The Joker Is Wild
Victor Kiam shows that he still doesn't get it
After the NFL issued its report last November on the locker-room incident involving Boston Herald sportswriter Lisa Olson and several New England Patriots, commissioner Paul Tagliabue wrote in a letter to owner Victor Kiam that he thought the Patriots had "learned a hard lesson from this," and that by "studying what went wrong, we may avoid the repetition of folly."
Folly was repeated on Feb. 4 at a Stamford (Conn.) Old-Timers Athletic Association dinner when Kiam, the featured speaker, told an off-color joke about Olson. Kiam's joke received wide play over the next few days (which is only one of the reasons not to repeat it here). The NFL's statement on the matter said, "We understand that Mr. Kiam has made an appropriate apology for the unfortunate remarks made at a roast.... Any speculation on possible disciplinary action would be premature."
February 18, 1991
Kiam said he tried to call Olson the next day to apologize, and others, in both the Patriots organization and the league office, busied themselves trying to make apologies for Kiam. Here were some of the excuses: It was a men-only dinner; he didn't realize there would be any reporters among the 800 guests; the joke was made only in the spirit of the evening; hey, the joke was funny.
All joking aside, Kiam just doesn't seem to catch on. Back in October, after word of the locker-room incident became public, he reportedly called Olson a "classic bitch" and "a flyspeck in the ocean." He apologized then, too.
But apologies are no longer enough. Apparently, the $50,000 that the NFL fined the Patriots last fall wasn't enough, either. In December the commissioner stuck his neck out by pulling the 1993 Super Bowl out of Phoenix in the name of racial equality. Now he has an opportunity to do something for the cause of sexual equality.
Who's really responsible for the mess at Syracuse?
When Raw Recruits, a book about abuses in college basketball written by Armen Keteyian and this correspondent, was published last year, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was furious. The book devotes five pages to charges that New York City street agent Rob Johnson steered top high school basketball players to Syracuse in violation of NCAA rules, and Boeheim felt that was five pages too many. After calling the allegation "a travesty, an outrage," Boeheim said, "We have never broken an NCAA rule and never will."
Prompted by the book, the Syracuse Post-Standard conducted an investigation that resulted in a series of articles in December alleging that Syracuse players had accepted cash, gifts, free legal advice and rental-car discounts from boosters, including a close friend of Boeheim's, Syracuse car dealer Bill Rapp Jr.
The Orangemen's woes mounted last Friday, on the eve of a game at Notre Dame, when Syracuse, as the result of an in-house investigation begun in the wake of the Post-Standard series, declared seven players ineligible because of possible violations of NCAA rules. The woes were eased slightly when the NCAA reinstated the players three hours later. Boeheim said that the possible violations included an instance of his watching Orangemen star Billy Owens, then a recruit, play pickup ball at a time when coaches were prohibited from evaluating talent, and another of guard Dave Johnson and center LeRon Ellis living rent free for a week in the home of booster Joseph Gianuzzi.
Because the NCAA determined that the players had not "willfully" broken rules, Owens, Ellis et al. were cleared to fly to South Bend to avert what figured to be a nationally televised mismatch. "Petty stuff," said Owens after the Orange's 70-69 win. Taken individually the infractions may seem petty, but together they suggest a disturbing pattern. The investigation is ongoing, and more revelations are likely.
On top of everything else, in recent weeks basketball recruit Wilfred Kirkaldy and Dave Johnson have been implicated in separate cases of alleged sexual misconduct. As his program was spinning out of control, Boeheim seemed to want to pin the blame elsewhere. When Irish fans taunted Johnson about the incident in which he was involved, Boeheim complained, "I didn't notice much Catholic charity."
Last week Syracuse disassociated itself from Gianuzzi. But Rapp is still Syracuse's official scorer at away games. Boeheim apparently sees no evil in this. In fact, he seems reluctant to assume responsibility for the ills of his program. Last week, as the embarrassments piled up, he told SI's William F. Reed that Raw Recruits "started the whole thing."
Once again, Boeheim was blaming the messengers for the message.
A Real Hazard
Golfers at a Zimbabwe club play the 6th very quickly
The prize money in last week's PGA Tour event, the Bob Hope Desert Classic in Palm Springs, was $1.1 million, but the pressure of playing in that tournament was nothing compared to that of playing in the $88,000 Zimbabwe Open, held recently at the Chapman Club in Harare, Zimbabwe. It seems that a six-foot-long-and growing-crocodile named Cuthbert lives in the water off the 6th hole, and Cuthbert has been known to make unexpected appearances on the golf course.
"We've tried to catch it, without success," says Roger Baylis, the Chapman Club's leaching professional. "It could now take a small dog, but not yet a man. We told the players it wouldn't bother them, but I'm not sure some of them believed me." In Zimbabwe, crocodiles are also known as flat dogs or, more whimsically, handbags. Of course, nobody laughs when he loses a ball in the water on the 6th hole, and none of the caddies at the club dare to retrieve it.
Keith (Muddy) Waters of Scunthorpe, England, won the Zimbabwe tournament, by the way, on the fifth hole of a sudden-death playoff. No, Cuthbert had nothing to do with the nature of Waters's victory.
Final Four basketballs take a licking in Licking
In a way, the NCAA basketball tournament has already begun. Rawlings makes the official balls for the tournament, including specially inscribed ones for the Final Four, and this winter at its plant in Licking, Mo., the balls have been getting quite a workout. No, the workers haven't been playing pickup games with them. Rather, the new balls are fed into a contraption called the Slam Machine, which can simulate four games worth of use in just five minutes. Says Roger Lueckenhoff, manager of quality control at the plant, "It's a pretty amazing machine, considering it's older than dirt." Actually, the machine is about 50 years old.
