I T' S M O N D A Y,
A N D W E' R E D E S P E R A T E:
A N E X E R C I S E I N S E E I N G
H O W F A R Y O U C A N
G E T B Y S I M P L Y
K N O W I N G T E L E V I S I O N
E X E C U T I V E S' N A M E S
A: N O T F A R
(N B: A N O V E R L Y L O N G
T I T L E D O E S N' T H E L P, B U T
M A Y B E T H E I R O N I C
S E L F - R E F L E X I V I T Y W I L L)
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Depending on where you turned Sunday, you could see how the dominance of a single player can change an entire league. A retirement, especially at the height of one's game, creates in its wake a power vacuum. For the past two years, players and teams have been jockeying to become leaders, to generate the victories and the concomitant rewards: money, endorsements, and the narcotic adulation of a fickle fan population..
So it comes as no surprise that even after two weeks of tricks, gimmicks, and the "sexiest Jesus ever" it is Regis-time. "He has the moves and the stamina. Sometimes he goes by us like we were standing still" fumes a frustrated Dana Walden of Fox Television after seeing their high power and highly paid early season tactics relegated to the minors.
For the next few years, it appears, journalists will struggle to define what he means for the league, to find new ways to make his now-routine dominance seem exciting and new week-in and week-out. They will detail his stamina, his relentless focus. "He makes it look easy," says coach Stuart Bloomberg.
Even though it would be easy for him to become cocky and arrogant, he doesn't, yet his amazing statistics belie his modesty, "I've felt confident all season long. It's really a matter of taking it to day-to-day. I just want to show up and play and do my best. I have had the support of my team, and that's been a great help."
A flurry of mid-season activity shuffled the standings somewhat, but it was all jockeying for place and show. The winner was never in doubt. "We brought in Malcolm and Titus, and they are showing a lot of promise, especially for young players, but it will be some time before they can be established against the likes of Regis," a proud, but realistic Doug Herzog reported after each of his newcomers wrapped up their playing season this week.
Scott Sassa, a man not used to looking at the field from the middle of the pack, showed why he is still a fearsome leader "We saw this year as a rebuilding year. Perhaps grooming Frazier as the go-to guy was pre-emptive, but we have nothing to be ashamed of. We will be watching the tapes a lot this summer to see where we can make adjustments, but a fundamental strategy will not change. The words 'Must See' will once again strike fear league-wide in the coming year." Sassa, who had been dogged all season with charges that he mistreats his players, got a big vote of confidence from GM Jack Welch this week, who announced a contract extension through the 2001 season. League watchers note that Welch's commitment to retire at that time puts Sassa's long term opportunities in doubt, but in the mean time, he is fully committed to returning luster to the peacock.
Tom Nunan and Jamie Kellner spent much of the season simply trying to establish a presence, but the Regis juggernaut rolled by them both with total indifference. "We think we have some strengths that are completely beyond his game, but unfortunately our bench is terribly deep. And we know that we can still compete, it's just a question of putting together the right chemistry," a hopeful Nunan offered Sunday.
"There is the chance that he will simply become over-extended. Double-teaming him is not an option, but if he isn't careful, he can become fatigued early in the season, and we will still be fresh, with our hot, young lineup," adds Kellner, who is expecting strong performances from the likes of Dawson and Felicity next season.
Les Moonves, even with his brief success in the mid-nineties, is looking longer in the tooth each year. His skills working with older players and one of the stingiest payrolls in the league are legend, but he may have gone to the well one too many times. Sassa notes "they don't have a single marquee player. You can't beat Les on tactics, but, in the end, it's not too hard to dominate him by simply wearing him down." The impending sale of the team may infuse some fresh blood, but most see it as too little, too late.
The future for Regis is clear: his stamina was not even tested this season, and Lloyd Braun is so confident, he is only bringing four new faces to the team. "We know he's the guy to beat, and he has yet to show any weaknesses. We thought going out and spending a lot of money to bring in untested personnel would introduce risk into a very strong chemistry that needs no meddling."
If anything, the coming year threatens to be a dull one for the journalistic troops. Regis this week, Regis next week. If there is any criticism that holds water, it is that his game is not as exciting as superstars in the past. Everyone shows their age at some point, and their moves, as much as they work, don't bring fans to their feet as they used to. Regis' moves, which never seemed destined for greatness to begin with, nonetheless continue to astound and confound the professional and amateur alike.