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Hope the Iggy you know isn't guilty

Say it isn't so, Iggy. You want the alleged link not to be true, not because you have any idea whether it is or not, but you feel you know Donald Igwebuike. Odds are that you do not, but you at least know about Igwebuike, and that is enough.

That is what celebrity is about in this country. A friend of mine, after the San Francisco earthquake last year, actually muttered "Thank God none of the dead were athletes" as if that would have been an even greater tragedy.

So now, with ex-Buc kicker Igwebuike reportedly being linked to an investigation into the smuggling of heroin, you find yourself hoping that his story is true, that he had no knowledge of this. Because the image you have built of Igwebuike isn't capable of something such as this.

You have seen him interviewed, and you have read about him, and you know that he is a pleasant man, with a sudden smile and a sing-song lilt to his voice that makes you like him. He has the funny little nickname that makes you smile when you say it. He is as engaging in person as you would imagine, with a nice little perspective to life.

Another friend of mine once asked me what a Miami Dolphins player I covered was really like. When I told him that the player was, actually, a jerk, my friend almost attacked me. He refused to believe that this player who was so much fun to watch, who scored touchdowns that made South Florida cheer, could be different than the imagined image. Fans are quick to believe, quick to forgive athletes, or movie stars.

And so it is with Igwebuike. He is famous, and he is well-paid, and you would like to think if you were famous and well-paid, you certainly wouldn't do something as, well, sleazy as this. And you hope he wouldn't, either.

And I have this to say to you.

Me, too.

Dan's the man: Miami passing game coach Gary Stevens doesn't mince words when he addresses the criticism of quarterback Dan Marino, whose ranking has fallen for the fourth straight season.

"I think it's stupid," Stevens said. "To hell with the numbers. Everyone wants more points, but Danny's played excellently. He's terrific. He's the best quarterback in the NFL, and the criticism is unfair. So far, we've tried to control the ball, and we haven't thrown upfield. But there will come a time when we have to, and he'll show you that he's as good as ever."

Other mitigating circumstances are that Mark Duper hasn't had the same explosion as the old days, Mark Clayton has been hurt and neither tight end Ferrell Edmunds nor halfback Sammie Smith are proficient receivers.

Taking on the world: With a four-game lead in the NFC West, one San Francisco 49er already is looking at outside competitors. Namely, the New York Giants, who would like to outwin the 49ers and earn the home-field advantage for the playoffs.

"The race becomes a conference race," 49ers tackle Bubba Paris said. "We have a team staying neck-and-neck with us, and that's the Giants. If you have two great teams in a conference, you know that only one can go to the Super Bowl. We have to get ready every week until we get ready for our showdown."

Bottom dwellers: New England Patriots general manager Billy Sullivan admits that his team, so far, is the worst in the NFL. "Put our record, 1-5, together with a lot of extraneous nonsense that's been going on, and it's hard to argue that. There is a lot of deadwood on our roster. We have to clear a lot of it away."

The Patriots might start with fullback Robert Perryman, who is averaging less than 6 yards per reception and less than 3 yards per rush.

"He holds out, then signs a big contract (four years, $2.11-million)," Sullivan said. "Since then, he has become totally disinterested."

Ageless wonder: When the Indianapolis Colts signed quarterback Joe Ferguson, it took a lot to track him down. The Colts finally found him in a gas station in Oklahoma, on his way to go elk hunting in Canada. But now that they have him, the Colts have the league's oldest (Ferguson, 40) and youngest (Jeff George, 22) quarterbacks. George was in kindergarten when Ferguson, an ex-Buc, broke into the league.

"When I met him, I shook his hand," George said. "But since my father is only 48, maybe I should have said "Hi, Pops.'


Expensive treatment: If Tony Casillas wasn't sick before, he is now. Casillas will lose $100,000 for missing the team's flight to Los Angeles last week because of his two-game suspension. Casillas said he became ill in his car and drove himself home rather than try to make the flight.

"I could have done some things differently," Casillas said. "I regret the whole scenario. Now I have to suffer the consequences."

Kodak moment: How does a team keep its developmental squad happy? By giving them something else to develop.

The Houston Oilers have been presenting a camera each week to the player who gives the best "picture" of an opposing player the previous week. The developmental players have been working harder, which has forced the starters to practice harder.

"It's fish food for the mullets," said center Jay Pennison. "It seems like all the guys are fighting their tails off for a stupid little camera. It's probably those disposable ones."

Said free agent Keith Fryberg: "If I win it again, I probably get to exchange it for a VCR."

And guard Bruce Matthews: "If you win it every week, could you conceivably win a Winnebago?"

Perspective: Vikings quarterback Wade Wilson, on the year to date: "This is the season from hell."

Jaws V: Indianapolis coach Ron Meyer, on the improved Dolphins defense: "It's like there is a little blood in the water, and they're a bunch of sharks. They kind of smell the kill."

Sacks slacking: New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor opened the season with three sacks against the Eagles, but he has only 1{ since. Part of the reason is that the Giants are using more of a team concept on defense instead of turning Taylor loose.

Some wonder, then, if Taylor can still do at 31 what he did at 21?

"I'm waiting for one team to say "I don't think he can still do it' and start putting a single guy on me," said Taylor. "When they start blocking me with a single person and not worrying where I'm at or what I'm doing, that's when I know I'm just another ballplayer."

Bearing down: Chicago's defensive ends Richard Dent and Trace Armstrong are terrorizing opponents this season. So far, they've combined for 10 sacks, they've either sacked, hit the quarterback or forced a bad play 58 times. That's 9.67 big plays per game.

"They remind me of the old New York Sack Exchange when Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau were making all those plays for the Jets," tackle Steve McMichael said. "They're playing on a par to that."

Bottom of the barrel: Atlanta is getting tired of linebacker Aundray Bruce, the former first overall draft pick who has been demoted once again. "I'm disappointed," Bruce said. "I know that I can play ball. When they put me in the game, I always make things happen."

Yeah, like a 20-yard run. And a 50-yard pass. And a late-hit penalty.

Bozo of the week: Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Jerome Brown ripped commissioner Paul Tagliabue after Tagliabue fined safety Andre Waters, calling him a dumb a--. "He has never played a down in his life," Brown said. "How does he get off taking money from Andre? He hasn't hit anyone."

Right. And most judges haven't burgled, either.

Parting shot: Detroit safety Bennie Blades, on missing four straight games: "It's as frustrating as sitting on the front porch watching your son get his butt kicked, and you can't do nothing but sit and watch."