By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Nobody had made such a newsworthy boat ride since Gilligan and the Skipper packed the Pabst Blue Ribbon on ice for the S.S. Minnow's 3-hour tour.

Jose Contreras
After cheating death to be together, the Contreras family is reunited.

But there they were at Yankee Stadium on Sunday -- the family of Yankee pitcher Jose Contreras, living it up in a luxury suite while Daddy Contreras pitched his way to a win over the Mets.

Just think -- earlier in the week, La Familia Contreras was on a 30-foot boat making the dash of their lives to Florida from Cuba.

And what is their immediate impression of the Home of the Brave, the Land of the Free?

A luxury suite at The Stadium.

I can hear Jose's young daughter now:

Mommy, does everybody in America get oversized oatmeal raisin cookies laid out on Yankee-logo napkins?

Yes, baby. And America has spent 225 years fighting for our right to choose from a wreath of cold cuts, spread out over a bed of lettuce, with mayo and mustard on the side. Now, do you want wheat or rye bread?

The Contreras Family posting at The Stadium for the Subway Series was clearly the biggest story of a slow sports weekend at The Cooler.

What a transition. One day, The Contreras Family is eating tortillas made of cardboard and chasing it down with warmish Cuban tap water.

The next day, they're perusing a Steinbrenner-funded mini-bar filled with endless cans of frosty brews while absent-mindedly dipping celery sticks into a refreshing pool of ranch dressing.

Understand, I've never been a Luxury Suite Guy. Sure, for the odd annual visit, it's a riot: Once, during a Dodgers-Giants game at Candlestick, my buddy Malcy and I talked our way into a luxury suite and ordered up a case of Negra Mondela beer via the suite's phone. Cost, like, 100 bucks. I'm not kidding. Later, Malcy may or may not have taken a piece of a hot dog and inserted it into his pants zipper. He may or may not have then executed a turn on the catwalk topping the mezzanine scoreboard outside of the suite, for all of the mortified, high-paying suite customers to see his groin-turned-frankfurter.

I hope the Contreras Family wasn't subjected to such horrors. I hope the Contreras Family did what all Good Suite Denizens do: Turn your back to the field, watch the game on TV and stuff your face with complimentary carrot cake.

God Bless America. And God Bless the Luxury Suite.

1. Strawberries and Rain
Quick: Worst Rain Situation in the World -- Wimbledon, or Seattle?

What do strawberries and cream taste like when water-logged? Can't taste good, I imagine. Then again, what tastes good in England?

Even strawberries and cream can't make a deluge of rain better.

Of course, who am I to talk? I come from the country with The Worst Food Ever. That's right. I heard it straight from the horse's mouth.

Last year, I had occasion to dine with several British sports scribes on the road. There, I was subjected to a rant from one limey who essentially wrote off all American cuisine as "crap" and wondered why he couldn't find a decent meal in the 50 states.

I sat, dumbfounded. Had he ever tasted his country's soggy vegetables? Had he ever eaten a fresh salad in his native land? Had he ever glanced at a barren English menu, as devoid of appeal as Queen Elizabeth in a thong?

This guy's denial ran as deep as the Thames.

I told him: "What are there, like, 300 nations in the world? If we polled all 300 and asked: Which cuisine do you prefer, American or British, I'm think you'd lose about, oh, 290 of those nations."

He remained intransigent. At that moment, I only wanted a medium-rare cheeseburger, chased by a chocolate milkshake.

Anyway & I hope Andy Roddick and Serena Williams are eating well. They've got a huge cross to bear -- the flag of a Bad Food Nation.

2. Speaking of British Absurdities ...
Can the country of England cut Tim Henman a break?

Has a second-rate athlete ever carried a bigger burden?

It'd be like America absolutely going bananas for Chris DiMarco, every time he played a PGA Tour event. Or the U.S. losing its marbles over the prospect of Jake Peavy pitching a ballgame.

Here's the deal: Henman is a nice player, just above-average, nothing more, by his sport's standards, and yet when he puts on the white shirt and white shorts at Centre Court, all of a sudden he's Bill Tilden, with a dash of Rod Laver and a sprinkle of Bjorn Borg.

