Coach of Coaches
Paul Brown dies at 82, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and inspiration
In 1984, as a rookie beat man covering the Cincinnati Bengals at their Wilmington, Ohio, training camp, I grew weary of standing on the sidelines for practice every day, hour after tedious hour. One hot morning, I was standing next to the man in the straw hat who ran the team, and I blurted out, "Boy, football practice can sure be boring. How can you take watching this, day after day?"
Rookie mistake. Paul Brown's sharp and wounded look told me that. "Boring?" he shot back. "This is...this is our lifeblood. This is how we build our business." Shaking his head, he left my side, presumably to watch the rest of the practice with someone who appreciated the sport.
Brown may have appreciated the game more than any other man who ever lived. When he died on Monday at the age of 82 from complications of pneumonia, football lost a great friend.
He started building champions at Massillon (Ohio) High in 1932, and from there, he went on to coach at Ohio State. In 1946 he formed the professional team in Cleveland that bears his name, and he coached the Browns to seven championships, four in the All-America Conference and three in the NFL. He lost control of the Browns to Art Modell in 1961, but in 1968 he started all over again, creating the Cincinnati Bengals, which he coached until 1975.
Brown brought myriad innovations to football. He invented the playbook, for instance. He was the first coach to signal plays from the sidelines, and in the mid-'50s he went so far as to put a radio transmitter in the helmet of Browns quarterback George Ratterman. He pioneered college scouting, training camps and game films.
Among his Browns were offensive guard Chuck Noll and defensive back Don Shula, and among his Bengals was the current Cincinnati coach, Sam Wyche. Weeb Ewbank, Bud Grant and Bill Walsh all coached under Brown. Students of Brown, in fact, have won 11 of the 25 Super Bowls.
In recent years, Brown was often the NFL's lone voice of dissent against the forces of expansion, television and commercialism. He despised instant replay, for one, but his arguments ("It just adds another layer of error," he said) fell on deaf ears.
The Bengals listened to him, though. Until his recent illness, he was spending six or seven hours a day with the team, offering suggestions and going over the films with Wyche and the coaches. Wyche never bristled at Brown's input. "Working under Paul Brown is like living next to a library," Wyche once said. "I'd be a fool if I didn't check books out."
The players were generally fond of Brown too, and they thought of him as a member of the team. Last Friday, before an exhibition game in Detroit, quarterback Boomer Esiason wrote PB between the stripes of his helmet, hoping Brown, at home, would see the tribute. "I do it for anybody who's hurt and can't be in the huddle with me," Esiason said.
The huddle. Brown probably invented that, too.
On the Ropes
Tyson may have knocked himself out
For about a week, it looked as if it would be this year's Fight of the Century: Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Nov. 8 for the heavyweight championship of the world. But on July 26, Indianapolis police revealed that an 18-year-old contestant in the Miss Black America pageant had charged that Tyson raped her in his hotel room on July 19. The investigation is continuing, and a grand jury is expected to either indict or clear Tyson by Labor Day.
In the meantime, the parties involved in the fight, which could gross $100 million, are scurrying to control the damage. Dan Duva, the promoter for Holyfield, who's supposed to get a guaranteed $30 million if the fight comes off, maintains that the bout is still full speed ahead. "We're not making any contingency plans," says Duva. "I'm an attorney, so I know Tyson is innocent until proven guilty." Tyson, who is to receive $15 million for the fight, has remained mum on the rape allegation, but one of his lawyers has said, "We hear the same kind of thing once a month."
An indictment would almost certainly scotch the fight. For one thing, Tyson would be virtually unpromotable. Seth Abraham, president of Time Warner Sports, which is paying more than $30 million for the bout's pay-TV rights, says, "I suppose it would add drama to the fight, but it's not the kind of drama we want. This fight doesn't need any more publicity."
The whole sordid mess raises the question, Does boxing need Tyson anymore? Tyson was an undeniable attraction, but his behavior has become so abominable that he is turning people off to boxing. The 1990 Miss Black America winner, Rosie Jones, said that during the opening ceremonies for this year's pageant, Tyson touched her suggestively and propositioned her.
Once a menacing boxer, Tyson has become a menace to boxing.
Pancho Segura becomes a U.S. citizen at 70
A trip that began 51 years ago ended last month when tennis great Pancho Segura stood in a San Diego courtroom and made the United States his home. In a ceremony presided over by Judge Edward J. Schwartz, the 70-year-old Segura took the oath of citizenship.
