Excesses of Success
As also happened when the Bulls won their NBA titles in 1991 and '92, Chicago was rocked by violence after Sunday night's victory. Because police were out in full force and because the Bulls' big win came on the road, the toll wasn't as bad as it might have been. But it was bad enough: nearly 700 arrests, scattered looting and three deaths that police linked to the so-called celebrations.
Along with sporadic violence in Dallas after the Cowboys won the Super Bowl in January and the destruction in Montreal after the Canadiens' Stanley Cup triumph two weeks ago (SCORECARD, June 21), the Chicago disturbances point to an alarming trend. While wins by their hometown teams make many people feel good about themselves, it is clear that some disenfranchised citizens don't feel so hot; some of the worst violence in Dallas and Chicago occurred in impoverished neighborhoods. But mayhem was also caused by rowdies who have come to view it as expected behavior, a contemporary variation on tearing down the goalpost. As one observer, Northwestern University sociologist Bernard Beck, says, "There's a degree of one-upmanship involved. Unfortunately, what started out as isolated occurrences is becoming routine."
The trade publication Advertising Age editorialized last week that corporate sponsors such as Hanes, McDonald's and Quaker Oats, which now pay Michael Jordan some $30 million a year to endorse their products, should "start rethinking" their relationship with the Chicago Bull star. The publication said that "allegations and acknowledgments of big-time gambling have tarnished (Jordan's] reputation—a big problem in advertising where image is everything." Concludes Advertising Age: "There's a post-Jordan era on the horizon, and savvy marketers should be planning for it."
In his just-published memoir, Days of Grace, Arthur Ashe spoke of having "a sense of kinship" with John McEnroe. McEnroe, wrote Ashe, often seemed to be "struggling with his demons," and the two men had some memorable off-court confrontations, most notably when McEnroe played on four of the five U.S. Davis Cup teams that Ashe captained. Nevertheless, it occurred to Ashe that McEnroe served as "a kind of darker angel to my own tightly restrained spirit" and that McEnroe "was expressing my own rage, my own anger, for me, as I never could express it."
For all that, McEnroe might strike some people as a strange choice to run the Safe Passage Foundation, the organization that Ashe created in 1990 to counsel inner-city youngsters. But before he died in February, Ashe made a request: Upon his death, would McEnroe take over? Assuming that job last week, McEnroe echoed Ashe's talk of kinship. "Arthur and I had a closer relationship than most people thought," he said. "Off the court we got along very well."
Speaking enthusiastically about his latest undertaking, McEnroe says he will bring in top tennis pros to work with some of the 3,160 youngsters who participate in Safe Passage programs in Newark and three other cities. Who knows? Perhaps the new job will help McEnroe harness those demons. Could be that was what Ashe had in mind all along.
Stiff-necked coach Scotty Bowman and stiff-backed superstar Mario Lemieux seldom saw eye to eye, so it was no big surprise that Bowman became the fall guy for the Pittsburgh Penguins' failure to three-peat as Stanley Cup champions this year. After the Penguins were eliminated by the New York Islanders in the Patrick Division finals, Pittsburgh let Bowman twist in the wind and then made him a halfhearted offer, which he declined. Last week Bowman landed on his feet, signing a two-year, $2 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings that makes him the highest-paid coach in NHL history. In his 21 years as coach of the St. Louis Blues. Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres and Penguins, Bowman has won more games, both in the regular season (834) and the playoffs (137), than any other coach, and he has won six Stanley Cup rings. The talent-rich Red Wings, who annually underachieve in the playoffs, hope that number soon will be seven.
To protest the new ban on the use of tobacco in ballparks by minor league baseball players, members of the Phoenix Firebirds of the Triple A Pacific Coast League last week stopped signing autographs and talking to the press. Although this oddly targeted action was greeted by a resounding "so what?" the Firebirds said they had no better way to dramatize their anger over being deprived, in mid-season, of their beloved chaws.
The ban was imposed by major league baseball, but major league players aren't affected by it. That's because they're unionized, while minor league players aren't; any such policy in the big leagues would have to be negotiated with the Major League Players Association. Baseball officials say the ban was imposed to protect health and improve the image of the national pastime.
But what about billboards that advertise tobacco products in big league parks? Baseball higher-ups say that nine parks have outlawed tobacco signs and that others would have done so except that, says one official, "certain clubs don't own the billboards in their stadiums, and in other cases, lengthy contracts have been signed." Even so, with 35-odd tobacco signs still adorning major league stadiums—and generating well over $1 million a year in revenue—there appears to be at least a pinch of hypocrisy in the crackdown on tobacco use by minor leaguers.
The NBC Connection
Chalk up another rehab job for NBC, that renowned halfway house for coaching has-beens and will-be-agains. Mike Fratello, a veteran of seven seasons as coach of the Atlanta Hawks and three seasons as a color commentator on the network's NBA telecasts, was hired last week as the Cleveland Cavaliers' coach. Other coaches who have passed through NBC's revolving door include the New York Knicks' (and formerly the Los Angeles Lakers') Pat Riley, Stanford's (and formerly the San Francisco 49ers') Bill Walsh and the New England Patriots' (and formerly the New York Giants') Bill Parcells. And let's not forget NBA analyst Quinn Buckner, who will make his coaching debut next season with the Dallas Mavericks.
Based on these precedents, former NFL coaches Mike Ditka and Joe Gibbs may be future NFL coaches as well; both recently signed as NBC color guys. Why, even NBC announcer Bob Costas claims he may exchange his microphone for a whistle. After the Fratello announcement. Costas confided, "I'm interviewing next week with the Albany Patroons of the CBA. I'm very hopeful."
His Airness vs. The Great One
It was a true convergence of the stars. Wayne Gretzky led the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup finals. Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to another NBA title. On one golden night, June 9, both were in championship-round action at the same time. The best performers ever in their respective sports playing for all the marbles in overlapping postseasons—It doesn 'tget any better than that, sports fans. Sure, it's apples and oranges (or pucks and roundballs), but here's how Jordan and Gretzky compare.
They Wrote It
•Dan Shaughnessy, in the Boston Globe: "Defensively the Red Sox are a lot like Stonehenge. They are old, they don't move and no one is certain why they are positioned the way they are."
Too Close for Comfort
As a lark, four Los Angeles King players recently took batting practice before a California Angel game at Anaheim Stadium. Afterward, one of them said, "I didn't realize the fences were that far away." Replied Angel pitcher John Farrell, who as of Sunday had allowed a club-high 12 homers: "They're not."
Pat Williams, general manager of the Orlando Magic, the team with the first pick in the June 30 NBA draft, is getting lots of unsolicited advice about which player he should take. The other day he walked by his son Bobby's bedroom and heard one of the boy's friends say in a stage whisper, "Mashburn."
They Said It
•Chris Webber, former Michigan star, relishing the prospect—if he, rather than Jamal Mashburn, is the Magic's pick—of playing alongside Shaquille O'Neal: "I can shoot an air ball and then act like it was a pass when Shaq dunks it."
•Don Baylor, Colorado Rocky manager, after being ejected by umpire Greg Bonin for disputing a strike call, when asked if he bumped Bonin: "If I did, I didn't bump him hard enough, because he was still standing."
25 months separate them
Gretzky is talking retirement
Rookie of the Year
Gretzky's award came in the WHA
Jordan may catch Gretzky
Gretzky 's lead is safe
For Gretzky, four second-team picks
Alltime Scoring Rank
Jordan's climbing fast
It's all relative
Both still have empty fingers
Does the wrong one wear the helmet?
Cheap at any price