Suddenly, weirdness breaks out all over

The new year is less than a week old, and already the weirdness quotient is through the roof.

Look what's happened in the last few days alone:


The Ravens go one-and-out in the NFL playoffs - at home, in lyrical-sounding M&T; Bank Stadium! - to a team they usually beat like a rented mule.

The weather goes schizophrenic: 60-degree temperatures in January.


The Croc Hunter drops out of the running for Father of the Year.

Britney and Jason say "I do" instead of "Bartender, cut me off."

If these are harbingers of a bizarre 2004, it's not a surprise at least to one person.

Astrologist Joyce Jillson, whose syndicated horoscope column appears in The Sun, predicts a tumultuous year, and attributes the current spate of abnormal events to - of course - the planet Uranus emerging.

"Uranus is the planet of genius, of iconoclastic events, of sudden revelations," she said yesterday over the phone. "Uranus breaks the mold. So whatever is set in stone will be volcanically interrupted."

Well, what's being "volcanically interrupted" right now is our sense of cosmic equilibrium.

Let's see, where to begin?

Since this is Baltimore, where a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality is handed down through the generations, it's always best to start with the pain.


And Ravens fans are still reeling from the team's 20-17 loss to the Titans, a team Baltimore had beaten five times in a row.

No one likes to begin the new year in a state of mourning. So about 10 seconds after the game was over, the finger-pointing began, as the sports-talk-show buzzards gathered to affix blame for this horrible outcome.

Two main culprits emerged - neither of them, somehow, Uranus.

One was Matt Cavanaugh, the poker-faced offensive coordinator, who's been vilified all year for what is perceived as unimaginative play-calling and a passing attack that's as up-to-date as your grandma's wing chairs.

The other was Orlando Brown, the mammoth offensive lineman with the hair-trigger temper, who drew two personal foul penalties for pushing an opposing player after the whistle.

This, of course, is one of the great paradoxes of pro football.


You can practically take a player's head off when the ball is snapped. You can grab him, smack him, stick your helmet through his sternum, make him bleed like road kill.

But, hey, no pushing after the play's over!

If the Ravens game was strange, the weather was even stranger. Maybe we weren't sitting around the pool sipping pina coladas, but it was positively balmy on the East Coast.

One week after Christmas, runners took to the street in tank tops and shorts. Outdoor basketball courts were packed.

A year ago, the area was in the death grip of a deep freeze; this past weekend, local golf courses were crowded - nearly 200 teed off at Longview Golf Course in Timonium Saturday.

Winter was due to return to the East today, with temperatures dipping back into the 30s. But it was heaven - OK, a weird heaven - while it lasted.


Playing golf was probably what the Crocodile Hunter, Animal Planet star Steve Irwin, should have been doing over the weekend.

Instead, he decided to feed a 13-foot crocodile at his reptile park in Australia while cradling his 1-month-old son, Bob, in one arm.

This would have gone basically unremarked upon except for one little thing: a TV camera was rolling. And soon, shots of Irwin's stunt were shown all over the world.

You will, of course, be shocked to know it provoked howls of protest.

Many felt Irwin's behavior was irresponsible - and possibly even negligent - since crocodiles are powerful, unpredictable animals who have been known to attack humans, even tiny humans, and, well, eat them.

To which Irwin basically responded: Picky, picky, picky.


The child was never in danger, Irwin insisted, saying that comparisons to Michael Jackson, who dangled his infant son from a balcony in Germany two years ago, made him "sick to my stomach."

Britney Spears and Jason Allen Alexander were probably feeling a little queasy, too, after a night of partying culminated in their 5:30 a.m. wedding in the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.

By all accounts, it wasn't one of your stuffy, by-the-book weddings: She wore jeans and a baseball cap and was walked down the aisle by the limo driver; he managed to remain upright during the vows.

The marriage, however, lasted only about 15 seconds, as the couple quickly filed for an annulment, presumably upon awakening, looking at each other and screaming: "We did what last night?!"

And we're only six days into the new year.

Why, next thing you know, Pete Rose will admit he bet on baseball.