ALBERTVILLE, France -- Herschel Walker is sliding far faster than anyone imagined at the Winter Olympics but not in a bobsled.
The NFL's ambassador to the North Pole has seen his credentials downgraded from heavyweight to dead weight. An athlete with overall skills beyond those of 99.99 percent of humanity has been sent home, rejected by the U.S. rocket squad by a driver who didn't like what he was seeing in his rearview mirror.
This requires some serious attitude adjustment. No matter how humble Herschel is in interviews, clearly he decided at an early age that there wasn't a snowball's chance in Wrightsville, Ga., he would ever be cut from any team involved in running, jumping, lifting or shoving.
When the shock of a lifetime came yesterday, the hatchet man wasn't a coach or a general manager but a 173-pound muffin baker from woodsy upstate New York.
Get out of the top U.S. four-man sled, said driver Randy Will. Come back after a few million more sit-ups, and we'll talk again. Oh, and feel free to keep the USA warm-up outfit as our little thank-you for spending the last few months atop a European glacier, freezing your big, fat wallet off.
Team is a four-letter word among American bobsledders. Ever since Olympic hurdles star Edwin Moses began to wonder what it felt like not to sweat at a medals ceremony, top athletes from other sports have been bobbing on down to Lake Placid for an amusement ride.
Willie Gault of the Los Angeles Raiders was an alternate on the 1988 U.S. four-man team. He and Moses wanted so badly to be here in France that they took the U.S. Bobsled and Luge Federation to court over qualifying procedures. Push-offs were ordered and resentment was heightened when Moses announced that he really didn't want to compete after all. He wanted only to make a point. Yesterday, Walker was impaled on it.
Herschel's inability to push Brian Shimer higher than seventh place in the two-man competition at La Plagne Sunday gave a bobsled veteran room to vent his frustration.
"Herschel Walker is probably the most incredible athlete I've met in my life," said Will, seven years a member of the U.S. bobsled team after turning his back on a very promising career in baking. "But you can't tear apart a team that has been successful and put someone on who has limited race experience. Even though he's a great athlete, it's unfair to expect a miracle."
Asked why USA 1 wasted five warm-up runs with cargo Will didn't want to carry in the real competition, Walker said, "You'll have to ask Randy about that."
An official press release on Walker's benching had a sweeter spin: "I will always support the U.S. team." Live and uncensored, Herschel sounded hurt.