The fans all wear Union Jack hats, they write about "HenMania", they have "Henman Hill" ... come on. Being of Irish-Italian descent, I'm no Anglophile, but I expect better out of Albion. You can appreciate him, yeah. But deify him? Sure sign of a nation in decline: Rallying like mad for a lost cause.

I keep waiting for Henman to just snap under the pressure, go postal, start screaming at the fans for the outrageous pressure. "WILL YOU LEAVE ME ALONE AND LET ME LOSE MY SEMIFINAL IN PEACE?"

I want him storming backward around Centre Court, going Jimmy Piersall at Wimbledon.

If Henman makes the finals, watch for the meltdown. They may need the butterfly net.

3. Remember the Titans
So re-assuring to see Cal State Fullerton, a California school, win the NCAA baseball championship. After all, the state of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Frank Robinson deserves as much.

Cal State Fullerton
The Cooler is glad to see the World Series title back in Cali.

But my re-occurring, annual beef with the College World Series: The aluminum bat.

It's 2004. These kids can't hit with wood bats? Hate to go all James Watt on you, but aren't there enough trees in this world to make bats for the college kids, too?

Not only is it morally wrong to continue the Aluminum Bat phenomenon, it's downright dangerous. A Texas pitcher nearly had his family jewels put on the permanent disabled list by a Fullerton line drive back through the box. What college kid is going to continue to sign up for this punishment? Yeah, coach. I'll pitch. Say, did my parents make sure to fill out the dental insurance form on my scholarship application?

Bring back the lumber!

4. How Can You Spell "Wie" Without a "W"?
Michelle Wie, meet The Game of Golf.

Game of Golf, this is Michelle Wie.

Yes, Game of Golf, she's the one you've heard about.

It was about time you two met. Prior to your long-awaited handshake, we were led to believe that Michelle Wie would have no need of your acquaintance, Game of Golf. She would never meet with despair on the links, and believe golf is nothing but "60 Minutes" interviews and ESPN The Magazine cover shoots.

When you're 14 and Queen of the World, it's easy to think this way. Nobody had so much hold on her followers at that age since Joan of Arc -- and we know how that turned out.

So Michelle Wie blows a lead and loses at the Women's Amateur Public Links -- a tournament, by the way, which used to be as much on the "SportsCenter" radar as Evel Knievel's bi-annual doctor's office visit to get his ear wax flushed. You've got to love Michelle Wie. Only she can make the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links into a newsworthy event. But there she was, losing on the 36th hole to some 15-year-old from Taiwan -- trumped! By a fellow teen! -- and there Michelle was, crying on Mom's shoulder. Turns out there is crying in golf -- especially by John Daly, when the RV mini-fridge is devoid of light beer.

Michelle Wie doesn't want to hear this now, but the best thing that could ever have happened to her just happened. She needs to taste a little bile. It'll make her tougher. I expect to see her show up at the U.S. Women's Open with a thousand-yard stare and a tattoo of the Greek comedy/tragedy masks on her deltoid.

Let's usher in the "Michelle Wie: Scarred and Badder Than Ever" Era.

5. Euro '04: I'm Devoid of Takes
Normally, The Cooler would be laden with international soccer trivia from the European Championships right now, but I have to admit my parochial view of it all: If neither Ireland nor Italy is a factor, my interest drops to the level of the average American, that is to say -- non-existent.

David Beckham
Beckham's shank took some of the personality out of the Euro Cup.

So we're left with Portugal v. The Netherlands, and Greece v. The Czech Republic in the semifinals.

No Italy, no Ireland, no England, no France, no Spain, no Germany.

It's like a Devil Rays-Rangers ALCS, balanced by an Expos-Rockies NLCS.

Listen, fair play to the Greeks. They've been getting killed by the international media over the Olympics preparation. I have to figure -- if we're going to cut any nation slack on preparations for the Olympics, it has to be the country that first put on the games over 2,000 years ago, right? I figure if there are any logistical issues, a Greek official can put in a call to Zeus, and He'll create 1,000 more hotel rooms with the wave of his wand, and include 500 more traffic cops, just for good measure.

I figure Zeus is like Steinbrenner. Look for him in a luxury box at the Opening Ceremonies. He'll be the guy in the toga, killing Coors Lights and oatmeal-raisin cookies.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes every Monday for Page 2.