Both baseball and boxing find themselves under fire on Capitol Hill. After weathering periodic halfhearted threats in Congress to repeal baseball's antitrust exemption, the game's brass had cause for unease going into a hearing scheduled for this week that is to be presided over by Texas Democrat Jack Brooks, the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Many members of Congress have expressed displeasure with the owners' firing of commissioner Fay Vincent and their failure to replace him, their confrontational labor-relations tactics, their restrictive franchise-location decisions and their slowness in resolving the Marge Schott affair. Now that these issues have stirred the interest of Brooks, repeal of the exemption must be considered a real possibility.
Federal regulation of boxing is another issue invested with new urgency. Previous calls for a federal agency to oversee the loosely monitored sport have gone unheeded, but Republican senator William Roth of Delaware and Democratic representative Bill Richardson of New Mexico say that the time is ripe for the almost identical boxing bills they plan to introduce this spring. The legislation would establish a federally chartered agency that would require state boxing commissions to meet federal standards on fighters' health and safety; the licensing of fighters, trainers, managers and promoters; conflicts of interest among boxers' handlers; and drug testing. The agency also would have subpoena powers enabling it to investigate shady goings-on.
The case for that last provision may be buttressed at a hearing scheduled for this week before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. One witness expected to testify: Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, the organized-crime henchman whose testimony helped convict Gambino crime family boss John Gotti last year on federal charges of murder and conspiracy. Senate investigators say that Gravano has told them of links between the mob and both former WBC welterweight champion Buddy McGirt and heavyweight Renaldo Snipes. They say that other witnesses have spoken of links between organized crime and former IBF super middleweight champion Iran Barkley. The investigators would not elaborate on the nature of the alleged tics. McGirt's lawyer, Michael De Chiara, denied that the boxer has mob connections. Barkley's lawyer, Oscar Goodman, would not comment. Snipes could not be reached by SI. As of last weekend, Snipes had not been subpoenaed by the committee, but McGirt and Barkley had, as had McGirt's manager, Al Certo, who told SI's Lester Munson on the eve of the hearing that he would take the Fifth Amendment. "Drugs are the problem, AIDS is the problem," said Certo. "Who gives a——about boxing?"
April 4, 1993
Indeed, the nation's leaders have many other things to worry about. But, clearly, both baseball's antitrust exemption and boxing's lawlessness merit closer scrutiny by Washington.
Back and Forth
Bobby Cremins can be forgiven for deciding to return to Georgia Tech last week, three days after he was introduced as South Carolina's new basketball coach. But consider that if a Division I player transfers to another school—and that's just one change of mind, whereas Cremins had two—he must, under NCAA rules, sit out a season. And unless his previous coach has given him a release, the athlete also has to go a year without a scholarship. Cremins wouldn't have missed a beat at South Carolina, and now he won't miss a beat staying at Tech.
At the NFL's annual meeting last week in Palm Desert, Calif., somebody asked L.A. Raider owner Al Davis about the remarkable resurgence of the Dallas Cowboys. Davis, who fancies himself the fount of football wisdom, correctly noted that soon after the Cowboys were sold in 1989, the team's new owner asked him for advice. "Call [Dallas owner] Jerry Jones and ask him who he copied and who he visited," Davis implored. We did just that, and Jones said, "I'm sending Al a Super Bowl ring—not for his advice but for the trades he gave us."
As Davis may be somewhat less eager to acknowledge, the Cowboys have picked his pocket as well as his brain. Trades with L.A. have given Jones's team its starting fullback, Daryl Johnston (acquired in 1989, through a five-draft-pick swap with the Raiders); starting guard John Gesek (in 1990 for a '91 fifth-round pick); long snapper Dale Hellestrae (in '90 for the '91 seventh-round choice); and backup quarterback Steve Beuerlein (in '91 for the '92 fourth-round pick).
The New York Knicks have had dustups this season with the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns, the three teams most likely to vie with them for the NBA title. The worst melee by far occurred last week in Phoenix, where the Knicks and Suns were involved in a brawl that with the playoffs approaching ought to give NBA officials pause.
