Off the Tour
John Daly's announcement last week that he was leaving the PGA Tour to check into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic left unclear what role, if any, Tour officials played in the decision. The Tour's substance-abuse policy gives commissioner Deane Beman the power to fine or suspend drug and alcohol abusers, but a spokesman for Beman said that the policy was not invoked in Daly's case. However, it's known that Daly had received stern lectures and written reprimands from Beman, who, like others in the sport, had become increasingly concerned about Daly's conduct.
Daly, who exploded onto the golf scene by winning the PGA Championship in 1991 and whose booming game made him immensely popular with fans and the media, was arrested for assault on Dec. 23 for allegedly throwing his wife, Bettye, against a wall during a rampage in which he also tore up the couple's house in Castle Rock, Colo. That was only the latest in a succession of ugly incidents involving the 26-year-old Daly, who has been hospitalized more than once for alcohol poisoning. Nevertheless, until last week Daly claimed he had his drinking under control, saying, "I don't drink anymore—just beer."
One hopes that Daly is going into rehab voluntarily, because the only way treatment can be effective is if abusers are willing to confront their addictions. At the same time, given that fines and suspensions can help persuade abusers to face up to their problems, it would be sad to think that the PGA Tour had refrained from taking such measures in Daly's case because of his popularity. Substance abuse occurs in golf as in other sports, and a policy to combat such abuse is of no value if it isn't enforced. Tour officials need to ask themselves just how far into the woods a pro should be allowed to go before he's asked to pick up.
Of the eight college bowl games played on New Year's Day, six suffered declines in attendance from the previous year. The only game that filled its stadium to capacity was the national championship Sugar Bowl showdown between Alabama and Miami. In the Orange Bowl not even the presence of Florida State could offset the combination of 1) the perennially drab bowl performances of Nebraska, 2) impending monsoon weather and 3) the TV competition from the hometown Hurricanes in the Sugar Bowl. The result was a crowd of 57,324, the smallest since 1987 and 17,000 short of a sellout. But how do you explain the fact that Washington and Michigan drew only 94,236 fans, the lowest turnout at the 104,000-seat Rose Bowl since 1955? Or that there were also decreases at the Hall of Fame (down 5,733), Cotton (2,113), Blockbuster (7,090) and Fiesta (909)?
Mike Tranghese, commissioner of the Big East Conference, blames the declines on the economy, figuring that a lot of fans didn't want to splurge on travel to bowls, especially with No. 1 playing No. 2 on TV. But Tranghese also suggests that fans may be sending the message that they aren't interested in meaningless bowl matchups. "If it were left to the public," says Tranghese, "we would definitely have a playoff."
Michigan's 38-31 Rose Bowl win over Washington salvaged a modicum of pride for the once powerful Big Ten, which, with Ohio State's 21-14 loss to Georgia in the Citrus and Illinois's 27-17 loss to Hawaii in the Holiday, is now 48-57-1 in bowl games and a woeful 29-44-1 since 1975, when the conference began allowing member schools to play in bowls other than the Rose.
Even with the Wolverines' victory over the Huskies, the Big Ten is only 5-19 since 1969 in the Rose. In fact, the Big Ten is pretty much an equal-opportunity bowl loser. Michigan's bowl record is 11-13, Ohio State's 11-14. The only Big Ten teams with winning bowl records are ones you wouldn't expect: Iowa (6-5-1), Purdue (4-1) and Northwestern (1-0).
Then there's Penn State, which joins the Big Ten in football next season. The Nittany Lions' 24-3 loss to Stanford in the Blockbuster Bowl, their fourth defeat in their last seven bowl appearances, indicates that they should fit right in.
A Rasp for the Ages
The voice came from four packs of English Ovals a day and an adulthood spent railing against any referee who had the audacity to call a foul against the Boston Celtics. Johnny Most's excited rasp was perfect for the rat-a-tat tempo of pro basketball. As the Celtics' radio broadcaster for 37 years until his retirement in 1990, Most spun a grand allegory of good and evil in which Boston's pure-of-heart warriors were pitted against scoundrels and thugs. The Celtics never did anything bad. Bad things were done to them.
