The 16th Turkey Banquet was approaching and the Turkey Chairman was having a tough time getting to the task. The chairman was more than distracted. He was haunted.
There were the years of excessive consumption of Tanqueray gin. There were the several months of real sickness, when the chairman was jogging. There was the long anticipation for the "Chinatown" sequel and then it turned out to be "The Two Jakes."
These periods left their psychological scars, but the chairman confronted them and moved on. There was something else causing the disconnected thoughts, the restless nights, the love for linguine.
"What is it?" the chairman wondered. On Saturday, the chairman was in Tallahassee, Fla., waiting for Florida State to clobber North Carolina State. The Miami-West Virginia game was being shown on the press box televisions. On almost consecutive plays, Miami was robbed by the fossilized officiating crew, creating the circumstances for West Virginia to win the game.
There was a rage building toward these officials. It was irrational, to feel this much hatred toward a group of strangers working a football game in which the chairman had no rooting interest.
"What is it?" he wondered again.
And then the answer appeared on the screen: There was a highlight tape of Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez grinning on the sidelines. "After today's win against Illinois, Wisconsin can return to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 31 years by beating Michigan State," the TV voice said.
Wisconsin. Rose Bowl. Nov. 24, 1962.
For decades, the chairman had suppressed the memory of thatcruel Saturday in Madison, Wis., when the Golden Gophers were cheated out of a victory and a Big Ten championship . . . cheated as a team in the history of competitive athletics has been cheated by bandits with striped shirts. He had suppressed the memory of the assisting-the-ball-carrier penalty that cost the Gophers a touchdown. He had suppressed the memory of the phantom roughing-Ron VanderKelen penalty against the Gophers' Bobby Bell that allowed Wisconsin to proceed to the winning touchdown.
Now, the chairman was overwhelmed by the recollection of the officials' abusive behavior toward our Golden Gophers. The chairman went hysterical. He let out all the long-festering agony. And then his mind became as bright and clear as Waterford crystal.
"Repressed memory syndrome," the chairman said. "That was it." The chairman is back in focus, on his toes, moving, ducking, jabbing, quick and robust as ever. The votes have been counted. The committee has spoken. Let's get on with the Turkeys:
- Jim McMahon/ He has a TV show. He has more security guards than Michael Jackson used to have. He still has the sneering attitude. Only one thing is missing for McMahon: a right arm able to launch big-league passes.
- Skippy Peltier/ The group overseeing high school activities around here now goes by the initials MSMGL (Minnesota State Mouth Guard League). Skippy is the bureaucrat who earned a good share of his pay this year in his role as chief mouth-guard apologist.
- Valerie Thompson/ Valerie's son was playing in a football game for 13-to 15-year-olds in Oakland Park, Fla. The quarterback for his team, the Sunrise Spartans, fumbled. Valerie's kid stomped off the field and said he was going to quit because of the fumble. Someone told the kid to settle down. Valerie pulled out a gun and started firing, fortunately without accuracy. Yes, football does build character. - Judge Elke Bosse/ Guenter Parche leaped from the stands at the German Open tennis tournament and stabbed Monica Seles in the back. Guenter did this because of his desire to see Steffi Graf return to the No. 1 ranking. Thanks to Judge Bosse, Guenter's idea worked better than he could have hallucinated. Graf returned to No. 1 and the judge declared Guenter to be crazy and set him free.
- Lou Holtz/ Any coach can take the talent from five of the very top recruiting classes in the nation and get those players ready to take on the No. 1 team in the country. The real motivator is the fellow who can get his team ready to play the week after Florida State comes to town.
- Jack McCloskey/ For three seasons, the media and the sporting public complained the Timberwolves were foolish to make personnel decisions by consensus. Everyone agreed that what was needed was a knowledgeable, all-powerful basketball man. Enter McCloskey. Under Jack's leadership, the Timberwolves are as old, as bad and more expensive than they were when Bob'n Stein was running things. - Gary Zimmerman/ First, Zimmerman demonstrated he was the epitome of the modern athlete when he signed a contract for a ridiculous amount of money and then pouted when other folks started signing for more ridiculous amounts of money. Second, after pouting his way out of Minnesota, Zimmerman suffered the indignity of getting whipped by 1991 Turkey of the Year, Chris Doleman, in his showdown with the Vikings.
- James Miller/ The propeller-driven parachutist crashed into the outdoor boxing arena during Evander Holyfield's victory over Riddick Bowe. As a special treat, after dinner is finished, the Turkey Banquet-goers will sit around and laugh as the Bowe bodyguards again try to bash in Miller's cranium.
- Jury in Ryther Suit/ The Twin Cities jurors ruled Channel 11 had engaged in age discrimination when it fired Tom Ryther as its sports director. That should be a lesson for all workers as we enter our golden years: Sit back, relax, and have a lawyer on retainer if the boss tries to do anything about it.
- Vince Coleman/ Mike Cubbage served as interim manager of the New York Mets and offered this comment to an acquaintance: "Vince Coleman is the worst guy I ever met." This was before Vince threw a miniature bomb at a cluster of fans outside Dodger Stadium.
- Kevin Tapani/ Assume the role of No. 1 starter and pitch so poorly (3-11) before the All-Star Game that your team is buried and the ticket buyers have lost all interest. Then, pitch like a demon down the stretch so your employer, the Twins, will have to come up with a raise on your $2 million salary. Gosh, Tap, at least Scott Erickson had the good taste to pitch lousy all season.
The voting came down to a duel between two entities for the Turkey of the Year Award - named Herschel the Turkey since 1991 to honor in perpetuity the contributions of Herschel Walker to the Vikings, bobsledding and third-person speaking.
In case the winners cannot fulfill the duties of Turkey of the Year, this man will take over the hectic schedule of appearances: runner-up Michael Jordan.
When you are given a marvelous gift, and when you are a hero to a billion people around the world, there is an obligation to use that talent as long as it is there. To keep that talent for yourself is selfish. To parade onto the set of every talk show in America to say you retired to gain privacy is ridiculous. The Turkey Committee thought Michael's heart belonged to the kids who watched him play. Turns out, it belongs only to Nike.
There have been surprise winners of past Turkeys of the Year. There is no surprise this time. Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts, this country's oddest couple, are here to present twin Herschels to the 1993 winner: Norm and Kelly Green.
Norm changed his story every 10 minutes as he maneuvered his way out of Minnesota. Kelly went to their home in Palm Springs and sulked over the sexual-harassment accusations against her Alberta dandy.
"We are nice people," Kelly said on the night the Stars' move to Dallas was announced. "You will like us."
Kelly should have added: " . . . until my husband starts suing and threatening to move," events that already have occurred in Dallas."
We're proud to say, Norm and Kelly, that after 16 years, the Turkey Awards have reached their zenith with you two.