1 Twisting The Knife
Which was more disturbing: the stabbing of Monica Seles during a match on April 30 in Hamburg, Germany, by Günter Parche, a fanatic who wanted Seles out of the way so Steffi Graf could reclaim the No. 1 ranking (which she did on June 7); or the two-year suspended sentence a judge handed down to Parche after a psychiatrist testified the defendant had a "highly abnormal personality" that impeded his ability to reason? "He gets to go back to his life," said Seles, "but I can't because I am still recovering from his attack." She hopes to rejoin the tour in time for the Australian Open on Jan. 17.
2 Mike Takes A Hike
Michael Jordan played the 1992-93 season with his wholesome image in question after golf-and-tell author Richard Esquinas claimed the Chicago Bull star was a compulsive gambler. In his book, Michael & Me: Our Gambling Addiction...My Cry for Help!, Esquinas wrote that Jordan bet heavily on golf and ran up a $1.25 million debt to him in 1991. Jordan called the sum preposterous but admitted owing Esquinas $300,000. Still, Jordan won his seventh straight NBA scoring title and led the Bulls to their third championship in a row. "If he plays two or three more years, I'll be shocked," said Magic Johnson last June. "There's nowhere for him to go but down." The descent was hastened on July 23 when Jordan's father was killed on a North Carolina highway. Fed up with the demands of megastardom, Jordan stunned western civilization by retiring from the NBA on Oct. 6.
3 Raging Bull—
With few exceptions boxing's main events of the past year amounted to a series of low blows absorbed by the sport's punch-drunk faithful. Exhibit A: On Sept. 10, Pernell Whitaker (right) beat the unbeatable Julio Cèsar Chàvez in a welterweight title fight, or that seemed to be the unanimous decision of those watching. But two of the three ring judges—both of whom are fixtures at fights sanctioned by the WBC, an organization synonymous with Don King, Chàvez's promoter—called it even, and the result was a majority draw. Exhibit B: A real tale of the tape will be played out in New York state supreme court on Jan. 10, when Jesse Ferguson is set to testify that Ray Mercer offered him a $100,000 bribe to take a dive in their Feb. 6 bout. (Ferguson won by decision.) The prosecution will produce an audio-enhanced videotape of Mercer allegedly making the offer. After Mercer won a Nov. 19 rematch, billed as The Final Verdict, promoter Bob Arum quipped, "It's the first time in legal history that a defendant has been empowered by the state to beat up the only witness against him."
4 The Life Of Bryan
Bryan Fortay filed a $10 million suit against the University of Miami and its coach Dennis Erickson, claiming his pro football prospects had been damaged because he didn't become the Hurricanes' starting quarterback in 1991 as Erickson had promised, Instead, Erickson handed the starting job to Gino Torretta, who, by sheer dumb luck, won the Heisman Trophy a year later. Fortay transferred to Rutgers, where he also did not win the starting job and, in fact, was on the field for only three plays—as a holder for the kicker—when Miami beat Rutgers 31-17 on Nov. 13.
5 Reins Of Terror
Three months after jockey Julie Krone became the first woman to win a Triple Crown race—the Belmont Stakes on Colonial Affair—she was nearly trampled to death in an Aug. 30 racing mishap at Saratoga. Krone suffered multiple fractures of the right ankle and a cardiac contusion when she was kicked in the chest by a horse. Two of the year's top 3-year-olds, Union City and Preakness winner Prairie Bayou, suffered worse when they broke down in the Preakness and the Belmont, respectively, and were destroyed.
6 Just Glue It
Nike tripped all over itself in a year in which its zillion-dollar spokesman, Michael Jordan, quit the NBA; the eligibility of 37 top high school basketball players was compromised when they accepted free apparel and $100 gift certificates during a Nike-sponsored tournament; and the heel on one of Quincy Watts's custom-made Nikes came unglued midway through the 400-meter final at the World Track and Field Championships. His left heel flapping, Watts, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the 400, finished fourth. Nike's stock took a hit too, falling 45 points on the New York exchange.
