The WWF capitalizes on the gulf conflict
Some people in sports are taking advantage of the war in the Persian Gulf. For instance, there was an ad in the sports section of Sunday's New York Times for Saddam Hussein-imprinted golf balls (ENJOY DRIVING THAT FACE 300 YARDS). Even more shameless is the war-related hucksterism found in the matches staged by the World Wrestling Federation.
Sgt. Slaughter, the drill instructor and former good guy, has become a bad guy and an Iraqi sympathizer. His manager-henchman is a Saddam Hussein look-alike named General Adnan. Responding to criticism of this war profiteering, Steve Planamenta, a spokesman for WWF promoter Vince McMahon, said, "People are blowing this thing out of proportion. It's true that five weeks ago we were playing up the Iraqi angle, but as the world scene changed, we have changed also." Planamenta, who was speaking just before the airing last Friday night of NBC's pretaped prime-time wrestling special, added, "There will be no mention of Iraq tonight. I hope you see that it was done in good taste."
February 11, 1991
Although there was no mention of Iraq by name in the NBC event, Slaughter clearly identified himself with the Iraqi cause when he dared the TV audience to "form coalitions to stop me." Accompanied by General Adnan, Slaughter pummeled Hacksaw Jim Duggan with a two-by-four, a metal folding chair and Adnan's riding crop. Hulk Hogan, who is scheduled to face Slaughter for the WWF title at Wrestlemania VII in March, then helped Duggan to his feet and waved the American flag.
Roger Clemens gets off to a new start
Last Saturday, Roger Clemens of the Red Sox returned to the pitcher's mound for the first time since his controversial ejection in the second inning of the fourth game of the 1990 American League Championship Series against the A's. He didn't even make it through the first inning this time, but this early exit was planned. Clemens was one of the starting pitchers in the annual Varsity vs. Alumni game at the University of Texas. He struck out the one batter he faced. "The Rocket was on a one-hitter limit," said Alumni coach Burt Hooton.
Clemens and the 7,000 fans who came to the game also saw 44-year-old Nolan Ryan, whose son Reid is a freshman pitcher for the Longhorns, throw out the first ball. They heard one fan yell to alumnus Billy Bates (a hero of Cincinnati's Game 2 World Series victory because of his lOth-inning dribbler off Dennis Eckersley), "Hey, Bates, get a real hit!"
Clemens showed no strain from what has been a troublesome off-season. Earlier last week he was in New York for an appeal hearing before American League president Bobby Brown, who suspended him for the first five games of next season and fined him $10,000 because of his tantrum in the ALCS. Still hanging over his head is an assault charge stemming from an altercation with an off-duty police officer in a Houston nightclub on Jan. 20.
Clemens's new image as a hotheaded troublemaker bothers him, and he has promised to be more open in the future. Indeed, he could not have been more gracious than he was at the alumni game. "I don't want to be a superstar," said Clemens. "I just want to be a regular person. But it's getting harder and harder to do that. So I get angry inside. I'll just try to stomach it and show it's not bothering me."
At one point on Saturday, Clemens chatted with Ryan, a fellow Texan as well as a fellow fireballer. The Red Sox can only hope a little of Ryan rubbed off on the Rocket.
According to the "1990-91 Clell Wade Coaches Directory," Kearsley High School in Flint, Mich., has the following coaches: Flora Exercize, girls' gymnastics; Jim Knastic, boys' gymnastics; Birdie Shuttlecock, badminton; Joe Blackendecker, girls' drill team; Rick Hardslide, boys' softball; and Jane Krossbow, archery. Athletic director Mickey Hamilton submitted the phony names to get catalogs in many different sports.
Not Bad Sports
CBS's new sports sitcom lacks a spark
It was bound to happen. First there were televised sports, followed by sports-spawned sitcoms, then all-sports cable networks. Now comes a sitcom about an all-sports cable network. In CBS's Good Sports, Ryan O'Neal and his real-life companion, Farrah Fawcett, are co-anchors on Sports Central. Sound familiar? Even the set looks suspiciously like you-know-who's.
