Parity gives every NFL team a shot, which makes each week a

Somewhere Pete Rozelle is smiling. "On any given Sunday,"
parity's greatest champion famously said, "any team can beat

Rozelle's words have never rung truer. Teams that were doormats
only last year--most notably the Bears, Browns and Chargers--are
racing toward the postseason. "Horrors!" exclaim antiparity
types. "Parity is another word for mediocrity." This argument
heated up during a wild 1999 season that climaxed with a Super
Bowl pitting two vagabond franchises, the St. Louis Rams and the
Tennessee Titans. However, after the most thrilling Super Bowl in
recent memory, was anyone waxing nostalgic about the good old
days of blowouts by NFC dynasties?

While major league baseball and the NBA are perennially dominated
by predictable story lines--Whom will the Yankees face in the
Series? Can anyone stop Shaq?--the NFL offers something more
refreshing: regular seasons that have meaning. Sunday afternoons
are exciting for the same reasons that March Madness is
irresistible: Just about every game in every city has an effect
on the title hunt, and even in December nearly every team has a

Is it so terrible that Clevelanders have someone other than Drew
Carey to root for this year? A year ago at this time fans were
joking about the pathetic Ravens, who hadn't scored a touchdown
in 20 quarters. After 11 straight wins and an emphatic Super Bowl
victory, though, the only debate concerning Baltimore was whether
its astounding defense was the best the game had ever seen. Even
in a league that embraces equality, there's plenty of room for
greatness. --Albert Chen

When no club stands above the rest, the whole league looks lousy

As a kid I was devoted to the Browns, but whatever nostalgic
pleasure I might derive from their 4-3 record this season is
tempered by the unease I feel when I look at the depth chart and
see James Jackson and his sub-3.0 yards per carry at starting
tailback. Cleveland, I'm afraid, simply isn't very good.

Not that lack of talent hinders NFL success. No team is very good
these days. The salary cap, expansion and free agency have made
it impossible for strong teams to stay together, and the talent
pool is stretched thinner than a Matt Stover jersey on Tony
Siragusa. Every sport has its dud squads, but as baseball's
pennant races and postseason showed us, watching two fine teams
go at it makes all the dull affairs worthwhile. Alas, the NFL has
only two teams--the Rams and the Raiders--within sniffing distance
of greatness.

Worst of all, parity kills excitement. Cleveland fans should have
been doing cartwheels when the Browns beat the world champion
Ravens in Week 6, but how excited can you get about doing
something the lowly Bengals (who happen to be 4-3) had done four
weeks earlier? There are no giants--least of all the Giants, the
reigning NFC champs and owners of a 4-4 record--and, hence, no
giant killers. The G-men aren't the only erstwhile superteam to
embrace mediocrity. Throw out the Rams, and the participants in
the past three Super Bowls are a combined 19-18 this year.

Those who argue that such balance is good will tell you that it
gives the underdog a chance. However, there are no underdogs,
only dogs, when everyone is the same. --Mark Bechtel


Between Winter Olympics, skiing lives in a far corner of the
sporting public's consciousness, playing out spectacularly but
with scant fanfare on distant mountains. Come the Games, though,
it emerges full blown in all its high-speed splendor, a
quadrennial jewel. Stars are born on Olympic slopes--recently
Americans Tommy Moe and Picabo Street in Lillehammer in 1994 and
Austria's Hermann Maier in Nagano in '98. Like Jean Claude-Killy
and Alberto Tomba before them, they seized the moment to become
famous beyond their sport. It's a reliable script.

As February's Salt Lake City Games grow closer, however, a far
more somber drama has unfolded that will deprive these Olympics
of several of skiing's biggest names. On Oct. 31, French skier
Regine Cavagnoud, the Super G world champion, died from massive
head injuries suffered when she collided with German coach Markus
Anwander while training for a World Cup race on the Pitztal
glacier in Austria. (As of Monday, Anwander was in stable
condition in intensive care.) Cavagnoud's death comes barely two
months after Maier, who likely would have been the most
compelling figure at the Salt Lake Games, severely injured his
right leg in a motorcycle crash. He'll probably miss the
Olympics. Austria's Werner Franz, a Super G medal contender,
injured a knee last week and is likely out for the season,
including the Games. All this happened at the close of a year
that began with a horrific crash by 1984 U.S. downhill gold
medalist Bill Johnson during a quixotic comeback attempt. The
accident has left Johnson without some basic motor skills.

The slopes of Utah will generate drama. Can the Austrian men
dominate, or will Americans such as Daron Rahlves, Bode Miller
and Erik Schlopy work Olympic magic? Can Street, the greatest
U.S. woman skier, coax one last medal from her scarred knees?
Perhaps most important, can skiing's premier showcase help the
sport heal itself? --Tim Layden

Sport? Not a Sport?

Bushkazi, the most popular sport in Afghanistan, is a pololike
game in which the "ball" is usually a decapitated and stuffed
goat. (Centuries ago a human body was used.)

