She Never Was Barbie
Nancy Kerrigan, America's sweetheart, has, by many accounts, turned into a tart-tongued ice princess. Her mistake? She was caught in the act of being herself.
First, during a long delay before the medal ceremony in Lillehammer, CBS picked up women's figure skating runner-up Kerrigan as she made a snippy remark about gold medalist Oksana Band's uncontrollable weeping. Next Kerrigan skipped the Games' closing ceremonies to fly to Disney World as part of her $2 million endorsement deal with Disney. As she rode on a parade float with her mother, she complained about having to wear her silver medal—the initial reports said she was upset about sitting next to Mickey Mouse but Kerrigan vehemently denied it—which she called "the most corniest thing I've ever done." Finally, in more than one interview Kerrigan bragged that her performance in the Olympic free-skating program had been "flawless" and suggested that the judges had over-marked Baiul.
What happened to our ice queen? Nothing, really. Trouble is, Americans like their heroes and heroines to be one-dimensional. As long as Kerrigan was some sort of skating Barbie doll, smiling beautifully if vacuously in commercials and at press conferences, she was beloved. Once she was away from her carefully orchestrated public appearances leading up to Lillehammer and exhibited, horror of horrors, human imperfections, the same mechanisms that had built Kerrigan up over eight weeks kicked into overdrive to tear her down.
In fact, she has been the same person all along. Kerrigan may have been marketed as a Barbie doll, but she has Boston working-class blood in her veins, a pedigree that fits no one's idea of a charm-school graduate. She is tough and honest. She can be sarcastic and biting and carries a bit of a chip on her shoulder. She is provincial, loyal, determined, ungrateful, graceful and proud, and she comes from a loving family and neighborhood. Deal with it, America. Princesses are for fairy tales. She's one of us.
Our take on last week's award shows: They should have let Frank Sinatra keep talking at the Grammys. And they should have cut off the ESPYs after a minute.
It will be a shame if Fay Vincent's anger at the publishing industry compels him to scrap his book about Major League Baseball. Clearly Vincent, who resigned under pressure as commissioner in September 1992 after three eventful years, would write some things worth reading if he proceeded with his project, the proposal for which is entitled And the Horse They Rode In On: My Tumultuous Years as Baseball Commissioner.
That 39-page proposal,-which was circulated to about a dozen publishers, was leaked to Richard Sandomir of The New York Times last week. Thus, before. Vincent and his co-author, David Kaplan of Newsweek, had even written their book, Times readers discovered that Vincent planned to call Los Angeles Dodger owner Peter O'Malley a "nitwit" and a "bigot," Milwaukee Brewer owner Bud Selig a "small-town schlepper," Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf "dangerous," and New York Yankee primary owner George Steinbrenner "the most hated man in baseball."
That's sexy stuff. But not necessarily unimportant stuff. Any inside look at the game's pooh-bahs would be valuable. Moreover, Vincent had a front-row seat for the Pete Rose show and said in the proposal that Rose did gamble on baseball, something he would discuss in detail in the book. Vincent's proposal also promised to deal with the subject of owner collusion.
At week's end Vincent had not decided whether or not to go ahead with the project. When Sandomir called him and revealed that he had the document, Vincent was enraged and finally said, "Just say I'm not writing it.... This tells me the publishing industry is filled with bad people."
Is Vincent's perspective colored by the difficult times he had with men like O'Malley and Steinbrenner? Absolutely. One source at a publishing house said, "It's as mean-tempered a proposal as I have ever seen." Perhaps. That doesn't mean it's irrelevant or inaccurate.
Eagleson Has Landed
The trademark belligerence of Alan Eagleson has evaporated in the face of a massive racketeering indictment handed down last week in Boston. The 65-page document—the result of a two-year FBI investigation that collected more than 20 years of records from NHL teams and resulted in dozens of NHL players and officials testifying before a grand jury—covers Eagleson's activities from the mid-1970s to early January '92. Over that span he ran a one-man conflict-of-interest operation as agent, promoter and longtime head of the NHL Players Association.
The indictment accuses him of using his various positions to illegally obtain everything from car-wash coupons to airline tickets to Bombay. The charges also include allegations from hockey legend Bobby Orr, who says he realized in 1980 that Eagleson's work as his agent had left him virtually broke, and from Ed Garvey, who, having left his position as NFL Players Association chief, was retained by the NHL players in 1989 to orchestrate a revolt against Eagleson.
The once glib Eagleson isn't talking. But his own statements form the foundation of the criminal charges. Responding to Garvey's 1989 accusations that he had personally profited from the business of the players' union, Eagleson sent letters to active and retired NHL players claiming that he had not profited at their expense—not from Canada Cup promotions, not from insurance brokers' selling policies to the players union, not from risky mortgages made to friends with union funds. Each of the denials was false, federal prosecutors say, and therefore sending the letters to active and retired NHL players all over the U.S. and Canada qualified as mail fraud. Thus Eagleson, a Canadian citizen, can be prosecuted in Boston. At week's end Eagleson, who was contemplating fighting extradition, had not entered a plea.
