At 6:45 p.m. on Nov. 15, Colombia's most prominent soccer referee, Jesús (Chucho) Díaz, and his linesman, Alvaro Ortega, got out of a taxi in front of the Hotel Inter-Continental in Medellín. They had just officiated a 0-0 tie between Deportivo Independiente Medellín, a local club in the 15-team Colombia Football Federation—familiarly known as Dimayor—and Amèrica de Cali. Two men emerged from the evening shadows. One shoved Díaz aside to safety; the other pulled out an Uzi from under his leather jacket and fired 18 bullets into Ortega. He died instantly.
A police investigation has linked the murder to a $750,000 bet on an Oct. 26 game between the same two teams. Ortega had made two controversial rulings against Medellín, which lost 3-2. Medellín is home to the infamous Medellín cocaine cartel, and suspecting the involvement of drug lords in Colombia's national sport, Dimayor officials announced a week after Ortega's murder that they were suspending the season with a month to play. On Nov. 17, Díaz, who had been a soccer official for 16 years, resigned, saying, "Every time I take the playing field, my family is tormented by fear."
And with good reason. In 1983 justice minister Rodrigo Lara said that more than half of Colombia's soccer teams were dominated by organized crime. A year after issuing that statement, Lara was assassinated. At one time Atlètico Nacional, a second Medellín-based Dimayor team, was partly owned by Hernàn Botero, who in 1984 became the first Colombian ever extradited for a drug-related crime. He's serving a 30-year sentence in Florida for laundering cocaine profits. Two months ago police found documents linking a top man in the Medellín cartel with the ownership of the Bogota-based Millonarios, the defending Dimayor champions.
Last year Armando Pèrez, a Dimayor referee, was kidnapped outside Medellín and released after 24 hours with a note that read, "From now on a referee who makes a wrong call will be wiped out." In October three more officials got messages containing bullets and death threats in their hotel boxes.
The Colombian government says it will not permit Dimayor to resume play until every team undergoes a thorough audit and background check on its ownership. That task can't be finished until February, when the 1990 season begins. Atlètico Nacional is scheduled to play Milan in an Intercontinental Cup match in Tokyo on Dec. 17, though the press in Italy has called for Milan to pull out of the event. "The crisis is not over," says Díaz. "It is just beginning."
THE FOUR-COURSE PRESS
University of Georgia basketball players are trained to recognize opposing defenses and execute offensive sets. Earlier this fall, they applied those skills to identifying the salad fork and using a napkin correctly. Debra Lassiter, owner of Perfectly Polished, an institution of higher etiquette in Athens, Ga., had suggested that the Bulldogs might benefit from some schooling in social graces after she had watched a swim team from another university slurp and slog through a meal at a local restaurant. "Basketball players know how to run a pick-and-roll," Lassiter wrote to coach Hugh Durham, "but do they know how to pass the rolls?"
Following a mock session at which Lassiter sported a referee's jersey and blew whistles for sloppy cuts and double dribbling, the Bulldogs took up the gauntlet—and their goblets—for real during a candlelit dinner at Georgia's Center for Continuing Education. There they confronted a repast of salad, pea-and-potato soup, prime rib and coupe à l'orange, as well as six pieces of silverware. The dessert spoon did rattle the Bulldogs worse than a 1-2-2 zone trap; most of them wound up using it to stir their iced tea.
Center Arlando Bennett, wearing a cast on his broken right wrist, had a teammate cut his meat for him. Said Durham to Bennett, "When' you're a low-post player, you always need someone to feed you."
A WING AND A PRAYER
When the Bath County (Va.) High football team kicked off its season in September, 39-year-old coach Carl Williams knew he faced a season of extraordinary challenges. Not that the Chargers were without promise. Before the 1988 season, Williams and his younger brother Steve, 28, an assistant coach, had decided to junk their wishbone attack. With the help of a 1941 instructional tome, they installed a variation of the single wing. Once the offense started to click, Bath County won four of its last five games, finishing 4-6. Most of the players were returning, including a pair of Williams brothers not related to the coaches: Tim, a 5'7", 155-pound tailback; and Chris, a 5'11", 170-pound fullback.
As the season approached, Carl's main worry was his health. He had undergone surgery for colon cancer two years ago, and in August he began to lose weight at the rate of five pounds a week. Carl coached Bath County to an opening 12-7 victory over Covington High—a school the Chargers had not beaten in their 33-year history—and four days later he had a CAT scan. Another tumor was found, and a week after that Sept. 1 victory, Carl had a second operation for cancer.
With Steve at the helm, the Chargers were remarkable, and they helped to invigorate Carl. Despite averaging only 160 pounds per player, their single wing took off; Tim rushed for 2,311 yards and Chris for 1,792. Going into last Saturday's Class A semifinal playoff game against Appalachia High, Bath County, which had never before qualified for the state tournament, was 12-0. The Chargers lost 27-23. "Carl said to keep winning and give him time to come back," said Steve before last week's game. "These boys played with more heart than talent."
