King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Sex! Seduction! Half-naked women! Gosh, shame on ABC for using such things to sell football. Plus: A great read about a bank-robbing hockey goalie.


Salon Staff
November 18, 2004 1:00AM (UTC)

I'm a day behind on the Nicollette Sheridan-Terrell Owens-"Monday Night Football" outrage story. I just dropped the towel on this one. The ball, I mean. The ball.

So let me make up for lost time here: My God! Won't someone please think of the children?!

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Thank you.

I saw the little skit that opened Monday's broadcast, saw Sheridan, in character to cross-promote ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and naked except for a towel. I watched her pretend to try to seduce Owens in the Eagles' pregame locker room. I saw Owens resist at first, saying he had to go out and play a game against the Cowboys, but then give in when the vixen dropped the towel to reveal, uh, well, her back. To us, anyway.

Readers have been writing lately to say that ESPN's and ABC's opening sequences on Sunday and Monday night football games had gotten as weird, contrived and annoying as Fox's postseason baseball openings, so I broke my habit of tuning in late -- formed specifically to miss this sort of thing -- because I wanted to see one. I came, I saw, I shrugged. Yup, lame. Wasted five minutes, right there, counting Hank Jr., who's really looking these days like Grandpa had one too many at Toby Keith karaoke night. Won't do that again.

It didn't occur to me to be outraged. I forgot we're living in Bluenose America now. It never crossed my mind that enough people would be offended by this little junior high skit that the NFL would feel compelled to huff out a laughable statement of disapproval and ABC would stifle its giggles over a successful publicity stunt for both its Sunday night comedy hit and its geriatric Monday night sports franchise long enough to apologize insincerely.

I'm really out of touch with my country. But don't blame me: I voted for Woodrow Wilson.

"We're extremely disappointed in ABC," the NFL said in a statement, "for airing a promo in which Ms. Sheridan showed nearly as much skin as the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders would show seconds later and for the rest of the night, and not nearly as much as all NFL teams' cheerleading squads show in the officially licensed calendars that are sold in every mall in the country to kids of all ages. And speaking of the Eagles have you seen their cheerleaders' lingerie calendar? Shoo-wee!"

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Actually I'm paraphrasing here, but you get the gist.

And I'm right there with the NFL on this one. I would never, ever use nude women, sex, titillation and innuendo to sell this column, and by the way have you read my interview with Janet Jackson's naked breast, which I find a reason to link to every three days?

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Because won't someone think of the children? That's all the NFL wants to know and all I'm asking. Won't someone think of the children? I certainly don't want my son to grow up thinking there are good-looking older women out there who one day might make googly eyes at him. Nossir, I want him playing violent video games with the other kids, like those ones the NFL licenses, in which players do celebratory dances over the crumpled bodies of injured opponents.

Wouldn't it have been funny if Owens had thrown his back out when Sheridan jumped into his arms?

Oh, sorry. Outrage. Forgot for a second. You know what was really outrageous? Sheridan didn't act any better than Owens did.

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Please watch "Desperate Housewives." You too, guys. We need more goofy sex farces on TV, even if you can see all the jokes coming 10 minutes ahead of time. Watching this one with the wife is a vast improvement over the dark days of "Once and Again."

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A good read: The whiskey robber [PERMALINK]

If you're missing hockey you might be interested in a book called "Ballad of the Whiskey Robber" by Julian Rubinstein. You might think as I did that it's a sports book if you have a gander at the subtitle: "A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts."

Turns out there's almost no hockey in the book -- making it appropriate for our times -- but it's a whiz-bang read, the hilarious and oddly touching story of Attila Ambrus, a Transylvanian 21-year-old who snuck into Hungary from Romania in 1988, and after the fall of communism became a Hungarian folk hero for a seven-year spree of bank and post office robberies that earned him the titular nickname.

Ambrus was featured in Salon in 1999, after he'd escaped from jail to commit his last three robberies. Rubinstein, a veteran sports and crime reporter, didn't write that story, but he has written for Salon. I don't know him.

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He traces just enough of Hungary's "unlucky" history to give non-Hungarian readers the context to understand how this crafty, gentlemanly -- he once famously handed flowers to a clerk during a heist -- drunken robber became a national sensation as he spent years eluding an untrained, undermanned police force, one of whose members was so incompetent he earned himself a nickname that translates roughly to "Mound of Asshead."

Ambrus made Hungary's premier professional hockey team -- not saying much -- with a two-hour tryout as a goalie that showed he had no idea how to play. Club officials were so impressed that someone wanted to be on the team that badly that they hired him -- as a janitor and unpaid backup goalie. That he soon began driving flash cars and dropping thousands at Budapest's casinos didn't cause a single eyebrow to rise in that Wild West time and place where pretty much everyone was doing something illegal and nobody asked anybody about anything.

Rubinstein writes in a guns-ablazing style that perfectly fits the Whiskey Robber's tale, though part of Ambrus' charm was that he conscientiously tried to avoid hurting anyone during his crime spree. It was just about the money. Ambrus was a beaut: He spent months and years planning his robberies to the tiniest detail, then would spend the hour or two preceding them sitting in a nearby tavern, in disguise, getting falling-down drunk on whiskey.

I found this compelling because it's the very method I use to write this column.

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Previous column: Hilarious Bonds MVP outrage

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