7 Et 2, Brute?
In a TV season that inflicted Chevy Chase, Paula Poundstone and the threat of a 24-hour golf channel on the videot public, the worst programming of all appeared on ESPN2, the new Beavis and Butkus network. Ace reporter "Downtown" Julie Brown set the tone of gormlessness when she asked Buffalo Bill quarterback Jim Kelly, "If Joe Namath was Mr. Broadway, are you Mr. Buffalo?"
8 A Big Swing And a Miss
Besides stumbling along in a halfhearted search for a new commissioner to become the figurative head of the game, baseball owners missed a step in their attempt to bolster the slumping image of the national pastime. They knocked the World Series down another notch by creating a second round of playoffs next season; agreed to a risky new network TV contract that ties revenue to the sale of advertising and calls for playoff games to be televised regionally in '94 instead of nationwide: and failed to come up with a revenue-sharing plan that small-market owners say they need in order to survive. Indeed, the on-field fortunes of small-market teams in Pittsburgh and San Diego plummeted as their owners unloaded or did not re-sign high-salaried star players. On top of that, the woeful lack of big league maturity in some of the players became painfully evident when New York Met outfielder Vince Coleman tossed a powerful firecracker near a group of fans outside Dodger Stadium. Among the injured was a two-year-old girl, whose parents later filed suit against Coleman. The woeful lack of big league pitching also became obvious in a 15-14 T-ball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies, otherwise known as Game 4 of the World Series. Speaking of which, Game 3 of the I all Classic was undercut by a Madonna concert across the street from Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium. "So you had your choice," said late-night TV host David Letterman. "You could see the spitting, the groin pulling and the scratching—or you could go to the ball game."
9 Dopes on The Slopes
Ignoring weather advisories and avalanche warnings, seven backcountry skiers set out last February for a weekend trek outside Aspen, Colo. Five of them got lost in a blizzard and nearly perished. They stumbled upon a vacant cabin, and after a search party combed the area for three days, they were rescued. On the day the skiers reappeared, the frost-bitten survivors were media darlings (MIRACLE IN THE MOUNTAINS, screamed the Rocky Mountain News). But a day later the Aspen Daily News was accusing them of exhibiting "the brain capacity of arctic lichen."
10 God Knows
On Jan. 3, in an AFC wildcard playoff, the Houston Oilers blew a 35-3 third-quarter lead to the Buffalo Bills and lost 41-38 on Steve Christie's 32-yard field goal in overtime. "I don't look at it as a choke," said Buffalo quarterback Frank Reich, who passed for four second-half touchdowns in his first start of the season. "I look at it as a miracle from Cod." The greatest comeback in NFL history helped propel the Bills to their third straight Super Bowl, where Buffalo was trounced for a third straight year, this time 52-17, by the Dallas Cowboys. "I don't look at it as a Dallas miracle," said God. "I look at it as a Buffalo choke."
11 Huddling At the Altar
It was embarrassing enough when Diamond Hill High of Fort Worth lost its first three football games by a combined score of 167-0. It got worse when starting quarterback Javier Rodriguez got married, and 17 teammates skipped Game 4 to attend his Friday night bachelor party. After forfeiting the game—only 13 players showed up to take on Glen Rose—Diamond Hill dropped football altogether. Asked that Friday night what he and his team would do with the forfeit victory and no game to play, Glen Rose athletic director Joe Crouch said, "I don't know. We weren't invited to the wedding."
12 Losers Can't Be Choosers
Insulted by the Dallas Mavericks' four-year, $10.8 million offer, first-round draft pick Jim Jackson held out for the first 54 games of the NBA season. The Mavs, who until then had lost all but four games, paid him $3.6 million for the remaining 28. Dallas still finished 11-71, the second-worst record in league history.
13 Nolan Contendere
A pitchman for Advil and Ben-Gay, 46-year-old fireballer Nolan Ryan was a physical marvel, adding hundreds of strikeouts to his alltime total every year. But after he announced on Feb. 11 that the '93 season, his 26th in the major leagues, would be his last, his body gave out. Ryan, who went on the shelf with knee, hip, rib cage and elbow injuries, pitched only 66‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings for the Texas Rangers and struck out 46 to run his career record to 5,714. Unfortunately, the enduring memory of the Whiff King's final season was of the six rights he threw to the noggin of Chicago White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura, who charged the mound after getting hit on the elbow by a Ryan pitch in a game on Aug. 4. Asked if he had any fun this year, Ryan said, "No, not really."