O'Neal plays "Downtown" Bobby Tannen, a former NFL star with a quick temper and a slow wit. Fawcett is Gayle Roberts (a hybrid of Robin Roberts of ESPN's SportsCenter and NBC's Gayle Gardner?), a onetime SPORTS ILLUSTRATED swimsuit-issue cover model with a journalism degree from Michigan. And here's the rub. It seems that while Roberts was a coed, she had a tryst with Tannen, who was playing for the New York Jets. Tannen's lack of class (he didn't even call Roberts the day after) and the fact that he was handed the SportsCentral job with no prior experience provide Roberts with loads of ammo. This love-hate relationship serves as the show's central theme, so much so, in fact, that "Farrah Fawcett vs. Ryan O'Neal" is flashed in the opening credits. Oddly enough, for a program relying on the chemistry between one of Hollywood's hottest couples, there doesn't seem to be much.
The strongest performance on Good Sports is delivered by Lane Smith, who portrays Mr. Rappaport, the network's Ted Turner-like owner. He dominates many of the funniest scenes, as in the first show when he introduces the notion of hiring O'Neal: "He's nostalgic. Harks back to a carefree time. Woodstock. The Jets win the Super Bowl. The Mets win the pennant. Love Story."
The writing is uneven, but it does have a knowing quality, as when Roberts rattles off the names of a few of Tannen's old girlfriends, among them Mamie Van Highland, a coy reference to expitcher Bo Belinsky's romance with actress Mamie Van Doren. Touches like that may keep viewers rooting for Good Sports. But it won't click until Farrah and Ryan (or Farrah vs. Ryan) do.
A Mushy Affair
A dogsled team has to stop in the name of love
DeeDee Jonrowe had a 15-minute lead about 90 miles into the recent 500-mile Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon when things went awry. Because the 37-year-old driver from Willow, Alaska, was so far ahead in the round-trip race between Duluth and Grand Portage, Minn., officials had not yet put down markers for that part of the course. So she made a right turn instead of a left. "I knew right away that I had made a mistake, and I went only about 300 yards," says Jonrowe.
In order to get back on the trail, she had to stop her sled. This brief respite from mushing, along with the stars and the moonlight, apparently drove the male wheel dog (the one closest to the sled) to distraction. He and the female teammate in front of him began, as Jonrowe puts it, "breeding."
Jonrowe and her other 14 dogs discreetly pawed the snow for 25 minutes. Three days later, she finished fourth, a little more than two hours behind winner Terry Adkins. The case of puppy love probably cost Jonrowe second place (and $4,500 in prize money), but as she says, "At times like that, you just have to let nature take its course."
The players have to divvy up a $280 million pot
Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Donald Fehr has a $280 million headache. That's the amount of damage money the MLBPA is to receive from baseball's owners, whom arbitrators found guilty of collusion. The MLBPA must dole out that windfall to players, and this week Fehr will send out a "framework for distribution," a plan he and his staff put together after discussions with agents and players. Individual awards will be given on the basis of length of service, salary and other criteria, and Fehr, anticipating some objections to the proposal, says it could be as long as two years before the money is actually handed out. "It's a fairly torturous process," Fehr says.
When asked why some of the $280 million isn't earmarked for old-time players, who may be in greater need than active ones, Fehr said, "This isn't my money. This isn't the Players Association's money. These are salaries for players who were defrauded. I can't give that money to anyone else."
Still, it would be nice if the Players Association could find a way to help retirees. The Baseball Assistance Team (BAT), an organization devoted to assisting former players in need, raises about $500,000 a year. Though BAT is sanctioned by Major League Baseball, it has received little help from either the owners or the players. The collusion ruling was meant to right the wrongs done to current ballplayers. Continuing to overlook those needy retired players is a wrong of a different kind.
Big Little Man
A high school player opens some eyes in Philly
At 4'9½" and 76 pounds, Jamal Collier, a sophomore reserve point guard at South Philadelphia's Charles Audenried High, is the smallest varsity high school basketball player in Pennsylvania and, probably, the country. But what this mighty minikin lacks in altitude, he compensates for in attitude.
"I wish I had 10 Jamal Colliers," says Audenried coach Joe Sirolli, who discovered Jamal three years and seven inches ago. "He's an ideal kid, he always stays upbeat." Sirolli first noticed Slick, as Jamal is often called, in a seventh-grade P.E. class he taught. "I was amazed at his ball-handling talent. He'd go through the legs, behind the back, do the spin dribble. And if you left him open, he'd nail the 20-footer."