Segura left his native Ecuador in 1940 when his biggest fan, the country's president, Galo Plaza, rewarded him with a summer trip to the States. On that trip, Gardner Mulloy, then tennis coach at Miami, offered Segura a scholarship. "We were a poor family," says Segura. "That was the biggest break in my life."
After an illustrious amateur career, Segura turned pro in 1947, barnstorming the world with Jack Kramer, Bobby Riggs and the other Pancho, Gonzales. Though he made nowhere near the money that today's pros do, Segura was able to put his son through law school and his daughter through college. After his playing days, Segura became a renowned instructor, thanks largely to the success of his prize pupil, Jimmy Connors.
Segura says he would have liked to have become a U.S. citizen sooner. "I always wanted to become an American, but I was never here long enough. I was always following the tennis ball around the globe." His wife, Beverly, has a different theory: "Pancho's a legend in Ecuador. I think he waited out of respect for his family and country."
Now that he is a citizen, Segura says, "I'm proud to be an American. Now I can vote. Now I can eat cornflakes and bananas and be a gringo. From now on, I am a U.S. citizen first and a tennis player second." To show his gratitude, Segura has promised Judge Schwartz free lessons on his serve.
Swing and a Miss
A batting champ strikes out against the deputy commish
In a letter to the baseball owners last week, commissioner Fay Vincent wrote that he was "pleased to inform" them that the lawsuit that four-time National League batting champ Bill Madlock had brought against his agent of 14 years, deputy baseball commissioner Steve Greenberg, had been concluded and that "Steve has prevailed on all counts."
On reading Vincent's letter, one would conclude that Greenberg had been unjustly accused by Madlock and totally exonerated. In fact, the independent arbitrator in Los Angeles assigned to settle the suit, retired Superior Court Judge Lester E. Olson, found that Greenberg had given Madlock bad investment advice and that the only reason Greenberg is not liable is that Madlock filed his suit a few days after the legal deadline.
The dispute centered around five investments Madlock made in 1981 and '82 after he had signed a $5.1 million contract with the Pirates. Greenberg was the agent and attorney for the investments, which lost close to $1 million for Madlock, who may also have to pay up to $900,000 in back taxes and penalties. Three of the charges involved investments in office buildings; Olson exonerated Greenberg on those, attributing the losses to changes in the tax laws and to the real estate recession.
But the other two investments were in a supposedly revolutionary oil-drilling device known as the Terra-Drill, which never made it beyond the drawing board and which the IRS deemed to be a tax-avoidance "sham." In his 22-page opinion, Olson ruled that Greenberg was guilty of a "failure to exercise proper care and skill on Madlock's behalf and that Madlock never would have invested in the Terra-Drill without the "counsel and suggestion of Greenberg."
Greenberg and his lawyers told Olson that no matter who was responsible for the investments, Madlock was late with his lawsuit, and Olson agreed. The suit should have been filed within a year of Dec. 19, 1989, when Greenberg left his law practice to become deputy commissioner. Madlock filed suit on Dec. 28, 1990.
While Greenberg says, "I feel vindicated," Madlock also claims a victory of sorts. "We won, but we lost," he says. "I'm happy that the judge at least said who was responsible."
With This Ring....
A Pennsylvania couple is shooting for all the marbles
In the small circle of marbles, Debra Stanley of Reading, Pa., is very big. On June 27, Stanley coached Brian Shollenberger, 13, to the national boys' title in Wildwood, N.J., the Mecca of marbles. Stanley, 32, has coached a national champion in each of the last eight years, and Shollenberger was the 14th titlist of her coaching career. Stanley is a champion mibster herself, having won the national girls' crown in 1973, so you could make a fair case for calling her the Marbles Queen.
But until the night after the tournament ended, Stanley was a queen without a king. That's when her boyfriend, Steve Lapic, a 29-year-old engineer from nearby Elverson, asked for her hand (not her shooting hand) in a unique way. Patiently waiting for Shollenberger to win the title and for the ensuing celebration to die down, Lapic finally got Stanley alone. Guiding her down the boardwalk in Wildwood and to the marbles rings on the beach, Lapic asked Stanley to sit down in the same circle where she had won her title 18 years ago. Then Lapic, like any mibster worthy of his shooter, almost knocked Stanley out of the circle by producing a diamond ring and proposing marriage.