14 Pregnant Pauses
The Houston Oilers docked tackle David Williams a week's pay—$111,111—for missing the Oct. 17 game at New England to witness the birth of his first child. "They ought to suspend him a week, maybe two," said Houston line coach Bob Young. "Everybody wants to be with his wife, but if World War II was going on and you said, "I can't fly. My wife's having a baby,' would we have won the war?" Even though Williams was AWOL, a few good men helped the Oilers vanquish the Patriots 28-14.
15 Possession Obsession
Leon Lett plays defense as if he were auditioning for a pigskin version of Show Boat. It was bad enough in the closing minutes of the Super Bowl when the Dallas Cowboy defensive tackle picked up a fumble at the Dallas 36, dashed downfield and, 12 yards from the end zone, held the ball aloft, brandishing it in preparation for a touchdown celebration. However, the ball was swatted from his grasp at the goal line by Buffalo Bill wideout Don Beebe, who had never stopped chasing him. Lett's touchdown became a touchback, and the fact that the Cowboys led 52-17 at the time probably saved his job. Amazingly, Lett let up a second time, in a Nov. 25 game against the Miami Dolphins, and made a mistake that cost his team a victory—and perhaps home field advantage in the playoffs. After Dallas blocked a Miami field goal attempt, Lett inexplicably dived past retreating teammates to cover the ball, instead of allowing it to roll dead. When he mishandled the ball, Miami regained possession at the Dallas one-yard line. Given a second chance, Pete Stoyanovich kicked the game-winning field goal in a 16-14 upset.
16 We Interrupt This Program
In the inane college football movie The Program, a suicidal quarterback presses his luck by lying in the middle of a highway as cars whiz past. Disney cut the scene after three teenagers were killed in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, and several other teens were badly injured across the nation while i mimicking the stunt. Kids would have been better off imitating Dan Ruettiger, who, in the dopey but inspirational movie Rudy, offered himself as a human tackling dummy for Notre Dame before savoring his moment of glory.
17 Knucklehead Of the Year
As if Jose Canseco didn't look silly enough when a fly ball bounced off his head and over the fence for a home run in Cleveland on May 26, the Texas Ranger outfielder messed up his arm so badly in a relief-pitching stint three days later that he missed the last half of the season. Having worked on his curve and knuckleball, Canseco had been hounding new Texas manager Kevin Kennedy about letting him pitch, and then he nearly ruined both of their careers after the skipper caved in.
18 Losing Its Head
NCAA executive director Dick Schultz resigned in a huff over his alleged role in dozens of improper interest-free loans made by Virginia's booster club to athletes during his tenure (1981-87) as the Cavaliers' athletic director. During his abdication speech on May 11, Schultz, who swore he wasn't aware of the loans, said of his departure, "If you take that as an admission of guilt, you're dead wrong. There have been a lot of cheap shots taken, and I just felt if this was the type of thing that was going to continue every time we had an infractions case, it could come back and create the perception that the NCAA is a screwed-up organization." As one NCAA official said, "He sounded just like Clemson or somebody."
19 Two Duffers Get the Shaft
In a scene that didn't make the remake of The Three Musketeers, three duffers started fencing on the 7th hole of the Sabal Palm Golf Course in Tamarac, Fla. According to police Hugo Torres was on the 6th hole when Howard Policy and John Tennyson played through without asking permission. Incensed by this breach of links etiquette, Torres struck Tennyson on the back with his club. Polley then swung his club at Torres, who parried the blow. The head of Torres's club snapped off, and he stabbed Polley in the neck with the broken shaft. Polley was airlifted to the Broward General Medical Center for immediate surgery. Torres was charged with aggravated assault. One hopes golf is the last sport he takes a stab at.