The Old and the New
Embarrassed by the paucity of talent in its previous expansion drafts, in 1991 and '92, the NHL devised a plan to ensure that better players would be available to this year's two new teams, the Florida Panthers of Miami and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (Calif). It didn't work.
While the Panthers and the Ducks may not be as bad as the Ottawa Senators, who last season crawled to a 10-70-4 record in their first year, they probably won't be much better. Aside from a few decent goaltenders, last week's expansion draft yielded the usual NHL flotsam and jetsam.
The Panthers got goalie John Vanbiesbrouck from the Vancouver Canucks. The Ducks picked up the only 20-goal scorer taken in the draft, Terry Yake of the Hartford Whalers, and filled out their roster with such retreads as Anatoli Semenov (taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1992 expansion draft) and Jim Thomson (Minnesota North Stars, '91, and Senators, '92). As an added attraction, enforcer Stu Grimson, a.k.a. the Grim Reaper, will go from Chicago to Anaheim, where he'll no doubt provide wholesome entertainment for fans of the Disney-owned Ducks.
Surveying what Anaheim's $50 million entry fee had bought, general manager Jack Ferreira could only shake his head and say, "Scoring, it's going to be tough some nights." Winning, it will be practically impossible most nights.
The subsequent amateur draft for all NHL clubs was in sharp contrast to the expansion draft. The talent pool was deeper than anyone could remember, and it featured a crop of Canadian-born 18-year-old power forwards in the mold of Boston Bruin star Cam Neely. The No. 1 pick, center Alexandre Daigle, whom the Senators signed almost instantly to a five-year deal worth a reported $12 million, promises to brighten the picture in Ottawa right away, even as he shakes up the league's salary structure.
Fit to Serve
President Clinton's appointment last week of Florence Griffith Joyner and Tom McMillen as cochairs of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports raises the question of whether the 38-year-old council can become more than just a cheerleading agency. Griffith Joyner, a triple gold medal sprinter at the 1988 Olympics, and McMillen, a former Democratic congressman from Maryland who was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic basketball team and went on to play 11 seasons in the NBA, replace Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was appointed in 1990 by President Bush.
While Schwarzenegger, with his box-office clout and Conan-the-Republican swagger, brought visibility and a certain pump-you-up vigor to the office of chairman, his tenure was confined largely to muscle-flexing photo ops. The choice of Flo-Jo, who remains as famous for her fashion-model looks and six-inch fingernails as she does for her Olympic heroics, promises more of the same. McMillen, on the other hand, brings some substance to the job. Yes, he's a former jock, but he is also a Rhodes scholar who served in the House from 1987 to '92. His experience should give him insight into guiding some meaningful legislation through Congress. It's needed.
Though recent studies reveal that more than 40% of American kids between the ages of five and eight are considered to be at some risk of developing cardiovascular disease as adults, schools nationwide face massive cutbacks in funding for athletic and P.E. programs. McMillen has raised the possibility of linking funding for fitness and physical-education programs to the issue of national health-care reform. Last week, speaking at a symposium on kids' fitness in Washington, D.C., he expressed concern that the Clinton-sponsored Goals 2000: Educate America Act. a bill that purports to address every aspect of education, contains not a line about physical education. That's the sort of concern that rarely gets raised in a photo op.
A food fight during the French Open last week cost British golfers Mark Roe and Russell Claydon $150 apiece. The pair were at a pizzeria in Saint Quentin en Yvelines when Claydon, in his best Animal House manner, squeezed lemon juice on Roe, who retaliated by dumping a bowl of pasta on Claydon's head. It was all too much for the golf tournament's chief referee, John Paramor, who fined the players for "behaving like schoolboys in public." Said Roe, "That's the most expensive bowl of pasta I've ever had."
How to measure the stature of Diego Maradona? By the genius he has exhibited on the soccer field? Or by his myriad police-blotter appearances, the lawsuits filed against him, the 15-month suspension from the Italian League following a positive cocaine test and the way in which he squandered not only millions of dollars but the adoration of the soccer-loving world as well?