SPORT. "It kind of reminds me of the game we used to play as
kids: You used a ball, and somebody tossed it up, and then it was
mayhem. I guess they don't have balls over there, so they use the
goat." --Eric Allen, Raiders cornerback

SPORT. "I guess it's like a bullfight. They should have a
disclaimer, like, 'Play at your own risk' or 'Sudden death
likely.' I wouldn't play, but I would watch--from far away.
Maybe in a cage." --Adonal Foyle, Warriors forward

NOT A SPORT. "It's about as much of a sport as darting out of
the way of bombs falling all over your countryside." --Mike
Shanahan, Broncos coach

SPORT. "It's not what you would call a conventional sport, but
hey, they probably don't think basketball is a sport either.
It's not my idea of entertainment, but you play it in
competition. If you call polo a sport, I guess you'd call this a
sport too." --Pat Garrity, Magic forward

NOT A SPORT. "It sounds like a bad Italian dish. Or what we
should do to Kabul--bushkazi it." --Brian Anderson, Diamondbacks

SPORT. "Anytime fans are involved, it's a sport. I don't know if
I'd pay money to watch it. Shoot, whatever creams your Twinkie."
--Mark Grace, Diamondbacks first baseman

We asked people on the streets of the Windy City, the town that
Michael Jordan built:

Hey, Chicago, what do you think of MJ's comeback?

"I'm not too psyched to see him with another team. It's hard to
see him as a Wizard now."
--Christine Oelberger, elementary school teacher

"Michael with the Wizards? That bothers me. He's always been a
winner, but now he's a winner with a loser."
--Ellen Coryat, real estate salesperson

"It doesn't hurt me to see him go to the Wizards as much as it
does to see Elton Brand with the Clippers."
--Steve Hawkins, street musician

"Michael's the best. It doesn't bother me to see him with the
Wizards. The Bulls shouldn't have played him like they played
him. They got what they deserved."
--Ricky Anderson, real estate contractor

"Michael should let it go. I was a Bulls fan in the good old
days. His time has passed."
--Darryl Jarrett, public-transit switch operator

"Some boys say he can't play anymore. I tell them to be
--Syrena Haen, second-grader

"It's a good thing because he's the best. It's as simple as that.
Tell him that I love him."
--Seada Karadza, secretary



Suns coach Scott Skiles, by himself, for saying it was "a joke"
that Game 3 of the World Series was shown on the America West
Arena's JumboTron screens during the Suns' Oct. 30 home opener.
At Sunday night's Suns-Rockets matchup, Game 7 was telecast on
the big screen only during timeouts. Once the hoops game ended,
the ball game was put on the large screen, and fans were invited
to stick around for the end.


By the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Division, that
the Vikings did not violate OSHA standards and guidelines when
they practiced on July 31, the day offensive tackle Korey
Stringer collapsed from heatstroke. (He died the next day.) A
spokesman for Stringer's family said the finding would have no
bearing on the family's plan to announce a $100 million
wrongful-death lawsuit against the Vikings this week.


For screening by SWAT teams assigned to provide security for the
Salt Lake City Games, the Oscar-winning documentary One Day in
September, about the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian
terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Craig Arnold, the
Justice Department's SWAT coordinator, said the movie would be
"an excellent training tool."


By Major League Baseball, live video broadcasts of games over
the Internet beginning next spring, making it the first major pro
sport to regularly offer such a service.


The name of Diamondbacks catcher Damian Miller, from officially
licensed products sold during the World Series. Miller, who
crossed the picket line in 1995, hasn't been allowed to join the
players' union. Only union members can have their name or
likeness on official merchandise.

Bouncing Back Big-Time

The 2001 World Series will go down as that of the comeback. So
how does it rank among the biggest comebacks in world history?
Here are the 10 greatest, according to us.

10 Elvis Presley, 1968 Following years of making schlocky
movies, the King wows fans and critics with an electrifying live
1968 TV special, Elvis on NBC.

9 Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1929 After quitting academia to teach
primary school and to labor as a gardner, he returns to Cambridge
University to begin Philosophical Investigations, the seminal
work of 20th-century Anglo-American philosophy.

8 Go-go boots, 2000 Three decades after their kicky heyday, the
knee-high footwear stages a surprising fashion revival.

7 Harry Truman, 1948 Trailing in the polls by a wide margin for
most of the presidential campaign, he turns the Chicago Tribune's
DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN edition into a future treasure on eBay.

6 Humanity, 14th century After 25 million Europeans perish, mankind
surges back from the Black Death.

5 Muhammad Ali, 1974 Seven years after being stripped of his title
and his boxing license, the Greatest KO's George Foreman in Zaire
to win back the belt.

