What's wrong with offering a team a $100,000 incentive?
The Edmonton Sun reported last week that Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington placed $100,000 (Canadian) on a Ping-Pong table in the Oilers' locker room before Game 6 of the team's playoff series in April against the Los Angeles Kings. Edmonton was one win away from clinching the series when, according to one unnamed Oiler player, "He [Pocklington] just came in and laid it down and said if we win, we get it." After the Oilers clinched the series by winning 4-3 in over-time, Pocklington passed out money to everyone on the team.
Pocklington would neither confirm nor deny making a bonus offer, but he told the Sun, "What goes on inside the club, we try to keep inside the club."
July 7, 1991
The NHL, like all major sports leagues, has rules prohibiting teams from offering bonuses for winning a specific game or series. NHL bylaws call for any owner offering such an award to be fined as much as $10,000. But that isn't much of a deterrent, since by winning the series against the Kings, the Oilers advanced to another series (which they lost to the Minnesota North Stars) and hosted three more games, which brought in close to $1.2 million. The NBA has a stronger deterrent. If an NBA owner offers a bonus, he can be fined $1 million.
Why do leagues prohibit such incentives? In addition to giving an unfair advantage to owners with deeper pockets, the bonuses could create bidding wars for games. If owner A finds out that owner B has offered his team $100,000 to win a game, does owner A then have to offer his team $200,000? What's the going price for a win, anyway?
These bonuses are different from the incentive clauses included in many player contracts, which are usually tied to season-long goals, and they raise the question of why an owner would so desperately want to win a particular game. The leagues' biggest fear is that an owner will offer a bonus to back up money he has bet on his team. In Pocklington's case, besides hankering for those extra home games, he probably wanted to ensure a victory over the Kings, the team to which he had traded Wayne Gretzky in 1988.
Gary Bettman, senior vice-president and general counsel of the NBA, sums up the situation by saying, "We expect players to put forth the same competitiveness in every game that they play."
The Sham Is a Sham
A trial reveals widespread steroid use in pro wrestling
While former NFL lineman Lyle Alzado was voicing his belief that steroid use helped cause his cancer (page 20), another athlete was telling a U.S. district court in Harris-burg, Pa., how steroids have ravaged his body. "Superstar' Billy Graham, 48, a pro wrestling champion in the 1970s, said that steroids had damaged his liver and caused his hips and ankles to degenerate, leaving him crippled. He made these statements while testifying last week at the trial of Dr. George Zahorian III, an osteopath and urological surgeon from suburban Harrisburg, who had been charged with distributing steroids and with distributing prescription painkillers for nontherapeutic purposes.
During the four-day trial Zahorian, who has worked as a ringside doctor at pro wrestling matches in Pennsylvania since the mid-'70s, testified that between November 1988 and March '90 he sold steroids to World Wrestling Federation (WWF) owner Vince McMahon and to many pro wrestlers, including two of the WWF's top drawing cards, Hulk Hogan and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Last Thursday, Zahorian was convicted on 12 of 14 counts, and he now faces a sentence of up to 44 years in prison and $3 million in fines. Neither McMahon nor any of the wrestlers were charged, because until February, when a new federal law went into effect, it was legal to buy steroids.
During the trial, Zahorian told the court that he didn't know how many wrestlers had bought steroids from him, but he did say that he usually dispensed the drugs to 15 to 20 wrestlers at the events he worked. According to Graham and another former champion, Bruno Sammartino, 90% to 95% of the WWF's wrestlers use steroids to build muscle mass.
In addition to Graham, four pro wrestlers, including Piper, told the court about their steroid use and their contacts with Zahorian. Despite their testimony, WWF vice-president Basil DeVito Jr., said, "I'm not acknowledging that anything about the trial has anything to do with us." And Jim Herd, executive vice-president of Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the other major promoter of pro wrestling, said after the trial, "I consider steroids to be like alcohol. I'm not condoning it. But these are grownup, intelligent adults."
One wrestler who did not appear at the trial was Hogan. Days before the trial began, Judge William Caldwell quashed the subpoena compelling Hogan to testify and dropped the charge against Zahorian that pertained to Hogan because of "private and personal matters that should be protected." It wasn't immediately clear why Hogan's privacy was protected when other wrestlers had to testify as government witnesses.