Untangling the 32-year-old Maradona's legacy became an issue last week when he was cut by Seville, the Spanish League team that signed him to a $4 million deal last summer. In declining to renew the contract, Seville announced that it would withhold $1.1 million still owed under the agreement because of Maradona's "erratic private life." Among other things, the team alleged that the married Maradona—once lauded by Pope John Paul II as "not only a great football player but a good Christian"—had made regular forays into the city's red-light district. He reportedly once hired an entire brothel for the night. Club officials said that if challenged by Maradona in court, they would unveil videos and a 100-page report, with photos, on his activities compiled by detectives hired by the team.
In response, Maradona returned to his native Buenos Aires and said he might retire, though reportedly he already is receiving multimillion-dollar offers from clubs in Japan, England and Italy. While Maradona has threatened retirement before, he seemed serious this time. "I am tired of what surrounds soccer, not of playing it," he said. "With the ball, I will continue being the same as always. Without the other part, the soccer of high-level competition, I'm not going to die."
Eighteen-year-old Sherron Wilkerson, who was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball for 1993, has lately had some less complimentary epithets tossed his way by outraged Hoosier hoops fans—"quitter" being among the nicest. Wilkerson, a 6'4" guard from stale-champion Jeffersonville High School who has signed a letter of intent to play for Bob Knight at Indiana University, scored a team-high 14 points in the first game of the annual Indiana-Kentucky high school all-star series last week in Louisville. Then, miffed at playing just 19 minutes, he turned in his number 1 jersey and refused to play in the second game, held last Saturday in Indianapolis.
"I didn't really want to play in the all-star game in the first place," Wilkerson said. "Mr. Basketball is just a label to me. Honestly, I could care less."
Wilkerson, who was subsequently stripped of his title, further endeared himself to his teammates and his state by declaring that the Indiana all-stars, who lost that first game 107-91, were badly outmatched by the Kentucky players. (Without Mr. Basketball, Indiana won the second game 107-89.) Said a disgusted Jim Hammel, coach of the Indiana team, "That kid had better grow up. When Coach Knight takes him out of a game next year, is he going to come over and put his arm around him and say, We're really sorry about taking you out?"
At the ninth annual Flora-Bama Interstate Mullet Toss, held recently on the Gull Coast beach where Florida meets Alabama, mullets weren't the only fish out of water. As men and women of all ages and abilities lined up to see how far they could fling dead fish (Timbo Parker, 21, of Bay Minette, Ala., won the men's open division with a toss of 163'6"), Dorothy Jones of Houston—a Stanford alumna, an accomplished guitarist and a veterinarian—was placing third in the Miss Mullet contest. A newcomer to the event, Jones was asked whether animal health-care professionals such as herself consider fish tossing to be in good taste.
"Good question," she replied. "I'll have to mull it over."
Ken Killebrew, son of Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew, remembers slugging down his father's homemade root beer as a boy in Oregon. "He made it using dry ice and root extracts all mixed up in a big bowl in the kitchen," says Ken. "I'll never forget how good it tasted." Recently Ken suggested that his pop recreate his pop for the public. The result is Killebrew, an all-natural root beer produced by the Cold Spring Brewing Co. of Cold Spring, Minn. Says Ken of the new brew, which is made from Harmon's "secret recipe": "It's as close as you can get to what my father used to make."
The following poignant advertisement appeared recently in the Midland (Texas) Reporter-Telegram: "Lost: Golfing Husband and Dog—last seen at Ratliff Ranch Golf Links. Reward for Dog."
They Wrote It
•Jim Murray in the Los Angeles Times, on the quality of many of the players chosen in the NFL's college draft: "Everybody is an 'impact' player, whatever that means. History shows us that, for a lot of them, their only impact will be on the driver's seat of a truck."
They Said It
•Ted Giannoulas, who has spent 14 years entertaining baseball fans while costumed as the Chicken, when asked if he ever thought about being enshrined in the Hall of Fame: "They've got a broadcasters' wing and a players' wing. Maybe one day they'll have a chicken wing."