A democratic wind—well, O.K., a light breeze—is blowing through the Olympic movement. Reacting to concerns that Dream Teamers and other well-heeled athletes violated the Olympic spirit by staying in five-star hotels during the Barcelona Games, International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch said last week that the IOC will "recommend" that all Olympians reside in the Olympic Village. And what about luxury-loving IOC members? Believe it or not, sources say there was talk about having Samaranch and other IOC bigwigs hunker down in the Village at next year's Winter Games in Lillehammer. Too late—the IOC brass was already booked into a posh hotel.
It's just as well. One likely reason the IOC is only recommending that athletes stay in the Village is that requiring them to do so would be unenforceable. Athletes could easily steal away to hotels. And so could IOC members—in their chauffeur-driven cars, of course.
March 29, 1993
Syracuse University was buried under the Blizzard of '93, but the March 13 storm couldn't ice the Nike National Scholastic Indoor Track and Field Championships. The bulk of the meet took place on March 15, just one day late, even after 1) the original site, the Carrier Dome, was scrapped when the snow-laden roof had to be lowered lest it collapse; 2) a transformer blew, knocking out power in the alternate site, Manley Field House; and 3) all campus events were suspended.
Of course, it helped that meet director Tracy Sundlun's father, Bruce, is the governor of Rhode Island. As the storm raged, the younger Sundlun called his dad, who in turn called New York governor Mario Cuomo. The clout paid off. The National Guard cleared the snow around Manley, and state emergency workers restored power to the building. Then Sundlun tracked down Syracuse chancellor Kenneth Shaw in New York City. Shaw ordered an exception to the campus-wide shutdown, allowing Sundlun's show to go on.
The prize for sheer tenacity, though, goes to Amy Acuff, a UCLA-bound high jumper from Robstown, Texas. Stranded at the Cleveland airport, she bummed a ride to Syracuse with a traveler who had decided to brave the storm in a rented car. The 300-mile journey took 24 hours, during which Amy called meet officials several times and pleaded, "Hold the high jump—I'm coming." Joining 1,000 other competitors (out of 1,480 registered entrants) who made it to Syracuse, Amy won her specialty by clearing 5'10¾", which by then hardly seemed like an obstacle.
UNLV's handling of the J.R. Rider case (SCORECARD, March 22) is a travesty. On March 16 UNLV suspended Rider, the senior star of the Rebel basketball team, after concluding that he didn't do all his own work in a freshman-level English correspondence course last summer. The suspension came three days after UNLV president Robert Maxson said that the school had investigated Rider's academic performance and found "no impropriety whatsoever." The "investigation." conducted by UNLV's athletic-compliance director, David Chambers, at the behest of athletic director Jim Weaver, was prompted by a March 11 story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal in which the course's instructor, Vicki Bertolino, said she was pressured by the athletic department into giving Rider a grade even though he deserved an incomplete.
The school did an about-face, reportedly at the urging of two of its regents, after the Review-Journal ran, on March 14, photos of two pages of a paper Rider submitted to Bertolino; the handwriting on one page was different from the handwriting on the other, and Bertolino had written at the bottom of the second sheet, "Who did this page for you? Your tutor?" Only then did school officials question Rider's tutor, who admitted he had written one of the pages.
Why wasn't the tutor interviewed earlier? "Whether J.R. did his own work wasn't an issue then," Chambers told SI's Shelley Smith. "We were only dealing with whether J.R. Rider was correctly ruled eligible for competition." However, in the March 11 story Bertolino had raised doubts about whether Rider's work was his own. The story was accompanied by a photo of a note Bertolino made on another of Rider's assignments: "I question who wrote this." The obvious conclusion is that UNLV was hoping to sweep under the rug Bertolino's suggestion that Rider had cheated.
Rider said last week that while the tutor wrote half of one paper, its content had been "verbalized" by himself. But why, then, didn't Rider confront Bertolino when she raised doubts about his honesty last summer? Rider was nevertheless right when he asserted after his suspension that the school had made him a scapegoat. An indifferent student, he stayed at UNLV after his junior year, he has said, only because coach Rollie Massimino had assured Rider that he could "get eligible." School officials allowed Rider to cram a daunting 15 units into a summer session and, knowing the difficulty of the challenge, assigned the tutor to help him. Didn't the school set him up for a fall? Shouldn't it have anticipated that the tutor would become overly involved? Didn't it hide from the truth even after Bertolino blew the whistle?
