CASTING A SHADOW
With the XI Asian Games scheduled to begin in Beijing in late September, no one is sure who, if anyone, will represent Kuwait. International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch says his organization supports "100 percent a true Kuwaiti team," but by last week's deadline neither the government-in-exile nor the current Iraqi-installed regime had submitted a roster of athletes to the games' Chinese organizers. If both governments eventually apply, a decision on which team to recognize would rest with the Beijing regime, which joined a dozen other nations on the United Nations Security Council last Saturday in voting to extend and to strengthen trade sanctions against Iraq.
Whatever the fate of the Asian Games, Iraq's annexation of Kuwait has already left its mark on sport. Among the 200 Kuwaitis who died during the invasion was IOC member Sheikh Fahd al-Ahmed al-Sabah, 45, the brother of exiled Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah. He was shot while defending the palace. A distinguished figure in an array of international sports organizations, Sheikh Fahd had, ironically, helped smooth the way for Iraq's and Iran's participation in the Seoul Olympics. The Chinese took his death particularly hard, for as president of the Olympic Council of Asia, he would have presided over the Asian Games.
Other repercussions from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait:
•New England linebacker Ed Reynolds, a captain in the Army Reserve and a Patriot in more ways than one, may be activated as part of President Bush's move last week to call up some 50,000 reservists. By law, the Pats must hold a spot for him on the team as long as his unit is activated—even if he's never sent to the Middle East.
•Itzik Cohen, 22, a 6'8" forward from Israel, had planned to play basketball at Wake Forest this season, but tensions in the Persian Gulf have prompted him to scrap those plans. Cohen has chosen instead to serve a three-year stint as a navigator with his country's air force. "As important as ACC basketball is," said his would-be coach, Dave Odom, "it's not the same thing as war."
•Three thoroughbreds entered in the forthcoming Arlington Million stakes race were scratched because officials couldn't reach their owners, including Prince Yazid Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family and owner of He de Niski. "Many European horse owners are from the Middle East, and these same owners are important members of their governments," said Nick Clark of the International Racing Bureau. "Their overriding preoccupation is the safety of their countries."
•The second annual Saddam Hussein invitational basketball tournament, a competition for Arab national teams that was scheduled to open two weeks ago in Baghdad, was canceled.
We're not making any guarantees, but one secret to an enduring marriage may be having a major league baseball team to watch. According to a study of census data by psychologist Howard Markman, director of the University of Denver's Center for Marital and Family Studies, the divorce rate in cities with major league baseball teams is 23% lower than the rate in cities now seeking big league franchises, among them Buffalo, Denver, Indianapolis, Miami and Phoenix. (All the aforementioned towns do have pro football teams, a fact that might be worthy of another study.) "I wouldn't want to overestimate how big a factor baseball is," says Markman, who is determined to have fun with his findings, "but [the numbers] are interesting."
Markman has speculated that big league " baseball keeps couples together by providing them with "a cheap and enjoyable form of entertainment"—having fun is one of the most crucial elements of a successful marriage, Markman points out—and by enhancing a city's economic strength. "The worse the economy, the higher the rate of divorce," he says.
Markman notes that Denver has a divorce rate 20% higher than the national average and "is a city in which many of the inhabitants feel unrooted. Many have come from somewhere else. There is a real need here for a sense of community." Markman believes that a major league franchise might help provide that sense. So let's raise a cheer: On Aug. 15 voters in metropolitan Denver began a courtship of sorts. They approved a sales tax to raise money for the construction of a new stadium, which they hope will attract a big league team.
GETTING HIS KICKS
Strange as it may sound, comedian-actor-Cleveland Browns booster Martin Mull's principal form of exercise is placekicking. Twice a week he totes a sack full of footballs to a high school field near his home in Los Angeles, laces up a pair of square-toed shoes and boots field goals for an hour or more. "I kick off a tee, which is cheating, but hey, give me a break," says Mull, who cm-ploys a head-on, Lou Groza style.
