Here are the holiday gifts that need to be given.
Sports figures are so hard to shop for. After all, how many
sweaters, ties and multiyear contract extensions does one athlete
need? Fear not: We've taken it upon ourselves to play Santa to
the sports world. Here's our list (we've checked it twice):
TO CHRIS WEINKE, old guy on campus: a subscription to Modern
TO ALEX RODRIGUEZ, freshly minted tycoon: a copy of Quicken
TO DENNIS MILLER, prolix sportscaster: Sanka
TO ALLEN IVERSON, lyrically impaired rapper: a rhyming dictionary
TO ANNA KOURNIKOVA, tennis vixen: a tournament win (so that we'll
no longer feel guilty writing about her)
TO BOB KNIGHT, jobless person: a copy of What Color Is Your
TO THE WIZARDS, woebegone NBA franchise: a time machine (so they
can trade their Michael Jordan for MJ circa 1992)
TO KEYSHAWN JOHNSON, needy receiver: the damned ball
TO FUSAICHI PEGASUS, Kentucky Derby winner: a case of Viagra
(hey, with a $150,000 stud fee, we would have performance anxiety
TO RANDY JOHNSON, mullet-coiffed pitcher: a comb-out
TO THE ORGANIZERS OF CINCINNATI'S BID FOR THE 2012 OLYMPICS: a
night on Fantasy Island
TO TIGER WOODS, The Man: a worthy rival
TO KARRIE WEBB, overlooked legend-to-be: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
TO MARK CUBAN, overly excitable team owner: a grip
TO LANCE ARMSTRONG, conquering hero: the last laugh
TO MIKE TYSON, fad dieter: some fava beans and a nice Chianti
(goes along nicely with a plate of hearts and children)
TO MARION JONES, commercial star: a weekly TV series based on her
Mrs. Jones character (can you dig it?)
TO ANDREEA RADUCAN, sniffly gymnast: Vicks VapoRub, chicken soup
and a box of Kleenex (but no Sudafed)
TO RULON GARDNER, Olympic gold medalist and Greco-Roman
celebutante: 15 more minutes
TO ROGER CLEMENS, tightly wound hurler: Sounds of Nature
TO THE YANKEES, masters of their domain: slippers (what else do
you get the team that has everything?)
TO BUD SELIG, fretful baseball commissioner: a copy of Revenue
Sharing for Dummies
TO JASON SEHORN AND ANGIE HARMON, genetically gifted couple:
ugly, unathletic kids (no, we're not bitter)
TO VENUS AND SERENA WILLIAMS, righteous sisters: a doubles match
against John and Patrick McEnroe
TO ALONZO MOURNING AND DON NELSON: our wishes for a speedy
TO SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, college graduate: a list of summer
TO KOBE BRYANT, high school graduate: Shaq's used textbooks
TO THE BAHA MEN, who let the dogs out--over and over again:
REBEL WITH A LOST CAUSE
For the second time in seven years, the NCAA handed down
sanctions against UNLV's men's basketball program, putting the
Runnin' Rebels on four years' probation and banning them from
postseason play for a year for violations stemming from the
recruitment of Lamar Odom in 1996 and '97. Within hours of the
Dec. 11 decision, school president Carol Harter fired coach Bill
Bayno. "The issue here is who is responsible for the basketball
program," Harter said. "It's the head basketball coach."
Bayno protested, saying the NCAA had not accused him of
wrongdoing, and he threatened to go to court to force UNLV to pay
him for the final two and a half years of his contract. Whatever
legal recourse he may seek, Bayno seems destined to look bad in
the court of public opinion. The man at the heart of the NCAA's
case against UNLV is David Chapman, a Las Vegas dentist who has
admitted providing roughly $5,600 in cash and benefits to Odom in
1996 and '97, when Odom was being recruited by Bayno. (UNLV
revoked its scholarship offer to Odom in the summer of '97 after
his standardized test score was called into question.) The NCAA
report describes Chapman as a "close friend" of Bayno's. Bayno
claims he had no knowledge of Chapman's payments to Odom.
Bayno's admitted friendship with Chapman raises the issue of his
choice of associates. Although there's no indication that UNLV
was aware of it, Bayno's name surfaced last spring in connection
with a racketeering case being brought in federal district court
in Atlanta against Steve Kaplan, the owner of the Gold Club, an
Atlanta strip joint. According to court documents related to the
case, Kaplan enlisted Gold Club strippers to have sex with Bayno
at Las Vegas's Mirage Hotel in June '98. (Steve Sadow, Kaplan's
attorney, says: "Any such allegation about Steve Kaplan's
involvement is absolutely untrue.") Bayno confirmed to SI that he
met Kaplan several times, but says, "I had no idea Steve Kaplan
was involved in any wrongdoing." Adds Bayno, who's single, "I'm
not saying I haven't had sex with girls at the Mirage, but if it
was arranged by Steve Kaplan, it was unbeknownst to me."
Bayno says he has cleaned up his act. "I've changed," he says.
