This Isn't the One
Don't be bowled over by college football's new alliance
Although the public has been clamoring for a postseason playoff in college football, excuse us for not being thrilled at the arrangement announced last week by a consortium of four of the major bowls (Cotton, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta), five of the most powerful conferences (SEC, Big Eight, Big East, Southwest and ACC) and Notre Dame.
With much chest-beating and tub-thumping, the participants congratulated themselves for doing their utmost to guarantee a New Year's Day game between the teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final weekly polls. The deal, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 1993, should at least eliminate some of the unseemly politicking and premature commitments that have marred the closing weeks of the college football regular season in recent years.
July 21, 1991
As is currently the case, the Big Eight champion will go to the Orange Bowl, the SEC winner to the Sugar and the Southwest Conference champ to the Cotton. The other five spots will be filled by the winners of the Big East and the ACC and three at-large teams. One of those teams will almost always be Notre Dame.
This is a cozy deal for the Irish, the conferences, the four bowls and the TV networks, but it doesn't guarantee a national title game. If, say, Oklahoma is No. 1 and Alabama No. 2, forget it. They'll go to the Orange and the Sugar, respectively. Ditto if one of the top-ranked teams comes from the Big Ten or the Pac-10, whose champs are committed to the Rose Bowl.
Finding the true No. 1 team in the nation is not what the alliance is about. It is, however, about looking out for No. 1. For example, in choosing the Fiesta Bowl over the Blockbuster Bowl and the Florida Citrus Bowl, the alliance was concerned less with the fact that Arizona still hasn't made Martin Luther King Day a paid state holiday than with the $3.1 million guaranteed each team that will play in that bowl. "Dollars were a base aspect to this," says Sugar Bowl executive director Mickey King, "but they were far from being the only things in our minds."
Oh, please. Spare us the high-minded rhetoric. Just get us a true college football championship.
—WILLIAM F. REED
Edwin Moses finds the sledding tough in Lake Placid
The recent involvement of hurdler Edwin Moses in bob-sledding had sparked new life in the sport. But he arrived in Lake Placid for the National Push Championships last week uncharacteristically distracted. Moses reportedly is struggling with marital difficulties, and he was also fed up with the rift between full-time bobsledders and athletes from other sports.
At the three-man competition on July 8, Moses and his teammates, wide receiver Willie Gault and tight end Greg Harrell of the Los Angeles Raiders, were visibly shunned by the other athletes. After missing out on qualifying for the Olympic team by .01 of a second, Moses & Co. slipped away. Gault and Harrell couldn't stick around for the individual brakeman and side-push events because they had to be at the Raiders' camp. Moses, though, was expected to compete again.
While Moses sequestered himself in his hotel, presumably to protest the cold shoulder his team had gotten, the brakeman event went on without him. Herschel Walker, the Minnesota Viking running back, finished third, thus securing a spot on the team. Afterward, he was embraced by the other athletes.
Said one bobsledder, "It's not all the pros; it's Gault. He never tried to be part of the group." A longtime bobsled follower added, "Now that Willie's gone, it's like 'Ding! Dong! The witch is dead!' "
Brian Shimer, Moses's friend and the driver in the top U.S. two-man sled, attempted to reach Moses. After two of his notes went unanswered, Shimer gave up the vigil. Struggling to understand Moses's actions, he said, "I just wanted to say goodbye."
The dangers of steroids are becoming more apparent
In Phoenix last week, representatives from eight law-enforcement agencies arrested 35 people and seized 40,000 bottles of anabolic steroids, as well as cash and weapons. The most frightening aspect of the bust, dubbed Operation 'Roid Raid, was that the investigation began after parents of students at a high school in north Phoenix went to the police because they were concerned their children were using steroids.
With the bust coming on the heels of former NFL defensive end Lyle Alzado's acknowledgment on TV and in print (SI, July 8) that he had taken massive doses of steroids during his career, the drugs have never been more in the public eye. Alzado is suffering from brain cancer, which he and his doctor believe may have been caused by his use of steroids and human growth hormones.
