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Toughness Became His Lott in Life

Times Staff Writer

The Heisman Trophy almost always goes to an offensive player. Now there is the Lott Trophy for the best defensive player in the country.

Appropriately named for Ronnie Lott, the former USC and NFL Hall of Fame defensive back, the first Lott Trophy will be presented at a dinner Sunday at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, the day after the Heisman is presented in New York.

So how tough was Lott? In 1985, when the pinkie on his left hand was mangled in the San Francisco 49ers’ final regular-season game, he had it bandaged and played the next week in a playoff game. In the off-season, he had the tip of the pinkie amputated so he’d be ready to play that fall.

But maybe it was Dennis Miller who best summed up Lott’s toughness. Miller, explaining the approach he planned to take, began his two-year stint on ABC’s “Monday Night Football” by saying: “I realize it’s a game many of you take seriously. It’s not the Vatican, but then again, the pope doesn’t have to go across the middle on guys like Ronnie Lott.”

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Trivia time: Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson, one of the three Lott Trophy finalists, normally wears No. 11. But in the Longhorns’ final regular-season game, against Texas A&M;, he wore No. 60. What former Texas player was he honoring?

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Good in the creases: On TNT broadcast partner Mike Fratello’s leaving to become coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, Marv Albert said, “Steve [Kerr] and I will miss him. We will particularly miss him because he was the guy who pressed all of our clothes, and he was very skillful at it.”

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Dodging the issue: A celebrity dodge ball tournament was held at the Hollywood Palladium on Tuesday night to commemorate the DVD release of the movie “DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story,” starring Ben Stiller. But does dodge ball qualify as a sport?

Said Stiller on HBO’s “Real Sports": “It is a sport of violence, humiliation and degradation. Which is great comedy.”

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Joy to the world: Regarding the Christmas Day NBA matchups -- the Indiana Pacers vs. the Detroit Pistons followed by Shaquille O’Neal vs. Kobe Bryant -- reader Joe Gutierrez of Cambria says, “Maybe we should sit around the TV with our families and sing ‘Jingle Brawls.’ Perhaps ‘Deck the Halls’ will have a whole new meaning.”

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Looking back: On this date in 1984, Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams rushed for 215 yards against the Houston Oilers and broke O.J. Simpson’s NFL single-season rushing record of 2,003 yards. Dickerson finished with 2,105 yards.

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Trivia answer: Tommy Nobis, who wore No. 60 from 1963 to ’65.

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And finally: So what Christmas gift do you give someone who has everything? How about two courtside seats to the Lakers’ Christmas Day game against the Miami Heat?

They’re available through StubHub.com. And the asking price? Only $17,648 each. But the asking price for a courtside seat has been as high as $29,413.

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Larry Stewart can be reached at larry.stewart@latimes.com.


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