"In the last two years I've stopped socializing in nightclubs. It
was hurting my image." --Seth Davis
MONEY FOR NOTHING
A $252 million contract for Alex Rodriguez? Who do the Rangers
think he is, Roy Hobbs? Which got us wondering: How much would
Hobbs and other cinematic players make in baseball's irrationally
exuberant free-agent market?
SCOUTING REPORT: Lefty clutch hitter with Ruthian power to all
fields. BOTTOM LINE: "He's aging and injury-prone, so a team
would be concerned about him finishing the season," says agent
Arn Tellem, who represents Nomar Garciaparra, "but he can carry a
franchise, so I'd say one year at $20 million."
SCOUTING REPORT: Righty starter with 90-mph fastball and
occasional control problems. Early lowdown noted he had "a
million-dollar arm and a five-cent head." BOTTOM LINE: Pirates
general manager Cam Bonifay says, "With the absence of starting
pitching today, I'm sure some team would be willing to risk $3
million to $4 million a year."
SCOUTING REPORT: Righty starter with 112-mph fastball. Also a
dangerous hitter who can go yard from both sides of the plate.
BOTTOM LINE: "This is a guy who can do it all. You're talking
A-Rod plus, more than $25 million a year," says Tellem, "but the
team will want an out in the contract in case he flakes out."
SCOUTING REPORT: Righty closer with fastball in high 90s. Spotty
past: recruited from California Penal League. BOTTOM LINE: Says
Andrew Zimbalist, author of Baseball and Billions, "A crazy
relief pitcher with a good fastball? I put him at Turk Wendell's
level, $4 million a year. That's if by crazy you don't mean John
Rebound and Circumstance
Shaquille O'Neal, who received an excused absence from the
Lakers' win over Vancouver last Friday night to attend his
graduation from LSU, says he's not done hitting the books. "I
want to take the LSATs," O'Neal says of the law-school entrance
exam. "It will help me do what I want to do." Which is? "I would
like to run for sheriff of Orlando's Orange County," says O'Neal.
"If not that, I want to be involved in law enforcement somehow."
He's being serious: O'Neal spent as many as three days a week
last summer riding with Orlando officers in the stolen-car
division. "One night they caught a guy with 15 stolen cars," says
O'Neal. How did the thief react when he saw the 7'1", 315-pound
O'Neal hovering over him? "He never saw me. I never got out of
the car." Never let it be said that Shaq Daddy doesn't know when
to let his teammates carry the load.
What's a Thrasher?
Even die-hard fans of Atlanta's second-year NHL franchise can be
excused for not knowing what their club's name, Thrashers, means.
A good guess would be the literal interpretation: According to
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary a thrasher is "one who
defeats decisively or severely, as, 'thrashed the visiting
team.'" Nice try, but wrong. A quick check of Atlanta's franchise
record (25 wins in 113 games) should have given you a hint. Then
there's the more colloquial term: "Thrasher has always stood for
the honest anarchy inherent to the basic gig of riding a
skateboard," reads an editorial from Thrasher magazine. Another
good guess. In fact, Thrasher and the Thrashers went to court in
1998 over the use of the name. (The case was settled for an
undisclosed sum.) But would Ted Turner really name his hockey
franchise after a bunch of skateboarders? Actually, Turner, an
environmentalist, chose the moniker to honor Georgia's state
bird, the brown thrasher, which "haunts the wood lots, hedgerows
and gardens of eastern North America," according to the Audubon
Society's Master Guide to Birding. "Despite its skulking manner,
the Brown Thrasher may deliver its song from a prominent, exposed
perch." Hmmm. Who knew that Dennis Rodman played hockey?
Ford Models, by the Magnum Sports & Entertainment talent
agency. The storied modeling firm, whose clients have graced
thousands of magazine covers (including SI, with Christie
Brinkley, and Mademoiselle, with Clare Durkin), is being
purchased for an undisclosed sum by Magnum, whose athletes
include Packers receiver Antonio Freeman. "You see models who
are acting and sports people who are modeling," said Katie Ford,
who will continue to run the agency. "There's a convergence
that's been happening over time."
Rocky Sonkowsky, 10, from a New Prague (Minn.) Intermediate
School field trip to visit a Vikings practice, because he
wouldn't cover up his Packers jersey. The Minnesota Civil
Liberties Union filed a violation of free speech suit against
the school district. After hearing of the case, the Vikings gave
Rocky and his dad two tickets to Sunday's game against Green
Bay, which was won 33-28 by the Pack.
The giants within the Wizards, after players met with
motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Owner Abe Pollin sent the
last-place Wizards to a seminar featuring Robbins on Dec. 12.
The next night against the division-leading 76ers, Washington
played a competitive first quarter but then got blown out 102-82
for its eighth straight loss.
Renovations to Nashville's Gaylord Entertainment Center, home
of the NHL Predators. Among the $2 million worth of improvements:
the replacement of 10,000 square feet of terrazzo floor covering.
"We're slowly but surely making progress on the building each
year," said the arena's manager, Russ Simons. The Gaylord Center
opened in December 1996.
