Deion's Big Splash
Deion Sanders's troubling odyssey through the National League Championship Series continued last week. One minute Neon Deion—the nom de grande t‚Äö√†√∂‚Äö√ë¢te by which he modestly styles himself—was jumping on a charter jet, the next he was dumping on a TV announcer. First he sneaked off to Miami to play football for the Atlanta Falcons before Game 5; then he sneaked up on CBS sportscaster Tim McCarver to douse him with ice water moments after the Braves won the pennant in Game 7. When it comes time to play the big games, some players have ice water in their veins; Sanders has it in his hands.
For all the attention he attracted to himself—which seemed to be the point—Neon Deion had no impact on the playoffs. He had three strikeouts in five hitless at bats, and if it hadn't been for his three successful plate appearances against McCarver, which he occupied himself with while the rest of the Braves were celebrating their ninth-inning pennant clincher, Sanders would have gone 0 for his ego trip.
Sanders was upset with McCarver for having said on the air that it was "flat-out wrong" for Sanders to fly to Miami in the middle of the night to play a game with the Falcons the previous Sunday and then fly back to Pittsburgh, presumably dead tired, for a baseball game the same night. McCarver correctly pointed out that Sanders had given the Braves his assurance that he would be with them full-time during the playoffs.
Sanders had also targeted Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Terence Moore for a cold shower but never found him. Moore had criticized Sanders for saying that the Braves had a "plantation-type mentality," but when he saw the videotape of Sanders taking his revenge against McCarver, he was, like a lot of other people, initially amused. "Then I became a little disturbed by it," Moore says. "Here's the greatest sports moment in the history of Atlanta, and there's one guy who can't enjoy it because he's chasing reporters with buckets of water. I thought it was pretty sad."
Moore attributes Sanders's behavior to immaturity. "It's basically a huge ego out of control," he says. When Moore wrote in August that Sanders was embarrassing himself and that he should shut up, Sanders decided to stop talking to the media. "If I had known back then he was going to take my advice," says Moore, "I would have asked for a share of his Nike contract."
The big-footed imprint of Nike, the most successful of the athletic-shoe companies, has now left its treadmarks on the contract negotiations of the NBA's No. 2 draft pick, Alonzo Mourning. Nike has signed Mourning to a contract that will reportedly pay the former Georgetown center a guaranteed $16 million over the next five years. Mourning is now in a position to use that rich deal to try to pry even more money loose from the Charlotte Hornets.
Mourning can, in effect, tell the Hornets that if they don't pay him what he is asking—reportedly $2.3 million a season, escalating 30% a year—he will simply live on his shoe money for a year, then go back into the NBA draft next June. If he still doesn't get an offer he likes, he can wait another year and declare himself an unrestricted free agent. "Maybe they think they can dictate what they get," says Hornet coach Allan Bristow. "I don't know if that means we're just supposed to ante up."
Mourning's representative in all this is supposedly superagent David Falk, but even that is not precisely as it seems. Mourning brought in Falk to handle his basketball contract, but Nike retains final authority over Mourning's marketing management. If Nike is exercising total control, it isn't saying, but it is thanks to Nike that Falk now has what amounts to the ultimate negotiating leverage.
And there is the matter of Nike's tolerance of its clients' appearing in ads for other companies. Nike, which generated sales of $200 million last year on Air Jordan sportswear, was reportedly upset when Michael Jordan appeared in a Hanes underwear commercial that Nike felt was undignified. "We make our money selling shoes," says a Nike spokesman. "Our interest is not to generate a lot of money from endorsements. The main product should be playing basketball."
Vote of Confidence
When Cincinnati Red publicity director Jon Braude announced at a press conference last week that 31-year-old Jim Bowden, formerly director of player development, had been hired as Cincinnati's general manager—succeeding Bob Quinn, fired at the end of the season—he began with the words "The Reds have some very good news to announce...." At which point owner Marge Schott was clearly heard to say, "We'll see how good at the end of the year."
A Few Hard Men
A video entitled Soccer's Hard Men, recently released in Great Britain, features the voice-over narration of Vinny Jones, a midfielder of little skill and less subtlety for the Wimbledon Dons of Chelsea. The video fondly recalls the dirty tactics of such legendary British soccer toughs as Ron (Chopper) Harris and Norman (Bites Yer Legs) Hunter, not to mention the hard man who was instructed by his coach to stop the other team's winger, and replies, "Is that just for today, or for the rest of the season?"
Jones helpfully lists some of the more effective ways to foul an opponent: Poke him in the eye, tread on his toes, elbow him behind the ear, rake your cleats down his Achilles tendon and the ever-popular grab his testicles. (There is a famous photograph of Jones himself putting this last technique into practice.) For his troubles Jones has been referred to by the chairman of his team as "mosquito brain" and has been charged by the Football Association with "bringing the game into disrepute."
Just Call Him Willy
Scheduled to be in the starting field of the New York City Marathon next week is Prince Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, Jonkheer van Amsberg. For security purposes he's entered under an assumed name.
An American in Paris
American football has grown sufficiently popular in France that amateur leagues have begun springing up like chanterelle mushrooms. Marine lieutenant colonel Bob Parnell, who is serving a tour of duty at the U.S. embassy in Paris, coaches in a league in which all the players, except two expatriate Americans per team, are French.
During his first several games on the sideline, Parnell was surprised by the slow pace of the games. There would be a burst of activity, he noticed, then nothing would happen for a very long time. Just like an NFL game, in other words. Things speeded up considerably, however, when the league passed a rule forbidding the players to smoke during huddles.
All I Got Was This $900 T-Shirt
As the hour approaches 1 p.m. in Lillehammer, Norway, the streets surrounding the city's central square begin to fill with excited people—an average of 200 to 300 of them, including both Norwegians and tourists from abroad—who gather for the daily auctioning of a single white cotton T-shirt. The highest price fetched for one of the shirts, on the 500th day of auctions, was $3,700, and the average winning bid since the auctioning began in 1991 has been $370.
What makes the shirts so valuable? Each has printed on it a clock set to a few minutes before one o'clock, the scheduled starting time of the opening ceremonies of the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, and the number of days remaining until Feb. 12, 1994, the date when those Games will begin. Round-numbered days bring in the most money, which goes to support the Games, and days ending in the number 94 are also popular. "It's definitely part of the Olympic hysteria that is building up both here and in all of Norway," says Svein Strugstad, a spokesman for the Lillehammer organizing committee. "But sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between genuine enthusiasm and financial speculation."
They Said It
Lawrence Taylor, 33-year-old New York Giant linebacker, on aging: "When you get old, everything is hurting. When I get up in the morning, it sounds like I'm making popcorn."