Fifty-thousand English soccer fans have followed the country's side to Lisbon, Portugal, for the Euro 2004 tournament, and police braced themselves for serious trouble as England met France in a first-round game Sunday. But even as an estimated 15,000 people jammed the Rossio, Lisbon's town square, in an impromptu pre-match party, and even as France scored twice in injury time for a stunning 2-1 win, all was peaceful, blissful, friendly, groovy.
The reason? Look no further than the Lisbon police's announced policy that marijuana smokers would be unmolested, the idea being that while drinkers get rowdy, pot smokers bliss out. "If people are drinking they lose control," said Alan Buffry, national coordinator of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, a British political party. "If they smoke cannabis they don't. Alcohol makes fans fight. But cannabis smokers will be shaking hands and singing along together."
With the Detroit Pistons possibly 48 minutes from winning the NBA championship Tuesday night and Motown's standing as a world leader in rioting to celebrate championships, Detroit police should take heed. Hit the airwaves, let the car burners and the window breakers know that pot is OK.
Heck, hit the evidence room and flood the streets with the stuff. Paper the town with Zig-Zag. Pump Snoop Dogg and Phish through loudspeakers. Find that Afroman guy and have him sing a public service announcement. "I was gonna start a riot, but then I got high, la da da da da ..."
The governors of California and Michigan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer Granholm, have the usual friendly wager going, with the loser being "forced" to eat delicacies from the winner's home state while wearing the other team's jersey.
Schwarzenegger should forget about shipping the asparagus and Napa Valley wine -- and the In-N-Out burger? Good heavens -- and airlift a few thousand pounds of Humboldt County's finest, stat.
Legalize it, Detroit's finest, even if just for one night. The car you save may be your own.
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Take a superstar to lunch [PERMALINK]
As the Pistons close in on what looks like an inevitable victory in the NBA Finals, there's a lot of talk about how the Lakers' superstars and their egos are no match for Detroit's blue-collar approach, long on teamwork and hustle and short on marquee names.
There's a lot of talk about that throughout sports lately. We seem to have entered into an anti-superstar era, where the hip theory is that the way to win championships is to put together a roster of hungry, hardworking role players rather than one burdened by superlative players and their accompanying salaries and egos.
It's a good theory, and certainly an economical one. If I were a team owner I'd be shouting it from the rooftops so that in time my fan base would be bombarding local radio shows and letters pages with pleas for me not to go after Tracy McGrady or Terrell Owens or whoever the next high-rent star coming down the pike is.
I'd tell people to read "Moneyball," the bestseller that popularized the idea that there are better approaches to building a baseball roster than throwing multimillions at big names. I'd point to the Texas Rangers getting rid of Alex Rodriguez and suddenly bouncing back into contention in the American League West, at least through mid-June.
I'd point to the perfect storm of the lunch-pail set, the four championships in the major North American sports being held by non-glamour teams. The Pistons are about to take the crown from the '03 San Antonio Spurs, who were led by the anti-superstar, Tim Duncan. The Stanley Cup was just won by the Tampa Bay Lightning, with their $33 million payroll, not the glittering Detroit Red Wings or any of the other teams (Rangers, Stars, Flyers, Avalanche, Maple Leafs, Blues) who paid their players roughly twice as much or more.
The Florida Marlins, with only Ivan Rodriguez as a marquee name, and a cut-rate I-Rod at that, coming off of several injury-marred seasons, conquered the $180 million New York Yankees in the World Series. The Marlins were in the bottom third of major league payrolls, in the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati neighborhood. They spent a few million more than the Tigers spent to put together one of the worst teams ever.
In the NFL, the New England Patriots are champions. Their big name is quarterback Tom Brady, but while Brady has been integral to the Patriots' success over the last three years and has become a poster boy, he's a superstar because New England has been winning Super Bowls, not vice-versa.
These are hard times for superstars. If you meet one, be kind.
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Remembering Ralph Wiley [PERMALINK]
Ralph Wiley, one of the premier American writers on both sports and race, died Sunday of heart failure at 52. He was the author of "Serenity: A Boxing Memoir" and "Why Black People Tend to Shout," among other books, and co-wrote the acclaimed "Best Seat in the House" with Spike Lee.
Wiley spent nine years as a senior writer at Sports Illustrated starting in 1982, and wrote later about the discomfort he'd felt in that mostly white working environment. When he died he'd been a regular columnist for ESPN.com's Page 2 for three and a half years, and often appeared on the network's various talk shows.
I didn't always see eye-to-eye with Wiley's views, but I always liked reading him. He was a great stylist who never failed to be at least interesting and at best provocative and hilarious. And right.
ESPN has a page filled with memories of Wiley related by those who knew him.
Previous column: Pistons, dominant underdogs
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