Plucked Turkey

A year ago, when SI published a story on sports betting services (1-900-Ripoffs, Nov. 18, 1991), one of the touts we contacted was Mike Warren. We reported that Warren had correctly picked 12 of 16 football games during our investigation. We also pointed out that his customers had complained of hundreds of unauthorized phone charges to their credit cards. Still, Warren chose to use our story as an endorsement, trumpeting in one ad: "I KNOW IT... YOU KNOW IT. NOW SPORTS ILLUSTRATED KNOWS IT. MIKE WARREN IS #1!"

We don't know it.

In fact, Warren proved to be less than No. 1 when SI asked a source last week to subscribe to Warren's service. Warren sent our man a flier pushing his "Thanksgiving Bash 2-Day Turkey Shoot," his "finest holiday offering," which, the flier claimed, has produced winners 77% of the time over the last decade. "I love Thanksgiving," crowed Warren in his ad, "because Las Vegas gets flooded with 'dumb money' from novices and casual players.... A professional handicapper can just fleece this flock with easy victories."

For $150 Warren gave our man four picks. Three games played last Thursday yielded one winner—Dallas—and two losses—Detroit and Texas. When our source called back on Friday, a sheepish Warren representative gave him the final pick—Oklahoma (+9) over Nebraska. The representative then offered a bonus pick—LSU (+4) over Arkansas—to help our source recover some of Thursday's dumb money. Both of Friday's picks were losers, too. After Warren's 1-for-5 performance, his subscribers must have felt like the turkeys.

When another SI source called Warren's service to ask about the results of the Turkey Shoot, a Warren representative hemmed and hawed and said, "We kinda split." Then he pressured our source to sign up for Warren's service.

Warren's ads implore his prospective customers to "CALL 1-800-MIKE-WINS NOW!" Well, after his Turkey Shoot, it's more like 1-800-MIKE-WINS NOT!

Bruce's Fall

Once again the dismissal of a coach has revealed a troubling side of college football. When Colorado State announced on Nov. 23 that it had fired coach Earle Bruce, the university said only that Bruce had "created a climate of intimidation and fear" in the Ram program and that he had failed to fulfill his contract. The next day a group of Colorado State boosters gathered in support of the 61-year-old Bruce—who in his four seasons with the Rams had revived a struggling program—and drew up a petition calling for his reinstatement. One booster, a local automobile dealer, demanded that three cars he had lent to the athletic department be returned. University president Albert Yates, who is black, received racially abusive telephone calls complaining about the dismissal. One caller, said Yates, threatened to kill him and his family.

Forced by the booster backlash to justify their actions, Colorado State officials released a detailed list of the allegations that led to Bruce's dismissal, including:

•Holding practice seven days a week, in violation of NCAA rules that require players to be given one day off a week.

•Off-season coaching of players, another NCAA violation.

•Striking players "with a closed fist in unprotected areas of their bodies."

•Interfering with and attempting to intimidate university officials and campus police; making racist and other demeaning comments.

Bruce, who has been a college coach for 21 years, including nine at Ohio State, admits he committed the NCAA violations, saying, "I'm a rules guy, but I'll take full responsibility for those." He also admits he punched players but adds, "I don't think I ever hit anyone hard enough to hurt them." Bruce denies that he interfered with university officials or that he made racist comments.

The school says it will not pay Bruce for the final two years of his contract, which would have brought him about $90,000 annually. Bruce said that he will file suit to be reinstated. Meanwhile, the actions of Colorado State boosters trying to bully the university on his behalf have made Bruce's future job prospects very dim.

Block That Schott (con't.)

Marge Schott is not worth defending. As her recent remarks have made clear, Schott, the 63-year-old owner of the Cincinnati Reds, just doesn't get it when it comes to racial and ethnic defamation (SCORECARD, Nov. 30). The storm continued last week when a former employee of the Oakland A's said she had once heard Schott in an owners' conference call say, "I'd rather have a trained monkey working for me than a nigger." On Sunday, Schott was quoted in The New York Times as saying, "Hitler was good in the beginning, but he went too far." Now Schott faces suspension and/or a fine of as much as $250,000 when Major League Baseball's executive council meets on Dec. 7. She deserves the stiffest penalties unless she recants her comments and demonstrates a new sensitivity to minority hiring; the Reds' 45-member front-office staff includes only one black.

