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© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2002
Could you pick Marvin Harrison out of a police lineup? Not that he ever would be in one. Jerry Rice is unquestionably pro football's greatest past receiver, but No. 88 of the Colts has earned mention in the same paragraph.
He's as quiet as Keyshawn Johnson is loud. As introverted as Terrell Owens is outlandish. Randy Moss gets in more trouble in 30 minutes than Harrison has in his 30 years.
So what are our criteria?
Compare the bachelor Philadelphian's pass-catching numbers with any of the more celebrated names. With the NFL deep in December, there is no wide receiver talent as hot as Muted Marvin.
By season's end, "Indianapolis 500" could mean the number of footballs Harrison has snagged in just four years. Well, almost.
"I don't count them," he said, never opting for showoff dances or self-aggrandizing harangue. "I just keep catching them."
On Dec. 15 in Cleveland, he embraced nine more throws from Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, setting the NFL record with 127 in a season. With home games remaining against the Giants and Jaguars, he could top 140. Will anybody ever top that?
It's a Barry Bonds kind of stat.
Still, in coverage by TV networks, as well as most newspapers Monday morning, the lithe 175-pound Harrison's accomplishment was barely a footnote. What if it had been Rice, Moss, Owens or Johnson who blew past Herman Moore's mark of 123? Think the trumpets might have blared a bit louder?
Harrison has gone over 100 catches a fourth consecutive season. Nobody else has done that.
With 1,566 yards, he became the first receiver to go past 1,500 two years in a row.
Muted Marvin is adroitly prepared. He runs precise patterns and seldom drops a football. Not unlike Warrick Dunn, this is an undersized NFL chap with a gift for not exposing his slight body to too many vicious hits by tacklers. Injuries are infrequent.
In three seasons plus 14 games, the seventh-year pro from Syracuse University has 453 catches. So maybe Harrison won't get 47 more against New York and Jacksonville to make it the "Indy 500," but his numbers are still staggering.
It's time more people noticed.
Indy is hardly a media center, but look at the volumes of attention Warren Sapp gets while playing for Tampa Bay or Brett Favre manages in Green Bay, operating in places that aren't exactly New York, Chicago, Philly or Washington. Super Bowls and AFC/NFC title games can bring gigantic exposure but No. 88 has not been close to one of those.
Maybe the Harrison shortchanging is because of some sort of bias against guys who behave like gentlemen, don't do much business with cops, don't beat their chests like Tarzan and don't greet us with well-inked Sharpies.
CHIPS: She's advertised as the first woman to tee it up on the PGA Tour, but when Suzy Whaley competes this summer in Hartford she will come shy of matching what the best female athlete ever -- Babe Didrikson Zaharias -- did in 1945, playing the Los Angeles Open from the men's tees, shooting 76 to beat 84 men in the first round, then making the 36-hole cut. ... Parkersburg is a little town in Iowa (population 1,804) that is outproducing many enormous cities with four of its young huskies playing in the NFL (Lions defensive end Jared DeVries, Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman, Jaguars offensive lineman Brad Meester and Chiefs center Casey Wiegmann). ... Dan Cook, one of my geezer sports-writing pals, had the scoop on the Dennis Franchione doings, even if the then coach of Alabama reacted to the Nov. 22 revelations by blabbing, "I refuse to answer the phone after an idiotic story about Texas A&M in the San Antonio paper crossed by desk. This should not warrant a response, but to put Alabama minds at ease, nothing reported in that story is true." Before long, Franchione was quitting the Tide to take grand wads of Texas money to coach the Aggies, just as Cook had written.
READER'S RANT: Letter from Norman Sanders of Spring Hill says, "I've played competitive amateur golf since 1950. As the USGA kept rules intact and sternly rejected gimmicks, it inspired admiration.
"In recent years, there have been breakdowns, like (okaying) long putters. Sam Snead wanted to use a croquet style and the USGA came down on him. Now comes the pool-shot club (anchored putting stroke), which is against the spirit of the rules.
"I wrote the USGA often and always got nebulous replies. When the USGA Journal contained a notice about a 'scramble,' for which there are no rules, I resigned my membership. Big money keeps speaking."
HUBERT'S REPLY: While the USGA provides many honorable services, the lack of a harness on putters is laughable. If a pro or top amateur can't handle a stroke with legit equipment, well, I'm sorry. And don't get me started on drivers with heads that can be as large as a Shaq O'Neal sneaker.
Whatever happened to Calvin Peete?
To reach Hubert Mizell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.