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Monday, July 28, 2003
Lance's title brought to you by OLN

By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

A year ago, we gathered 'round The Cooler to bow at the altar of Lance Armstrong, All-American boy.

A year later, what's left?

Not much, except a combination of reverential awe and the sound of millions of Americans saying: "Outdoor Life Network? Is that the one where you can see two moose humping?"

Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong's fifth straight Tour de France title was brought to you by our friends at the Outdoor Life Network.
I'm convinced that Lance Armstrong's story is now one of the greatest in sports history. ESPN needs to re-do its Top 100 Athletes of the 20th Century, and extend it to 20th Century Plus Three Years. Then, they need to put Armstrong in the top 10, somewhere ahead of Secretariat but behind Jim Brown, who could play one hell of a lacrosse match.

One hundred years from now, his story will take on hues of Paul Bunyan, or John Henry.

(Not the Red Sox owner, dweller. Come on. Can we allow ourselves a little flight of fancy here?)

Guy rides bike. Guy wins stages on the greatest bike race on Earth. Guy is 25. Guy gets testicular cancer. Cancer spreads to guy's lung and brains. Guy is given 50 percent chance to live.

Guy wins fifth consecutive Tour de France six years later.

Now how come that story doesn't rate better than the Outdoor Life Network?

The Outdoor Life Network!

I'm serious.

My 10-year-old nephew was over and he wanted some Tour and said: "Put it on Channel 81!"

Channel 81? Listen, I'm a guy who knows his multiple Cinemax channels with the best. I didn't know we had a Channel 81. I was half-expecting to flip to 81 and see Andrew Stevens making sweet love to Shannon Tweed, only to learn Channel 81 in the Bay Area is Outdoor Life Network, which apparently showed the Tour de France.

Fishing
Gord Wallace catching fish is what we usually see on the Outdoor Life Network.
What a slap in the face! First, Armstrong has to deal with a nation of whining Gauls who can't handle his schwerve on a Schwinn. Then, in his home nation, he's on the Outdoor Life Network.

After the Tour de France, stay tuned for "Ten Ways to Lop Off a Limb: Tips for Hiking Survivalism," next on the Outdoor Life Network.

Of course, it was all made better when Lance received a congratulatory phone call from the Postmaster General himself. The Postmaster General? Say what?

Did they interrupt Lance's cell phone call from the President to say: "Hey, champ, Cliff Claven's on the phone. He says you've got a package down at the office, and remember to bring your yellow delivery slip."

The best part about reading of Armstrong's triumph is to see dusted off the name of another five-time winner, the great Belgian cyclist, Eddie Merckx. Or, as he was known to his friends, The Human Typo.

And a fiitting finale from Lance: He says he's fired up for six in a row, saying he's coming back to France. "And I'm not coming back for second," he said.

What, The Cooler is going to doubt him? Dweller, that'd be like doubting Casey Jones.

On to the Weekend List of Five:

1. ... and a brief add on Tyler Hamilton
A young American by the name of Hamilton cycled most of the Tour de France with a broken collarbone, held together, apparently, by gum and cardboard. A broken collarbone?

Dweller: I went for my laughably short jog on Saturday morning. A mile in, my back seized up like a thousand Haitian voodoo doctors jammed their sharpest cutlery into my doll. Had my back been a neon sign, it'd have been blinking like a strip joint in Pottersville.

I limped home, and spent the next two days mainlining Advil and feeling sorry for myself. My back was so tender, and I was such an unbelievable wuss, I wouldn't have considered lifting our new, adorable 14-pound Yellow Lab puppy without a weight belt.

So then I flip on OLN (we're on acronym basis around here) and see that Hamilton kid doing his thing. With the broken collarbone.

Wait. Maybe you didn't understand.

With the broken collarbone.

In the face of that guy's pain tolerance, I felt like a little child. A small girl, even.

So, about that bad back of mine ...

Uh, never mind.

Say, Tyler: I've got some spare Advil, if you need some.

Peter Jacobsen
Peter Jacobsen is one of the most likeable athletes. He is also this year's Greater Hartford Open Champion.
2. Peter Jacobsen: What's not to like?
That Peter Jacobsen won the Greater Hartford Open is a solid enough feat for a 49-year-old cat; that Peter Jacobsen is probably the funniest and most likable athlete on the American sports landscape is a whole 'nother thing.

Jake! Are you kidding me? Most of us figured this guy had graduated into the Rubber Chicken/Banquet Circuit for the rest of eternity after his turn in "Tin Cup." Yes, that was almost a decade ago. Jacobsen had become golf's eloquent spokesman/comedian. Killing at the dais, yes; but making birdies under pressure, no.

Trust me. I sat in on Jake's heartfelt tribute to the late Jack Lemmon at the 2002 California Golf Writers Dinner at Spanish Bay. Jake and Lemmon were partners every year, and if you can't get behind Peter Jacobsen and Shelly (The Machine) Levine (or C.C. Baxter, depending on your birth certificate), then you've got no pulse.

