Hargrove says he will use the next six months to
set his World Series pitching rotation and finish his basement.

May. Four weeks into its inaugural season, Major League Soccer
folds, citing American sports fans' lack of interest in the
game. One of the league's founders says he is at a loss to
explain the low attendance figures for a sport that is played by
some 20 million children in the U.S. Undaunted, he announces
plans to form the Professional Hide and Seek League, which will
begin play in 1998.

June. The Houston Rockets defeat the Chicago Bulls in Game 7 to
win their third straight NBA title. Dennis Rodman shoots two air
balls from the free throw line with no time on the clock to give
Houston the 103-102 victory. While he admits it may have
affected his shooting, Rodman says he doesn't regret his
decision to have his eyeballs pierced on the day of the game.
Rocket coach Rudy Tomjanovich later reveals that he did, in
fact, play Shemp in The Three Stooges.

July. In the opening round of the men's basketball competition
at the Atlanta Olympics, members of the U.S. team are criticized
for commercializing the Games and bullying other teams when they
bend an Angolan guard into the shape of the Nike swoosh.

August. On the gold medal stand, members of the U.S. men's
basketball team create a stir when they sing the national anthem
backward. When asked to explain their bizarre actions, one
player says, "Sometimes we just feel like doing things backward.
Like eating pizza, for instance...."

September. In an attempt to bolster the sagging ratings of its
NFL pregame show, NBC brings back a recognizable personality
from its past. On his first day in the studio, O.J. Simpson says
that he is "absolutely, 100 percent" sure that Jimmy Johnson
will coach the Miami Dolphins in 1997. Fox counters by adding a
Simpson of its own to its pregame show. Homer Simpson also
predicts Jimmy Johnson will coach the Dolphins next season.

October. Indian outfielder Albert Belle is taken into custody
after an eight-year-old girl dressed as a bunny falls into the
moat surrounding his house on Halloween night and is bitten by
an alligator. When a reporter attempts to ask Belle about the
incident, the embattled slugger sprays him with Mace.

November. Deion Sanders snaps at a reporter who mentions the
two-sport star's hefty NFL contract. "I've told you 35 million
times! Stop writing that I make $35 million. Just because no one
else in the NFL makes $35 million doesn't mean you have to
mention the $35 million every time you use my name." Sanders
announces that he is changing his number to 35.

December. In an odd sequence of events, all 30 NFL teams end the
regular season 8-8 and fail to make the playoffs; in place of
postseason games, the TV networks run three-hour specials on the
future of Jimmy Johnson; Don Shula fuels speculation that he may
be reaching retirement age by announcing his engagement to Anna
Nicole Smith; and Jerry Jones fires himself as Cowboy coach and
then sues himself for $750 million.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [Drawing of Mike Tyson's face attached to a boxing glove on chain knocking people out]