King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Anna Kournikova: "Celebrity Boxing" for you on Line 2. Plus: Where next for A-Rod? And: Go behind the scenes of this column!

Published August 1, 2003 7:00PM (EDT)

Anna Kournikova says she might have to retire from tennis at 22 because of her bad back. That's the most disappointing news since Joey Travolta quit his singing career.

Kournikova, who has never won a tournament in seven years as a pro, has a chronic back injury that's caused her to pull out of the summer hard-court season, which includes the U.S. Open, and her agent, Phil de Picciotto, told a French newspaper that the end may be at hand for the 89th-ranked female tennis player in the world.

Look for Kournikova in Playboy in two years and on "Celebrity Boxing" in three. Though she's made millions from her endorsements because of her looks, she's no supermodel. She's really cute for a professional tennis player, but spend 30 seconds at an outdoor cafe on Melrose Avenue and you'll see 10 prettier women walk by. Without the hook of her being a tennis pro, even a mediocre one, she's not going to be able to sell much of anything unless she taps into reserves of personality and charisma she's heretofore kept hidden.

Is there another sports star who ever parlayed so little athletic success into so much fame and fortune? Brian Bosworth comes to mind, but he was a great college player, and he faded pretty fast once his pro career ended. There are others -- Bob Uecker for one, and British ski jumper Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards -- but they've succeeded in their post-athletic days because of their ability to charm and entertain audiences.

I have nothing against Kournikova, so I hope she proves me wrong by not only coming back from her injury to dominate the tour but then hosting a variety show on NBC for 10 years. But if I were her, I'd watch my pennies, and maybe practice my jab.

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Where will A-Rod go? [PERMALINK]

Alex Rodriguez seems to have answered the age-old philosophical question "How long would you put up with a hapless, hopeless team if you're making $25 million a year?" The answer for A-Rod is apparently two years and four months, or 431 games, 56 percent of which have been losses.

Rodriguez said this week that he'd be willing to entertain the idea of the Texas Rangers trading him if -- he was careful to say -- it would help the Rangers. "If the Rangers found they could be better off without me, whether now or a year or two down the road, I'd be willing to sit down and talk," he told reporters following Wednesday's game. "I don't want out, I want to make that clear. I just want us to get better. I want to see improvement."

Translation: "I love the Rangers. There's no one I'd rather see in my rear-view mirror. Is anybody out there in the market for the greatest shortstop since Honus Wagner?"

Probably not unless Rodriguez is willing to rework that massive 10-year contract, but can you think of a team that might be an extremely logical destination for A-Rod? I can. It's a team that wins plenty, and plays in a media center that would provide Rodriguez with endorsement opportunities that would more than make up for any salary he'd be willing to give up in a renegotiation. This team already has a shortstop, but he's not much of one defensively, and wouldn't it be interesting to see what happens if you slide him over to third.

I have no idea if the Yankees have any interest in picking up Rodriguez and moving Derek Jeter to the less defensively demanding hot corner. Certainly not right away, since they traded for Aaron Boone Thursday. But Boone's not the kind of guy who's so good you can't cut him loose to make room for Alex Rodriguez. Boone's not the kind of guy who's so good you can't cut him loose to make room for anyone, really.

Funny how the Yanks were the first team that popped into my head when I heard that the most expensive and --- considering the future along with the present, since he's only 28 --- valuable player in baseball might be coming onto the market in the next year. Just a hunch it'll happen someday. Yours too?

As for what's best for the Rangers, it would be nice for them to have that $25 million a year back to spend on pitching, but how many Chan Ho Parks are out there?

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Go behind the scenes! [PERMALINK]

In the spirit of ego-stroking self-indulgence that seems to be taking over the sports media this week, we proudly present: "Behind King Kaufman's Sports Daily."

If you enjoyed "Inside SportsCenter," on which ESPN's cameras took you behind the scenes so you could see Dan Patrick getting his makeup put on and various under-assistant videotape whatevers running down the hallways for some reason, and you enjoyed Sports Illustrated's current double issue celebrating its own 50th anniversary -- which is actually more than a year away -- in which the case is made that 1954 was a particularly spectacular sports year and the founding of the magazine was anything but coincidental to that spectacularity, you'll love "Behind King Kaufman's Sports Daily," in which we take you behind the scenes of this column to show you all the zaniness, hard work and good ol' American know-how that goes into bringing you really long sentences like this one.

Here it is: I get up around 7, change the baby, eat, check my e-mail and answer it if I have time, walk the baby to day care, walk home and start writing. Here's something I'll bet you didn't know: A lot of the time I'll write a sentence, then walk around the basement for a few seconds, then sit down to write another sentence, another little walk, and so on. Don't know where I picked up that habit.

Isn't this fascinating? Yeah, didn't think so. You know, there's a reason all that stuff that's behind the scenes is behind the scenes.

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