Back on the Team
Robert Smith returns to play football at Ohio State
Robert Smith, the Ohio State tailback who quit the football team last August, is back in the fold. Smith, you'll recall, had become disillusioned with the Buckeyes after, he said, offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac encouraged him to skip a summer-school chemistry class because it was causing Smith, a premed student, to miss football practice (SI, Sept. 9, 1991). So Smith walked, supposedly to concentrate on his studies.
Smith said he would return to the team if Uzelac and head coach John Cooper were ousted. Instead, the university expressed support for Uzelac, who denied Smith's allegations. A former high school sprint champion, Smith sat out the football season but stayed on at Ohio State on a track scholarship. In late January he told Cooper he wanted to rejoin the Buckeyes, and on Feb. 12 Smith, Cooper and Uzelac met in Cooper's office at St. John Arena and agreed to let bygones be bygones. Then Uzelac asked to talk to Smith alone.
March 16, 1992
Cooper left the room, and Uzelac pulled out a tape recorder in hopes, Smith says, that he would recant some of the allegations he had publicly leveled against Uzelac. But after a few minutes Smith decided to end the conversation and walked out. Nine days later Uzelac resigned, but on Monday Cooper said, "The decision [to remove Uzelac] was made by me." Last week Smith rejoined the Buckeyes but denied that his return had anything to do with Uzelac's departure.
Cooper, Uzelac and Smith all come out of the affair a little mud-splattered. Despite recently signing a three-year contract extension, Cooper—who is 27-18-2 (and 0-4 against archrival Michigan) during his four years at Ohio State—has a very precarious hold on his job. With starting tailback Carlos Snow playing his final season in 1992, Cooper yearned to see Smith, who gained 1,126 yards as a freshman in 1990, back in the scarlet and gray. Cooper says he welcomed Smith back "for three reasons: one, because he can help us; two, we can help him; and three, he wants to come back." Although Smith says he intended to return to the team before his meeting with Uzelac, it appeared that Cooper was willing to sacrifice his offensive coordinator to placate his prodigal tailback.
Uzelac looks bad, not only because he taped a student during a supposed reconciliation, but also because Smith stands by his charge that Uzelac put football ahead of academics. And as for Smith, he has changed part of his story. Last August he told SI that Uzelac was the coach who had told him to turn out the lights one night while he was studying, but last week he said, and SI has confirmed, that it was another coach who did this.
Will Smith and the Buckeyes live happily ever after? Even Smith knows it's unlikely, saying, "If I rush for 2,000 yards this year, and we win the Big Ten, and I win the Heisman Trophy and go on and become a doctor and find a cure for cancer, I'd still be the prima donna who ran Coach Uzelac out of Ohio State."
Up from the Ashes
Raymond Floyd savors a win after a very big loss
The 18th green at the Doral Resort and Country Club in Miami is just 20 miles from the spot where Raymond Floyd's house once stood. On Sunday the 49-year-old Floyd walked off that green after finishing with a 17-under-par 271 to win the Doral Ryder Open, his 22nd career Tour victory. The title was his first since 1986, and it came 2½ weeks after what Floyd called "the worst thing that ever happened to me."
At 3 a.m. on Feb. 19, when he was in San Diego preparing for the Buick Invitational, the Floyds' six-bedroom house on Indian Creek, an island in Biscayne Bay, caught fire. Floyd's wife, Maria, and their three children escaped unharmed. But the $2.7 million house, which Floyd designed, was destroyed, and most of the mementos from his 31-year pro career and his family's life were lost.
"It's a snapshot or a baby picture or a wedding picture," says Floyd. "Each picture is a 10-minute story. We lost everything. All our picture albums. Two hallways, hundreds of pictures on the wall, with Maria and friends and family. All destroyed." Floyd was so distraught over the fire that he was going to skip the Doral, which he had won twice. "I wasn't going to play, but Maria insisted," Floyd says.
At the Doral, Floyd beat Fred Couples (page 50) and Keith Clearwater by two strokes, and with the victory he became only the second golfer to win PGA Tour events in four decades (Sam Snead was the first, winning in the 1930s, '40s, '50s and '60s). On Sunday Floyd said, "I've felt all week that this tournament was for Maria and the kids." After pausing, he added, "Maybe adversity is what I need to win, but I sure as hell don't need another fire."
The Floyds arc planning to build a new house on the site of the old one. And while some of what they lost is irreplaceable, they now have the first item for a new trophy case.