Two years ago the Browns invited Mull to a practice and had him try a 20-yard field goal under game conditions. "They even called timeout to make me think about it," says Mull. He recalls that the team "gave me [jersey] number 38, the one worn by Sam Baker, the worst kicker the Browns ever had. That way I had no expectations to live up to." Mull was disappointed that his kick just barely made it through the uprights, so he stepped up his training. A year later, with the help of some tips from Browns kicker Matt Bahr, who has become a good friend, Mull hit three 40-yarders before a Cleveland-Tampa Bay exhibition game. "He works very hard at his routine, he's deadpan in his delivery and he's funny to watch," says Bahr.
Mull, 46, hit a personal-record 47-yarder during one of his practice sessions this year, and he says his goal is to "kick my age until I'm 64, at which point I'll eclipse Tom Dempsey's NFL record for the longest field goal."
BARD OF THE BUSHES
Readers of a literary bent may have been intrigued by the haunting verse quoted in Leigh Montville's piece on the minor league Toledo Mud Hens (July 23). Scribbled in the clubhouse of Ned Skeldon Stadium are verses like "Heed the warnings of past Mud Hen ghosts/Whose own psyche has transformed into burnt toast," and bittersweet references to Detroit manager Sparky Anderson as "the albino general" of "the S.S. Minnow."
It turns out that the primary author of the doggerel is outfielder Scott Lusader, who has added to his oeuvre intermittently since 1987, when he began shuttling between Detroit and Toledo. Lusader's muse, he admitted to Jerry Green of the Detroit News last week after his most recent demotion, is disgruntlement at his treatment by the Tiger organization. "I've really been soured by the game, so I no longer look at my future as a ballplayer," said Lusader, who was hitting .241 in 87 at bats this season before he was sent down. "I love my future. It's great. Whether it's in this game or not is not important."
THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
As little league baseball was preparing to crown a new champion (page 24), the hero of last year's World Series, Chris Drury, was celebrating his 14th birthday in a leafy cul-de-sac in Trumbull, Conn., with a half-dozen pals and Series vets. They gathered at the home of his next-door neighbors, the Wheelers, and Drury drove a Wiffle ball over the two-story house. "Did you see it?" shrieked 13-year-old Bobby Wheeler. "Chris hit the longest homer ever!"
The boys of last summer are still very much boys. Chris, who pitched the U.S. past Taiwan 5-2 for the 1989 title, has shed 15 pounds to make himself quicker on hockey skates. First baseman Kenny Martin has shot up three inches to 6'1". Third baseman Jason Hairston has passed up Babe Ruth ball for soccer. Leftfielder Danny McGrath has returned to his native Australia. And catcher Todd Halky has come to grips with the disappointment of not getting to play in the final game. Says Todd, "I've got to get on with my life."
At a reunion bash the day before Chris's birthday party, the kids chose to play ball rather than rehash their victory and subsequent visit to the White House. "We get together all the time, anyway," says Martin with a shrug.
Outfielder Matt Sewell may have grown up the most. He had been a stalwart on the Trumbull team before breaking his left wrist in a bicycle accident just before the '89 state tournament. Because he was replaced on the roster and didn't travel with the team to Williamsport, Pa., for the Series, Little League pooh-bahs wouldn't let him keep a commemorative jersey. Only after news of his case created a minor uproar—hockey star Wayne Gretzky was prepared to spring for the cost of a jersey—did they reverse themselves. "I felt left out," Matt says. "Then I was relieved when 1 finally got it. I guess you could say I was kind of naive before this."
But has having the jersey at last helped him meet girls? In a word, says Matt. "No."
THEY SAID IT
•Lynn Gottschalk, a volunteer driver at the ATP Championships in Cincinnati, to Andre Agassi, who balked at leaving the gate at the airport in northern Kentucky before security arrived: "Andre, it's 11 p.m. and you're in Kentucky. Unless you've been on Hee Haw recently, no one's going to mob you."