While undergoing radiation treatments and chemotherapy, Carl continued to contribute. He received blood transfusions so that he would be strong enough to chart the last six games from the press box, and before each of them he addressed the squad. "The whole room got 10 times brighter when he walked in," says Chris. Carl gets regular visits at home from his players, who chop his firewood and clean his gutters, and he is optimistic about recovering. "We've turned this around," says Carl. "The coach is supposed to be the leader, but it's teenage kids who have inspired the community."
News item: At a world conference on global warming, in the Netherlands, the U.S. plays the leading role in scuttling a resolution that tries to set firm goals for reducing the emission of so-called greenhouse gases—23% of which are produced in the U.S.—by the year 2000.
News item: The Bush Administration nominates James Cason, who favors industrial development of public lands, to a post at the Department of Agriculture in which he would oversee the U.S. Forest Service.
While George Bush's campaign promise that his would be an "environmental presidency" rings hollow in light of the above events, each of the occurrences contains a glimmer of hope.
Some Washington insiders believe the Administration chose not to support the global-warming resolution so it could lead the fight against the greenhouse effect when a United Nations panel on the subject convenes in February. Bush feels more committed to the UN, where the U.S. chairs the subcommittee on response strategy and larger nations play a bigger role. The UN panel's report isn't expected until late 1990, but indications are that the U.S. will call for the inclusion of specific and substantial cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.
The silver lining in the Cason nomination is harder to find. Environmentalists had a raft of objections to Cason, a loyal underling to James Watt at the Department of the Interior. As opposition to Cason grew stronger, the White House let it be known that the President wouldn't withdraw Cason's name but would allow the nominee to withdraw it himself. Indications were that as many as 60 senators—including five Republicans—were poised to vote him down. Cason withdrew.
Bush seems to be groping for the appearance of a balance of interests between developers and environmentalists, the same sort of waffling that has led to the federal government's ineffectiveness on environmental issues in recent years. First he withheld his global-warming initiatives in the Netherlands, to the disappointment of environmentalists; then he flip-flopped on Cason, to the chagrin of developers.
If Bush ever intends to deliver on his campaign promise to be an advocate for the environment, he should begin in 1990 by leading the industrialized world to an agreement to cut back greenhouse emissions and by appointing to the Agriculture post a conservationist dedicated to protecting America's forests.
A POSITIVE PAYOFF
While Congress is weighing legislation that would require colleges to release varsity athletes' graduation rates (SCORECARD, Sept. 18) and the NCAA is contemplating enlightened ways to divvy up the $1 billion it will receive from CBS for the right to televise its basketball tournament for seven years beginning in 1991 (page 67), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) is out in front on both graduation-rate disclosure and the distribution of TV earnings. The 12-school, Division I league has not only voluntarily announced its graduation rates for 1989—95.8% of all seniors who played basketball last season had graduated by July 1—but it has also linked television revenues to athletes' performance in the classroom.
This season, SportsChannel will televise 13 MAAC games, and the conference has enticed the sponsors of those cablecasts to tie the cost of ad time to the graduation rates of MAAC players. If no one graduates, the sponsors pay nothing; if all do, they will end up spending a total of $500,000 over four years. The conference's pitch has already begun to pay off. Says Jim Drucker, president of Global Sports, a Philadelphia-based television syndication company, "We sold ad time with this faster than we've ever sold basketball ad time."
IT'S AN AD, AD, AD...
Just how far are companies willing to go to sear their logos into the public mind? Hillerich & Bradsby showed the depth of its marketing commitment in the World Series, spelling out LOUISVILLE on the bat of Oakland's Rickey Henderson in print readable from the cheap seats. Hillerich & Bradsby says that it was only responding to the enlargement of trademarks on bats by rival companies. Major league baseball, whose Rule 1.17 forbids "undue commercialization," is now expected to effect strict guidelines for the size of bat labels. "We don't have any problem with the presence of logos," says Richard Levin, baseball's director of public relations, "but we don't want our players wielding billboards."
The Maryland Racing Commission feels the same way about its jockeys, and in September it blocked 19-year-old Kent Desormeaux (page 99) from riding at Pimlico Race Course in a pair of britches bearing the logo of Caesars casinos. The stewards in New Jersey felt differently about Desormeaux's britches, however, and let him wear them while riding at the Meadowlands later that month. Then there's horse trainer Wayne Lukas, who recently said he intends to use the supposedly painless—and quite legal—process of freeze branding to monogram the right shoulders of his thoroughbreds with a W and L enclosed in a circle. "The guy is putting initials on a horse the way he would on cuff links," says Jockey Club registrar Buddy Bishop.
All of this makes us wonder when someone will brand a trademark onto a horse's flank or a hitter will offer his forearms for promotional tattoos.
...AD, AD, AD, AD, AD WORLD
The returns are in from the Miami-Notre Dame game (page 24): total number of plays run by the two teams, 126; number of commercials run by CBS, 73.
THEY SAID IT
•Jerry Reynolds, on his ups and downs as coach of the Sacramento Kings: "I've been convinced for some time that the Lord is punishing me for past transgressions, and I was a pretty ornery little guy. But it seems to me that I may be getting blamed for other Jerry Reynoldses, too."