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Ben Smith

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Associated Press
Former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight is auctioning his NCAA championship rings and his Olympic gold medal.

Knight doesn’t need his jewelry

Sports people are nuts.

– Bob Knight

Well, howdy, there, Coach. And how was the coma, anyway?

Because, listen, you must have been under since 1832 if it’s just now dawning that sports people are, you know, about half-a-bubble off plumb. These are people who’d shed Benjamins in drifts 10 feet high if you could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Babe Ruth once touched this hot dog wrapper. They’d sell their first born if you could prove this whiskey bottle was the same one Ty Cobb once threw at a fan.

Also this whiskey bottle. And this whiskey bottle. And this tire iron, and that grenade.

Point is, sports people will spend until moths fly out of their wallets if they think someone famous once touched/sweated in/bled on something. It’s weird, all right. It might even be a tad creepy.

How did Knight himself put it the other day, when word got out that he was selling his NCAA championship rings and Olympic gold medal at auction?

“I guess there are people who want to own things, things that are the results of what someone else did in sports,” he said.

No, sir. It doesn’t sound weird at all when you say it like that.

But, really, it is all about people shelling out gobs of dough to buy a piece of someone else’s glory, like those rings and that gold medal. They’ll fetch a chunk of change, even if they have no personal value to whoever buys them. I mean, what are you gonna do with someone else’s Olympic gold medal? Pass it off as your own?

CRAZY SPORTS PERSON: Hey, check out my Olympic gold medal!

CRAZY SPORTS PERSON’S GUEST: You won an Olympic gold medal?!

SPORTS PERSON: Oh, heck, no. This is Bob Knight’s Olympic gold medal!

SPORTS PERSON’S GUEST: Does he know you have it?

And, OK, so a lot of the bidders who show up at these auctions aren’t there to buy items to display in their living rooms. They’re there, a lot of them, to buy stuff to put on public display. So maybe those rings and that gold medal wind up in some museum somewhere.

Knight doesn’t much care where they wind up. He’s selling this stuff, he said, to pay for his grandkids’ education. And it’s not like he’ll miss any of it, anyway; he’s always been a notably unsentimental man, so no surprise that most of it’s been resting comfortably in boxes or desk drawers or maybe underneath all those red sweaters he no longer wears.

“I don’t put anything up in the house,” he said. “If you came into the house, you would think I was a mailman. And I don’t even wear rings.”

So there you have it, Crazy Sports People. Knight’s Olympic medal can be your Olympic medal. His rings can be your rings.

As for me ….

Well, the only Knight memorabilia I own is a handful of blown deadlines waiting for him to open up the IU locker room. But I do understand the appeal of the other stuff.

I’d pay big money, for instance, for The Chair. I’d pay even bigger money for the starter pistol he once fired at Russ Brown of the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Loaded or unloaded. Doesn’t matter.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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