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Sleeping Sickness

Dec. 30, 2002
Dec. 30, 2002

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Dec. 30, 2002

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Sleeping Sickness

On Christmas Eve 30 years ago, the day of his team's playoff
game against the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins receiver Paul
Warfield woke in a panic in his clockless home and dialed Time
& Temperature to hear, to his everlasting relief, that it was
still only 5:53 a.m. In sports oversleeping (hypersomnia) is
epidemic (even more powerful than the fear of
oversleeping--hypersomniaphobia?--that wakes some athletes in
the dead of night). And so Florida State quarterback Chris Rix
was suspended by the Seminoles for the Sugar Bowl last week
after oversleeping and missing an exam. His punishment could
have been worse: Saint Vitus, the patron saint of oversleepers,
was, in A.D. 303, boiled in oil like a popcorn shrimp.

This is an article from the Dec. 30, 2002 issue Original Layout

The point is, athletes often speak of metaphorical wake-up calls
but seldom respond to actual wake-up calls. In November, before
he had played a single game for the Chicago Blackhawks, Theo
Fleury overslept in the team's Los Angeles hotel and missed a
practice. That same morning Jim Jenkins, the sponsor and roommate
paid to keep Fleury, a recovering alcoholic, on the straight and
narrow, also overslept. In that instance, of course, life was
merely imitating an episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry oversleeps
on the morning of the New York City Marathon, allowing his
houseguest--a world-class runner--to do the same.

Imagine oversleeping on the first day of a new job that paid a
$3.3 million salary. Newly acquired Cleveland Cavaliers swingman
Darius Miles did just that, appearing 95 minutes late on media
day last fall--despite the fact that the NBA warns, at its
rookie-orientation seminar each summer, about the perils of
oversleeping. The Chicago Bulls' Ron Artest overslept and missed
that session in 1999, which got him fined $5,000 and sent home.

But then, sleep is its own kind of exile. "Every night I go
abroad/Afar into the land of Nod," wrote Robert Louis Stevenson.
And the land of Nod--East of Eden--is where Cain was banished
after killing Abel. In a manner of speaking a caddie named Miles
Byrne never made it back from Nod: After oversleeping at the 2001
Scandinavian Masters and missing his tee time, Byrne was
summarily fired by Ian Woosnam. Sometimes it's the caddie who is
left, as it were, holding the bag. At the 2001 Canadian Open,
golfer Grant Waite was disqualified when he overslept and missed
his opening-round tee time. This year, at the same tournament,
Waite arrived early, fired a 64 and was the first-round leader.

But the Sandman was apparently sandbagging, for he has since
claimed countless other victims. Take Graeme Dott, the world's
14th-ranked snooker player, who required 41 hours of travel to
get from his home in Scotland to Shanghai for this year's China
Open. Understandably, Dott overslept and arrived late to his
first match, for which he was docked two frames, the margin of
defeat in a 5--3 loss that left him "suicidal.... I didn't have
time to brush my teeth [or] have a shave," Dott told the London
Independent, "and for the first couple of frames, I didn't have
any underpants on." That's one tuxedo you don't want to rent
next.

You might tell your boss you overslept when the truth is far
more baroque. But athletes tend to do the opposite. When
Dolphins nosetackle Alfred Oglesby missed a training-camp
practice 10 years ago, he told coach Don Shula that armed men
had kidnapped him and driven him to the Everglades, where he
was abandoned. In fact, as Oglesby soon confessed, he had
simply overslept, prompting Shula to revoke every Dolphins
player's sleep-at-home privileges, which in turn prompted
several Dolphins to tape Oglesby to a palm tree after practice.
Three months later he was released. (From the team, not the
tree.)

The official magazine of the Portland Trail Blazers is called Rip
City, a name that evidently was inspired by former Blazer Isaiah
Rider, sports' nearest rival to Rip Van Winkle, of whom
Washington Irving wrote, "The great error in Rip's composition
was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor."
While Van Winkle bowled ninepins and Rider played basketball,
their oversleeping over-under was, on any given night, identical:
20 years.

Previously, when Rider was a chronically tardy Minnesota
Timberwolf, that team's general manager--vice president of
basketball operations, Kevin McHale, considered buying him the
kind of oversized cartoon alarm clock with twin bells on top that
dances on the nightstand when it detonates. "You know," McHale
said, "the kind that, when they go off, you lose about three
years of life."

Instead the T-Wolves shipped Rider to Portland, which shipped him
to Atlanta, which let him walk to the Los Angeles Lakers. Some
NBA players sleep around. Rider overslept around. After missing
the Lakers' bus to the Alamodome, he arrived with a note from the
hotel manager, who attested that the operator had failed to give
Rider his requested wake-up call. "In my case," said Rider, "I
had to get some proof. I'm sure nobody would buy my word."

This nonwake-up call did not serve as a wake-up call: Five months
later, in Salt Lake City, he again missed the team bus. The NBA's
alltime leading snorer was soon out of the league.

Nobody, least of all Rider, was alarmed.

B/W PHOTO: JEFFERY A. SALTER
Athletes often speak of metaphorical wake-up calls but seldom
respond to actual wake-up calls.