The way it works is this: A ball is fed into a guide chute, then goes down the chute and between two troughed wooden wheels; the wheels propel the ball at approximately 30 mph toward a tilted backboard made of hardwood seven feet away that deflects the ball upward; the ball lands in a catching area, which is channeled into the guide chute; and the cycle begins again.
The machine, which is also used for testing the various leathers and glues used to make a ball (Rawlings calls this "research and destroy"), has remained basically unchanged since it was devised. Just think. Balls touched by George Mikan, Bill Russell and Shaquille O'Neal may have all gone through the Slam Machine.
That's what they did last week in the Caribbean Series
For the second year in a row, the Caribbean Baseball Series was held in Miami, but this time the series, called WinterBall I, was played at Bobby Maduro Stadium and thankfully not on the football field of the Orange Bowl (SCORECARD, Feb. 19, 1990). Bobby Maduro, the spring home of the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 to 1990, was the right choice for several reasons. It is, after all, a baseball park. And because the stadium is situated in a large, baseball-loving Dominican neighborhood, the atmosphere and the attendance were much improved over last year's. Finally, Bobby Maduro has the unique distinction of having foul poles illuminated by hot-pink neon lights-perhaps a tribute to Miami's Art Deco heritage.
The series has a heritage of its own. Such stars as Minnie Minoso, Luis Aparicio, Roberto Clemente and the three Alou brothers have played in the Caribbean series since its inception in 1949. There were legends galore in the stands in Miami last week: Chico Carrasquel, Manny Sanguillen, Manny Mota and Willie Miranda among them.
One of the pleasures of the series, though, is watching stars in the making, like Andujar Cedeno of the Dominican Republic's Licey Tigers. Although Cedeno played a stylish third base for the Tigers, he is a prospective shortstop for the Houston Astros this season. And he is not related to either Cesar Cedeno or Joaquin Andujar. Says Andujar Cedeno, "People ask me, of course, since I have the names of two famous ballplayers, but it's purely coincidental."
Cedeno's .333 batting average helped Licey win the series. In doing so, the Tigers exhibited a cruelty to animals, mauling the Santurce Crabs, the Tijuana Ponies and the Lara Cardinals by a total score of 50-8.
The Dominican fans were naturally delighted with the results, and so were the series organizers. The average attendance for the eight days was 5,175, which was very good considering that the break-even point was 4,500. There have been encouraging signs that winter baseball, near extinction not long ago, is on the rebound. WinterBall I was still another sign.
A West Virginia guard becomes a receiver
Ron Bunofsky was playing cards with his housemates in Morgantown, W.Va., at 4:30 a.m. recently when he looked out the window and saw that the house across the street was on fire. Bunofsky, a redshirt freshman guard for the West Virginia football team, ran across the street to the burning building. "A couple of students who lived there came out the front door," said the 6'4", 255-pound Bunofsky. "They started yelling for their other roommate to wake up."
The roommate, Ernie Wallace, woke up and came to his third-floor window. "Smoke was coming out, and he was coughing," said Bunofsky. "I told him to wait there, that we'd all get together and catch him. But he misunderstood and jumped right then. He bumped into the side of the house a couple of times on his way down, so he was coming head first. I tried to get my arms under him and braced." The 150-pound Wallace landed in Bunofsky's arms, and they both tumbled to the ground.
Except for a minor case of smoke inhalation and some bruises, Wallace was fine. And Bunofsky was particularly excited. "I was a tight end my first year before they made me a guard. I started wondering if maybe they might switch me back now."
[Thumbs up] To the Baltimore Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority, for their plans to install 428 specially designed seats for the handicapped at the new Camden Yards ballpark, due to open in 1992.
[Thumbs up] To Calvin Peete, the PGA golfer whose National Minority Golf Foundation recently unveiled plans for a training academy for promising minority players at the new South Course of the Golf Club of Miami.
[Thumbs down] To ESPN, which pulled out of its planned coverage of synchronized swimming at the World Swimming Championships because it doesn't want to pay rights fees for music, such as that used in swimmers' programs.
Making a List
The Daytona 500, the most important stock car race of the season, will be run on Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the sport, here are definitions of 10 stock car terms one might hear at the race:
2. Tahr-The rubber object that surrounds a wheel.
3. Stagger-Put different-sized tahrs on each side.
4. Blowed-What a stressed engine did.
5. Breathe-Back off on the throttle so the engine doesn't get blowed.
6. Loose-A description of a car that seems to lose traction in a turn.
7. Trade ends-Spin out, or what a loose car might do.
8. Trade paint-Come within an inch or less of another car.
9. Behind the wall-Out of the race or, literally, on the other side of the pit wall.
10. Bowtie brigade-Chevrolet drivers. For some reason, probably having to do with the inhalation of fumes, racing people think the Chevy insignia looks like a bowtie.
Sport of the King
Elvis Presley still lives, at least in the registry of The Jockey Club, where the following horses are listed: Elvis, Elvis Pelvis, Elvis Lives, Elvis' Double, Triple Elvis, Blue Suede Shoes, Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog, Don't Be Cruel, All Shook Up, Return to Sender, Love Me Tender, In the Ghetto, Heartbreak Hotel (by Elvis), Graceland and The King.
15 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Tennessee's Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King shared our Feb. 9, 1976, cover. In that issue we also reported on the first-of-its-kind slam-dunk competition, at the ABA All-Star Game in Denver. "He is a mile high," shouted Marvin Barnes after David Thompson's final dunk. "No, we're a mile high," said Maurice Lucas, remembering where they were. "He's two miles high."
THEY SAID IT
Sparky Anderson, Detroit Tiger manager, on his team's 1991 prospects: "Our pitching could be better than I think it will be."
Billy Olsen, 32-year-old pole vaulter: "I'm between the twilight and the no-light of my career."