Fear the freak! Iron Mike is loose
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Pssst. Is it safe to come out yet?

I'm serious. I'm not showing up to The Cooler on a Monday morn, if I know Mike Tyson is anywhere near the premises. Has the rented security cop -- ESPN spares no expense when it comes to the safety of its Page 2 contributors -- done the sweep of the area? I need to know, because otherwise I've got my tranquilizer gun at the ready. I'll lay a slug of this Sleep Juice in Iron Mike's thigh if the former heavyweight champ comes within biting range.

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson is very scary ... until he starts using words like "fornicate."
I came to The Cooler prepared -- in other words, wearing full Major League Baseball-issue catcher's gear -- after reading Tyson's quotes over the weekend and after seeing his rants on a Sunday Night Conversation I can only describe as the most chilling footage I've seen since the original "Nightmare on Elm Street." That's a film classic my buddies and I saw on a weeknight in 1984, just to prove that we were high school seniors and could do anything we wanted on weeknights, only to get so freaked by the flick that my buddy Robbie had to give me his Mom's Antidote to Scary Movies Theory on the ride home.

To wit, the theory: Just imagine all the actors doing the scary scene, then a director shouting "Cut!" and the scary guy ripping off his mask and attacking the catered spread while making a phone call to his agent about his next project.

Try it. It works. Even with, like, Tony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter -- imagine him negotiating a trailer for "Remains of the Day" in between "Silence of the Lambs" scenes - or with all the dead people in "The Sixth Sense." (There you can imagine Haley Joel Osment, who killed as "Cole" in that outstanding film, doing "People" magazine interviews on the set in between scenes.)

Freaky part is, Iron Mike ain't following no script. This guy is real life!

And I'm sorry. I've heard the theory that Tyson's insane rants show how far he's fallen on the Intimidation Scale, how he never had to talk like a madman in the 1980s when he was King of the Ring, and that now it's one of those empty-barrel-makes-the-loudest-noise things.

Sorry. The guy has me spooked. (That is, except for the constant use of the word "fornication," when he wants to use the other f-word for sex. That's where Tyson comes up short. How tough would DeNiro as LaMotta sound if he said to Pesci in that pivotal "Raging Bull" scene: "Did you fornicate with my wife?" Tyson sounds like he walked out of the Old Testament when he drops that word. What's next, wishing a plague of frogs on Lennox Lewis' camp? Or allowing only two reporters onto his Ark when the Biblical rains come?)

Anyway, the guy has my teeth chattering.

Hey, I don't have any children. But when I do, I fully expect them to say to me, when tucking them goodnight: "Daddy, are you sure Mike Tyson's not under my bed?" And I'd have to answer honestly: "Kids, I don't know. But if he is, you're on your own. I want no part of that cat."

I'd better rush to the Weekend List of Five, before I start hearing things that go bump in the night:

1. "My Old Kentucky Home"

George Holter
How did some of these people ever make it in to Churchill Downs?
Ah, the Derby. The sport of kings. The spires of Churchill Downs. The sound of the Call to the Post.

The sight of thousands of obliterated partyers whooping at the camera, as if they were helicoptered in from MTV's "Spring Break: Daytona Rocks!"

Seriously. What was with that? I watch the Derby for majesty. Instead, I get a shot of some shirtless cat down 11 mint juleps, surrounded by a bunch of Kentucky maidens who think "going to the Derby" means wearing a hat straight out of Elton John's closet, circa 1974. (And when you think closets in '74, Elton John's gotta go to the top of the list.)

Anyway, these clowns nearly ruined the always-poignant rendition of "My Old Kentucky Home," a phenomenal tradition in American sports. Really, one of our best -- consider, by comparison, Up With People's always-memorable dance numbers to "Birdland" in the Super Bowls of the late 1970s.

So I'm thinking, as I wipe away a tear -- or was it just dust in the eye? -- during "My Old Kentucky Home," The Cooler needs a song. Something we can all sing, say, on Cooler Day. Quick thoughts: "Honky Tonk Women," by the Stones; the theme from "The Magnificent Seven" (problem: no lyrics), "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire ... but who am I kidding?

The Cooler's answer to that Derby classic, to be sung on Cooler Day from here until eternity -- or until Bristol pulls the plug on this tortured device -- is, of course, "Summer Wind" by Francis Albert Sinatra.

Hands down.

2. The Eastern Conference: Does life exist in a vacuum?

I want to get fired up on the Nets-Hornets showdown. I want to fly my provincial colors and brag about Baron Davis (L.A. kid, UCLA legend) and Jason Kidd (Bay Area kid, Cal legend) and get all Pac-10 on you guys.

Which is all great.

Except for the nagging thought that the Kidd-Baron showdown and the Pistons-Celtics nostalgia matchup (by the way, what's the window on "nostalgia"? Does 15 years ago count as "nostalgia"? And does that mean we can officially get nostalgic for Milli Vanilli?) are just part of an elaborate charade.

Does the Eastern Conference even exist? Will the Lakers get outscored in a quarter by the Eastern Conference champ? If an Eastern Conference champion falls in a forest, and the Lakers have a travel day, does it make a noise? What is the sound of one Eastern Conference hand clapping?

Essay questions all. Hand in your blue books in 50 minutes.

3.Kings-Mavericks: on the other hand ...

Steve Nash
In the 21st century NBA, it's quite a novelty to watch Steve Nash's Mavs run with Mike Bibby's Kings.
As a colleague said: "Kings-Mavs. Man, I haven't been so excited for a playoff series since ..."

"Since the NBA was good?" I queried.

Hey. You wanna argue with that? Why are we so excited about Sac-Dallas? Is it because Stevie Nash went on Letterman last week and proved that a kid can go from the anonymity of the West Coast Conference and, through hard work and hip haircuts, shag Liz Hurley and do late-night talk shows?

Or is it because these teams can run, and can shoot?

Man, talk about nostalgia. I can remember when having those qualities wasn't considered a big deal.

4. Adopting an Official Cooler Team

Ladies and Gentlemen, we present the Minnesota Twins.

It's official.

We're adopting the Twins.

I loved 'em in '99 and '00, when I covered the American League. I saw the influx of talent. I saw the surge of young energy. I saw the empty seats by the tens of thousands in Minneapolis.

Now, it is Twinkie Time.

Doug Mientkiewicz
Doug Mientkiewicz's Twins have been named the official baseball team of the Cooler.
Torii Hunter. Cristian Guzman. Corey Koskie. Brad Radke. Joe Mays. Eddie (El Guapo of the Midwest) Guadardo.

These are our lads.

This is their mission: Upend the apple cart. Beat the Yankees, the Red Sox and the Mariners. Go directly to the World Series. Do not pass Go.

We're watching, lads. Godspeed.

5. A Belated Happy Cinco de Mayo

Had a classic Sunday softball doubleheader against a team of Mexican-Americans. They brought a huge crew of fans, several cases of Corona, a boombox of mariachi music and a ton of spirit to our clashes. We got over in Game 1, and when I asked our skipper who we played in Game 2, he said: "Same team."

"Oh, man!" I said. "No way we sweep these guys on Cinco de Mayo!"

Sure enough. We blew a 13-run lead in the nightcap. They went nuts in victory, and gathered for a BBQ and feast down the right-field line. I wormed my way into their fiesta, looking for a cold one. They provided, and amid the good tidings, one said to me, in broken English: "No way you were gonna sweep us on Cinco de Mayo!"

Perfect. I laughed, took a swig and said: "No doubt, dude. That'd be like sweeping us on St. Patrick's Day!"

So, Feliz Cinco de Mayo, everyone. Even you, Iron Mike.

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



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