Still, there was a sense of convenience to the outrage expressed by baseball people last week. For years other owners have wanted Schott to go away, and the revelation of her racism and anti-Semitism may be just the excuse they need to take action. Wouldn't it be better if baseball's sudden righteousness were channeled in a more positive direction? Wouldn't it be better if Schott's comments, whether or not they lead to her banishment, also lead to a concerted effort by every team to hire more minorities?

When Dodger general manager Al Campanis made similarly demeaning comments back in 1987, he became a convenient scapegoat. Yet today baseball has no black general managers and only five minority managers, one of whom, Tony Perez, was recently hired by Schott. That puts her one up on the 13 teams who have never had a minority manager.

Relatively Speaking

Every football season, colleges send us hundreds of slick publicity packets touting players. This year, however, two homemade packets caught our eye. One was from the mother of Penn's aptly named running back, Sundiata Rush. The other was from an aunt of Louisiana Tech offensive lineman Willy Roaf. Could this be a trend? We'll see next season.

In the meantime: "Sundi's strength is his perseverance," writes his mom, Brenda Brooks. "He is a good motivator, has good work habits, a clean character and is well liked by his teammates."

The Roaf commendation, as penned by his aunt Mary Layton, leans heavily on his career in Pee-Wee football and on the fact that he was a choirboy at Grace Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff, Ark.: "Willy is a big, good-natured guy with the proverbial heart of gold who never met a person he didn't like." Roaf, who is indeed big—6'5" and 295 pounds—will likely be a first-round pick in next year's NFL draft. When he was 13, he served as a page in the Arkansas legislature and met one person he particularly liked, the state's kid governor, another comer, named Bill Clinton.

Suspended Logic

NHL president Gil Stein's stated desire to clean up violence in hockey is admirable, but his policies need work. Two recent incidents provide perfect examples.

When Doug Gilmour of the Toronto Maple Leafs broke Los Angeles King Tomas Sandstrom's arm with a two-handed slash on Nov. 21, Stein suspended Gilmour for eight days. Gilmour also forfeited $29,000 of his salary, which, under NHL rules, the Leafs paid directly to the league. Before Stein replaced John Ziegler as president last summer, players were suspended for games, not days. Under Stein, however, suspensions for first-time offenders apply only to nongame days; Stein's logic is that "it is not necessary to take players off the ice to deter conduct." Of course, he also is aware that fans come to games to see star players, or thugs, in action, whatever their offenses. So, while Sandstrom will be sidelined for 12 to 16 games, Gilmour won't lose a second of playing time. Adding insult to injury, Gilmour had an assist in Toronto's 3-2 win over the Kings last Saturday.

The other incident makes Stein and the NHL look even sillier. On Nov. 20, Glen Featherstone of the American Hockey League's Providence Bruins went berserk on the ice. For throwing sticks at the referee and returning to the ice after being ejected from the game, he received a nine-game suspension. Featherstone, however, was promptly called up to Boston, and when he arrived, Stein ruled that the nine-game AHL suspension translated into a three-game NHL ban. Thus, when the Bruins played at Hartford on Saturday, Featherstone was in the lineup.

Back to the drawing board, Gil.


Simple Deduction

On the campaign trail Bill Clinton voiced support for eliminating corporate tax deductions for salaries of more than $1 million paid to employees. It is uncertain if such a proposal will now become law, or, if so, whether it would apply to professional sports teams owned by corporations. If it did, clubs like the Chicago Cubs (Tribune Co.) and the New York Knicks (Paramount Communications) could lose write-offs totaling millions on such stars as the Cubs' Ryne Sandberg (above), who commands a salary of $7 million a year, and the Knicks' Patrick Ewing, who makes $3.1 million.

A fearless prediction: Given fan complaints about overpaid athletes, a groundswell of public support for excluding jocks from such a measure isn't very likely.

They Wrote It

•Headline in the New York Daily News over story noting that the President played golf in Kennebunkport, Maine, on Thanksgiving morning: bush slices ball before carving bird.

•Gary R. Roberts, Tulane law professor, in USA Today: "Player-owner disputes are simply quarrels about how a huge pot of money extracted from fans and communities will be divided by two extremely wealthy groups."

They Said It

•Howie Long, Oakland Raider defensive end, on Tommy Maddox (left), rookie quarterback for the Denver Broncos, who was making his first NFL start against the Raiders: "He looked like my paperboy. I was going to give him a tip."

•Jack McCloskey, Minnesota Timberwolf general manager, on rookie Christian Laettner: "I think he'll eventually have the credentials to back up everything he thinks of himself."