The answer to these questions is yes. Yet while Rider was suspended from the team, Maxson, Weaver, Massimino and Chambers have so far gone unpunished.
According to Newsday, after Boston College basketball coach Jim O'Brien earned a second technical for berating officials and was ejected from a game against Se-ton Hall, his 17-year-old daughter, Amy, watching on ESPN, phoned her 18-year-old sister, Erin, who was away at college. "Quick, turn on the television," Amy said. "He got thrown out. He's a lunatic."
Besides definitions, most dictionaries include biographical entries. Alas, the terse listings ("Churchill. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer, 1874—1965, Brit, statesman; prime minister") tend to give sports figures the brush. Political and literary personages are well represented, but a check of the most recent editions of leading "college." or desktop, dictionaries shows that sports bios are often few and arbitrarily chosen.
•The American Heritage. Phil Esposito, in; Gordie Howe, out. Dizzy Dean (150 wins) and Whitey Ford (236) make it, but not Walter Johnson (416) and Grover Alexander (373). And only four basketball players are included, the same number as figure skaters. Walt Frazier is one of them; Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson are excluded.
•Oxford American. Other than U.S. presidents, there are few bio entries. Sports? The disdain for physical prowess is so complete that the Biblical figure Samuel is included, but Samson isn't.
•Random House Webster's College. Where in the names of Muhammad Ali. Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis (all in) is Rocky Marciano? And imagine including Lillian Russell, the actress, but not Bill Russell, the basketball player.
•Webster's New World. Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, yes; Ty Cobb, no. You'll find author John Updike but not another John U—Unitas.
•Webster's Ninth New Collegiate. The 6,000 bio entries include only a smattering of jocks, with but one football player, Jim Thorpe. Joe DiMaggio is a keeper, but Willie Mays and Ted Williams are outcasts. The British poet Wilfred Owen gels a nod; Jesse Owens is cold-shouldered.
The puzzle is that dictionary makers, usually such paragons of precision, are so sloppy when it comes to sports biographies. Selection of sports entries is "not that scientific," says Paul Evenson, an associate editor at Houghton Mifflin, publisher of The American Heritage Dictionary. But a new edition of that work is due out in June, and Evenson promises that at least some of the sins in the current volume, published in 1985, will be corrected. Certainly the American Heritage sports pantheon could be less New York-oriented. The Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1940s and '50s alone have six entries in the '85 edition—Gil Hodges. Sandy Koufax, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, manager Leo Durocher and general manager Branch Rickey—and 10 of the other 20 baseball figures also have New York connections.
Evenson says that compilers will be busy with revision-right up to press time.
They Wrote It
•Steve Aschburner, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, on a certain coach's power to intimidate refs: "If IRS auditors wore whistles around their necks, Bobby Knight [above] would pay exactly $3.41 in income taxes each year."
Hip Talk I
Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox third baseman, explaining why teammate Bo Jackson got a standing ovation during a spring training game in Sarasota, Fla.: "Because 85 percent of the fans have artificial hips."
The seven skiers who survived as many as five days of blizzard conditions in the Colorado Rockies (SI, March 8) are feuding and have split into two camps. Both sides have agents angling to sell the rights to the inevitable TV movie(s) of their ordeal. One of the skiers, Andrea Brett, says of the spat, "In the wilderness, Mother Nature dictates. But in the city, it's human nature that calls the shots."
Hip Talk II
Mike Downey, in the Los Angeles Times:
Q. What do Bo Jackson and Vanilla Ice [left] have in common? A. Artificial hip.
They Said It
•Trevor Hoffman, Florida Marlin pitcher, on reporting to spring training with the first-year club: "It was like my first day of kindergarten, only my mom didn't drop me off this time."
•Mark West, Phoenix Sun center, to teammate Kevin Johnson, on Johnson's return after missing seven games with a bruised calf: "What is it, Picture Day?"