It wasn't so much that Jake's speech about his dear, departed pal Lemmon was the second-most sincere and touching passage I've ever heard. (Longtime dwellers know Bill Walton's 1991 jersey retirement speech at Pauley Pavilion remains nonpareil.) It was that the Lemmon speech was preceded by a video compilation of Jake's cut-ups at his charity tournament, where he did withering comic impressions of the biggest names in golf, particularly bringing down the room with his Craig Stadler bit. He would dump a bucket of range balls into his shirt for starters -- the effect is surprisingly like the Walrus' gut -- and then do the Stads club toss/frustration walk with clown-like fervor. People were wetting themselves, I'm telling you. So how about the fact that the Walrus called Jake's cell phone on Saturday night and informed him that if Jacobsen won, the two would be paired together at next January's winners-only Mercedes Championships, since the pairings are made chronologically.

Said Jake, relating that tale: "Playing with Stads at Kapalua? Yeah ..."

I can hear the starter at Kapalua now: "Ladies and gentlemen, with the 12:10 p.m. tee time ... the Sunshine Boys!''

3. My TV is on the fritz
I need to start throwing shoes at my TV. Might make it vault into the 21st century.

A few weeks ago, it showed Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon, and I was utterly convinced aliens from 1985 had overtaken it. I half-expected to fall into a couch nap, and awaken to hear the memorable notes of the mournful piano intro from Mike Post's "Theme from Hill Street Blues."

Time warp, man.

Then, Saturday night, I saw a local TV report from Napa showing Raiders training camp. There, in an NFL uniform, was Jerry Rice. I had trouble digesting the following facts:

* It is the year 2003, and we are on our second Bush in the White House. Considering that Rice started his pro career back when our current prez was still doing Jager shots with John Newcombe, that's something.

* Michael Jackson, the icon of pop cool in Rice's rookie year, now looks like Diana Ross.

* And when Rice was drafted in the spring of '85, Peter Jacobsen was strutting around PGA Tour locker rooms asking rhetorically: "Who's the king of Hartford? Huh? Who's the king?"

Martina ... Jerry Rice ... Jake ... can't this current generation of sport stars throw a tennis shoe at the meowing cat outside the window that is the old generation of sports stars?

4. The enduring beauty of "Spinal Tap"
Twenty-one years later, Rob Reiner's flawless masterpiece lives on. Can you go a day without realizing the swarming, tentacle-like reach of "Spinal Tap"? Just last week I was in a small English village called Sandwich for the British Open. When my roomies and I drove into town for some pints, we parked on a typically anonymous narrow lane and figured we'd never find our rig again. That is, until we noticed it was parked next to a shoe store that promised the buyer "Quality Footwear."

Easy.

"We're parked next to David St. Hubbins' place," one of us said, giving us a place to remember.

You know: David St. Hubbins, as played by Michael McKean. Asked at one point who "Saint Hubbins" was, McKean responded, without blinking, "He's the patron saint of quality footwear."

So there you have it.

Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds does it all. This includes hitting walk-off homeruns.
Next thing you know, I'm back Stateside and the Giants, under the steady hand of the Dominican Yoda, Felipe Alou, are lighting baseball ablaze. They sweep the Diamondbacks in four games, the capper being Barry Bonds' Exhibit A Game -- as in, Exhibit A why he is the best you'll ever see and the steroid rumors make no difference. That day, Bonds threw out Craig Counsell in the top of the ninth, then homered off Mike Myers, off whom he had never homered, to win the game.

Absurd stuff, and for the cluster of Giants fans that pass as my high school and college pals, it was my boy Roberts who took note of the Giants lead in the NL West standings and e-mailed: "Yes, but these go to 11."

Perfect.

The Giants sport an 11-game lead in the West? Where else does the poetic mind look but to Christopher Guest's Nigel Tufnel, who could only explain his speaker volume going to 11 with the simple words: "But these go to 11."

Yes, Roberts. The Giants' lead in the NL West is Tufnellian.

5. My guy T.C.'s rant
I can always count on my guy T.C. to serve as not just my barometer of quality comedy, but of pop culture run amok, too.

So it was that I opened an e-mail from my buddy this week to read that he had just learned of Adam Sandler's intention to remake the enduring classic "The Longest Yard," as a comedy.

Ponder that, dweller.

What's next, Jason Priestly remaking "Slap Shot"?

As you might expect, my guy was spitting bile, and fired off the e-mail: "This is terrific news. 'The Longest Yard' has cried out since 1975 to be remade as a comedy starring a shrieking, mugging goon. Who's going to play The Walking Boss, Gilbert Gottfried? Cedric the Entertainer as Granville? Carrot Top as Captain Knauer? Gallagher as Caretaker? Can we get Howie Mandel to play Nate Scarborough, one of the most beloved men this institution has ever known?"

Later, he sent another one-line e-mail that read only: "I may be more offended by this than the news that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez will star in a re-make of 'Casablanca.' "

I could only do what I always do in times like this -- realize it's time to recall the line from the sage Lenny Kravitz, from that MTV interview of about 10 years ago: "These are the last days, man. The last days."

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.