Yanks in Japan
To a sportswriterin Chad Rowan's native Hawaii, the feat was analogous to a Japanese kid'smoving to the U.S. and five years later winning the Heisman Trophy. To somestunned Japanese it made as much sense as a non-Catholic's being named pope. Asall the world has heard, Rowan, a 23-year-old American now known as Akebono,last week became only the 64th sumo wrestler, and the first foreigner, in thehistory of Japan's sacred sport to be elevated to yokozuna, or grand champion.The 6'8", 456-pound Akebono earned the title in record time; a formerbasketball player at Hawaii Pacific University, he took up sumo only aftermoving to Japan in 1988.
The son of aHonolulu cab driver, Akebono is as American as pineapple pie, a young man ofcheery mien who still roots for the Philadelphia Eagles and says that if hehadn't gone into sumo, he would probably be working at a Taco Bell back home.Akebono's triumph came less than a year after another Hawaii native, Konishiki(SI, May 18, 1992), was passed over for yokozuna at least partly because he wasa foreigner. Still, don't think Japanese sports are suddenly free ofxenophobia. Two dozen U.S. women, including such stars as Olympians TeresaEdwards and Medina Dixon, have been making as much as $200,000 a year playingin Japan's 20-team women's industrial basketball league, but when the currentseason ends, in March, they'll be out of work. In the interest of developinghomegrown stars, foreign players will be banned starting next season.
Andre the Giant, another outsized wrestler who earned renown on foreign shores,died last week in Paris of an apparent heart attack at age 46. Born into a farmfamily in the French Alps, Andre Roussimoff was afflicted with acromegaly, adisorder characterized by progressive enlargement of the head, face, hands,feet and chest, and he exploited his enormous size—7'4" and 520 pounds—tobecome a popular figure on the pro wrestling circuit in the U.S. and elsewhere.Andre, whose remains were to be cremated for burial near his cattle andquarter-horse ranch in Ellerbe, N.C., also played Fezzik the gentle giant inthe 1987 movie The Princess Bride, a role for which he was suited by bothdimension and disposition. As the film's screenwriter, William Goldman, said,"You can be in a room with Andre, and he'll sit quietly in the corner, andyou won't know he's there."
In Need ofComfort
This photo shows Dale Weiner, the football coach at Baton Rouge Catholic High,consoling the school's all-state quarterback, Warrick Dunn, at the funeral lastmonth of Warrick's mother, Betty Smothers, 36, a Baton Rouge policewoman andsingle mother of six who was killed by gunmen attempting a holdup while sheworked at her second job as a supermarket night security guard. Other citizensof Baton Rouge have also opened their arms; 3,000 people attended the funeral,and a trust fund set up for the children—Warrick, 18, is the eldest—alreadyexceeds $160,000. Four suspects have been charged in the slaying of the womanaffectionately known as Miss Betty. Last week Warrick, a senior, who also hadoffers from Alabama, Illinois and LSU, committed to Florida State. Of theirmother's assailants, Warrick's 15-year-old brother, Derrick, said, "I wantthem to know they killed a loving mother with six children who was trying herbest to provide for them."
During arecruiting visit to Tennessee last month, Tory Edge, a cornerback at PhoebusHigh in Hampton, Va., was attending a fraternity party with Vol players andother prospects when a brawl broke out. Soon there was gunfire, and Tennesseedefensive back Tim Frost was arrested on weapons and assault charges for havingallegedly shot at a Knoxville policeman. Asked later about his impressions ofTennessee, Tory said he was leaning toward the school despite the melee."The social atmosphere seems a little shaky,"' he said, "but thenyou can't base your decision on one incident."
O.K., how abouttwo incidents? Last week Tory committed to Tennessee, and the next day TheKnoxville News-Sentinel revealed why Vol linebacker Willie Richards had beensuspended from the team five days before Tennessee's 38-23 win over BostonCollege in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa: Richards had allegedly pulled a gunon a prostitute at 4 a.m. in his hotel room. According to Tampa police. thewoman had sex with 14 or 15 Vol players, including Richards, who allegedlyproduced a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol after accusing the woman of stealing moneyhe had hidden in a Bible. No charges were filed, but Tennessee coach PhilFulmer said he also took undisclosed disciplinary action against the otherplayers involved; however, only Richards was punished before the Hall of Famegame.
