Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Another one's treasure

"We have now entered extended garb-age time"

Those words, immortalized by legendary former Knicks broadcaster Marv Albert, symbolize something you don't often see in sports. A chance for the players, managers, coaches, and fans to let loose as a contest winds towards its inevitable conclusion.

Garbage time can lead to some pretty entertaining memories, even if the game itself is a wash. So I thought I'd share some of my favorite garbage time moments.

How do you spell relief? Z-E-I-L-E, if you watched Monday's Mets game. Some of the most enjoyable, if not artistic, moments in baseball are born out of the blowout, when frustrated managers with exhausted bullpens use position players to work an inning of relief.

The most entertaining mound cameo was performed by veteran Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Grace. With his team way behind, Grace took to the mound armed with a 65-mph fastball and a well-honed impression of teammate Mike Fetters. Grace's caricatured spoof of Fetters -- complete with puffed cheeks, bulging eyes and head swivel -- had both dugouts rolling.

The 12th man The crowd cheers as he unsnaps his warm-ups, tosses his practice robe and dashes onto the court. He is the 12th man. The most beloved 12th man in the history of sports: Knicks center Herb Williams, or, simply: "HERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRB!"

Particularly in his final years as a Knick, when he was more valuable for his experience and leadership off the court than his play on it, Madison Square Garden's faithful made him a cult hero. With a big lead and the seconds ticking away, faint groans... "HERRRRRRRRB!" They'd grow louder and louder until finally the coach had little choice but to put him in the game. When Williams finally touched the ball, the shouts reached a thunderous echo in the half-empty Garden. And if by some miracle of God he happened to score, 5,000 fans erupted in rapturous applause. This is for a man who averaged 2.8 points per game in his Knicks career.

Box-score blowouts: The NHL's tempers run hotter than those in any sport, so when your opponent's skated over and through you all night -- garbage time means revenge time. Better clear out those WNBA transactions, because your hockey box scores are about get a Canseco-sized injection of game misconducts.

Philadelphia and Ottawa engaged in one of hockey's most memorable donnybrooks last season, setting an NHL record for penalty minutes in a game. In a 32-second span, the two teams were whistled for 55 penalties, including 13 ejections and 21 fighting majors. Anyone who saw the game knows that the wild screaming fans at the Wachovia Center were not among those trying to get fighting banned from hockey.

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