2002: The year in buffoonery

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They always said refs were too willing to send MJ to the free-throw line.
Michael Jordan was allegedly introduced to ex-mistress Karla Knafel by NBA referee Ed F. Rush.

If he were smarter, he'd have told the cops it was "field research."
James F. Welles, the author of "The Story of Stupidity" and "Understanding Stupidity," was arrested for trying to arrange sex with an Internet acquaintance he believed was a 15-year-old girl but who turned out to be a male detective.

The one time somebody is telling the truth about his hands being "lethal weapons," and it has to be in the car I jack.
A Los Angeles man was arrested after attempting to swipe a van carrying members of a Florida university's judo team. A team member went on the "Today" show to discuss the pleasure they took in subduing the man.

Then she was invited to appear on the next "Survivor."
Stunning researchers with her ability not just to use but to fashion a tool, a crow in the English laboratory repeatedly bent a wire into a hook to retrieve food.

And anybody using the term "banana republic" will either be shot or inaugurated.
During a two-week period ending in January, Argentina had five leaders.

Former stockholders immediately began constructing a guillotine.
Linda Lay, wife of Enron chairman Ken Lay, was not actually dressed as Marie Antoinette when she appeared on the "Today" show in an apparent attempt to win sympathy in the aftermath of the collapse of her husband's company. The poor Lays, she said, were going to have to sell all but one of their homes, including, apparently, the four in Aspen, Colo. "It's gone," she said. "There's nothing left."

Hey, what do you want from us, accountability?
After losing most of its business over its role in cooking the books of bankrupt energy giant Enron, former accounting giant Arthur Andersen had employees call in to their own voice mailboxes to discover whether or not they had been laid off. "Please keep your chins up," said the automated message delivered to the losers. "You did nothing wrong."

The pretzel is still being held as an "enemy combatant."
President Bush lost consciousness temporarily while watching an NFL game on TV; the victim, according to his doctor, of a fainting spell brought on by a lowered heart rate caused when he had trouble swallowing a pretzel.

He also admitted to making up monster trucks, most Taco Bell menu items and Spiro T. Agnew.
Ray L. Wallace, the American father of " Bigfoot," told family members before he died in November that he had faked giant footprints and film footage of the alleged beast.

PR rule No. 17: If you're trying to win public sympathy, never have a spokesman named "Hootie."
As Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club, site of the prestigious Masters Tournament, continued to resist public pressure to admit women as members, its primary mouthpiece was club chairman William "Hootie" Johnson.

Yeah, the kid thing is terrible, but what's really shocking is this: He still has fans?
Michael Jackson turned Berlin fans' adoration to horror after he appeared at his hotel balcony to acknowledge their cheers, then went back into his room to get his baby son, who he then dangled over the balcony railing.

He may as well just start on the reclusive behavior and years of plastic surgery now
The boy, 9 months old at the time of the incident, is named Prince Michael II.

Come on. Did you really think that a mere dangling baby would be the weirdest Michael Jackson story of the year?
Testifying in a suit brought against him for allegedly failing to give a concert he had agreed to, Jackson first appeared in a surgical mask. Ordered by the judge to remove it, he did, provoking cries of horror at the nose disfigured by multiple attempts to make himself look like either Diana Ross or a soldier in "The Nutcracker."

A source very close to the network said that it was "in no way a zipper, but if it was, it was only the zipper on a gym bag."
After CNN hired new morning host Paula Zahn away from rival Fox News Channel, it ran a promotion for her that focused on her full lips and said she was "just a little sexy." This was accompanied by a noise that sounded to all who heard it like a zipper opening, although CNN insisted that it was the noise of a needle scratching an LP.

And in homage to rappers, all newscasts would now feature the noise of a needle scratching an LP
A widely ridiculed CNN Headline News memo featured an executive suggesting the channel's writers incorporate more "hip-hop" or "street" lingo to make the news more relevant to younger viewers.

"No," he later tried to explain, "'Crap' is Spanish for `great wisdom.'"
At the European parliament, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was unaware his microphone was still on when he followed his own, 25-minute speech by telling a colleague, "What a load of old crap that was."

There are times in the course of a nation's history when a leader must draw a line in the sand.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder sued a German news agency that suggested he dyes his hair. The two sides eventually settled the suit, but not before the politician, backed by affidavits from his barber asserting that his dark brown hair is natural, won an injunction preventing news organizations from even hinting at a dye job.

Next year: Reality show contestants to sue networks for being made to look stupid.
In the latest brainstorm from the plaintiffs' bar, 2002 saw a lawsuit brought against fast-food companies on behalf of an obese client.

He who is re-elected as a congressman despite repeatedly serving as his own lawyer has a fool for a constituent.
Extravagantly bouffanted Ohio U.S. Rep. James Traficant again tried to defend himself against corruption charges and this time was convicted. The people of his district had given him nine terms in office, but finally, in November, did not vote to re-elect the jailed former sheriff.

Also pulled from the market: Rugrats massage oil.
Mattel recalled a best-selling Harry Potter toy, a vibrating broomstick, after receiving many complaints from parents that their daughters were spending far too much time playing with it.