Informed of theevents in Tampa, Tory remained unperturbed, saying, "You got knuckleheadswherever you go." Tennessee, one supposes, can consider that a vote ofconfidence.
A couple of yearsago somebody at the Association of Tennis Professionals, hoping to curb the useof profanity on the court, printed up a list of swearwords in ninelanguages—everything from the mild cretino, in Italian, to the dread B-word inDutch and the horrific B-word in Portuguese. The list presumably was meant tohelp chair umpires recognize cusswords in unfamiliar tongues, but it mayactually have promoted swearing, because it inevitably fell into the hands ofplayers, who miss no opportunity to expand their repertoire of raunch.
Also, the cribsheet has some glaring omissions. Consider that during the just-completedAustralian Open, Germany's Michael Stich was fined $500 for voicing, inEnglish, a common barnyard obscenity that isn't on the list. And Jim Courier,the American who won the men's singles title—Monica Seles was the women'schamp—was fined $1,000 for directing a well-known obscene gesture at theumpire. Unless the ATP begins issuing periodic supplements complete withillustrations, you would have to call the list a flop in any language.
The basketballteam at Pennsylvania's Allegheny College was 14-4 as of Sunday, but the Gatorscould still take a lesson from the school's 49-year-old president, DanSullivan, who, in a fund-raising event for the local United Way staged athalf-time of a recent home game, went 10 for 10 at the foul line. But Sullivanwasn't finished. Allegheny also holds a regular half-time promotion in which afan chosen , at random shoots three foul shots to try to win free McDonald'sfare for the crowd, a routine that was altered when fans chanted for apresidential encore. Called back to the line, Sullivan brought down the houseby draining the three shots to win Big Macs for all 550 ticket holders.
At week's endAllegheny was hitting a sorry 64% from the foul line.
The NCAA football rules committee last week whistled dead the guard-aroundplay, a.k.a. the fumblerooski, after concluding that the play was so difficultto officiate that it was often run illegally. For the record, the lastsuccessful execution of the now extinct ploy—in which the center, instead ofsnapping the ball to the quarterback, sets it on the ground for a guard to pickup—occurred at the Blue-S Gray Game on Dec. 25, producing the spectacle of a290-pounder from Houston, Jason Youngblood, lumbering 18 yards for a touchdown.As witnesses to Youngblood's earth-rattling romp can attest, eliminating thefumblerooski will take some fun out of the game.
In MTV's annual Rock 'n' Jock charity softball gamelast week in Long Beach, Calif., Dwight Gooden, Roger McDowell. Frank Thomas,Jose Canseco (left, knocking down a sandwich in the on-deck circle) and otherbig leaguers played alongside such pop icons as Jon Bon Jovi, Flavor Flav andDweezil Zappa Once again the teams were called the Homeboys and—need youask?—the Awayboys.
They Wrote It
•Pete Prisco, in The Florida Times-Union, recounting ajoke that made the rounds at the Super Bowl: "What are a sportswriters twofavorite beers? Answer: free and free light."
The Real Gold
A surprise loser at the Barcelona Olympics, U.S. boxerEric Griffin has gone 5-0 in the pros and earned the grand sum of $15,000; as agold medalist, he might have commanded $100,000 per fight. Pole vaulter SergeiBubka, who competes for Ukraine and Nike, not necessarily in that order, alsobombed at the (lames, but so what? Afterward Bubka twice improved his worldrecord (to 20' 1¼"), and bonuses from meet promoters plus endorsement lootbrought him 1992 earnings of some $1.5 million. So tell us, when did theOlympics become more important to boxers than to track and field athletes?
They Said It
•Ted Green, coach of the Edmonton Oilers, when toldthat rookie center Shaun Van Allen had suffered a concussion and didn't knowwho he was: "Good. Tell him he's Wayne Gretzky [right]".
•Mike Krzyzewski, Duke basketball coach, after the Blue Devils slipped to No. 7in the AP poll: "The only Pole I pay attention to is my mother."