Kiss of the Spiderwoman


It wasn’t that long ago that poolrooms existed as exclusive male sanctuaries. Now here’s Jeanette Lee, a/k/a the “Black Widow,” finishing in ninth place against 62 men (and one other woman) in the recent National Straight Pool Championships at Amsterdam Billiards on the Upper East Side. To listen to one of her victims, legendary cuesmith Johnny Ervolino, old attitudes die hard.

“It was brutal,” sniffed Johnny, out of the side of his mouth. “I should have forfeited. It’s a no-win situation. Hey, a man can’t go play on the women’s tour. On top of that, I got hit with a woman ref who don’t know how to rack the balls. I don’t need that shit.”

Lee laughed off Ervolino’s comments (“It’s an open tournament”), also his offer to spot her 70 balls on 150 for some high-stakes side-room action. “No class,” said the woman who herself had two runs of 60- and 70-odd balls in separate matches. “You beat them, and they ask you to gamble. They can’t just say ‘good match’. ”

And what about former world champion Dallas West, who stormed off after getting smoked by the Widow? “Well, you can’t blame the guy,” said Lee, switching gears. “He just lost to a woman.”

No Joy in Mulletville

The annual Interstate Mullet Toss, held last weekend at the Flora-
Bama Lounge, the legendary Gulf Coast roadhouse that sits astride the Florida-Alabama state line, was rocked by controversy and tragedy this year.

Mullet-tossing traditionalists were shocked to learn that for the first time in the 15-year history of the contest— in which people compete to see who can throw the strange fish the farthest distance from Fla. into Ala.— there would be a winner for each day of the tourney, rather than an overall champ. The change, admitted Flora-Bama owner Joe Gilchrist, came as an attempt to keep attendance up over the two days of the event. Then, the entire mullet-tossing community was saddened by the unexpected death of Sunday’s winner, Scott Haynes, just two days after the Toss.

Contestants complained about oversized fish and tremendous head winds, but Haynes defeated five-time champ and world record holder (178 feet) Michael “Woody” Bruhn with a toss of 121.7 feet. Bruhn, who took first place on Saturday with a toss of 117 feet, was disqualified on Sunday for stepping across the tossing line.

But it was Haynes’s death that— by injecting the extremely grave
into the extremely absurd— cast a bizarre shadow over the contest. The 26-year-old Wagarville, Alabama, resident had only the briefest of reigns as Toss champ; a domestic dispute on Tuesday resulted in an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound that took his life. “He had gone to that mullet toss just about every year they had it,” said his mother, Catie Pledger of Jackson, Alabama. “And he was just so proud to have won it.”

Open Mouth, Enter Foot

Each major televised sport is distinguished by its commentators— the NBA has the redeemed Marv Albert, the NFL has the bombastic John Madden.

How then to explain Tommy Smith, ESPN’s voice of soccer? Maybe it’s because soccer is a “new” sport in the States. Or maybe because
ESPN’s execs confuse Smith’s Irish accent with an authority for the game. Whatever the case, soccer lovers throughout the nation have long been bemused by Smith’s creative commentary. Here’s a taste of the man in action, in his own words.

  • “You can hardly hear yourself think here. I can hear you thinking [John Paul de la Cammara, his fellow commentator] but not meself.”

    — Smith waxing metaphysical at the Juventus vs. Manchester United second-leg semifinal of the European Champions League, April 21.

  • “There’s the owner of FIAT, Mr. Agaaanelli.” — Displaying deft pronunciation after spotting Juventus patron Gianni Agnelli [a-nyel-e] at the same game.

  • “This looks to be [Zinedine] Zidane’s last year here at Juventus. He might move to Real Madrid next season because his wife wants to live near the sea.”— Smith showing his strong command of geography.

  • Smith also proved his stuff while moonlighting for WNBC Channel 4 as a genuine Irishman at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade: “And here comes our police commissioner, Mr. William Safire.”


  • Among other things (center fielder, classical musician), Bernie Williams is a closet intellectual. But when he reacted to a noisy fan protest in Kansas City by saying, “I thought I was marching into the ’60s somewhere,” well, we had to question his sense of history— not to mention his sense of irony. The 2000 or so demonstrators, most in the cheap seats, were targeting obese salaries like Williams’s, so it’s somewhat understandable if he felt as though he was being confronted by an outfield throng of Bull Connors. But Bernie should know that whatever abuse he suffered at Kauffman Stadium, it could never compare to the venom spewed by the bleacher creature mob that stares down visiting right fielders in the Bronx.

    contributors: John Stravinsky, Michael Swindle, Matthew Yeomans, Ramona Debs

    sports editor: Miles D. Seligman

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