On the Outside
Do the Derby plans for Arazi make horse sense?
Nobody in thoroughbred racing is quite certain what to make of the plans that the handlers of Arazi, the favorite for the Kentucky Derby, have come up with to prepare their horse for the May 2 race.
After his stunning victory on Nov. 2 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs (SI, Nov. 11, 1991), Arazi had arthroscopic surgery on his knees and was shipped to his home base of Chantilly, a training center about 25 miles north of Paris. Next it was announced that the colt would race only once before returning to Louisville for the 1¼-mile Derby. That outing will probably be on April 7 in the Prix Omnium II, a one-mile race on the grass at Saint-Cloud, just outside Paris, although Arazi's owners have also nominated him for the Blue Grass Stakes, which will be run at Keeneland on April 11.
Privately, trainers of some of the other Derby contenders doubt that even a superhorse can win the Derby off such a bizarre game plan. Even Secretariat, an above-average nag, had three races, all on the dirt and all in the U.S., before his Triple Crown sweep in 1973. And Secretariat wasn't coming off knee surgery.
Another controversy lurks in the partnership between Arazi's owners: Allen Paulson, chairman and CEO of the Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. in Savannah, Ga., and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai. They've agreed that when Arazi runs in Europe, he'll be ridden by Steve Cauthen and carry Maktoum's silks, and when he runs in the U.S., he'll be ridden by Pat Valenzuela and carry Paulson's silks. But if Arazi wins the Derby and the Preakness, the two will have another decision to make. Paulson has let it be known that he would want Arazi to go to New York for the Belmont Stakes and the opportunity to become U.S. racing's 12th Triple Crown winner. However, Maktoum has indicated that he would prefer to ship Arazi to England for the Epsom Derby to be held on the Wednesday before the Belmont. No horse has ever won both the Kentucky Derby and the race after which it was modeled, the Epsom Derby.
At least Paulson and Maktoum are in agreement about the Kentucky Derby game plan, despite the skepticism of such American trainers as Shug McGaughey. "I was very impressed with Arazi at the Breeders' Cup, but it could be a different story when he comes back," McGaughey says. "The press is already giving him the Derby trophy, but that might be a little bit premature."
—WILLIAM F. REED
Reds, Head to Head
Auerbach and Holzman return to the sidelines
The last time they coached against each other, Red Auerbach was presiding over a Boston Celtics team featuring Bob Cousy and rookies Bill Russell and Tom Heinsohn, and Red Holzman was coaching the St. Louis Hawks of Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan. It was Dec. 22, 1956, in Boston, and the Celtics won 95-93.
Last Saturday night Auerbach and Holzman again matched wits on the hardwood, dusting off their clipboards for the Sharp Legends Game in Madison Square Garden. Auerbach was coaching a team of NBA greats; Holzman, a team of former Knicks. The two Reds, who between them have 1,634 NBA wins and 11 titles, had not faced each other since 1956, because Holzman was fired during that season. By the time he returned to coaching, with New York in 1968, Auerbach had become Boston's full-time G.M.
"Both Reds were fiery competitors," says retired referee Earl Strom, who officiated the Legends game. "Maurice Podoloff was the commissioner, and he used to go into their locker rooms at halftime and talk to them about their behavior on the sidelines."
On Saturday night Auerbach exhibited some of that questionable behavior, and Strom slapped him with a technical foul. Ralph Kaplowitz, a 6'2", 72-year-old guard, was summoned to shoot the technical. Kaplowitz, who played for the Knicks in their inaugural season of 1946-47, drilled it.
Throughout their careers Auerbach and Holzman were notorious for searching for that little edge, whether through intimidating an official or something else. Earl Monroe, who as a Knick played under Holzman for seven seasons in the 1970s, remembers that Auerbach "always made sure that the visitors' whirlpool at Boston Garden was inoperable."
The game ended with Holzman's Knicks defeating Auerbach's Legends 30-12 behind eight points from Geoff Huston. After the game Holzman said, "It took 35 years to settle the score."
What's the deal with these Jock books? You play baseball for about an inning and a half, and then—bang!—you write about your long and varied career. I don't get it. Albert Einstein lived 76 relatively interesting years and never penned his autobiography; Jennifer Capriati will have a trilogy of her life out before she's old enough to vote. I hear Joe Theismann is currently working on an addendum to his vast literary efforts, to be called The ESPN Years. What's next out there, a Lenny Dykstra novella?
