This time of year, when the nights are long and there's little doing besides college hoops and Super Bowl hype, it's nice to gather round a heated exchange and dream of spring. Last week Yankees shortstop Alex Rodriguez and Red Sox ace Curt Schilling obliged us by continuing a spat that began during the ALCS with Schilling calling Rodriguez "bush league." A-Rod taunted Schilling for "crying on the bench" and said he and his Yankees teammates now have sufficient motivation to "beat [Schilling] up in the future." A few more back-and-forths and those guys might ratchet themselves up to the level of these Hatfields and McCoys.
Kobe Bryant vs. Shaquille O'Neal
The problem: Two egos. One ball.
Calling Dr. Phil: The Lakers won three titles with Bryant and O'Neal bickering about the former's shot selection and the latter's waistline. But last year, after Kobe won the battle for the heart of owner Jerry Buss, O'Neal was traded to Miami. (Shaq responded by dissing Kobe in a rap song.) Last September it was reported that when Bryant was interrogated by police investigating an allegation of sexual assault, he told them that O'Neal had paid women "up to a million" to keep mum about similar affairs.
January 31, 2005
Status: When they finally faced each other on Christmas, O'Neal refused to make eye contact during the pregame fist bump, saying, "I don't believe in having foreplay or interplay with men." They meet again on March 17.
Barry Bonds vs. Jeff Kent
Why they don't get along: Not many people get along with Barry Bonds.
Bad blood: In 2001 Kent ripped Bonds for not doing his share of press. "He palms everybody off on us, so we have to do his talking for him," Kent said. "Barry does a lot of questionable things." After a June 2002 dugout shoving match, Kent said, "Add this to the half-dozen times we've done it before." And when Bonds's name came up in the BALCO steroids scandal, Kent said, "Barry chose to do the things that he did, and now there's a cloud of embarrassment over him."
Since then: In 2003 Kent left the Giants for Houston; in December he signed with the Giants' archrival, the Dodgers.
Tiger Woods vs. Vijay Singh
The problem: Woods turned pro in 1997 to much acclaim--but not from Singh, whose attitude made it clear that he was immune to Tigermania.
Different strokes: At the 2000 Presidents Cup, Singh's caddie wore a cap that said TIGER WHO? Early on, an irked Woods refused to concede an 18-inch putt, prompting a staredown. When word arrived on the 14th that the U.S. had clinched the Cup, Woods glared at Singh, who'd extended his hand, saying, "There's plenty of golf left.... Don't forget me. I'm right here, looking you right in the eye." Woods wanted Singh to take his full beating, which ended with a Woods birdie on 17.
Since then: Vijay took Tiger's No. 1 ranking last year.
Bobby Bowden vs. Steve Spurrier
The problem: Bowden was the down-home-wisdom-spoutin'
Mouth of the South--not to mention the most successful college coach in Florida--until Spurrier arrived in Gainesville in 1989.
Ain't No Sunshine: In 1994, after Florida State players received free athletic gear from a local store, Spurrier dubbed FSU "Free Shoes University." In '96 he accused Bowden of encouraging his players to take cheap shots. Three weeks later, preparing for a rematch, Bowden told his players, "If I wasn't a good Christian man, I'd tell every one of you to go out and kick Steve Spurrier's ass."
Status: With Spurrier back in the college game at South Carolina, expect more sparks.
Kurt Busch vs. Jimmy Spencer
Why they're fussin': Good ol' boy Spencer, 47, has toiled in mediocre rides for 15 years. The brassy Busch joined one of NASCAR's elite teams, Roush Racing, at age 22.
Tradin' paint: On-track incidents in 2002 and '03 led Busch to call Spencer "a decrepit old has-been" with "the brain of a peanut." Spencer said Busch "has a lot of problems mentally." After a 2003 race Busch dared Spencer to "do something." The latter punched him, bloodying his nose.
Since then: Busch fanned the flames of old-guard resentment by winning the 2004 Nextel Cup.
Geno Auriemma vs. Pat Summitt
Why they don't get along: He's a cranky Yankee, she's a Southern lady--and bitter hoops rival.
Uncivil war: At the 2004 NCAA title game, Tennessee coach Summitt acknowledged the two rarely speak. But when they do.... In 2003 UConn coach Auriemma--who once called Tennessee "the Evil Empire" and likened its coach to George Steinbrenner--referred to Summitt as an "older woman" on national TV. (At 54, Summitt is two years older than Auriemma.)
The status: Summit says of the bad blood: "That's the relationship Geno worked very hard to create." Auriemma said if his car broke down and Summitt offered a ride, "I would walk."
Todd Sauerbrun vs. the Gramaticas
The problem: Kickers are apparently very competitive.
Curses: In 2002 Carolina punter Sauerbrun publicly knocked Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica for celebrating a field goal, saying it was bush. A week later Santiago Gramatica, who kicks at South Florida, taunted Sauerbrun after a Panthers game. Incensed with the whole clan (whom he called "f------ greaseballs"), Sauerbrun last November convinced Carolina not to sign middle brother Bill. A week and a half later Martin missed three field goals in a seven-point Panthers win--after Sauerbrun says he put a hex on him.
Since then: The Panthers have told Sauerbrun to lay off the Gramaticas. "If you want to pay my fines, I'll go off," he says. "Let me know. I'll have a press conference."
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The French police launched yet another investigation of Armstrong. --FOR THE RECORD, PAGE 21