The new century will have perfect endings and empty stands
Has there ever before been a century like this one, a century of
such unparalleled progress? We've seen the development of
antibiotics, of night baseball, of talk radio. True, flying cars
never quite worked out; the two-way wristwatch radio was a
tougher nut to crack than we thought it would be; and nobody's
going to Mars (well, certainly not coming back; it's the Hotel
California of our solar system) anytime soon. But everything
else has panned out big. Two words: microwave popcorn.
We can only imagine the astonishing progress in store for us as
we embark upon the 21st century. It's impossible to predict
every little breakthrough (a hundred years ago, we'd never have
envisioned painless dentistry, the designated hitter or
Thighmaster), but we're expert enough (in sports, not so much
medicine) to forecast that Vince McMahon's WWF will become the
umbrella organization that regulates all major league sports
(except for boxing, which will continue to be guided by good
sense alone), and outcomes will be scripted to provide total fan
satisfaction (read: fireworks, near-naked women on every
sideline, no 8-8 playoff teams ever and especially no Yankees
championships). Focus groups will be employed to better divine
national sentiment and develop popular themes (and higher
ratings). In that way the Cubs will win the World Series.
Just as there are heroes and villains in pro wrestling, there
will be good cities and bad cities in big league sports. Who
knows, you might live in a bad city right now!
December 27, 1999
Going to the game, which has long been the big bugaboo (where
you gonna park that flying car, mister?), will no longer be
required. We'll have interactive "stadium seats" right in our
living rooms, close to the microwave popcorn and a clean rest
room. Every man will have a luxury suite. He'll razz the refs on
his wristwatch radio. That's pretty much how it's going to be in
the next century, when our games become even more reliable and
convenient fun for everybody (18 and older). It's safe to say
that if we can only get to Mars and back, this will be the best
century yet! --Richard Hoffer
Jimmy Johnson loses a gamble on two troubled Dolphins rookies
For the Miami Dolphins, whose guiding philosophy is, If you're not
in leg irons, we have a spot for you, it was business as usual
Running back Cecil Collins was suspended indefinitely after
being arrested on Dec. 16 and charged with burglary. Davie,
Fla., police say Collins, 23, climbed through a window in the
ground-floor apartment of a neighbor, Tina Nolte, at 5 a.m. He
entered her bedroom, where she was sleeping with her husband,
Ronald. Confronted by Ronald, Collins ran back to the window and
dived through headfirst. Collins's lawyer disputes the
allegations. Collins has a history of harassing women, which was
one reason that he fell to the fifth round in the 1999 draft.
But it wasn't reason enough for Miami not to take him.
The day after Collins's arrest the Dolphins released another
troubled rookie, defensive end Dimitrius Underwood, who earlier
in the week had gone over the fence at a suburban Miami
mental-health center. Underwood was drafted in the first round
by the Minnesota Vikings but was released after he walked out of
training camp on Aug. 2. That sent up flags around the league,
but not in Miami, where Jimmy Johnson claimed him on waivers. On
Sept. 26 Underwood was found on a Lansing, Mich., street
bleeding from a self-inflicted neck wound.
Collins and Underwood are only the most recent bad boys accepted
into J.J.'s halfway house. Current players Robert Baker, Tony
Martin and Lamar Thomas have all been in trouble with the law.
And there is, of course, Johnson's dalliance with serial bad-ass
Lawrence Phillips, who was picked up in December 1997, one month
after being waived by the St. Louis Rams. Johnson said, "Here,
he'll have to be responsible for himself." After being arrested
and charged with first-degree misdemeanor battery for striking a
woman in a nightclub in '98, Phillips was released by the
Dolphins. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to six months'
Underwood is reportedly with his family in Philadelphia. At
week's end Collins was in a Broward County jail awaiting a bail
hearing. No stranger to the legal process, Collins was arrested
twice in 1998 while attending LSU, both times on charges of
breaking into a woman's apartment. He pleaded guilty to two
misdemeanor counts of simple battery and two felony counts of
unauthorized entry and was put on four years' probation. Yet,
the Dolphins drafted him in the fifth round in '99.
Collins told his agent, Jimmy Sexton, that he and Tina Nolte had
a relationship and that the window was his customary mode of
entry. The Noltes deny that Collins and Tina had any
relationship. Collins also said last week, "I just made a
mistake." So did Johnson.
Samaranch: Artful Dodger
IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch delivered an effective
filibuster at a congressional hearing in Washington last week.
Days after the IOC overwhelmingly passed 50 reforms in Lausanne,
Samaranch emerged as a shrewd politician who would not wilt
under Capitol Hill pressure. The stakes were high--Congress
could have lifted the IOC's tax-exempt status in the U.S. In
April representatives Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) and Rick Lazio
(R., N.Y.) had introduced legislation to limit revenue from U.S.
television rights and sponsorship fees unless the IOC could
prove it had curtailed its abuses.
Several IOC members urged Samaranch not to testify, but he has
long been a sort of Teflon Juan. He deftly removed the taint of
having been a functionary in the Franco regime by becoming
Spain's ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1977. He also
anticipated public opinion by opening Olympic sports to
professionalism after becoming president in 1980 and showed his
diplomatic skills by coaxing hostile nations onto the same
playing field on several occasions.
In Washington, where each subcommittee member was allotted 10
minutes to question him, Samaranch, though no less fluent in
English than his interpreter, spoke in Spanish and took more
than six minutes to answer the first question. When Joe Barton
(R., Texas) wondered why Samaranch's "crackerjack Olympic
investigators" found no wrongdoing after members of Toronto's
bid committee for the 1996 Games submitted a 32-page document in
'91 outlining requests from IOC members for jewelry and cash in
return for votes, Samaranch said, "This report names no names."
He deflected questions about a $12,000 trip his wife, Maria
Teresa, took at the expense of Atlanta Games organizers to
Savannah and Charleston, S.C., in '90 by saying, "This is a
problem of the organizing committee."
Samaranch's remarks were repeatedly interrupted by panelists
impatient with his obfuscation. At one point Diana DeGette (D.,
Colo.) fumed, "Yes or no?" Still, no action has been taken by
Congress, and none is expected.
Before the IOC session in Lausanne, some Olympic observers
wondered if the reforms had any chance of passing with Samaranch
still in power. In fact his presence ensured passage. Granted,
to purge its culture of self-gratification, the IOC needs to do
more than introduce term limits, ban visits to bidding cities
and bring athletes into its midst. As last week's events showed,
when Samaranch leaves office in July 2001, it will be easier to
find a successor with superior scruples than one with a
comparable mastery of politics. --Brian Cazeneuve
No Pat Answer On the PAT
Rutgers statistics professor Harold Sackrowitz, an avid football
fan, isn't as interested in touchdowns as in what happens after
them. He has devised a "strategy table" that could help coaches
answer the question of when to kick the PAT and when to go for
the two-pointer. "Early in the game, the decision is such an
area of unknown," says Sackrowitz. "I thought my research could
be of considerable value."
Sackrowitz, who previously cowrote (with his son, Daniel) a
detailed analysis of ball control for the magazine Chance, has
devised a formula that takes into account the score; the number
of possessions left for both teams (six per quarter is the NFL
average); the possible result of each of those possessions
(touchdown, field goal or no score; safety is ignored because
it's probabilistically insignificant); and the probability of
each of those results based on the team's previous performance.
The formula then reveals whether a team's chances of winning are
greater if it goes for one or two. He lays this all out in an
Who might be interested in such a document? Bobby Ross, the
coach of the Detroit Lions, to name one. Ross's
early-third-quarter decision to go for two in a Nov. 14 game
against the Arizona Cardinals when Detroit was losing 23-13 may
have cost the Lions the game; Detroit failed to convert and lost
23-19. Sackrowitz's table shows that when trailing by 10 points,
a coach typically should not go for two until fewer than six
combined possessions remain in the game.
Sackrowitz knows that a coach doesn't have time to figure all
the possible scenarios. (Only a statistics professor with time
on his hands can do that.) Can he foresee a day when his work is
on every clipboard? "It could provide coaches with a more
realistic decision," says Sackrowitz, "but for now it beats
Ewes...er, Utes Win!
Because it has more subscribers to Animal Planet (250,000) than
to ESPN2 (50,000), one Utah cable company simulcast Utah's 17-16
Las Vegas Bowl victory over Fresno State last Saturday on both
the network of Bears and Lions and the network of bears and lions.
A Big-time Bounce Back
Few sports have had as many ups and downs as trampolining, which
will debut as an Olympic event at next year's Sydney Games. The
first documented trampoline exhibition in the U.S. was given by
circus star John Bill Ricketts in 1793 in Philadelphia. For his
finale Ricketts flipped over five mounted horsemen and landed
near the guest of honor, George Washington. Through much of the
20th century trampolining remained an American sensation,
popularized in countless suburban backyards. U.S. athletes won
every world title from 1964 through '70. In the '70s, however,
injury-inspired lawsuits against trampoline manufacturers and
owners proliferated, and, after the American Academy of
Pediatrics recommended in '76 that trampolining be dropped from
gymnastics competitions and phys-ed programs, the sport went
In less litigious Europe, meanwhile, trampolining has
flourished. The favorites in the 12-man, 12-woman fields in
Sydney--there will be no team event at the 2000 Games--will be
from Russia, Belarus and France. At last year's world
championships only one American, Jennifer Parilla (16th), placed
among the top 25 men or women.
While only 50 of the 5,000 registered trampolinists in the U.S.
compete at the elite level, there's hope of an American
resurgence. In September, Parilla became the first U.S.
competitor to qualify for the Sydney Olympics. "We're optimistic
that the sport will take off here with the Gen-X crowd," says
U.S. Gymnastics Federation president Bob Colarossi. Adds Bil
Copp, former president of the United States Acro Gymnastics
Federation, "Trampoline has overcome enormous obstacles. It was
on the edge of dying." Olympic inclusion will no doubt help it
Days that Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez's son, Chad, will spend
in jail for nuking a parrot.
Wheelchair spots to be added to Yankee Stadium's 44 to settle a
suit brought by four disabled fans.
Rank of the Famous Chicken on The Sporting News's list of the
century's most powerful figures.
Rank of Pete Rose-baiter Jim Gray on another TSN list, of the
year's most powerful.
Award given a couple who sued a Colorado golf course after their
house was hit by 1,000 balls a year.
And he's back! Oh, what a move! Canned in 1997 after he pleaded
guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, Marv Albert will return
as NBC's No. 1 man on NBA telecasts next season, a glorious
redemption made possible when Bob Costas gracefully stepped
Doug Henderson, a New York City court worker and former personal
assistant to Jimmy Connors, was charged with stealing Malcolm
X's bloodstained, bullet-riddled diary and selling it to a
collector for $5,000.
The 2002 Women's World Cup, to a date two months before the
men's Cup; the women were to have played four months after the
Inventive San Diego Chargers equipment manager Sid Brooks, after
a 27-year career in which he devised formfitting shoulder pads
for linemen and three-color numbers for football jerseys.
Legendary courtroom orator William Jennings Bryan, by lawyer
Bill Diehl, who in defending Charlotte Hornets owner George
Shinn against charges that Shinn had sexually assaulted a woman,
argued that the alleged oral sex was consensual, saying, "If she
ain't bitin', she ain't fightin'."
By a 25-pound bomb that fell from an Air Force F-16, two trios
of golfers on the 17th hole of an El Mirage, Ariz., course.
The Golden Dome, when the Notre Dame football program was hit
with two years' NCAA probation and the loss of two scholarships
after an investigation revealed that a booster named Kimberly
Dunbar gave players gifts, trips and cash.
Remembrance of Things Past
Lest you think that sports began in 1900, here are a few
milestones from the first 900 years of the millennium.
Saint Bernardine asks parishioners in Siena, Italy, to
substitute fistfights for knife duels
Southampton Bowling Club formed in England
Edward III of England declares soccer to be among games that
are "stupid and utterly useless" (an opinion still held by
many in U.S.)
While attending a summit between their countries, wrestling
buffs Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England stage a
battle royale (right)
Henri Saint-Didier of France gives names to major fencing moves,
such as coupe and prise de fer, which mostly endure to this day
Frenchman named Forbet writes first rules for tennis
Massachusetts governor William Bradford bans the playing of
"stoole-ball," an early form of cricket, at the settlement of
Plymouth on Christmas Day
Japanese authorities ban street-corner sumo
First documented U.S. horse race takes place on Newmarket Course
near current Hempstead, N.Y.
James Figg opens Figg's Academy for Boxing in London
First known yacht club, The Royal Cork Yacht Club, opens, in
Chippewa and Sauk interrupt their game of baggataway, now known
as lacrosse, to attack the English at Fort Michilimackinac in
William Ellis, student at Rugby School in England, invents new
sport when he picks up ball and runs with it during soccer game
The Massachusetts Assn. of Baseball Players codifies rules of
town ball in Dedham
Horace Lee of Philadelphia becomes first American to run
100-yard dash in 10 seconds
First filmed sporting event, a boxing match, takes place in
Thomas Edison's West Orange, N.J., laboratory
Good Grief! Sparky Hangs 'Em Up
CHARLES SCHULZ, who announced last week that he was retiring his
comic strip Peanuts so he could devote himself to his battle
against colon cancer, often used sports to make his daily point.
In the course of the strip's 49 years, Schulz's characters
played everything from hockey and football to golf and tennis;
according to United Feature Syndicate, which distributes
Peanuts, 10% of the 17,000 strips dealt with baseball.
It's not surprising that the Peanuts gang did so much playing
around. The 77-year-old Schulz, who goes by Sparky, is an avid
golfer and tennis player. Until he fell ill, Schulz, a St. Paul
native, spent most Tuesday evenings playing right wing in an
over-40 hockey league at the rink he owns a block from his Santa
Rosa, Calif., office. He was elected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of
Fame in 1993.
Through sports Charlie Brown, the round-headed kid in the
zig-zag striped T-shirt who was Schulz's Everyman, experienced
defeat after defeat, yet refused to be defeated himself. Lucy
once gave him the following advice: "Don't let your team down by
showing up." Luckily for us, neither he nor his creator--who
rarely missed a day at his drawing table--took that advice.
We'll miss you, Charlie Brown.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The Vail, Colo., ski resort has installed computer kiosks along
its runs so skiers can check stock quotes and make trades.
We'll have stadium seats in our living rooms, close to the
microwave popcorn and a clean rest room.
They Said It
STEVE BEUERLEIN Panthers quarterback, on why he lined up behind
a guard instead of center Frank Garcia: "I'm sick of Frank's