Says Jamal, "It doesn't really matter how tall or small I am." He regularly guards players more than a foot taller than himself. But they must try to defend against him, too. As he confidently points out, "Whenever an opposing coach calls for a man-to-man and yells out my number to his player, the usual response is, 'Coach, I can't stick with this guy.' "
Jamal's stature is not attributable to any medical condition; his father is 5'11", his mother 5'5". "The doctor told me I'd grow someday," Jamal says. Until he does, he amazes those who watch him. Jamal scored 37 points in a summer league game last year, and off the bench this season he has 45 points, 39 assists and 24 rebounds (!) in 15 games. He is proudest, however, of a blocked shot a few weeks ago. "The guy was about six-two," he says, "and I jumped from behind and stuffed him. I never touched him, but the ref called a foul."
Maybe the ref didn't believe his eyes.
Metaphorically speaking, St. John's basketball coach Lou Carnesecca pulled out all the stops after his Red-men beat Connecticut 65-62 the other night despite 33 turnovers and 15 missed free throws: "At times we looked like the Marx Brothers and at times like the Three Stooges. Maybe this wasn't the Mona Lisa and they may not want it in the Louvre, but I'll put it in the win column."
[THUMBS UP] To Les Robinson, North Carolina State's basketball coach, who is using money he receives from a shoe contract to create a fund for former Wolfpack players who want to complete their college educations.
[THUMBS DOWN] To two New Jersey dealers in golf memorabilia who had the morbidity to list—at $15,000—the Smith & Wesson .38 that Masters patriarch Clifford Roberts used to commit suicide in 1977. The dealers, claiming they intended to sell it only to collectors from Japan, have since withdrawn the gun from sale.
[THUMBS DOWN] To Graig Nettles, the New York Yankees' new hitting coach, for asking if he could wear his old number 9, even though it had been retired by the Yankees in 1984 in honor of Roger Maris.
THEY SAID IT
Dan Issel, Nugget broadcaster, upon hearing that a Northwestern fraternity pledge class would attend a Denver game in Milwaukee: "Must be another form of hazing."
Making a List
The NBA All-Star Game, which win be played on Feb. 10 in Charlotte, N.C., made its debut on March 2, 1951, at Boston Garden. That game was the brainchild of Boston Celtics owner Walter Brown. Here are 10 facts about Brown, the father of what has become the best All-Star Game in sports:
1. He coached the 1936 U.S. Olympic hockey team to a bronze medal in Garmisch, Germany.
2. He owned the Boston Bruins from 1951 until his death in 1964.
3. One day while walking by a fish store, he noticed cod packed in finely crushed ice. That was the clue he needed to stage the world's first indoor ski jumping competition, with snow made by much larger versions of the fish store's ice machine.
4. He saved the Ice Follies from folding in 1936 and helped organize the Ice Capades.
5. He created the Celtics in 1946, and three years later, he became a founding father of the NBA.
6. In 1950, at a dispersal draft of three players from the defunct Chicago Stags, Brown was upset when Max Zaslofsky and Andy Phillip were taken by the New York Knicks and Philadelphia Warriors, respectively. The Celtics had to settle for Bob Cousy.
7. Brown was so beloved at Boston's Lenox Hotel that he was allowed to run a three-year tab for lodging and entertainment.
8. From 1937 until '64, he was the guiding spirit of the Boston Marathon.
9. He is the only man inducted into both the basketball and the hockey hall of fame.
10. Brown didn't see that first NBA All-Star Game because he was on the "Queen Elizabeth," steaming toward a hockey tournament in Paris. However, he did make sure that each of the players and officials in the game received a tie clip and cufflink set worth $2.25.
THEY SAID IT
Al Newman, Minnesota Twins infielder, on the fact that he hasn't hit a home run in his last four years in the majors: "I just haven't gotten my pitch."
25 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Sunny Bippus graced our 1966 sunshine cover in a bikini that sold for $13 retail. In SCORECARD, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson explained coach Lou Saban's resignation this way: "He sees a lot of perils in the new era of pro football.... Dealing with lawyers and accountants instead of selling the boy on our club has taken a lot of the fun out of it."