Can Manute Bol save Jim Irsay?

The cash-seeking owner may have to put the 7-foot-7 Dinka tribesman in shoulder pads to keep the Colts in Indianapolis.


King Kaufman
November 15, 2002 8:51PM (UTC)

Some of my readers have been politely wondering when the &$%$& I'm going to write something about hockey. I've been waiting for just the right moment, and that moment has arrived, because Manute Bol has signed a hockey contract.

The 7-foot-7 Dinka tribesman, who was the greatest shot blocker in NBA history during a one-dimensional 11-year career, agreed this week to lace on skates for the minor-league Indianapolis Ice of the Central Hockey League. That is, if the Ice can find a pair of skates big enough. Bol doesn't have his own, and word is he's never been on skates in his 40 years.

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He has, however, been in the ring. He beat William "The Refrigerator" Perry on Fox's "Celebrity Boxing" recently, which raises an important question: How'd I miss that one?

Signing Bol, who probably won't play, is a publicity stunt for the Ice, you see, and for Bol it's a way to raise money for the Ring True Foundation, which he set up to help children in his native Sudan. Bol has reportedly spent the money he earned playing basketball supporting causes in his war-torn homeland, including the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army. He lives in Connecticut.

"We're always looking for a unique angle," Ice general manager Larry Linde said. "We like to expose our fans to people they might like to meet."

I'm not sure the people of Indianapolis have been dying to meet Manute Bol, but I bet they'll get a kick out of him. Of all the famous people 7-foot-6 and taller, Bol has the sunniest personality. And paying $10 to go watch the Ice play the Amarillo Gorillas on Saturday, when Bol makes his first and presumably only appearance, ought to be a lot more fun than giving $10 million a year to Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, who wants at least that much from taxpayers to keep the team there rather than moving it to Los Angeles in 2007 after its lease at the RCA Dome expires, if not sooner. (The mayor used that $10 million figure; a team spokesman called it "conservative.")

The good news for taxpayers, who oppose paying more to keep the Colts in town, a recent poll revealed, is that Irsay lost some bargaining power this week when Indianapolis TV station WTHR reported that he's been addicted to painkillers for at least the last seven years, and that he's under investigation by several law enforcement agencies over alleged drug fraud. Irsay admitted his addiction, but he said he's been through rehab and has beaten the problem, and he denied being under investigation. WTHR stands by its story.

Why politicians who might be willing to give an extra $10 million a year to a millionaire for the care and feeding of his private business would be reluctant to do so if he's a drug addict is beyond me, but whatever works. According to the Indianapolis Star, the city's already spent about $37 million on the Colts in the past two years, not to mention making payments on a $22 million team loan and funding a $20 million upgrade to the dome. Indianapolis is scheduled to spend $12.5 million on the team next year, the Star says. That seems like enough. I'd live in Indianapolis for half of that.

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Well, two-thirds.

Irsay, drug free but cut off at the public-money teat, might have to turn to publicity stunts to raise the extra cash he says the Colts need. How would Manute Bol look in shoulder pads?

And there's one more bit of good news in the Bol-to-Indianapolis story: There's a hockey team called the Amarillo Gorillas. How cool is that?

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QB controversies

I get the best e-mail from readers. Really, you're all smarter and cuter than I am and most of you are better writers. One of these days I'm going to figure out how to fill all of my column with readers' thoughts but still keep the money for myself.

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Several readers responded to my column Tuesday -- in which I argued that the unwritten rule that quarterbacks don't lose their jobs to injury is silly -- by reminding me of something I had forgotten and haven't heard mentioned in all the talk about the St. Louis Rams' situation: Kurt Warner, who looks like he'll be handed his job back when he returns from injury despite the stellar play of backup Marc Bulger, became the starter when he replaced the injured Trent Green.

Green got hurt in his first preseason in St. Louis. He was never the Rams' starter in the regular season. Still, it's kind of funny that Warner's backers -- with whom I don't completely disagree, incidentally -- are invoking the "Get your job back after an injury" rule on his behalf.

Others wrote in to point out that the New England Patriots had a similar situation last year, and they stuck with the backup and won the Super Bowl. (Actually, I mentioned that in my column, but I was a bit vague about it.) Except for Tom Brady's monster game against Drew Bledsoe's new team, the Buffalo Bills, Bledsoe, the man he replaced, is outplaying him so far this year, several readers have mentioned. Maybe the choice of Brady wasn't such a good one in the long run.

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Maybe, but don't forget that the Pats got the Bills' first draft pick in 2003 for Bledsoe. You can't evaluate the quarterback decision until that draft choice begins contributing or washes out. If Brady's performance is anywhere close to Bledsoe's, and that draft choice turns into a good player, then going with Brady was a good call.

That's something to remember when looking at the Rams, too. Warner would bring more in a trade than Bulger (who also commands a lower salary, thus leaving more room under the salary cap), so Bulger doesn't necessarily have to be Warner's equal to be the right choice.

It can be a harsh world, that NFL.

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Miguel Tejada, MVP

I've already said my piece about how Alex Rodriguez, who finished second in the voting, should be the American League Most Valuable Player because I think the MVP should go to the best player in the league, not the best player (or the one with the best traditional offensive stats) on a playoff team.

But let me make one more point by telling you all you need to know about the 28 baseball writers who voted to give the award to Miguel Tejada of the Oakland A's: On their ballots, David Eckstein of the Anaheim Angels and Nomar Garciaparra of the Boston Red Sox finished tied for sixth.

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Any system that treats David Eckstein and Nomar Garciaparra as anything remotely resembling equals is a system that's broken.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected since it was first published.


King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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