"Havlicek is fouled!" Most would croak with righteous indignation.
"They're calling the foul on Havlicek!" he would croak if the call went the other way.
Or he would object that opponent Rick Barry was "crying again, the big baby."
Most coined many colorful phrases, and somehow everyone knew what was happening when he said, for example, that Jo Jo White was "fiddling and diddling." But his most famous utterance was "Havlicek stole the ball!" which he hollered again and again on the night of April 15, 1965, when, well, John Havlicek stole the ball, and the Celtics were on their way to another of the 16 world championships they won while Most was at the microphone.
Most, who had been ailing for years, died on Sunday at 69 of a heart attack. A moment of silence was observed that night at Boston Garden, and then the Celtics beat the Los Angeles Clippers 120-112. The city was saved again from the infidels.
The Price of Proximity
After New York Knick power forward Charles Oakley was fined a whopping $10,000 last week for a blindside pick thrown at the Indiana Pacers' Reggie Miller on Dec. 30, Knick coach Pat Riley and president Dave Checketts charged that the league's view of the team is colored by geography. Referring to Rod Thorn, the NBA executive who dispenses fines, Riley said, "I don't think he's objective anymore. He's just singling us out because he's familiar with us."
Thorn, whose Manhattan office is 20 blocks from Madison Square Garden, says he sees around 25 Knick games a season in person and others on television. He doesn't see any other team that often, but he notes that the NBA's tape-retrieval system enables him to view any controversial play, regardless of where it occurs, the next day. Thorn says he watched the Knick-Pacer game, which was played in Indianapolis, on TV but didn't decide that a heavy fine was warranted until he saw Oakley's pick from an under-the-basket view via the retrieval system. "From that angle you can see in Oakley's eyes that he measures Miller, lines him up and really decks him," says Thorn. "That kind of technology is available to me from every game in every arena."
There is no doubt that the Knicks, and Oakley in particular, revel in their tough, defense-oriented image. There also seems to be little doubt that the Knicks are right in their suspicions that Big Brother is watching them with a particularly keen eye.
Cincinnati Red owner Marge Schott's new lawyer, Robert S. Bennett, who last week requested that baseball's brass give his client until the end of January to respond to preliminary findings regarding her well-publicized racist and anti-Semitic utterances, may be just the guy to set Schott straight. An influential Washington, D.C., attorney who also represents just-pardoned former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger, Bennett is an ardent fisherman who displays a mounted trout on the wall of his office above a plaque reading, IF I KEPT MY MOUTH SHUT, I WOULDN'T BE ON THIS WALL.
Speaking of creatures of the deep, no sooner had the San Diego Chargers sealed their 17-0 wild-card victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Jack Murphy Stadium on Saturday than their fans, anticipating this Sunday's AFC showdown against the Miami Dolphins, took up the chant "Squish the Fish." In San Diego, of all places, home of the original Sea World? You would think folks there would know that dolphins are mammals.
The Real Question: Whyizit?
Whatizit, the Atlanta Olympics' bug-eyed blob of a mascot, is on the ropes. Though Billy Payne, president of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, calls Whatizit "an incredible marketing success," critics consider the computer-generated mascot tacky, and even some of Payne's aides would reportedly like to see Whatizit become Whatwazit. A recent editorial cartoon in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution helpfully suggested a possible means of extinction (above). Meanwhile, in a poll of Georgia residents conducted by the same paper, 9% of the respondents called Whatizit very appealing and 33% said he was somewhat appealing, while 45% deemed him not appealing at all. Clearly, Whatizit needs to start working his questionable charm on the 13% of Georgians who are undecided.
They Wrote It
•Jim Mullen, in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, on bungee jumping: "It takes no skill, lasts less than a minute, and you can brag to your friends how terrific you were. No wonder men love it."
They Said It
•Karl Malone (below), Utah Jazz star, insisting to disbelievers that he considers Shaquille O'Neal, the Orlando Magic's heralded rookie, A just another player: "I guess I'm just a hard guy to please.
•Riddick Bowe, world heavyweight champion, about the horde of autograph-seekers who have besieged him since he won his title in November: "I'm really enjoying this entire ordeal."