Hogan is an example of the new kind of champion that the WWF and WCW have pushed upon wrestling fans. The more muscular wrestlers, like Hogan, Lex Luger and The Ultimate Warrior, are promoted, while less muscular types, like Ric Flair and Bobby Eaton, are being phased out. The WWF and WCW haven't just turned a blind eye to the use of steroids. By making stars of certain wrestlers, the promoters have actually encouraged the use of steroids. "McMahon has made a lot of guys very rich," says Terry Funk, a former pro wrestling champion, "but he may also be taking years off their lives."
A coach loves football so much he'll work for free
Last February, five months after he won $4.45 million in the Florida lottery, Tampa accountant Scott Smith went job hunting. "I realized that the money had given me a rare opportunity to do whatever I wanted with my life," says Smith, 36, who quit his job. "And what I wanted to do was coach football."
Although Smith, who was an offensive lineman at Miami (Ohio) University in the early '70s, had no coaching experience, his rèsumè included one entry that made him attractive to potential employers: He would work for free. The Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League had just moved to Florida from Pittsburgh, and it was one team that could meet Smith's price. Smith met Storm head coach Fran Curci through Curci's daughter, Angela Strauss, who had worked with Smith. Curci and Smith had breakfast in March, and as soon as Curci learned of Smith's salary requirements, he hired him as a personnel scout and special teams coach.
Smith accepted another offer, too. Chamberlain High in Tampa had an opening for an offensive line coach. Again, Smith's willingness to work gratis helped. Curci sees more in Smith than just affordable labor, though. "He's an executive with a dream," says Curci. "He's also intelligent, hardworking...and lucky."
Smith hopes that someday he can land a head coaching position at a small college. "If I eventually make it, great," he says. "If not, do I really have much to worry about?"
An Olympic star may be making her Broadway debut
There's a shady character hanging around Times Square in her underwear this summer, and her identity is unknown. She appears on a new billboard with her head painted in shadow.
Who is the mystery woman? Jockey International, the company responsible for the promotion, replaced a billboard of baseball Hall of Famer Jim Palmer with the new one 10 weeks ago. The company would like to keep the model's identity a secret until late summer, when the face will be revealed, but Gayle Compton Huff, Jockey's vice-president of advertising, says the woman is "someone with an athletic background."
Could that someone be Nancy Hogshead, the Floridian who swam to three gold medals and one silver in the 1984 Olympics? She's not saying, either. Hogshead, who has been working as a motivational speaker since hanging up her swimsuit seven years ago, is the subject of an upcoming Jockey For Her print ad campaign.
Some members of Hogshead's family are convinced she is the model. Her brother, Andy, a New York City investment banker, called Nancy from a pay phone as soon as he saw the billboard. "It was only half done when I walked by it," he says. "I said, 'Oh my!' I had seen one of the shots [from the print campaign] and it was the same exact pose."
As for Hogshead's parents, they're thrilled with Nancy's exposure and point to the fact that the underwear covers more of her than a swimsuit would. Her mother, Janet, who claims to have mailed Nancy bathing suits "on one stamp," says, "It's not like [the photos] are bedroom sexual."
Nancy, who lives only 10 blocks from Times Square, also thinks the campaign is in good taste. When Jockey approached her this winter, her first reaction was, "I've got to lose weight." But then the 29-year-old former Olympian changed her tune. "The point of the whole campaign is to show real women," says the 5'8", 145-pound Hogshead. "That's one of the things I like about it."
A World Series memento reappears after 65 years
The Case of Pipgras's Pilfered Pocket Watch would have been perfect for an episode of Unsolved Mysteries—that is, until last month when a watch collector and a reptile keeper solved the mystery.
George Pipgras was a rookie pitcher on the first New York Yankee world championship team in 1923. After Ruth & Co. beat the New York Giants in the World Series, Pipgras and his teammates each received a gold Gruen pocket watch with a little baseball attached to its chain. But in the spring of 1926, while Pipgras was changing trains in Memphis, two holdup men asked him what time it was and then stole the watch.
In 1988, two years after Pipgras died, Gerald Perry, owner of the Perry Coin and Loan Company in Hopewell, Va., bought an antique watch at a flea market in Richmond for $100. "I couldn't tell what it was when I bought it, because it had all this crud on it," says Perry. Beneath the layer of dirt was the inscription: "N.Y. Yankees G.P." Last January, Perry decided to investigate who G.P. was and contacted Jerry McNeal for assistance. McNeal, the senior reptile keeper at the St. Louis Zoo, also happens to be recognized by the Hall of Fame as a leading historian of World Series mementos.