Alzado's story has been a hot topic of conversation among NFL players. "Sure it'll affect some guys in the league," says veteran linebacker Matt Millen, now with the Washington Redskins. "It'll scare the hell out of some of them. Others? Well, I talked to one guy who said he talked to some of the people on his team who were taking stuff, and they rationalized. They said, 'Lyle took all kinds of stuff we wouldn't get into.' "
The NFL is con-need that its random testing program, instituted last year, will curb steroid abuse. But one NFL player scoffs at the policy. "The problem is the enforcement," he says. "Some clubs have a guy who enforces the testing. Our guy is like one of the boys. He sits by the weight room eating a sandwich. Say it's your turn to be tested. You say, 'Pete [not his name], my urine's a little weak today, let me come back tomorrow,' or you get the trainer to piss in the bottle for you and give Pete that one. It's a joke."
No, it isn't.
The 'Boks Are Back
The IOC lifts its ban on South African athletes
After the International Olympic Committee welcomed South Africa back into world sports last week, strong men in that country wept and newspapers ran banner headlines: WE'RE BACK! ALL CLEAR FOR THE 'BOKS! A semi-serious debate even got under way over whether to keep the traditional springbok as the national team symbol or to replace it with the zebra, whose black and white stripes are an obvious symbol.
Sam Ramsamy, chairman of the freshly integrated National Olympic Committee of South Africa, cautioned his countrymen not to get too excited about competing in the Olympics in 1992, calling such assumptions "presumptuous." The reason for his high-visibility caveat is that Ramsamy, who formerly headed a militant anti-apartheid Olympic committee-in-exile in London, does not want the world to think that the lifting of sports sanctions means that South Africa's white supremacy has suddenly disappeared.
However, the fact is that no one is happier about the return of South African athletes to the international fold than Ramsamy and Nelson Mandela. They have fought aggressively to put racially unified South African teams back into the real world of sport. Why? They know that there is no better way to win over the average white Afrikaners, who are frequently racist but almost always sports-crazy, than by offering them the long-forbidden opportunity to see their beloved Springboks compete on international fields.
Spirits were so high last week that there was even talk about the greatest sports dream of all coming true: an Olympics in Johannesburg.
—WILLIAM OSCAR JOHNSON
Quite a Hike
The Appalachian Trail is the scene of an exciting race
On June 30, David Horton finished a transit of the 2,144-mile Appalachian Trail in 52 days, nine hours and 41 minutes, shaving eight days off the previous record and beating the hiking shorts off a much younger challenger. The 41-year-old Horton, director of physical education at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., averaged more than 40 miles a day by running all but the uphill portions of the nation's most famous recreational trail.
Horton was spurred on by Scott Grierson, a 24-year-old zoologist from Bass Harbor, Maine. Grierson, who goes by the trail name Maineak, set out from the start of the trail, at Georgia's Springer Mountain, on May 7, two days ahead of Horton. Both had 56-day schedules, though Grierson hiked 15 to 18 hours a day till he reached the end of the trail at Mount Katahdin in Maine, while Horton ran and walked nine to 10 hours. Halfway home, Grierson told an interviewer, "He's 41. I'm 24, and I'm in good shape. I'm on schedule. He can't catch me."
"Every night I would pull into a checkpoint," says Horton, known as the Runner to other hikers, "and Maineak would be two days ahead. I started gaining on him in Maryland, but I didn't catch him until Vermont—just before the toughest part of the trail."
That difficult terrain is where Horton, who was traveling lighter, began to pick up speed. At one point, he was goaded on by something other than his will to win. "I was dawdling a little at the Kennebec River [in Maine]," he says, "looking for a good place to wade across, when I heard a noise beside me. There was a black bear, not 15 feet away. I decided I had best get on across. That's what I did."
The Appalachian Trail Conference, the nonprofit organization that oversees the trail, has chosen to ignore the accomplishments of Horton and Grierson, who finished a day after the Runner. Says trail volunteer George Chapline, "If we encouraged record-breaking, people would see how fast they could cross the trail on their hands in the moonlight."
Horton's wife, Nancy, isn't eager to have her husband try to surpass his record. After congratulating him on his 52-day, four-pairs-of-shoes journey, she told him, "You better not do this type of thing again for a long, long time."
A Windup Comic
Bill (Spaceman) Lee plays it for laughs—onstage
Nine years after the Expos tired of his act, Bill Lee showed up in Montreal last week with a new one. The Spaceman was the headliner at the Comedy of Sports shows during Montreal's ninth annual Just for Laughs Festival.