"He knows how involved I am in marbles," says Stanley. "He could not have picked a better spot. It was on the beach, and it was so romantic. That is, if you consider a marble ring romantic."
The two have decided against having their September '92 wedding in the same ring, preferring to get married closer to home. However, they are considering one suggestion: that their wedding cake be a marble cake.
[Thumb Up]To singer Terry Cashman of Willie, Mickey & the Duke fame, who will donate proceeds from his cassette Terry Cashman's Greatest Baseball Hits to the Baseball Assistance Team, an organization that helps former baseball personnel in need.
[Thumb Down]To President Bush, for going back on his 1988 pledge to protect the nation's wetlands. By approving new criteria for defining which areas can be protected, the Administration has proposed opening up 10% of the country's wetlands—some 10 million acres—for development.
[Thumb Down]To golfer Payne Stewart, for saying that Jack Nicklaus does not belong on the 1991 Ryder Cup team because, at 51, he might not be able to play 36 holes a day. The U.S. is 6-0-0 against Europe when Nicklaus has played and 0-1-1 when Stewart has played.
It Beats Cobi the Dog
The Atlanta Constitution recently asked its readers to submit ideas for the mascot of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Among the entries were George A. Peach, Flambeau (a flaming bird, a la phoenix) and Olympia the Pot-Bellied Pig. But our favorite mascot suggestion was something both cute and indigenous to the area: Smyrna, Ga., native Julia Roberts.
One Japanese advertisement for Sunday's NFL exhibition game in Tokyo read: "Miami Dolphins, featuring John Offerdahl, versus the Los Angeles Raiders, featuring Al LoCasale." Offerdahl, the 6'3", 238-pound All-Pro linebacker, may be worthy of such hype, but LoCasale is the 5'4", 180-pound aide to Raider owner Al Davis.
THEY SAID IT
David Wells, Toronto Blue Jay pitcher, while watching the baseball documentary When It Was a Game, which features footage of the '34 Detroit Tigers: "There's Tiger Stadium. Look, same small dugouts. Look, same clubhouse. Hey, same postgame spread."
Bob Golic, L.A. Raider defensive tackle and Notre Dame grad, on his new two-year, $1.5 million contract: "This job is better than I could get if I used my college degree, which, at this point, I can't remember what it was in."
Making a List
Summertime and the livin' is easy, fish are jumpin'...especially bass (not to mention porgy). The prestigious BASS Masters Classic begins next week in Chesapeake Bay. Business is already hoppin' at Tochterman & Sons, the biggest bait and tackle store in Baltimore. Here are the 10 most popular bass lures at Tochterman's, complete with comments from salesman Bob Quick.
Rat-L-Trap—This lure has a chamber with a ball bearing in it to imitate a noisy minnow.
Gene Larew Electric Salt Craw—This hotpink lure resembles a crawfish. It also has a salty taste, so that when the fish picks it up, he'll hold on to it.
Herb Reed's Slug-Go—Each time you twitch this lure, it goes in a different direction.
Fish World Po-Go Snail—Similar to the Slug-Go, bat the hook sits in a slot, allowing it to easily penetrate the fish.
Gene Larew Salty Gots-It—Because it slowly descends in the water, the Gots-It looks like an easy meal for the fish who's not in a feeding mood.
Zoom Super Salt Plus U-Tale—This is a salty, six-inch worm pretender.
Pradco rebel Minnow—For those who like the realistic approach. While other lures are rather abstract, the Rebel [above] actually looks like a minnow.
Charlie Brewer's Slider Worm—When a finicky fish doesn't want to exert himself to grab a meal, the Slider tempts him with a nice little hors d'oeuvre.
Spinner Bait—These generic lures have blades that rotate when pulled through water, so they move like injured minnows.
Poe's RC-1—Rick Clunn won the 1990 BASS Masters Classic with this minnow imitator. Hence the RC-1.
Replay 10 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Our Aug. 10, 1981, cover was the same one we had used for the baseball issue that spring. The reason was that the season was resuming after a two-month players' strike. We even had scouting reports on how the teams might fare in the "second season." The Padres, for instance, were concerned about their ace, Juan Tyrone Eichelberger, who had come down with tendinitis while painting his house during the break.