Thin Line Between Different Fates

The last time Michigan State, who'll play Florida tonight for the NCAA basketball championship, won the title, it was the end of Magic Johnson's days as a Spartan, but just the beginning of his rivalry with Larry Bird. Johnson led Michigan State to a 75-64 victory over Bird and his Indiana State teammates in 1979.

"While we were celebrating and cutting down the net," wrote Johnson in "My Life," his autobiography, "I looked over at the Indiana State bench. I'll never forget what I saw. While half the arena was screaming with joy, Larry Bird was sitting there with his face buried in a towel. He was obviously crying and my heart went out to him. As happy as I was, I knew that, if things had gone just a little differently, I would have been the one sitting there with my face in a towel."

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Don't Badger him: Michigan State beat Wisconsin Saturday to reach the championship game. Ken Rosenthal of the Baltimore Sun was dreading the alternative.

"Michigan State saved CBS," wrote Rosenthal, "the reputation of the Big Ten and college basketball as we know it, in no particular order of importance. . . . Not that the network suits were fretting, but the Cartoon Network would have drawn higher ratings than a Wisconsin appearance in the NCAA title game. It sure as heck would have been more entertaining.

"The Badgers stumbled through Bracketville by way of Brickville, sputtering along with an offense so impotent they made Princeton look explosive."

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Trivia time: Only two men have both played for and coached NCAA championship basketball teams. Name them.

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Barry close: Greg Paavola of Three Rivers, Mich. was given a shot at $2 million. All he had to do was make a three-point shot in a promotional event held between the two NCAA semifinal games Saturday at Indianapolis' RCA Dome. Paavola was even given a Hall of Famer, Rick Barry, to coach him.

It didn't help. Paavola's shot bounced off the rim.

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Trivia answer: Bob Knight, who played on a championship-winning team at Ohio State in 1960 and coached Indiana to titles in 1976, 1981 and 1987, and Dean Smith, who played on a championship-winning team at Kansas in 1952 and coached North Carolina to titles in 1982 and 1993.

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Raise that meal money: Rickey Henderson was in shock over the prices he encountered when his New York Mets opened the season last week in Japan against the Chicago Cubs.

"I think I got broke over there. Coffee was $35," he said. "Every time I went to eat, it was $250 or $300, and [with] what they give you there, you have to eat triple."

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And finally: South Carolina football Coach Lou Holtz doesn't like his school's fight song. Of course that's the least of his problems going 0-11 last year--Holtz's first at the school--and adding to the longest losing streak among Division I schools at 21 games.

Said Holtz, "I would like to have something that would bind us together, something you could learn and sing . . . if you ever win a game."

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