FAILING THE TEST
Last May, Dr. Forest Tennant, the drug-abuse adviser for the National Football League, told the Wichita Eagle-Beacon, "Professional sports has really diminished its alcohol, cocaine and marijuana problems. Not that they don't have brushfires once in a while, but their testing, their education, their discipline programs have gone a great distance in resolving the problem."
Brushfires? On Monday the NFL announced that Lawrence Taylor, the New York Giants' star linebacker, had tested positive on a recent drug test, and because it was his second such offense, he would be suspended for 30 days, encompassing the first four games of the regular season. That brings the number of NFL players who have been caught and suspended this summer to nine. In baseball, Leon Durham and Eddie Milner of the Cincinnati Reds have undergone drug rehab this year, and John Rabb of the Seattle Mariners was suspended Aug. 4 for failing to comply with his drug-testing program.
The problem will not go away. Those who believe that a four-game suspension for a second offense is a sufficient deterrent are as deluded and naive as Taylor, who wrote in his 1987 book, LT: Living on the Edge, that he had cured his addiction to cocaine by playing a lot of golf. Despite last May's assurances by Tennant, the fires still rage.
September 4, 1988
There was disturbing news on another front over the weekend. U.S. Swimming, the governing body for the sport in this country, and the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Sunday that Angel Myers, who won three events at the recent Olympic trials and had a chance to win five medals in Seoul, would be disqualified from the Olympic team for use of a banned substance. She had tested positive at the trials in Austin, Texas, Aug. 8-13, and although the swimming officials would not name the substance, John Maher of the Austin American-Statesman learned from Myers's father, Kirt, that the substance was identified as nandrolone, an anabolic steroid. "I am positive she has never taken anything illegal," said Kirt Myers, who claimed that either 1) birth control pills caused a mistaken reading or 2) drinks Angel was given at the trials were spiked.
Richard Quick, the Olympic swimming coach, named Jill Sterkel and Janel Jorgensen to replace Myers. While Sterkel now becomes the first U.S. woman swimmer to be a member of four Olympic teams, Myers becomes a footnote. The 21-year-old swimmer from Americus, Ga., had made great gains in recent months, and her performance at the trials, in which she set American records in the 50-and 100-meter freestyles and won the 100 butterfly, was stunning to some observers. When SI's Craig Neff asked a top American coach how he felt about Myers's surprising performance, the coach said, "I'll let you know in two weeks when the test results come back."
Myers failed her tests, but U.S. Swimming and the USOC passed a test of a different sort. The two organizations must be serious about drug testing if they are willing and prepared to disqualify a swimmer of Myers's ability. "It is a shame that this has happened to our sport and Olympic sports." said Quick, "but it speaks well for the necessity and integrity of substance testing."
In the 12th race at Freehold (N.J.) Raceway on Aug. 13, the first three finishers were Worthy Wolf, Red Wolf and Egyptian Wolf. All are 4-year-old geldings sired by Armbro Wolf. The public relations director for Freehold, by the way, is Steven Wolf. (See above for the author of this item.)
TUG GETS TAGGED
Here is one last tidbit from the first night game at Wrigley Field, on Aug. 8. Tug McGraw, the former relief pitcher for the Mets and the Phillies, had to do a feature on the game for WPVI, the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia, so he decided to find out how night games would affect those fans who watch Cub games from the rooftops across Waveland Avenue. On one of the roofs, McGraw said to a Cub fan named Bob Mylan, "Hey, this doesn't look too far away. Do any home runs ever come up here?"
"Not since you retired, Tug," said Mylan.
A GREAT DIFFERENCE
Dino Ciccarelli, who last week was sentenced to a day in jail and fined $1,000 for assault during a hockey game (page 34), is currently trying to renegotiate his $400,000-a-year contract with the Minnesota North Stars. His agent, Ron Salcer, pointing to the reported $2 million salary Wayne Gretzky will be getting from the Los Angeles Kings, said, "He [Ciccarelli] is not Wayne Gretzky, but isn't he worth a quarter of Wayne Gretzky?"
