The Jordan Affair
Richard Esquinas, the man who claims Michael Jordan lost more than a million dollars to him in golf bets, now suggests that Jordan may have bet on basketball.
In a July meeting with Frederick Lacey, the former federal judge who's heading the NBA's inquiry into Jordan's gambling, Esquinas said he was at Jordan's home in Chicago on March 29, 1992, when he heard Jordan tell someone on the telephone, "So you're saying the line is seven points." Esquinas, who was watching the telecast of an NCAA basketball game with Jordan, says Jordan then turned his back and murmured into the phone for 30 seconds before hanging up. "I can't tell you a bet was placed," Esquinas told the New York Daily News last week. "But [the phone call] created a distinct impression in my mind that Jordan was discussing a betting line."
There were two college and three NBA games that day with morning lines ranging from 6½ to nine points. While there's no proof that Jordan bet on any of them, or that he has ever bet illegally on sports, the mounting accusations should have the NBA more concerned than it seems to be.
From the first reports of Jordan's gambling, the NBA has responded as if it wished the matter would simply go away. Even when Jordan admitted losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on the golf course to Esquinas, the NBA seemed to focus its investigation solely on Esquinas's credibility. It's time the league turned its attention to Jordan's accountability.
Tip of the Cap
In contrast to its foot-dragging in the Jordan case, the NBA acted quickly last week when commissioner David Stern rejected the Portland Trail Blazers' signing of free agent Chris Dudley. The Blazers seemed to be asking the rest of the league to suspend disbelief by signing Dudley to a contract that would pay him only about $790,000 for the 1993-94 season after he had turned down offers of about $3 million a year from his old team, the New Jersey Nets, and, reportedly, from at least two other teams. Under the terms of the seven-year, $11 million agreement, Dudley would have then been free to leave Portland after next season.
The deal was a blatant attempt to circumvent the NBA's salary cap by a franchise that is now $2 million over the limit. The escape clause would allow Dudley to get out of the contract and promptly re-sign with the Blazers for credible numbers, around $2.5 million per year. That's because any team can re-sign its own free agents—Dudley would then be one—for any amount of money, regardless of the cap.
Stern's ruling now must be upheld by a special arbitrator, who will hear the case beginning on Aug. 16. For their part, the Blazers say they still have every intention of signing Dudley. Whether they can find a way to pay him enough is another question.
If the arbitrator rules against Portland—and he should—the NBA could fine the Blazers as much as $1 million and force them to forfeit future draft choices. For such a special deal, a special penalty is in order.
Mike Tyson was reportedly "angry and disappointed" last Friday after an Indiana court of appeals ruled 2-1 to uphold his March 1992 rape conviction. Tyson, who has served 17 months of a six-year prison sentence, would do well to consider his lawyers' role in last week's decision.
The judges addressed several issues of the sort that frequently lead to reversal at the appellate level. In a key ruling they held that the trial judge had acted properly in excluding three defense witnesses. The higher court ruled that Tyson's lawyers, headed by Vincent Fuller, were tardy in their disclosure of the witnesses. Moreover, judges V. Sue Shields and Jonathan Robertson observed in their majority opinion that in three other instances Tyson's attorneys blew his right to appeal questionable rulings by the judge when they failed to take necessary legal steps during the trial.
Further, Tyson's lawyer on the appeal, Alan Dershowitz, who told the three appellate judges at his first appearance before them in March 1992 that he had "never seen a case that had so many winnable issues," proceeded to alienate the court at every turn, arguing his case in the press and on countless talk shows and writing a cover story on the appeal for Penthouse entitled "The Rape of Mike Tyson." Two lawyers close to the case say that they believe two of the appellate judges were offended by Dershowitz's tactics. A third lawyer, Robert Hammerle, who represented Virginia Foster, a former limousine driver who testified in the case, says of Dershowitz, "His whole approach to this has played poorly in the entire legal community in Indiana."
