What a soundbite he'd be! No more of that wishy-washy politspeak from the likes of Janet Napolitano. Wouldn't it be refreshing to have him yelling to the Capitol press corps, "I am not a role model!" It would be eyebrow-raising, because when have you ever heard of a wack-job politician not thinking he's indeed a role model, and don't you forget it? Honestly!
That's what we like about Sir Charles. Even when he's criticizing our beloved Phoenix Suns for lack of defense, we know he means it. We didn't say he was correct or that he wasn't drunk when he said it, but we know it was his honest assessment. He's famous for speaking his mind, like when he put himself inside 7-foot-6 Yao Ming's head on Yao's coming to America: "Whew, even white guys can play over here!" Or when he said before his All-Star Game foot-race with 70-something referee Dick Bevetta last season: "I have nothing against old people; I want to be one myself one day." In a town full of sports legends (Muhammad Ali lives here, the greatest hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, coaches here, and every month or so we hear about a Kirby Puckett or a George Mikan dying here), Charles Barkley is our legend. He golfs (badly) here; we've seen him at our local Starbucks. He's also the only sports legend in our midst to have taken our Suns to the NBA finals, albeit in a losing effort in 1993 to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, despite his having declared to Jordan that it was "destiny" for the Suns to win.
Like we say, he's not always right. The most dominating power forward in the league during his salad days, he was named MVP for the 1992-93 season. Barkley retired seven years ago as the fourth player in the history of the professional game to rack up 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists.
In case you haven't noticed him lately, the one-time silver-tongued Adonis of the ring has been humbled by Parkinson's disease. There are several names that seem to wind up on best-athlete-ever lists Pelé, Michael Jordan, Jim Thorpe but Ali's mentioned the most. He was dubbed Sportsman of the [20th] Century by Sports Illustrated. He's a three-time world heavyweight champion and the winner of an Olympic gold medal as a light heavyweight. Of his 56 pro bouts, he won 35 by knockouts. Think about how hard it is to be a boxing champ. Not only must you be an incredible physical specimen, especially in the weight class in which Cassius Clay-turned-Ali fought, you must be fleet of foot, more conditioned than an NBA point guard, and possess the street smarts of a drug kingpin. Ali had the best combination of that. He wasn't the most muscular fighter in the ring in his era, but he made up for it with style: You know, he "floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee."
Until his talents began to fade, opponents had trouble landing a blow to his head because of his quickness which is why, he would brag to the likes of sportscaster Howard Cosell, he remained so "pretty." He didn't suffer his first professional loss until Joe Frazier floored him in his 32nd fight. He bounced back after that and knocked out Foreman in the "Rumble." He wound up losing three of his last four fights to Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes, and Trevor Berbick.
Though he never lost by a knockout, opponents started landing hard blows to his head in his latter fights. Whether his Parkinson's (a malady sometimes caused by sharp blows to the noggin) resulted from his boxing career is a subject of great debate.
There's something inherently soothing about watching those little white balls roll around their cage while you hope your number will be called. And if you're going to gamble, we feel it's a lot smarter to buy in at a bingo game for $5 than waste hours of life (and a lot more money) at a poker table.
When the bingo itch strikes, we don't so much want to play in a church with a bunch of saggy old ladies. No, we'd much rather go somewhere we can drink and smoke while waiting for our numbers to pop up. That's why Fort McDowell Casino is perfect. It's got the biggest bingo room in the state and includes a smoking section. On top of that, there are games starting as late as 3:15 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays sounds a little weird, but late at night in a bingo room is prime people-watching.
The league is part of the 19-region Fast Plastic association, which grants division winners a spot in the wiffle national championships (this year's version was held in Austin, Texas). Don't fret if you can't recruit enough rubber-armed pitchers or bases-clearing sluggers. Just hit up the organizers and they'll match you with (hopefully) a fellow Warren Spahn or Ted Kluszewski. Tournaments are held outdoors at Cactus Park and feature round-robin duels and a home run contest. Chicks most definitely dig the long ball, and, depending on the woman, they may already dig the plastic, too.