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Let your worries subside

We're going through our coldest winter in years while global warming is the hot topic. My orange juice at breakfast is going to cost twice as much this summer. Crude oil prices drop by one-third, causing the price of gas at the pump to plummet an entire dime.

There are enough issues in the world to cause worry that we certainly don't need to peruse the sports pages with furrowed brow.

No, this should be a section filled with items and stories that allow you to relax and escape the travails of everyday life. I fear that often it has moved away from filling that need, particularly with some of the headlines that have been seen in recent weeks.

So as a public service, I'm here to knock the lid off some of the issues and ongoing stories in sports that have been overblown.

Call it No-Worry Wednesday.

Item: Raiders hire a baby

Lane Kiffin is 31 and has never been anything higher than a co-coordinator at any level of football. To Al Davis, that makes him a perfect choice to coach the Raiders.

So why shouldn't Raiders fans worry? For one, if Kiffin is the next Jon Gruden, then Davis again is a genius. If Kiffin fails, the Raiders eventually will hit gold with one of these top picks. The only fate worse than either of those two is mediocrity, and the Raiders are far from rising to that status.

But the main reason Raiders fans shouldn't be worrying today?

Because Davis didn't hire Dennis Green.

Item: Bonds unsigned

Guess what? So is Barry Zito, every other Giants free agent and about 85 percent of all baseball free agents.

As of the middle of last week, there were nearly 200 baseball free agents who have secured letters of agreement with new teams. As of Friday, only 21 had been formally approved by the commissioner's office, inked by both parties and registered with the players' union. No contract is secure until that process is completed.

Bonds has a term sheet, a precursor to the letter of agreement, and the illegal leak of last year's positive amphetamine test will not stand in the way of his signing with the Giants.

Item: Manning incomplete

Peyton Manning could throw for 350 yards in a Colts' loss on Feb. 4 or could toss for 150 in a Colts' win.

Either way, despite how much he desires a Super Bowl title, National Football Holiday XLI will not define Manning's career.

Even if Manning never finds his way back to the big game, he will go down as one of the great quarterbacks of this or any era — alongside Dan Marino (who never won a ring) and ahead of Super Bowl winners such as Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, Mark Rypien and Jeff Hostetler.

So why shouldn't we worry about Manning? Because he's not worried about himself or his legacy.

Item: MLS in peril

David Beckham's quarter-billion playing and marketing contract marks the beginning of the end for the MLS. And why shouldn't we worry? Because it's inevitable.

The MLS failed to heed the tragic history of the North American Soccer League, which signed aging players such at Pelé, Giorgio Chinaglia and Franz Beckenbauer to huge contracts.

Those signings resulted in huge immediate gains at the box office, followed by a round of raises for the players who actually were making the difference on the field. But when the star power faded, so did the gate. But the new salary structure remained and the league collapsed under the weight of its own excess.

Put it this way: The $250 million contract signed by Alex Rodriguez did not constitute an amount greater than the entire worth of Major League Baseball.

Item: NBA misses mark

You have to wonder where the NBA ranks on the list of top American sports. It seems very content to rank third behind football and baseball, but even that seems to be an illusion.

For instance, Monday night marked the first time Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony were together on the court as Denver teammates. It arguably was the first significant moment of the NBA season, yet it was nowhere to be seen on national television.

On the other hand, every big football and baseball game is televised. Every golf tournament and NASCAR race — big or small — is on the air. Why not the NBA?

Hey, if the NBA is satisfied with running a weak third in the race for sports viewers, who are we to worry about it?

If you were concerned about any or all of the above sports matters, I hope this allows you to rest easier tonight.

You and your blood pressure can thank me later.

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at 578-2300 or