4 John Travolta, 1994 Defibrillates his comatose movie career by
taking a star turn in Pulp Fiction.

3 Michael Jordan, 1995 Quits baseball to make first triumphant

2 Japan and Germany, 1950s Former Axis powers rise from the ashes
of World War II to become industrial superpowers.

1 Jesus Christ, 33 A.D. Defies critics and stuns the Romans with
his resurrection.

the Beat

Diamondbacks reserve outfielder David Dellucci may not have
gotten a lot of exposure during the World Series, but his
girlfriend more than made up for it. Dellucci is dating Gena Lee
Nolin, star of TV's Sheena and Playboy's December cover girl. The
two met in July when Nolin (below), who lives in Scottsdale,
Ariz., went to BankOne Ballpark for a Giants game. Recalls
Dellucci, "I can't remember much of the game because she sat
right behind the dugout." As for having his date on display in
Playboy for all to see, "I tried to buy every copy in Arizona,"
says Dellucci. "I was feeling good until we went to New York.
There are too many newsstands in New York."...

Michigan State hoops coach Tom Izzo is a pretty hip dude, but
he's not exactly a hip-hop dude: "I was walking into the gym the
other night, and our dance girls started laughing. I said, 'What
are you laughing about?' They said, 'Listen.'" Playing over the
sound system was rapper Jay-Z's Izzo (H.O.V.A.). The chorus of
the song goes, "H to the Izzo, V to the Izzay," a play on
Jay-Z's nickname HOVA. (Try reading it without the izz.) Says
freshman guard Kelvin Torbert, "We throw it on in the locker
room and say, 'Coach Iz, here's your song!' He doesn't get it."
After being clued in to the izzy biz, Izzo asked, "Do I get

Devils rookie center Mike Jefferson suffered abdominal injuries
in September, so he did what any wounded athlete would have
done: He headed to Hollywood to audition for the role of the
teenage Austin Powers in the upcoming Austin Powers in
Goldmember. (All right, so maybe that's not what most injured
jocks would have done.) Jefferson says he went to L.A. mainly to
get a second opinion on his injury. Problem was, he didn't tell
the team about the trip, and G.M. Lou Lamoriello suspended him
for going AWOL. Jefferson didn't get the part, either. To
paraphrase a certain International Man of Mystery, That's
rotten, baby!

just Asking
The Listener

Carol Langley, 38, a producer for Fox Sports, monitors the audio
coming from miked coaches to find snippets for Fox's "Sounds of
the Game" feature. She worked every game of this year's World

How do you choose whom to mike?

Managers are always first on our wish list, but they're the most
reluctant participants. They get paranoid about it. Pitching
coaches are usually good; they're always going to the mound.
Nobody's really relaxed about being miked. Among teams, the Mets
and the Red Sox are the most sensitive.

Who's your favorite person to listen to while miked?

Tigers manager Phil Garner. He's very talkative, and he doesn't
swear a lot. Also, Bryan Price, the pitching coach for the
Mariners. He's very articulate, and he handles his pitchers in a
soothing, diplomatic way.

What do coaches say when they talk to players on the field?

There are a lot of fundamentals that coaches constantly remind
their players of. People assume that once you're playing in the
major leagues, the basic stuff is taken for granted. But these
guys are always reminding their players of simple things, like if
there's a runner on first to watch out for the double-play ball.
Really, that was the most surprising thing to me.

How about during an at bat?

"C'mon now, let's go get 'em. Let's get out there and score a
couple of runs." It's so basic, it's boring.

Between innings?

You can sometimes hear the base coaches commenting on a
nice-looking lady in the stands, telling the third baseman or
first baseman, "Hey, check out so-and-so."

What are these guys usually talking about in the dugout?

They tell baseball stories. They'll talk about a player, and what
a bonehead he was 10 years ago, and how he couldn't throw worth

What's the strangest thing you've heard?

Little bathrooms are often right next to the dugout, and people
forget to turn off the mike when they go. It's also entertaining
listening to people sing. [Mets manager] Bobby Valentine often
sings along with the music playing in the stadium.

Is he any good?

He shouldn't quit his day job.

--Anna Holmes


Go Figure

Cost of a 14-karat gold replica Lakers 2001 championship ring at
the NBA store in New York.

Former Cubs--Miguel Batista, Luis Gonzalez, Mark Grace and Mike
Morgan--on the Diamondbacks' World Series roster, the most
ex-Cubs on a Series winner since 1905.

Time into the season that Rasheed Wallace picked up his first

National anthems recorded for the Salt Lake Games, 93 more than
were needed for medal ceremonies in '98.

6 a.m.
Time at which pubs in England will be permitted to open during
next year's World Cup in Japan and Korea.

T-shirts the Hornets were prepared to give away at their home
opener, which drew 9,002 fans.

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Loveland (Colo.) High football coach John Poovey was suspended
after his players were found to have smeared their jerseys with
Pam nonstick cooking spray to become harder to block and tackle.

"Guys don't turn the mike off when they go to the bathroom."

They Said It
Timberwolves forward, on stirring up the Target Center crowd:
"It's got to be a rat house in here. It's got to be crazy. I'm
talking about, 'The first 10,000 beers are on me!'"

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)