The league hit the two teams hard: 21 players were assessed a total of $160,500 in fines and nine games in suspensions; the New York and Phoenix franchises were fined $50,000 and $25,000, respectively, for "losing control" of their players. The Knicks can rightly claim that their actions didn't technically precipitate the fireworks. A cheap shot delivered by Sun guard Kevin Johnson to the head of New York guard Doc Rivers touched off the fighting. But the Knicks' tough-guy reputation is red meat to the team's NBA rivals, who go into games against New York feeling they have to prove their manhood. And, unfortunately, the Knicks' image is the product not only of intense, physical defensive play but also of a lack of control. At Phoenix, for example, guard Greg Anthony, who was on the bench in street clothes recovering from a sprained right ankle, went onto the court and suckerpunched Johnson just as order was being restored.
Maybe the Knicks will be able to ride their intimidating ways to an NBA title. But if the alarm inside New York coach Pat Riley's head hasn't already gone off, it should. The Suns started the fight, but ultimately the Knicks paid more for it. Of the Phoenix players, only Johnson was suspended (two games), while the league sat down two Knicks, Anthony (five games) and Rivers (two games). And New York, after arriving in Phoenix with a nine-game win streak, lost not only to the Suns but also to the Utah Jazz in its next game, a setback in the Knicks' battle with Chicago for the best record in the East and the critical home court edge throughout the conference finals.
Whatever the Knicks' fate, the NBA has a problem. If teams enter the playoffs loaded for bear, as the Suns were against the Knicks and as the Knicks are against just about everybody, look out.
As far as we're concerned, those silly bets and challenges politicians insist on making over sports events are a big bore. And Phoenix mayor Paul Johnson and New York mayor David Dinkins hit a new low with their exchange after the Sun-Knick fracas. Johnson suggested that the two mayors take up where the teams left off by competing against each other in a triathlon of bowling, miniature golf and an egg toss. Dinkins's people responded with a press release expressing relief that "Mayor Johnson has not challenged Mayor Dinkins to a cactus climb, a scorpion toss or a Gila monster hunt."
This after a brawl?
At the NCAA women's basketball regional in Nacogdoches, Texas, a reporter seated at courtside was asked by tournament officials to pour his soft drink, which was in a purple and red Stephen F. Austin State cup, into a container bearing an NCAA logo. At a news conference, Stephen F. Austin coach Gary Blair was asked to do the same with his can of soda. It seems the NCAA doesn't want other entities to get TV exposure at the expense of tournament sponsors.
Meanwhile, Kelvin Davis, a 6'4" center for Chicago's Mather High, executed his "I'm thirsty" routine in the state high school tournament's slam-dunk contest. After putting a soft-drink can—no NCAA requirement here—on the back of the rim, Davis dunked with his right hand, grabbed the rim with his left and the can with his right, made a show of swigging the soda and spiked the can upon landing. Davis was an also-ran in the event, but credit him with being one sly guy. Our sources tell us that he used an empty can and affixed it to the rim with a magnet.
Lions Tale I
A rock band featuring British Columbia Lion quarterback Doug Flutie (right) on drums and his brother Darren, a Lion wide receiver, on guitar debuted last week at a hangout near Boston College, the Fluties' alma mater. The group's name: Catch This.
Lions Tale II
After Frank Pew, who attended every B.C. Lion home game since the franchise was born in 1954, died on March 16 at the age of 94, the team said it would honor him by keeping his seat—section 42, row BB, seat 3—empty when Flutie & Co. take the field for their preseason opener on June 30 against the Edmonton Eskimos. Trouble is, there figure to be some 30,000 empty places in the 60,000-seat B.C. Place Stadium for that game, so who will notice Pew's pew?
They Wrote It
•Jack O'Connell in the Hartford Courant, musing on the Cincinnati Reds' off-season acquisition of a centerfielder from the New York Yankees: "Luckiest guy in baseball is Roberto Kelly [left], going from the Yankees to the Reds while [George] Steinbrenner is coming off the suspended list and [Marge] Schott is going on it."
They Said It
•Jimmy Soto, University of Utah basketball guard, on why he gave up baseball, even though he's better in that sport: "I got bored standing around chewing sunflower seeds."
•Al Maguire, TV college basketball analyst, after making a cogent on-camera comment during last Saturday's Kentucky-Florida State game: "That's why CBS pays me...I hope."