The good news, Mr. Webber, is that your phantom timeout call no longer matters.
As NBA superstar Chris Webber faced criminal charges for allegedly lying about accepting cash from a basketball booster while at the University of Michigan, the university announced it was forfeiting all games won during Webber's early 1990s "Fab Five" era.

Does this at least mean that they have to stop using "Rhapsody in Blue"?
After failing to secure a massive federal loan, Chicago's United Airlines went bankrupt in December, threatening the livelihood of tens of thousands.

Jonathan Franzen has only himself to blame.
Among those who attempted to fill the literary void after Oprah Winfrey cut back her book club: The "Today" show, "Good Morning America" and "Live With Regis and Kelly."

Just send the old plaque to: Trent Lott, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
A plaque that was to honor actor James Earl Jones at a Martin Luther King celebration in Florida instead honored King's assassin. "Thank you James Earl Ray for keeping the dream alive," said the plaque, which was replaced.

They were all wearing very conspicuously faded khakis
Firefighters, angry over allegations in William Langeweische's celebrated ground zero articles and books that their brethren had looted blue jeans from a Gap store at the site, disrupted or forced cancellation of several Langeweische bookstore appearances.

We just don't hang out with it.
TNT, the cable channel whose only original series is the trashy, B-grade "Witchblade," continued throughout 2002 to use as its promotional slogan, "We know drama."

"I'm just too fast and too tricky. Uh, hold on, while I get that . . . "
A man wanted on burglary charges in New York was arrested in a Georgia motel room while on the phone with the police department seeking him, bragging that they'd never catch him.

Public service? There's just no future in that anymore.
Having to choose between disclosing his consultant business' client list or serving his nation as chairman of a commission to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Henry Kissinger decided to protect his own and submitted his resignation to President Bush.

Because retaining the element of surprise the next time you have to subdue terrorists with poison gas is so much more important than keeping innocent civilians alive.
Some 128 hostages died tragically in October after Russian officials pumped gas into a theater where patrons had been taken hostage by Chechen separatists. Most of them did so because officials would not tell doctors what kind of gas was used.

What, we were actually supposed to shop there?
When Kmart went bankrupt after last Christmas season, its executives claimed not to know of the discount retailer's problems with long checkout lines and messy stores.

The company was prepared to offer Ted Koppel work pretending to conduct interviews at Walt Disney World's Hall of Presidents.
Disney's ABC in March was discovered to have made overtures to David Letterman, offering him Koppel's "Nightline" slot.

Just because you're secretly advising the president doesn't mean you can't cover him fairly.
Fox News Channel gave ammunition to critics who contend it tilts its news coverage rightward when chairman Roger Ailes confirmed he had sent President Bush a confidential memo suggesting steps to take after Sept. 11.

No, she tried to explain, she actually sold because the stock certificates didn't match her filing cabinet.
Martha Stewart virtually removed herself from her magazine as the investigation of her alleged insider stock trading heated up.

Actually, the study was about fact checkers, and it said they're already extinct.
Most morning news programs ran with the story of a study that said true blondes would be extinct in 200 years because men preferred to mate with women who got their light hair from a bottle. Although attributed at the time to the World Health Organization, minimal checking showed it to be a hoax, the fame of Britney Spears notwithstanding.

Next brilliant move for G+ J: 'Child' becomes 'Culkin.'
A very messy public divorce, with suit and countersuit, ended the short relationship between talk host Rosie O'Donnell and the Gruner + Jahr magazine company, which had renamed its 125-year-old McCall's as "Rosie" in early 2001.

She still has "A League of Their Own" residuals.
In addition to exiting the magazine, O'Donnell ended her talk show and lost her gig as Tony Awards host.

Next thing you know, they'll tell us Olympic figure skating is fixed.
O'Donnell announced that she is -- are you sitting down? -- gay.

Oh. Well is the pope at least still Catholic?
Winter Olympics skating judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted she had voted for a Russian pair over a Canadian pair under pressure from an accused Russian mobster.

Hey, it seems to be working for Kmart.
The embattled Catholic archdiocese of Boston was said to be considering bankruptcy as a means of protection against massive monetary judgments awarded against it on behalf of parishioners who, as children, had been sexually abused by priests.

Luckily for A&F, Trent Lott quickly agreed to buy up all the shirts.
Deliberately provocative clothier Abercrombie & Fitch pulled from its stores T-shirts that featured caricatures of Asians in conical hats alongside phrases such as `Wong Brothers Laundry Service: Two Wongs can make it white.' The chain apologized, sort of, saying the intention was to add "humor and levity to our fashion line."

That response: "It was actually Pepsi-Cola, and it could happen at any time."
An urban legend about a terrorist who warned people who were nice to him not to drink Coke after a certain date grew so prevalent that Coca-Cola, in September, had a response up on its Web site.

OK, so maybe the world hasn't really changed forever, after all.
On the Web search engine Google's year-end list of the top gaining and declining user inquiries, Spider-Man and Shakira headed the list of gainers, while Nostradamus, World Trade Center, Osama bin Laden and anthrax were four of the top five decliners.

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