Lighten up, Ms. Yow, the Terrapins' troubles could be a lot worse


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Heavens to Betsy, no, no college football player would ever bet illegally on his own team (the Scott Milanovich situation at Maryland), because he might actually know something about what he's wagering on. Hey, Pete Rose never bet on baseball, and certainly not the Reds. Let it go, Debbie Yow, it could get worse.

* About now, the words "collector's item" probably should be stricken from the language they have become such a sorry cliche, but the cover of the August issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids truly qualifies: Cal Ripken's arm is draped around Lou Gehrig in sort of a "I hate to do it to you, friend, but I'm going to LTC have to break your consecutive-games record," is beyond inspired. Cal replaces a pretty good player in the super-imposed artwork, Babe Ruth.

* Monica Seles is still a couple of weeks away from her unofficial return to tennis (an exhibition match against Martina Navratilova) and already the speculation about her official return to tournament play is becoming tedious. Why is everything with this young lady such a big deal?

* Something to remember about Salt Lake City being the site of the Winter Olympics in the year 2002: With the idea of hosting the world still having many folks in Utah in a dream-like state, at least a third of Utah citizens questioned are already stressing the negatives. It was in 1980 that Denver was slated to host the Winter Olympics, but voters turned thumbs down at the last moment (when they got wind of what it was going to cost) and Lake Placid moved in as a late replacement.

* The latest example of what a tangled web statistics can weave comes from the PGA Tour, where David Duval's name doesn't appear among the leaders in scoring average, driving distance, total driving, greens in regulation, putting, birdies, eagles or sand saves, yet he's No. 1 in all-around, a composite of all other categories. The 24-year-old, fresh off the Nike satellite tour, is obviously a jack-of-all-trades and it's serving him well since he's already won about $720,000 on three second-place finishes and a third among his half-dozen top-10 finishes.

* A "Golden set" in tennis is a rarity, a player capturing a set (6-love) by winning 24 straight points. But moving into that category was a schoolboy in Maine who won a state championship by capturing 80 straight games spread over seven matches. Brian Patterson's nickname has to be "Bagel."

* We make a big deal about the collegiate and amateur drafts in all sports, but the fact remains that in many cases it isn't the people being picked but the people making the selections who make the difference. Example: The Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA have been woeful for years. So they had a No. 2 pick this year and should have landed a 10-year starter or done even better by brokering the lofty pick. What they ended up with is a No. 9 pick from two years ago, who still hasn't proven much and a kid who is borderline to even make their roster.

* The word from Washington Capitals GM David Poile after completion of the NHL draft is, "We really have a good young organization, an organization that can become a lot better in the next few years. I think it's because of young players like Brendan Witt [who took two years to agree to a Caps contract] that you're going to see a big development in the team." What do you mean you remember something similar being stated at least 10 times since the mid-'80s?

* One of the most disturbing quotes in sports, uttered far too often, is when a coach or manager like Phil Regan of the Orioles, while assessing his team's situation, says, "We could've fallen out [of contention]. We could have folded up. We could've said we're done. But we didn't do that." This indicates that the act of trying or being a true professional is laudable when it should simply be taken for granted.

* Have you heard about the latest statistical brainstorm, no doubt coming to a sports page near you soon? It's called "Proof Positive" and it involves a situation in which a home run instantly wins a game for a home team. There have been 30 PP's already this season, struck by 30 different players and MCI, which sponsors this nightmare, sends along the distance the ball traveled, too.

* A potentially excellent special, entitled "Superstars of Gymnastics," plays USA Network tonight (9-11), featured performers Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner being joined by fellow greats Svetlana Boginskaya, Vitaly Sherbo and Kim Zmeskal. It won't be a series of the usual routines we see during a meet, but old pros working the artistry of their sport into dance routines and so on.

* Believe it or not, the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars already have been in preseason camp for most of a week at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. It's not like throwing the kids in a car and taking a spin up to Western Maryland College to watch the Colts work out like in the old days, right?

* No one will ever be able to accuse soccer great Roberto Baggio of being disloyal to his Juventus of Turin team in the Italian League. Baggio is headed for AC Milan after five excellent years in Turin because the team was looking to hack his salary 50 percent. And now Juventus lays claim to a $12.5 million transfer fee to boot.

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