McNeal remembered reading a story about Pipgras's stolen watch and put two and two together. He and Perry then located Pipgras's only child, LeMorn Simpson of Inverness, Fla., through the Yankees. Simpson, 69, was excited to hear about the watch. "Daddy used to talk about it all the time," she says. "About how a big guy and a little guy in Memphis robbed him. He looked all over for that watch. Left word at pawn shops and police stations and offered a reward. But he never found it."
For now, the watch is still in Perry's pocket. He says he "wants to see it in the family's hands," but he is asking Simpson to pay at least $4,000 for it. So although the puzzle has been solved, the case isn't quite wrapped up.
[Thumb Up]To novelist Stephen King, for donating $1 million to his hometown of Bangor, Maine, so that the city can construct a Little League baseball field.
[Thumb Up]To the Cannondale Corporation, manufacturer of bicycle equipment, for promising to give 50 cents from the sale of each of its new water bottles to the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, an organization devoted to converting abandoned railways into recreational trails.
[Thumb Down]To the Fèdèration Internationale Amateur de Cyclismes, the governing body for cycling, for failing to sanction the 11-day, 588-mile Ore-Ida Women's Challenge because the federation is opposed to women cycling more than 60 kilometers (37.2 miles) per day.
THEY SAID IT
Junior Ortiz, Minnesota Twins catcher, after teammate Scott Erickson threw a two-hitter for his 12th straight win: "He's unbelievable. He's like that guy in Texas who's 41, or 42, or 43."
Pat Williams, Orlando Magic general manager, on his team's second draft choice, 7-foot, 304-pound center Stanley Roberts: "His idea of a salad is putting a piece of lettuce on top of a pizza."
Making a List
Why anyone would want to smell like a thoroughbred, or like Mike Ditka for that matter, is beyond our comprehension. But in the last few years, sports fragrances have become quite popular. Here are 10 such scents, some of which did not experience the sweet smell of success.
Muhammad Ali Cologne: "Elegant and daring," according to its advertisers, this 1989 cologne had a scent of labdanum and vanilla. Float like a butterfly, smell like Ali.
adidas: No, this is not the aroma of an old sneaker. Rather, it blends Singaporean patchouli, Indian tagette and Antillean ylang-ylang.
Bjorn Borg: Like its namesake, this citrusy scent was retired. It, too, is unlikely to make a comeback.
Harley-Davidson: When a biker wants to feel like a real man, he dabs this patchouli-and-sage concoction on his secret places. Come on, Snake, pamper yourself. You deserve it.
Bully: The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their signature scent in 1989 with the slogan, "Splash on Bully and head out for the evening with icy abandon."
Gabriela Sabatini: A big hit in Europe. Like Gaby, it's "independent but not overbearing, lively and feminine."
Hai Karate: According to its '70s TV ads, this, the granddaddy of all sports scents, made beautiful women lose control over nebbishes who wore it.
Iron Mike: By getting his cologne on the market first, Bears coach Iron Mike Ditka beat Iron Mike Tyson to the punch. Woodsy and fresh with tobacco and cinnamon."
Thoroughbred for Women: Roses merge with white jasmine and violet to make this an appealing perfume to satisfy even the most finicky filly.
Wimbledon for Gentlemen: The purple and green of the All England Club are represented by lavender and rosemary. With this scent, every game ends in love.
Josè Miguel Gomez was the winner of the Fan Manager for a Day contest sponsored by the Laredo Owls of the Mexican League. In the third inning, Gomez argued a call and was thrown out of the game.
Fore Past Midnight
After the Cross Creek Arctic Open, a midnight-sun golf tournament held during the summer solstice in Iceland, golfer Jeff Blumenfeld of New York City asked a local fan, Sigurdur Kristinsson, to join him for a drink. "Sure," said Kristinsson. "My wife said to be home before dark, so I have till August 10th."
Replay 25 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
California surfer Phil Edwards caught a wave on the July 18, 1966, cover to herald the supposedly rising tide of East Coast surfing. Elsewhere in the issue we ran a photograph of another beached notable: actress Tina Louise, who played Ginger Grant on TV's Gilligan's Island. She was petting a trotter before a harness race.