A 'flattered' Cal Ripken adds to his treasure chest of awards

NEW YORK — NEW YORK -- As if his mantelpiece wasn't already jammed tight with 1995 hardware, Cal Ripken picked up two more pieces at last night's ESPY Awards. Ripken was one of the big winners of the evening, taking home Male Athlete and Showstopper of the Year in a nationally televised Radio City Music Hall ceremony.

The awards honor performances, moments and the athletes who contributed to them in more than 30 categories in voting conducted among the media, fans and ESPN viewers, front-office personnel and the athletes themselves.


"You can't help but be flattered by something like this. I'm just thankful I had the opportunity," said Ripken after the ceremony.

The Showstopper award was given for Ripken's performance on the September night when he passed Lou Gehrig as the most durable player in baseball history.


A complete list of winners and a backstage look at the ESPYs comes in this space tomorrow.

Passing on the press

So, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley stiffed the media in a pre-NBA All-Star Game session to play golf in Las Vegas.

Nothing new there. Jordan and Barkley have made a habit of tweaking the press, since reporters insist on asking tougher questions than, "Can we have your autographs?"

But NBA commissioner David Stern should tweak each of them with something like a $100,000 fine and a one-game suspension to make sure they don't hit the greens before they do their jobs.

Let's make a concession here: Many print reporters are not particularly pleasant people to deal with. We lead stress-filled lives that include long days, longer nights and daily deadlines that only seem to get earlier.

In addition, there exists, among some reporters, an element of resentment toward athletes whom many scribes perceive to be overpaid. From time to time these athletes make our jobs more difficult by hiding out and stonewalling.

Also, the nature of sports coverage has changed significantly in the last 30 years. A big-time athlete can't expect, for instance, to get in a bar room fight, get picked up on drunken driving charges, or go gambling at a casino during a playoff series without hearing about it on "SportsCenter" or seeing it in the papers the next day.


That said, high-profile athletes have to recognize that dealing with the media -- and not just fielding the fluffy questions posed by some of the NBC types -- comes with the territory.

What role does Jordan expect to play on the naming of a new head of the NBA players union? Does Barkley feel any responsibility for the firing of former Phoenix coach Paul Westphal?

Those are questions that might have come up last weekend, but couldn't be answered because Jordan and Barkley preferred the desert heat to the media heat.

Sure, the proposed fine is heavy, though insubstantial compared to what Jordan and Barkley earn. The most noxious part would be the suspension, but you can be assured that the message would go out that the NBA won't tolerate players taking a pass from their duties, no matter how distasteful they might seem.

By the way, it has been four months since the end of the World Series, and we still haven't heard the first peep from acting baseball poobah Bud Selig over fines and suspensions for Cleveland's Albert Belle and Eddie Murray for their unconscionable behavior to NBC reporters.

# We're waiting, Bud.