Jennifer Bowers signed up her 8-year-old autistic son, Harry, for little league baseball this past summer to increase his self-confidence. Harry’s coach, Mark Downs, had other plans.

Downs offered another player $25 to strike Harry with a throw during practice that would knock him out of play, thereby helping their chances of winning. Hits to the ear and groin forced Harry to pay a visit to the emergency room.

Bobby Martin was a little more fortunate than Harry. The Colonel White football player from Ohio was reinstated to play after a referee ruled he was ineligible since he wasn’t wearing shoes.

Of course, you wouldn’t wear shoes either if you didn’t have legs.

In sports, we find a few Bobby Martins, probably a few more Mark Downs than we would like, and a lot of fascinating people somewhere in the middle. 2005 was no different.

Last year we had Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson to thank for having the sense of humor to do things like send Pepto-Bismol to opposing defensive backs.

He quipped about Packers cornerback Al Harris, “The bad thing is he has to cover me. The good thing is he can save 15 percent by switching his insurance to Geico.” Johnson made a habit of reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously.

It’s a needed message for DC United star Freddy Adu, who complained that he wasn’t getting enough playing time. The only playing time most other 16-year-olds worry about is in front of an X-Box. Adu could use a little bit of perspective.

As could Denver Nuggets center Marcus Camby. Camby reasoned that he should be given a stipend to buy new clothing so he could update his wardrobe in accordance with the NBA’s new dress code. Talk about the plight of the American middle class: a $7 million salary, which leaves you to shop where? At Old Navy?

Temple coach John Chaney ordered bench-warmer Nehemiah Ingram to rough up St. Joseph’s player John Bryant in retaliation for what Chaney thought were illegal picks. Bryant ended up in the hospital with a broken arm. Chaney is almost as despicable as Ingram, who should remember in the future that inside his head resides a brain.

Which is something all Yankee haters should do, too. To the delight of small market teams around the United States, the $200 million George Steinbrenner spent assembling his team could not buy him a championship. And after his Samson-esque shearing, don’t bet on Johnny Damon to save them from anything.

Meanwhile, the sport of boxing is in the middle of a drought reminiscent of the five-year Bronx Bomber variety.

Mike Tyson, a shadow of his former self, essentially admitted that he lost a fight simply because he decided he didn’t want to fight anymore. This is the same Mike Tyson a nation grew to fear by watching 40-second KO’s and utter domination in Punch-Out.

Vitali Klitschko bowed out of the sport due to a lingering knee injury. Klitschko came within a doctor’s injury disqualification of beating Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight championship and inspired Ukrainians in the same way that President Yuschenko has. With the increasing irrelevance of Tyson and the loss of Klitschko, boxing took it hard on the chin.

But, as boxing demonstrates, you can be down but not always out. Despite averaging 40 home runs, 126 RBI and a .333 batting average in his first four seasons, Albert Pujols had so far failed to win the Most Valuable Player award. That streak ended this year – a fitting tribute to an athlete who lets his play do the talking.

The 2005 college football season determined that we would watch USC play Texas in a football game in 2006 where the winner would be the undisputed champion – a rare feat in these BCS days. If his unorthodox throwing motion isn’t alarming enough, Vince Young shocked many by outperforming Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush when it mattered most to lead Texas to victory.

Surprise, excitement, disappointment, and failure – just like 2005. If the Jan. 4 Rose Bowl is to be an indicator of what will come in 2006, break out some of that Pepto because we’re in for a quite a ride.

Tim Foley is a senior in the College. He can be reached at foleythehoya.com. SLIDING HEADFIRST appears in HOYA SPORTS every other Friday.

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