Now Dershowitz is promising further appeals. He has until Aug. 26 to file a petition to take the case to the Indiana Supreme Court. Should the court decide to hear the appeal, Dershowitz will have to convince at least three out of four justices that Tyson deserves a retrial.
Show of Concern
Understandably, pro sports has come to seem a callous place these days (consider Vince Coleman). Thus, it was reassuring last week to hear how the hockey community responded in a time of crisis.
In mid-July, doctors discovered that 14-year-old Simon Fischler, the son of longtime hockey columnist, author and television commentator Stan Fischler, was suffering from cardiomyopathy, a condition that had reduced his heart's function to 10% of normal. He needed a transplant to save his life.
News of Simon's condition spread quickly through the hockey world. More than 40 players, coaches and front-office people, including superstars Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull, wrote or called. Alexei Kasatonov of the expansion Mighty Ducks of Anaheim gave Simon one of his Soviet Olympic team jerseys. New York Ranger coach Mike Keenan, whom the elder Fischler has often criticized, was among the first to visit Simon at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. Gifts poured in from all parts of North America.
Late last Thursday, with Simon about to be admitted to the hospital's intensive-care unit, a donor was found. Doctors performed the transplant early Friday and later that day said that Simon could return home as early as next week. NHL officials are considering setting up a fund to help defray his ongoing medical costs, which may exceed $20,000 a year.
A Way with Words
Former Florida State football coach Bill Peterson, who died last week at age 73, guided the Seminoles to a 62-42-11 record between 1960 and '70. Along the way he helped develop a remarkable roster of future coaches, including current Seminole coach Bobby Bowden, Bill Parcells of the New England Patriots and former Washington Redskin coach Joe Gibbs.
Known for the wide-open offenses he ran, Peterson was equally famous for the wide-open offense he ran against the English language at FSU and later as coach of the Houston Oilers. The Yogi Berra of football, Peterson was renowned for his malapropisms. A few classics:
•Peterson once instructed his players to "pair off in groups of threes"; on another occasion to "line up alphabetically by height"; on still another "to run a little more than full speed out there."
•While preparing his team for a game against favored rival Florida, Peterson invoked the story of David and Goliath. "You gotta practice. David went out there and practiced—slinging those rocks at tin cans and old beer bottles for days."
•After being "indicted" into the state of Florida's sports hall of fame, he said, "They gave me a standing observation."
•Asked before a big game if he thought it would rain, Peterson replied, "What do you think I am, a geologist?"
Of course not. There was never any doubt about Peterson's true calling. As he once put it: "I'm the football coach around here, and don't you remember it."
They Wrote It
•Shav Glick, in the Los Angeles Times, on a statement made by one of the TNT hosts at the recent U.S. Olympic Festival: "What would the late Woody Hayes [right] have thought when Ernie Johnson...said: 'Ohio State is a hotbed of synchronized swimming'?"
Nolan Ryan may be less than welcoming when approached on the mound (page 12), but when it comes to autograph seekers, few star athletes are as accommodating. However, Ryan does impose two conditions on supplicants: 1) form an orderly line and 2) only one autograph per customer, please. In guarding against those who try to sneak back for seconds, Ryan pays no attention to faces. Instead, he looks down at shoes. If he spots repeat footwear, the owner gets the boot.
In the 1988 movie Bull Durham (page 74), a group of minor leaguers sneaks into an empty ballpark and floods the field to force the cancellation of the next afternoon's game and steal a day off. Last week somebody—no one's saying who—got into Alumni Coliseum in Butte, Mont., and left a hose running all night, washing out a Pioneer League game between the Butte Copper Kings and the Idaho Falls Braves scheduled for the following night. The hoser did the two teams no favor, however. To make up for the lost game, they had to play a doubleheader the next day.
They Said It
•John Kruk (right), the Philadelphia Phillies' doughy first baseman, reacting to a prediction by St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Ray Lankford that the Cards would win the National League East because they're in better shape than the Phils: "He probably looked at our media guide and saw a picture of me."