The Syracuse basketball program, slapped on the wrists two weeks ago by the NCAA for assorted rules violations, was dealt another stinging blow Monday when the NCAA announced that center Conrad McRae could begin serving a previously announced three-game suspension by sitting out exhibitions against Marathon Oil and Kazakhstan's national team. Unless Syracuse can quickly schedule a touring team from Azerbaijan or the Jiffy Auto Lube taxi squad, McRae will also miss the regular-season opener against that traditional basketball powerhouse, Cornell.
An Inspired Choice
When the U.S. Olympic Committee elected LeRoy Walker as its 23rd president on Sunday, he became the first African-American chosen for that job, after a long line of white patricians. It's good to knew that I was elected for what I've done rather than what I am, but I don't mind hearing 'first black,' " Walker said after his election. "There are a lot of disenchanted blacks, women and Hispanics in our country who feel they will never get their just due. I think I serve as a model of the idea that if you keep plugging away and pursuing excellence, you can overcome any odds."
What the 74-year-old Walker has done, among cither things, is coach 77 track All-Americas and eight Olympians while he was a teacher and coach at North Carolina Central University, where he also served as the school's chancellor. He was coach of the U.S. track team at the Montreal Olympics. The grandson of slaves, Walker will be an eloquent spokesman for less favored members of the Olympic movement, as well as for the movement itself. The Olympics, Walker says, are "like Christmas. Both are in danger of being ruined by the marketplace, and neither will ever return to how it was ideally conceived, but both are still worth saving."
At first glance it didn't make sense. How could the Pittsburgh Penguins justify lavishing a seven-year, $42 million contract on Mario Lemieux? After all, the Penguins play in one of the NHL's smallest markets, and the Lemieux outlay increases the team's payroll this season to a league-high $15.2 million. One answer is that as part of the deal, the Penguins received exclusive merchandising rights—valued by the team at $10 million for the life of the contract—to Lemieux and his face. So the people of Pittsburgh should be prepared to see more, a lot more, of that fabulous face: on every T-shirt, hockey puck, coffee mug and seat cushion the Penguins can throw onto store shelves. For seven years. Get used to it.
Depth and Taxes
Finally all four major sports leagues and their players associations are working together to defeat the one thing they hate even more than they do each other—taxes. The city of Philadelphia has decided to start collecting a 4.3% city wage tax on visiting workers, including professional athletes, for money earned there. Denver Bronco quarterback John Elway, for instance, owes $5,375.00 following Denver's 30-0 loss at Veterans Stadium in September. "Taxes and the Eagle defense," Elway said. "Two reasons not to go to Philadelphia." What is worse from the players' point of view is that they will have to pay retroactively to 1986, when the tax was enacted. For example, New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor will soon be hearing from the city that he owes $22,640.63 plus penalties and interest. Philadelphia hopes to raise $1 million with the tax this year. Five states and several cities already impose taxes on visiting pro athletes, but Philadelphia is dunning visitors at a far higher rate.
The Montreal Expos, who were the first team to visit after the city announced its tax crackdown, rose up against this attempt at taxation without representation with a latter-day Boston Tea Party. They stopped the team bus as it passed the harbor on their way out of Philadelphia and dumped a batting tee into the water. This historically informed act of rebellion seemed particularly inspired given the fact the Expos are still technically subjects of the queen of England.
No News Is No News
The Pirates were battling to stay alive against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series, the Steelers were in the midst of what should have been a hot quarterback controversy, and Pitt football coach Paul Hackett was struggling through such a wretched season that newspaper columnists from other cities were suggesting he should be run out of town. But it was strangely quiet in Pittsburgh, where the two local dailies—The Press and The Post-Gazette—have been shut down since May 17 by a Teamsters' strike. The Post-Gazette, which has adopted the slogan "Gone today, here tomorrow," has been reduced to putting out a daily fax sheet for which diehard readers shell out $1.50 a week. "I have no idea who my readers are," says Post-Gazelle sports columnist Bruce Keiden, who's writing for the fax sheet. "But I've discovered to my horror that it's no easier to write for 300 people than 300,000."
The Post-Gazette also dispatches to downtown Pittsburgh two town criers, dressed in tricornered hats, white stockings and brown velvet knickers, who shout the day's headlines through megaphones. Though the Pirates' sharp dip in ticket sales tin's season has been widely attributed to the strike, not everyone has missed the papers. "The strike has been nice," says Steeler fullback Merril Hoge. "I haven't had anybody jabbing at me or asking dumb questions like, Why'd you fumble that ball?" But for many Pittsburgh sports figures, having no newspaper has often felt like looking in a mirror and seeing no reflection. "People say to me, 'I bet it's nice not to get the criticism,' " Pirate manager Jim Leyland says. "That's bull. I love to pick up the papers in the morning with a cup of coffee, a cigarette and my wife on the porch. It don't get any better than that."
At the Women's Sports Foundation awards dinner in New York on Oct. 5, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who has grossed more than $750,000 in endorsements and stipends in 1992, was honored as amateur sportswoman of the year.
By Any Other Name
We call your attention to the labors of John Vorhaus, a Los Angeles-based television sitcom writer with a specialized computer program and way too much free time, who has extracted what he calls the "secret meaning" of several sports names by turning them into anagrams.
Esprit, or dull stats
Par Man Rolled
Boston Red Sox
Sobs Next Door
Equals a Hellion
Ran a Jerky Train
My L.A. Doormats
In 490 B.C. the Athenian runner Pheidippides was dispatched from the city of Marathon to Athens with news of the rout of the Persian army. Pheidippides covered the 25 miles from the battlefield to the capital at top speed, delivered his message and then dropped dead on the spot. Despite that rather melodramatic beginning, marathon running developed into a comparatively low-risk event, or at least it was until England's Chris Stewart, the third-place finisher in both the 1976 and '77 New York Marathons, turned the ancient Greek legend on its head and began running relief supplies across sniper-infested battle lines and into the broken heart of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovinia.
Shortly after winning a half marathon in Slovenia last November, Stewart learned of the desperate plight of people living in small Croatian towns cut off from international aid. "Some were dying from simple infections because they had no antibiotics," Stewart says. "They were just ordinary, bewildered people, and nobody seemed to be helping them." After strapping to his waist a canvas pouch stuffed with antibiotics, syringes and bandages, Stewart set off from the outskirts of Osijek, a small city in Croatia, and ran several miles through a battle zone, past woods where Serbian snipers lurked, into Osijek proper. Seven months later he ran supplies to a hospital in the western Bosnia-Herzegovinian town of Jajce, encountering heavy shelling on his seven-hour run back to safety. Once, Stewart took cover in a farmyard. "I was crouching when I realized there were dead people piled all around me," he says.
Stewart had not planned to return to the war until early December, but two weeks ago he received an urgent call at his home in Cyprus telling him the hospital at Jajce had been virtually leveled by shelling and asking him to return to the front, which he is now preparing to do. "Being a marathon runner does help," he says. "You can endure a great deal of discomfort, and you have this determination to get through and do something."
They Said It
Denny Crum, University of Louisville basketball coach, addressing attendees at the team's tip-off luncheon: "First I'd like to welcome my assistant coaches...all 2,000 of you."
Lee Trevino, as he putted out on the 18th green, on the two-day growth of facial hair sported by the slow-playing Bernhard Longer: "He was clean-shaven when we teed off."