The autobiography is a relatively new art form. My research reveals that up until 1969, 13 autobiographies had been written; now the New York Mets alone have doubled that number. There's such a glut of jock kiss-and-sells on the market, bookstores are taking classics like The Iliad off the shelves to make room for the next shipment of The Phil McConkey Story. Teams would be doing American culture a favor if they would include a no-autobiography clause in standard player contracts—$1 million extra if you promise not to write a book, $1.2 million if you promise not to write one with Phil Pepe or Maury Allen.
Indeed, these jocks don't even write these books, and apparently they don't read them either. They get some reasonably attentive sportswriter to ghost the things. In the new Darryl, Darryl Strawberry supposedly told Art Rust Jr. that when he was with the Mets, "I felt as if I were playing baseball at Dred Scott Memorial Park in glorious downtown Johannesburg." Darryl has since failed the history and geography quizzes administered to determine if he knew who Scott was or where Johannesburg is.
Well, I'm turning the typing tables on this process, ladies and gentlemen. I have cowritten my autobiography, and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED proudly excerpts it here this week.
By Norman Chad
As told to Mookie Wilson
Where would you begin writing your life story if your life had two beginnings instead of one and if you really hadn't lived a real life yet?
Well, I was born in 1959. Actually, it may have been '57 or '62. (Note to publisher: Please check on this.) I did not meet my parents until the day of my birth and didn't actually speak to them until I was nearly 14 months old. For several years I sensed ambivalence on their part over my presence.
I liked TV at a very young age, particularly Hazel and Maverick. Hazel and Bret Maverick became early role models for me, and for a while I was undecided between becoming a cleaning lady or a ladies' man when I grew up.
In 1977 I met Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, Frank (Frankie Locs) Locascio and John Gotti. We hung out a lot, sometimes at the mall, sometimes at the morgue. Me and the Bull, we'd wait around for the Good Humor truck. We'd both order chocolate eclairs, and the Good Humor guy would give us change out of the changer on his belt. And then we shot him.
From 1979 to '82 I watched TV.
I began cross-training at age 23, watching TV most of the day and practicing writing during commercial breaks.
I could've dated Madonna one summer, but I'm not into that scene.
From 1985 to '90 I watched TV again.
My early writings were influenced by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos and Cheever; more recently I have been influenced by the epic, titanic literature—rich in metaphor—produced by John (Season on...This Space for Rent) Feinstein.
Sure, I'd like to go out with more women today, but between Wilt and Geraldo, I don't think there are any left to go out with. TV is my life, except those moments when I'm eating a Budget Gourmet TV dinner.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
[Thumb Up]To Chip Beck, for donating a $500,000 bonus he won for shooting a 59 last October at the Las Vegas Invitational to the Sacred Heart Foundation, which supports struggling churches in the Midwest.
[Thumb Up]To Syracuse University, Jar hiring NCAA official John Hardt as its first compliance director. Hardt will monitor the athletic department's adherence to NCAA rules and the academic progress of athletes. The Orangemen basketball program recently acknowledged committing 13 NCAA rules violations.
[Thumb Down]To the promoters of a March 4 track meet in San Sebastiàn, Spain, for keeping world champion Michael Johnson out of the 200 meters where he would have faced Carl Lewis for the first time. The promoters told Johnson that there was no room for him in the 200.
THEY SAID IT
Dave Brown, Philadelphia Flyer right wing, when asked if the NHL players would carry picket signs in the event they go on strike, as threatened, on the eve of the Stanley Cup playoffs: "Well, that should be easy. We already have the slicks."
Dave LaRoche, New York Mets bullpen coach, on why the team uses a blackboard to explain defensive strategy: "We go over positioning for relays and bunt plays. Then we play Hangman."
In an attempt to improve Beijing's chances of being awarded the 2000 Olympic Games when the International Olympic Committee makes its selection in 1994, the city's government has ordered residents to swat as many flies as possible.
Replay: 35 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
The New York Yankees' Mickey Mantle, the "fastest man in baseball," was on our March 4, 1957, cover. We also wrote about Dodger owner Walter O'Malley's threat to move his team out of Brooklyn if a public bond issue for a new stadium didn't pass: "The feeling has been—particularly among the authorities who will have to okay such a municipal project—that O'Malley must be bluffing. The Dodgers move out of Brooklyn? Impossible."