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Utah’s twisted tradition

The Utah Jazz never had homecourt advantage during the NBA Finals. They did, however, have their pretzels.

Throughout the season many members of the Jazz developed a liking for gourmet soft pretzels, which they routinely ate before home games.

After finishing 38-3 at home during the regular season, the pretzel-munching ritual continued into the playoffs, where the Jazz were 10-0 at home before losing Game 5 to the Bulls in the the best-of-7 series.

With that in mind, some players brought the pretzels to Chicago for Games 1 and 2 of the series, both of which Utah lost.

The result had some players questioning their salty snacks.

“They’re not as good if they’re not fresh,” center Greg Foster said.

Utah’s cries for help didn’t go unanswered.

A spokesman for Pretzelmaker Inc. said the company’s Chicago branch, located minutes from the United Center, planned to deliver fresh pretzels to the visitors’ locker room before Friday night’s Game 6.

“Sometimes doing the little things help teams get over the hump,” said Marc Geman, president and chief executive of Pretzelmaker.

And all the time one flu-stricken Michael Jordan is better than a dozen pretzel-bloated Jazz.

Stoked about the selection

Animal, the high-energy, raspberry-haired drummer of the Muppets band, was introduced as the mascot for the U.S. Snowboard Team.

Snowboarding is one of the newest sports to be added to the Winter Olympics for the Nagano, Japan, Games in February.

It was the first time a Muppet has been designated as an official mascot for a team.

“Animal’s got the perfect attitude for snowboarding and he’s going to be a great fit for us,” said Anton Pogue, a Sandpoint High graduate, who won the slalom bronze medal in the 1997 World Championships.

Unlike Pogue’s fellow shredders, Animal has been trained not to drink out of the toilet.

But was Boca’s Melissa Raglin in compliance?

In San Francisco, a parent was walking past the bench of his 9-year-old’s Little League baseball team as the coach was dispensing water from a cooler and telling each player to take care of his own water cup.

“Does everyone know where his cup is?” the coach asked.

One player replied: “We’re wearing ‘em, coach!”

From Kiner’s corner

When Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner made a recent appearance with Richie Ashburn before a Phillies-Mets game, he summed up Mets pitcher Jason Isringhausen’s medical history:

“He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which is unusual after hitting his hand on the water cooler.”

The last word …

“I could stand at second base with a fungo bat and a golf ball and I couldn’t hit it that far. That thing had to stop in Albuquerque to refuel.”

- Rockies’ slugger Larry Walker, on Andres Galarraga’s 529-foot home run

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo