THE PRICE OF SEDUCTION
The Illinois legislature gave in to the demands of the Chicago White Sox last week and narrowly passed a package of financial incentives that will probably keep the club from moving to St. Petersburg, Fla. (page 60). The state will finance the construction of a new park for the Sox, and before the spending for these municipal seductions is over, the team could reap a windfall worth $60 million. Funding for education in the state, on the other hand, received a much lower increase than had been sought. That's a heavy price to pay in the name of civic pride.
The White Sox are only the latest sports franchise to happily play one city off against another. The standard procedure is for a team to encourage the affections of new municipal suitors, who promise tax breaks and a shiny new stadium, while moaning about the millions of dollars it would cost to refurbish the crumbling joint it's playing in now.
The football Cardinals had barely finished surveying the boodle the city of Phoenix showered on them last winter to lure them from St. Louis when they began to calculate just how much they could gouge their eager new fans. When the Phoenix Cardinals announced ticket prices recently for their inaugural season, what they presented was a study in greed. Prices in 70,021-seat Sun Devil Stadium will range from $150 to $350 per season, a reasonable scale by current NFL standards, but the Cardinals will also charge premiums on season tickets ranging from $50 to $1,650. And the luxury sky boxes aren't even finished yet.
At prices like that, St. Louis might well ask itself if it isn't a good thing the team got away. And St. Petersburg, empty ballpark and all, ought to be asking the same question.
As of Sunday the California Angels were hitting only .250, 12th among the 14 American League teams. And perhaps predictably so. After all, the Angels' hitting coach is Rick Down, who never had a major league at bat. He took over the job this spring, replacing Moose Stubing, who batted five times in the bigs without getting a hit.
Struggling California hitters have been expressing their frustration by assaulting watercoolers and bat racks in the dugout. So, manager Cookie Rojas recently had a punching bag installed in the runway between the dugout and the clubhouse, presumably to reduce the risk of injury to his players. But a team publicity man, John Sevano, says the purpose of the bag is to prevent property damage. Whatever, there's no reason to think the Angels can hit it, either.
THE BLUES BROTHERS
In lasting just 91 seconds against Mike Tyson, Michael Spinks still showed more staying power than his older brother, Leon, who two weeks earlier got himself knocked out by someone named Tony Morrison (not the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, although, in fairness to her it should be pointed out that she hasn't had her shot at him yet) in a breathtaking 33 seconds.
LEON VOTED FOR DR. PEPPER
You may have noticed that following the title fight Diet Pepsi and diet Coke each ran a barrage of television commercials linking its beverage to the bout and proclaiming itself champion of a toe-to-toe taste test. Diet Pepsi reportedly paid Tyson $1.25 million to appear in its commercials (filmed before the bout), while diet Coke simulated the sounds of a boxing match, complete with a bell and a fight crowd working up a low-calorie thirst. So who really won?
Call it a split decision. Diet Pepsi and diet Coke each hired an independent research agency to conduct the tests among randomly selected volunteers, and—hoo boy, are you ready for this?—each brand won its own test. According to a Pepsi-Cola spokesman, 55% of the people it surveyed who expressed a preference liked Diet Pepsi, and according to Coca-Cola, 52% of its volunteers preferred diet Coke. Unofficially entering the fray was Muhammad Ali, who, when informed that USA Today's readers had chosen him as history's top heavyweight, ruminated for a moment, then said, "I think I'll have a diet Coke now."
SI's Richard Demak was at the First World Conference on Antidoping in Sport, which was cosponsored by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Canadian government, last week in Ottawa. His report:
Assuming that a problem has to be recognized before it can be solved, then this meeting was a first, tiny step in dealing with the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Olympic sports. Representatives from 27 countries convened in the Canadian Government Conference Centre's main hall, at the front of which was a poster that trumpeted the theme of the meeting: INTEGRITY MAKES TRUE CHAMPIONS.
Nothing was settled at the conference, but delegates exchanged ideas on combating drug abuse and educating athletes about drugs and drug testing. Athletes who take anabolic steroids have always used the excuse that they have to take them because their rivals do. U.S. athletes tend to point accusing fingers at their Eastern bloc counterparts, who return the favor by charging the Americans with doping. The refreshing notion expressed at the conference was the flip side of the we-have-to-take-drugs-because-they-take-drugs philosophy: If they don't take them, we won't have to either.
Of the three major Olympic nations, the U.S.S.R., East Germany and the U.S., it has been the Americans who have been the biggest roadblock to standardized testing, primarily because of legal challenges to random testing on civil rights grounds in this country. Standardized punishment has also proved elusive. Two athletes detected using the same drug in the same sport have often not received the same penalties, an inconsistency that is repeated from sport to sport.
The delegates didn't resolve these difficulties, nor did they agree on what to do about new performance-enhancing drugs like erythropoietin, a hormone which stimulates red blood-cell production, and human-growth hormone. But another meeting was scheduled for the fall of 1989, and Prince Alexandre de Mèrode of Belgium, chairman of the IOC medical commission, was no doubt right when he warned, "When you fight against cheating, you will always be fighting. Cheating has existed since the beginning of the world and will continue until the world ends."
SHAKEDOWN FOR THE SOUTH POLE
The idea for next year's International Trans-Antarctica Expedition—the first attempt to traverse that continent's most forbidding expanses by dogsled—wasn't dreamed up in the mahogany-paneled rooms of some explorers' club but right out there on a polar icecap. It was the result of a chance encounter in 1986 between explorers Will Steger of Ely, Minn., and Jean-Louis Etienne of France. Etienne was sitting in his tent on the frozen Arctic Ocean, taking a break from a solo skiing trip to the North Pole, when who should come mushing by but Steger. He was leading the first expedition ever to make it to the North Pole by dog-sled without being resupplied en route. Etienne called to Steger and invited him in for tea, and during the ensuing conversation, the two men discovered that they shared the same ambition: to traverse Antarctica. Like two salesmen who had met at a convention, they exchanged phone numbers, and then they resumed their respective journeys.
Last month a six-man team, headed by Steger and Etienne, completed a dress rehearsal on the Greenland icecap, where conditions were similar to those the explorers will face during their 5,000-mile, seven-month, west-east trek across the Antarctic. Temperatures dipped as low as—25° Fahrenheit but the three 10-dog teams maintained a pace of 25 miles a day despite pulling loads of 1,400 pounds each. "They really wanted to push themselves and their dogs, in case they ran into a situation in Antarctica in which they couldn't be resupplied," says Jennifer Kimball, the spokeswoman for the expedition. Indeed, the team will travel for 500 miles through the aptly named Area of Inaccessibility, which has never been crossed on foot, and where, because it so remote, radio contact will be virtually impossible.
Among the members of the team is Soviet glaciologist Victor Boyarsky, who will study core samples from the ice pack that could shed new light on the depletion of the ozone layer at the South Pole, as well as on the global warming trend associated with the greenhouse effect. In Greenland, Boyarsky roused the other members of the group every morning by running from tent to tent stark naked, giving the latest weather report, and then washing himself off with snow. It made him feel like he was on top of the world.
THEY SAID IT
•Andy Van Slyke, outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, on failing to hit the ball out of the infield during a recent slump: "They're writing a movie about me. It's called The Summer of 4-to-3."
•Pat Williams, general manager of the NBA's new Orlando Magic franchise, to reporters after Matt Guokas failed to appear at the press conference announcing his hiring as coach: "I can understand your frustrations. In college I took Introduction to Shakespeare, and the guy never showed the whole semester."