While other athletes made only cameos—Boston Bruin roughneck Chris Nilan killed 'em in his appearance—Lee was the star of six shows, doing a 15-minute monologue each night before taking questions from the audience. The idea to import the otherworldly lefthander from Craftsbury, Vt., where he plans to open a baseball camp called the School of Breaking Balls, came from Andy Nulman, the festival's vice-president and a former sports-writer. "If Robert Redford is the natural of baseball," says Nulman, "then Bill Lee is the natural of comedy."
If Lee didn't quite have the delivery of the three professional comedians on the bill, he did have some good material, namely his own career, spent with the Red Sox and Expos:
"My first start in Montreal, some kids threw packets of tinfoil at me. I hate litter, so I picked 'em up. When I got to the clubhouse, I opened 'em and found I had 21 grams of hashish. True story."
"I wrote to every National League team after my release. The only team to write back was Pittsburgh. The letter said they had enough problems without me."
"I played senior baseball in Quebec after my release. Senior ball is just an excuse to get away from the wife and drink. That was the same in the majors."
Although Lee received some good notices, he insists he's not looking for a career in comedy. In fact, he still hasn't given up hope of making a baseball comeback. Asked one night if he cared to field a final question, Lee replied, "No, I want to pitch."
[Thumb Up]To the World League of American Football, which will no longer charge NFL and Canadian Football League teams a fee for signing players, thus giving more prospects a chance at advancement.
[Thumb Down]To the WLAF runner-up Barcelona Dragons, for committing bookkeeping errors. As a result, all of the Dragons' final paychecks to players and coaches bounced.
[Thumb Down]To The New York Times, for jeopardizing its motto, "All the News That's Fit to Print," by running a column on Rotisserie League baseball in its newly expanded sports section.
THEY SAID IT
A.J. Van Slyke, seven-year-old son of Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder Andy Van Slyke, advising his father on how to get out of his batting slump: "Maybe you can talk the other team into throwing to you underhanded."
Andre Agassi, tennis star, when asked what he thought of the musical Les Misèrables: "I left at halftime."
Making a List
The 120th British Open begins this week at Royal Birkdale in England. With that in mind, we present 10 selections from that most British of authors—and most passionate of golfers—P.G. Wodehouse.
•Golf, like measles, should be caught young, for, if postponed to riper years, the results may be serious.
•In the Middle Ages, a man could devote his whole life to the Crusades, and the public fawned upon him. Why, then, blame the man of today for a zealous attention to the modern equivalent, the Quest of Scratch!
•On every side we see big two-fisted he-men floundering round in three figures, stopping every few minutes to let through little shrimps with knock-knees and hollow cheeks, who are tearing off snappy 74s.
•Golf is the Great Mystery. Like some capricious goddess, it bestows its favours with what would appear to be an almost fat-headed lack of method and discrimination.
•He folded her in his arms, using the interlocking grip.
•I have known cases where marriage improved a man's game, and other cases where it seemed to put him right off his stroke. There seems to be no fixed rule.
•The more competent a player, the smaller the stake that contents him. It is only when you get down into the submerged 10th of the golfing world that you find the big gambling.
I have made a close study of the game since the days of the feather ball, and I am firmly convinced that to refrain entirely from oaths during a round is almost equivalent to giving away three bisques.
•"***!!!***!!!***!!!***!!!" roared Chester, in part.
•A goof [is] one of those unfortunate beings who have allowed this noblest of sports to get too great a grip upon them, who have permitted it to eat into their souls.
Replay 25 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Our Aug. 1, 1966, cover featured Rich Clarkson 's photo of Jim Ryun breaking the world record in the mile. Inside the issue were some pictures taken by the 19-year-old Ryun, a summer intern for The Topeka Capital-Journal, for Clarkson, that paper's photo director. We also had a story on the Baltimore Orioles, who were on a tear because of a batting tip that second baseman Dave Johnson had given outfielder Frank Robinson.
Baltimore Oriole pitchers Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson combined for a no-hitter last Saturday to beat the Oakland A's 2-0. While they have cause to celebrate, they might also be wise to look askance at their accomplishment. Of the 10 pitchers involved in no-hitters last season, six have spent time on the disabled list this year.