The Turkey Committee had ignored outside influences for 22 years.
The Turkey Chairman had been re-elected again and again by framing
himself as a compassionate autocrat.
In 1999, the chairman and his rubber-stamp committee met their obligation by naming a Turkey of the Millennium. And while the selection - Isaiah Rider Jr. - received acclaim, the international attention it brought to the Turkey Awards caused outside meddlers to surface.
The committee was attacked as a collection of fat old white guys, sitting around, smoking cigars and scratching themselves, and doing whatever they wanted to do. The compassionate autocrat had a response for that: "Yeah, so what?"
The committee was picketed by PETA, by Naderites, by anti-ballpark activists and by soccer moms – all demanding voting representation.
Several of these people were seated, just to shut 'em up. Already, these do-gooders have exerted their influence.
The committee honored a very worthy Turkey of the Year last Thanksgiving in Clem Haskins, the former Gophers basketball coach. Clem was very moved by this award, which had come during a difficult period in his life.
Sure enough. We allowed a collection of left wingers to gain seats on the Turkey Committee. Predictably, they got all worked up when the NCAA and the Big Ten started stripping the Gophers of their hardware and banners, and Clem of his Coach of the Year trophies.
The new committee members voted as a bloc, and there was nothing the chairman could do about it. Sorry, Clem, but you have now lost the greatest honor of all. You have been stripped of the 1999 Turkey of the Year award.
It's with a heavy heart - and soon-to-be-stuffed gullet – that the Turkey Chairman calls to order the 23rd Turkey Banquet, and introduces this year's honorees:
- Maurice Greene: The sprinter had demonstrated a brain pan filled with yams for a long time, but Greene's performance as the ringleader of the 4x100 relay team's celebration of a gold medal in Australia made Americans turn their heads away in embarrassment.
- John Rocker: Speaking of a guy with an oversized yam on his shoulders.
- Dwayne Rudd: If there were a formula for the amount of athletic ability vs. the number of plays made, Rudd would rank near the bottom of the NFL. But that doesn't stop the Vikings linebacker from nonstop preening.
- Chris Clouser: The former Northwest Airlines executive was named CEO of the Twins a few weeks into the 2000 season. He slyly increased the Twins' offer by $15 million, throwing in no-trade and opt-out clauses, to sign Brad Radke, a below-.500 pitcher. Clouser then spent the rest of his energy trying and failing to build Porta-Potty Park in a Bloomington
- C.J. Hunter: U.S. athlete Marion Jones arrived in Australia in September and flashed five fingers to the waiting cameras. The media thought that indicated the number of Olympic gold medals Jones was seeking, not an estimate of the number of steroid tests that Hunter, her shot-putter husband, had failed in recent months.
- Glen Mason: A victory over Ohio State in Columbus. Rose Bowl! Rose Bowl! Micron.pc Bowl? At least have the good taste to tear up your bonus check for this gizzard of a bowl game, coach.
- Siri Mullinix: She replaces Briana Scurry, hero of the Women's World Cup, as the goalie for the U.S. soccer team. She goes off on a wild-goose chase in the middle of the second half, Norway puts in a goal behind her and winds up beating our heroes 3-2 in overtime to win the Olympic gold medal. All those 12-year-old girls who filled stadiums around the country in the summer of 1999 are now disillusioned.
- Bobby Knight: They gave the old tyrant a couple of rules, and he was gone a month before practice started.
- Roger Clemens: Is there a psychiatric wing in the Hall of Fame?
- Cheryl Littlejohn: Twenty-four consecutive conference losses on your home floor. If this is Coach LJ's last season with the Gophers, she would leave behind a record that will live for generations.
That brings us to the finalists. To get here, the Turkey Chairman had to withstand complaints from the committee's new element. First, the do-gooders insisted they wanted a democratic process - the right to vote! Then, they claimed the ballot was confusing.
As you can see by the sample ballot that accompanies today's official program, it's preposterous to think the chairman was trying to manipulate the outcome of the voting in this first democratic election of the Turkey of the Year.
On with the banquet:
- Mark Yudof: The committee always has had great regard for those who are sanctimonious and self-serving. This little guy is tops in both categories.
- Baha Men: They are the artists who gave us "Who Let the Dogs Out," a greater blight on stadiums and arenas in this country than was "Whoot, There It Is."
- Scott Boras: Shortstop Alex Rodriguez probably rates as one of the 10 finest baseball talents of all time. He's also very personable - a splendid salesman for a troubled game. Now he's a free agent and Boras, the poisonous agent, has managed to ruin A-Rod's image in less than a month of negotiations.
- Glen Taylor
, Kevin McHale, Eric Fleisher: There was considerable pressure from the public to name Taylor, the Timberwolves owner, as Grand Turkey, because of his conduct in the Joe Smith matter. Sorry, folks. Support for McHale, Taylor's vice president for basketball, and Fleisher, Smith's former agent, skimmed just enough votes from Taylor to cost him the election.
It also has left the committee with a Grand Turkey who won with a plurality rather than a majority: Jesse Ventura.
While the Turkey Chairman was the campaign manager for Ventura, the chairman repeats his denial that the ballot he designed was intended to favor votes for his candidate.
"Gov. Me has been selected on merit," the chairman said. "Dull of etort, thin of skin and enormous in ego. Making deals with Vince McMahon, his former devil.
"Despite this year's internal problems on the committee, the chairman has never been more proud to announce a choice for Turkey of the Year."