THE FALL OF THE WALL
Last week's extraordinary events in East Germany raised questions about the future of that country's powerful Olympic sports machine. As of Monday, millions of East Germans had taken or were taking advantage of their newly granted freedom to travel—most were flocking to West Germany—and at least some of them had no intention of returning home. Although it may not be known for a while if any prominent athletes or coaches were among those leaving for good, top soccer players Gerd Weber and Hans Richter and former world champion cyclist Uwe Unterwalder were said to be among the tens of thousands of East Germans who fled through Hungary, Poland or Czechoslovakia in previous weeks to find new homes in the West.
The underpinnings of the East German sports system may be in jeopardy. That system demands great discipline and sacrifice from its athletes. As a reward for their single-minded pursuit of sports, the athletes are given cars, homes and money, and are allowed to travel to the West and buy prized Western goods—privileges that are no longer so special. To the extent that freedom of speech and thought blossoms in East Germany—and prize money from Western pro sports becomes accessible—athletes may become less willing to let a government sports federation control their lives. Beyond that, economic reform could make nonsports careers more attractive and force the government to slash its huge sports subsidies.
Despite the events of last week, reunification of the two Germanys does not seem imminent. Neither does the possibility of the two Germanys fielding a combined Olympic team—although the prospect remains intriguing. Together, teams from East Germany and West Germany would have led all nations in medals at every Winter and Summer Olympics from 1972 through '88, except for the boycotted '80 and '84 Summer Games. But if the East German sports system weakens, a combined German team might not be a juggernaut. When Germany last fielded a combined Olympic team, at the '64 Summer Games, it finished fourth in total medals, with 35.
November 20, 1989
Last week's events stirred hopeful talk of Berlin hosting the 2004 Summer Olympics. And East and West did unite for a small sporting cause on Saturday. The Hertha soccer club of West Berlin offered free admission to its game against Wattenscheid to 10,000 East Berliners. Thousands of East Germans went over or through the Berlin Wall, cheered Hertha to a 1-1 tie and returned home—most of them, anyway—to the East. Who could have imagined it?
Boxing promoter Dan Duva gave his Little Falls, N.J., neighbors a real scare on Halloween. Duva, whose stable of fighters includes No. 1-ranked heavyweight contender Evander Holyfield, dressed his nine-month-old son, Bryan, as rival promoter Don King. Dan put Bryan in a tiny white tuxedo, made his hair stand straight up with a heavy dose of styling mousse and draped around his neck a "gold" pendant topped with King's trademark: a crown and the letters DON. "Everybody knew who he was supposed to be," said Dan. "We got a lot of laughs and a lot of candy."
King, who handles champ Mike Tyson, has been taking a hard line with Duva in recent negotiations for a proposed Holyfield-Tyson bout. That may have been on the mind of Duva's wife, Kathy, when she said, "Halloween is traditionally when you dress up as the thing you fear the most and exorcise the demon."
Pete Rose said last week that he's receiving psychiatric help for a gambling disorder and isn't sure if he will even apply for reinstatement to baseball when he becomes eligible to do so next August. Rose, who was "permanently" banned from the game on Aug. 24 for his gambling and his unsavory associations, gave interviews to Phil Donahue, Barbara Walters and selected print journalists to coincide with the release of his book Pete Rose: My Story, written with Roger Kahn. In both the book and the interviews, Rose, who has hired a Cincinnati public-relations specialist to help him repair his image, continued to contend that he never bet on baseball and was "framed" by the nine people who told baseball investigators otherwise. Rose said he has taken up golf to keep busy in the spare hours he once devoted to betting.
A grand jury in Cincinnati is still investigating Rose for possible tax evasion, and his p.r. blitz of last week—during which Rose contradicted several statements regarding his gambling that he had made to baseball investigators and reporters earlier in the year—did not in any substantial way refute the evidence against him collected by the commissioner's office. But Rose's willingness to seek help for his addiction is an encouraging sign. "I thought you had to gamble every day to have a problem," he told Walters. "I didn't really start thinking about [havingl any kind of problem until they took the game of baseball away from me. Then I had to wake up."
AND THE WINNER IS...
Not to spoil the preview that our college basketball experts have put together for you (page 46), but we here at SCORECARD already know who's going to win the NCAA title next March. We relied on the Delta Upsilon factor. Each summer the DU fraternity holds an international convention on a college campus. It picks the site about a year in advance. In 1986, DU chose Indiana to host the '87 convention; in March '87, the Hoosiers won the NCAA title. The frat selected Kansas for its '88 gathering, and the Jayhawks went on to win that year's NCAA crown. DU picked Michigan for its '89 confab, and—sure enough—the Wolverines won last spring's NCAAs.
Last week DU named the site of its 1990 convention. Let us declare, then, that even though SI's basketball staff doesn't expect them to make the final 16, the 1990 NCAA champions will be the Fighting Illini of Illinois.
THE MYSTERIOUS BINOCULARS
Three-year-old thoroughbred colt Ile De Chypre was leading by three lengths in a race at Royal Ascot on June 16 of last year when, just 150 yards from the finish, he veered sharply left and threw his jockey, Greville Starkey. Why did He de Chypre act up? If you believe some bizarre testimony given in a London courtroom this month, it was because he had been zapped with ultrahigh-frequency sound from a transmitter hidden in a pair of binoculars—a contraption that could wreak havoc on horse and dog racing.
South London car dealer James Laming, 49, who's on trial for his alleged participation in a cocaine ring run by former show-jumping rider Rene Black, says he invented the ultrasonic binoculars as part of a race-fixing plot that he claims was devised by Black. Laming testified that during the June race his brother, Robert, stood at trackside with the battery-powered binoculars and—to test them—"nobbled" Tie de Chypre with a beam of sound too high-pitched for humans to hear but ear-shattering to horses. "It was simply a case of raising the binoculars, pressing the trigger and—bosh!—that was it," said Laming.
British racing-mystery novelist Dick Francis said he wished he had thought up such an imaginative plot. But Laming insists that his ultrasonic binoculars, which contain a 22-watt amplifier and ceramic transducers—the equivalent of powerful loudspeakers—aren't fiction. Indeed, electronics experts say that such a device is plausible, and veterinarians say that horses do hear high-frequency sounds that humans cannot. Starkey testified that when Laming's legal team gave him a private demonstration in early November, the binoculars made the horse Starkey was riding go "out of control." Last week Britain's Jockey Club warned all British horse tracks to be on the lookout for ultrasonic zappers.
Laming's trial is expected to conclude next week. His defense is that he had no idea that Black, who pleaded guilty last month to cocaine trafficking, was involved with drugs; Laming says he associated with Black only because Black gave him $16,000 to develop the binoculars. When asked by skeptical prosecutors how he came up with such a high-tech device, Laming, who says he taught himself electronics by reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica, replied, "I am not a genius, but I sometimes have ingenious ideas."
THEY SAID IT
•Diego Maradona, Argentine soccer star, to a reporter complaining about the limited media access to Maradona's million-dollar wedding last week in Buenos Aires: "You didn't invite me to your wedding."
•Sam Goodwin, Northwestern State University of Louisiana football coach, after telling some players who had never flown before to use gum to keep their ears from popping during a team flight: "It worked fine, except some guys had a hard time getting the gum out of their ears."