THE ZAMBONI DRIVER
Al Sobotka, 47, has been driving a Zamboni for the Detroit Red
Wings since 1973.
How fast does a Zamboni go?
Around 15 mph.
Wow. You drive that fast?
Not too often. The reason is you're trying to do a better job,
fill every skate mark. But once in a while you step on it from
one end to the other. It makes your hair fly when you hit it, you
Is there special training required to drive a Zamboni?
My training was all done on the job, learning a lot of it by
mistakes and from the guys who worked here in the past. I always
say I'm still in training.
How do you spot rookie drivers?
Oh, God, they just look straight ahead. They don't observe what's
going on around them. I look all the way around the surface to
see if I missed a big ice gouge from a skate. Some people go once
around the outside and then come up the middle. But I like to go
Does it get competitive when two Zambonis are on the ice?
No, I don't get into that at all. The main concern is the quality
of the ice. If it takes an extra minute to do it, that's fine.
But if there were a race, I'd win.
Does blood clean up pretty easily?
Yeah, you gotta dry-shave it first--clean it without water. But if
blood gets in the ice grooves, it's hard to get out.
Do you ever get asked for your autograph?
All the time. Kids, mainly. Mr. Ilitch, our owner, asked me once.
In 1995, he had me sign a napkin for him. I was privileged.
Be honest: Is the Zamboni a chick magnet?
It's a magnet for everybody. Chicks get excited just as much as
little kids. Even men get excited by it. Rides are auctioned off
for charities and at special events. There have been functions
that have gotten $2,000 for a ride.
Do the players ever give you props on your ice?
Oh, yeah. A lot of visiting players say they wish their ice was
as good. If you get a compliment like that from Eric Lindros,
that's a good one. Guys who skate fast, like Paul Coffey, love
How'd you do in 1999's Zamboni driver of the year competition, in
which fans got to vote for their favorite driver?
I was runner-up. I got screwed, let's put it that way. But that's
not important anymore; it's water down the drain. --Dan Snierson
We now know who'll be taking the field for Super Bowl XXXV. No,
not the teams. We're talking about the important stuff: which
entertainers will be headed to Tampa for the big show. Before
the game, Clearasil-set crooners the Backstreet Boys will sing
the national anthem and Ray Charles will perform America the
Beautiful. As for the halftime show, Aerosmith and 'N Sync will
be the main attractions. Originally, Madonna had been
considering the halftime gig, but talks with MTV, which is
producing the show, broke down after the network objected to her
planned outfit: a T-shirt promoting the upcoming film Snatch,
which is directed by Madonna's fiance, Guy Ritchie...
Mike Piazza has broken up with his girlfriend, Playboy model
Darlene Bernaola. It was only a few months ago that the two had
each other's initials tattooed onto their ankles...
Lawrence Taylor (right) has signed a contract with Harper
Collins, worth $200,000, to write his memoirs. The book,
tentatively titled To Hell and Back, will focus on the end of
the linebacker's career, including his recurring drug problems...
The new single Do My..., by rapper Memphis Bleek and featuring
Jay-Z, is, according to a publicist for Bleek's label, Def Jam,
"an ode to the ladies." So when it came time to film a video,
the rappers asked some of their favorite ladies for help.
Appearing in the clip are WNBA stars Chamique Holdsclaw, Lisa
Leslie and Teresa Weatherspoon, who are shown playing hoops with
Bleek and Jay-Z. Serena Williams has a cameo, playing tennis
with the rappers...
Among the A-list crowd at the opening of the ultrachic Ocean
Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas earlier this month were
Michael Jordan and his wife, Juanita. MJ skipped most of the
entertainment, which included performances by Jose Feliciano,
Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder, to hit the blackjack tables,
where he lost big. Fortunately, Juanita cleaned up by winning
$20,000 on two of her spins at the roulette table. Said Michael,
"I'm glad someone in the family is winning."
TD passes thrown last weekend by NFL quarterbacks named
Johnson--the Redskins' Brad, the Falcons' Doug and the Bills'
Rob--who collectively completed 9 of 18 for 102 yards.
Gallons of free gas pumped by Warriors' guard Larry Hughes at an
Oakland Chevron station on Dec. 18, as a goodwill giveaway paid
for by Hughes.
Percent of seats sold for New Jersey Devils home games so far
this season, believed to be the lowest ever for a defending
Stanley Cup champion.
Tickets sold by the Penguins in the first 24 hours after Mario
Lemieux announced his return to the ice; previously, Pittsburgh
had been selling about 1,000 tickets a day.
Total points per game that TCU's all-nickname hoops quartet of
Greedy Daniels, Bingo Merriex, Nucleus Smith and Rebel Paulk is
averaging this season.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
According to an ad for a sports-memorabilia show to be held in
New Jersey next year, the going price for faltering Bears
quarterback Cade McNown's autograph is $35, $10 more than the tab
for Hall of Famer Otto Graham's signature.
Lemieux's return: "I'm going to take him out on the first road
trip, get him drunk and talk contract."