Granted that Gretzky, who is almost a year younger, has scored just three times as many points in his NHL career as Ciccarelli has, but scoring isn't everything. The Great One has been a great credit to the game. He has never been charged with assault, nor has he ever pleaded guilty to charges of indecent exposure, as Ciccarelli has. And Ciccarelli's drawing power is infinitesimal compared with Gretzky's.
So the answer to Salcer's question is an emphatic no.
THE POLITICAL FRINGE
Michael Dukakis, the Democratic presidential candidate, ran cross-country at Swarthmore. His running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, is an avid tennis player. GOP standard-bearer George Bush played first base while captain of the Yale baseball team. So what does the prospective Republican vice-president, Indiana Senator Dan Quayle, have to offer in the way of sports?
Well, Quayle played on the DePauw University golf team for four years, serving as captain his senior year. He is so fond of the sport that he is known as "Florida's third senator" for his forays on the links of the Sunshine State. Quayle has had to weather a lot of criticism since his surprise nomination, but last week he was hit with a particularly low blow. Randy Reifers, a furniture manufacturer's rep in Dublin, Ohio, who was one of Quayle's teammates at DePauw, told the Chicago Tribune, "Quayle still can't beat me. He never could putt."
FAREWELL TO THE CHIEF
Dr. Theodore Gelet made this simple announcement at Pittsburgh's Mercy Hospital last Thursday: "At 7:45 a.m., the Chief passed away in his sleep with his family at his bedside."
The Chief, Art Rooney, was 87 when he died, and he left behind a legacy of kindness, loyalty and, above all, family. He is survived not only by his five sons, 29 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, but also by his other family, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He purchased the franchise for $2,500 back in 1933 and then patiently saw it through 40 largely unsuccessful seasons. All things come to those who wait, though, and in 1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980, the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Still active in the affairs of the team, Rooney was in his office at Three Rivers Stadium when he suffered a stroke on Aug. 17. Said Mary Regan, the Chiefs secretary since the mid-'50s. "There weren't big people and little people to Mr. Rooney. There were just people, and he wanted to help everyone. I never saw him say no to anyone in need."
The Chief missed seeing one of the greatest plays in Steeler history. Franco Harris's Immaculate Reception in the 1972 playoffs, because he was hurrying down to the locker room to make sure he was there to console the team. He was seldom in the clubhouse when the Steelers won, but often there when they lost. And the players loved him for that and other graces. The Pittsburgh Press periodically runs nostalgic "Where Are They Now?" stories about former Steeler heroes, and each and every player asks, "How's Art?"
There are countless examples of the Chiefs compassionate nature, of players getting unasked-for bonuses, of grounds crew members getting trips to the Super Bowl. One story illustrating Rooney's generous spirit concerns Johnny Unitas, the Pittsburgh native whom the Steelers cut. Rooney's sons kept telling him that the team should keep Unitas, but the Chief did not want to interfere with his coach, Walter Kiesling. As chance would have it, shortly after the quarterback had been let go, Rooney's car—with Kiesling and Art Sr. in the backseat—happened to pull alongside Unitas's car. Art Sr. leaned across Kiesling and yelled over to Unitas, "Johnny, I hope you become the greatest quarterback in football." That wish, along with many others, came true for the Chief.
THEY SAID IT
•Jack McKeon, San Diego Padres manager, describing an inning in which his team loaded the bases on a chopper to the first baseman and two bunts: "That was our short-yardage offense."
•Jimmy Connors, tennis star, on the value of experience: "The problem is that when you get it, you're too damned old to do anything about it."
•Joe Sambito, recently retired relief pitcher, on how he's spending his days in Treasure Island, Fla.: "I'm doing what every retired Floridian does. Play golf. Watch the sunset. Wait for the mailman. And drive slowly."