Snap, Crackle and Pop:
The practical joker (or fiend) of the year has to be the guy in the NFL office who scheduled the Los Angeles Rams into Green Bay for a game on Dec. 20. Besides being 6 degrees at kickoff time, the wind was howling (minus-15 wind chill) and the West Coasters had played in an average temperature of 74 degrees all season.
* It now becomes clear why, in all probability, Michael Dokes, 34 (going on 44), got the call to be heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe's first title defense. Besides the fact he came cheapest ($750,000) among the bidders, of course. Dokes was scheduled against Tyrell Biggs a week ago, but pulled out when he injured a leg jogging at 1 a.m. the day of the fight. Gee, he gets up early.
* Navy had just 375 present at its basketball game against William & Mary the other night. So how come it doesn't correct the situation by making attendance obligatory as it does for its perennial 1-10 football team?
* Youngster Phil Mickelson, who finished 90th on the PGA Tour money list this year, charges $30,000-plus expenses for an appearance. Which is three times more than he made per tournament entered, and they involve several days.
* Wait a minute: It took the Washington Bullets 10 weeks and two dozen regular-season games to dope out that they don't have a go-to guy when they need a bucket at the end of a game? Come Groundhog's Day, they'll probably be onto the fact that they don't have a bona fide center.
* From the what-goes-around-comes-around department: For years, Mark Gastineau worked overtime to get known (that awful sack dance, his romantic ventures, etc.); yet there he was with a coat covering his well-known visage while being carted off by police (on an outstanding drug warrant).
* A journalist asked John McEnroe, who is threatening to retire, what he thought his greatest impact on tennis has been and he answered, "I think my personality. . . . People looked at me as a guy trying to play his best tennis." Everybody's entitled to his opinion, right?
* Don Shula is a fine coach, no doubt, but the fact that his teams have always played in divisions containing teams named the Jets, Patriots, Colts and (way back) Bills certainly hasn't hurt his excellent won-lost record.
* The San Francisco Giants have been in need of a new ballpark for years, correct? Here's how they could have had one without having to go to the voters for a fifth referendum turndown: Take the $43.7 million they're paying Barry Bonds, add to it a like amount they're probably going to have to pay Will Clark when he becomes a free agent next year and, voila, break ground.
* Joe Orsulak (or his agent) must have really panicked that there aren't going to be many jobs around for a .280-hitting outfielder still in his prime playing years. 'Slak signed with the Mets for $650,000, half his 1992 salary, New York general manager Al Harazin saying, "I feel we've fleshed out the team very well." Fleshed out?
* It was 36 years ago this week that Bill Russell returned from the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and signed to play with the Celtics, his yearly stipend ($19,500) amounting to what a guy sitting down the end of an NBA bench makes per game these days. Unforgettable is Russell's first game in the Boston Garden. It was against the Syracuse Nats. Dolph Schayes drew back to throw a two-hand set shot from the wing and Bill blocked it halfway to the hoop.
* When Barry Bonds signed to play with the Giants and Jimmy Key signed to play with the Yankees, they both said the same thing: "All along I was interested in coming to a club that is interested in winning." Key came from the world champion Toronto Blue Jays and Bonds just got through playing for the Pirates, three-time National League East champions.
Speaking of unusual quotes, when Terry Bowden, Bobby's son, was named coach at Auburn, he disclosed, "My goal has always been to go to a school with a top-notch football program." Really?
* Baltimore is obviously losing its touch. Good old Charm City didn't even get a chance to enlist a club in the Global Basketball Association before the GBA folded its tent and slipped off into the mist.
* Alonzo Mourning of the Charlotte Hornets complains: "The media builds up Georgetown centers as just defensive specialists. Georgetown basketball prepares you for the NBA." So does Ranger training.
* Here's a lineup of guys who weren't tended contracts by their former teams over the weekend: 1b, Randy Milligan; 2b, Mark McLemore; ss, Kevin Elster; 3b, Bill Pecota; lf, Gene Larkin; cf, Ellis Burks; rf, Jerome Walton; c, Carlton Fisk; p, Bob Milacki, Jeff Parrett, Joe Klink. Get out of the way, Marlins and Rockies.
* Imagine losing Joe Montana and coming up with a guy who might end up being nearly as good, Steve Young. It reminds of the last days of Sid Luckman's reign as Chicago Bears quarterback when his backups were Johnny Lujack and Bobby Layne.
* In addition to the 24,000 ticket holders who failed to post for the Giants-Chiefs game at the Meadowlands last Saturday, tailgating was almost non-existent before the fracas, which speaks volumes about that situation.
* Right up there next to Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, the seven NCAA championships UCLA won consecutively and Richard Petty's 200 NASCAR victories as far as unapproachable records is concerned is the mark of the Washington Capitals' winning just one of 40 road games their first season (1974-75). Why isn't there a videotape available?