The year in sports: the best of the rest

When people look back at the 1996-97 year in Gophers athletics, they’ll recall the Final Four, the hockey team’s WCHA championship and several scandals neatly scattered throughout the year. Sadly, several news makers are left out of the group, deprived of the glory they deserve.
That’s why we’re here. We can’t let these people go unnoticed, and dammit, we won’t. So, in honor of their accomplishments, they will be recorded in Daily annals forever.
What an honor. (It’s right up there with the prestige of winning a Canadian Emmy.)
So these awards, in our minds, honor the real winners during the past year in University sports.
The Peter McNeely Award — Men’s basketball fans remember the Final Four, but they also remember the nasty fight Miles Tarver got into during a game against Long Island last December. Unfortunately, Tarver was held back by Trevor Winter and didn’t get a chance to haul off and whack an opposing player.
Tarver, a junior next year, has two years remaining to connect on a shot.
The Ted Kennedy Award — Decision-making is a skill one drunk Gophers football fan lacked at the Metrodome last November. During Minnesota’s 43-24 loss to Iowa, the man became irate at a group of Iowa fans after a controversial play in the third quarter.
The groups jawed back and forth for a few minutes until the Gophers supporter had enough and jumped five rows onto the Hawkeyes fans. A melee ensued, and it became an all-out pro wrestling match, minus the gaudy costumes and folding chairs used as beating tools.
Of course, the man didn’t realize he injured a little girl in the process. A real class act.
The Happy Gilmore Award — It’s always a treat when an athlete enlightens us with an original thought, and uses very little tact in the process. Goaltender Steve DeBus did just that after the Gophers lost a game to North Dakota in February.
DeBus, out of nowhere, said, “It’s the same goddamn, fucking shit every week.”
Well, all right.
The Jim Wacker Award — You knew it was close to over for ex-Gophers women’s basketball coach Linda Hill-MacDonald in January when she couldn’t explain why her team allowed Wisconsin to grab 31 offensive rebounds in a game.
“It’s just a lack of execution,” she said. “We’ve worked on this every single day in practice since Oct. 15. How do you explain that? I can’t explain that. It’s a mystery to me.”
Her 66-126 career record at Minnesota answered it all. But don’t feel too bad. She’s now a head coach in the WNBA.
Whoever said life isn’t fair?
The Red Smith Award — This one goes to Mel, who writes for Minnesota Sports Page, a weekly magazine found around campus. Each week Mel keeps everybody up to date on the latest Gophers hockey exploits with her column “Gopher Gossip.” It’s a real treat.
Entries like, “Ryan Kraft was also spotted at the Green Mill looking very buff, sans shirt. Sorry, ladies. The cute senior has an equally cute girlfriend who was also out on Sunday,” and, “Jeff Nielsen was in the Cities finishing up his scuba diving class before his vacation at the end of June,” are tidbits of useful facts every hockey fan must have.
Damn, it’s a great time to be a journalist.
The George McFly Award — It doesn’t happen too often, but once in a great while a member of the omnipotent media slips and falls victim to some bogus information. Yes, even the savviest reporter gets caught up in the moment and puts something in the paper only to learn the next day the facts were totally manufactured by some athletes for their amusement.
The king-daddy prank this year came at the expense of ace Daily reporter Michael Rand. Two Gophers hockey players, Casey Hankinson and Nick Checco, wore neck braces to practice and convinced Rand they were in a freak automobile accident. The gullible Rand wrote about it the next day with the headline “Hockey stars hurt in car accident” gracing the sports page.
The reporter corrected the article the next day by saying he was duped and part of “a practical joke at the Daily’s expense.” Rand survived the freak incident.