Long regarded as invulnerable in his native Ontario, Eagleson may find a different reception if he faces these charges before a jury in Boston, where Orr, Eagleson's first client and first alleged victim, is regarded as a civic treasure.
Tale of Two Celtics
Times are tough for Boston Celtic fans. Their once-proud team went 0 for February and at week's end stood 17 games behind the first-place New York Knicks in a division Boston once owned. What are the Beantown faithful to do?
They could take a glance across the Atlantic (Ocean, not Division) at what some other disgruntled Celtic fans are doing. Over the past four years the Celtic Football Club of Glasgow, once the powerhouse of the Scottish soccer league, has degenerated into a perennial loser. In November, fed up with the play and management of their team, 3,000 Celtic supporters banded together to form Celts for Change. The group began boycotting games. Only 9,000 spectators were on hand for a March 1 match against Kilmarnock, a far cry from the once-routine crowds of 45,000.
Last week rebel shareholders helped transfer control of the team from the old-guard owners to a Scot-born Canadian businessman named Fergus McCann, who is expected to inject $27 million into the financially struggling franchise. Says Celts for Change leader Matt McGlone, "We've got what we wanted. It seems that Celtic has a future once again."
Are you listening, Boston?
Beman: The Right Man
When Deane Beman replaced Joe Dey in 1974 as commissioner of what was then called the Tournament Players Division, the PGA Tour had a prize-money total of $8.1 million. Today, the regular, Senior and Nike tours have a combined purse of $103 million, and much of the credit must go to Beman, part visionary, part profiteer and all competitor. His announcement that he will retire at the end of 1995, when his contract expires—sooner if a replacement is found—leaves the game scrambling for a capable successor.
Beman is responsible for the most successful new sports venture in the last decade—the Senior tour. And he recognized early the high demographic attraction of golf to advertisers, devising a TV package that has become the lifeblood of the regular and Senior tours. On the other hand, many players have charged him and his staff with being secretive about the way the Tour manages its finances. He has not found a way to accommodate foreign stars like Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo, who have resisted his rule that a player must enter a minimum of 15 events a year to remain on the Tour. Most personally enervating to Beman was the protracted legal battle stemming from the Tour's attempt in 1990 to ban Ping square-grooved irons. The suit was settled out of court last April, with the clubs, which were never effectively banned, remaining in use.
But even the majority of Beman's critics acknowledge his contributions. Finding a new commissioner with the resourcefulness, business acumen and passion for golf will not be easy.
Same Ol' George
George Steinbrenner likes to say that he has mellowed. Tell that to pitcher Jim Abbott. Last week Steinbrenner began his annual spring training grumble by suggesting that Abbott curtail his "extracurricular" activities because they are interfering with his work on the mound. And what, exactly, has the licentious Abbott been up to?
It seems that Abbott, who was born without a right hand, does a lot of charity work for the Little League Challenger Division, which offers support and advice for handicapped children.
Meanwhile, Gentle George said he was "in no position to judge [Yankee DH] Danny Tartabull," who had drawn criticism for delaying off-season shoulder surgery until Nov. 30, so that he could go on a three-week European vacation.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Mary Lou Retton, America's 1984 Olympic darling, admitted recently that she did not eat Wheaties when her picture appeared on the cereal box.
They Said It
Chairman of World Cup USA 1994, on being left off this year's edition of The Sporting News's list of the 100 most powerful people in sports: "We're organizing the world's single largest sporting event.... Whoever's sitting in the driver's seat ought to be very high up on the list even if he's a jerk."
NBA 1994 Dis Course
It's been an unusually rich year for elbows, insults and other aggravations around the NBA this season, particularly in Chicago. We hereby present for your guilty pleasure a few of the tangled webs that have been woven by the NBA's dis-masters.
•Says that Charles Barkley "kisses the butts" of players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas
•Says he is disappointed that Bull management did not make a trade to give the team an opportunity to win a fourth title
•Criticizes the fans at Chicago Stadium for never booing white guys, and singles out teammate Toni Kukoc (Pip later apologizes)
•Says that Pippen had the guts to dis Barkley only because the Bulls won't face him anymore this season
•Says that Pippen-led Bulls cannot win a championship
•Slaps New York strongman Charles Oakley in the face during a Feb. 27 game in Phoenix
•Boo Pippen after a poor performance in Feb. 28 loss to Cavaliers
•Says that Jerry Krause would kick himself (for not giving Grant a long-term contract) "if his legs weren't so short"
Bull General Manager
•Says that Orlando doesn't need Danny Manning to be a contender
•Writes in his weekly newspaper column that Jerry Krause is a distraction and "never in a good mood" when he accompanies the team on the road
•Rips Jazz management for not doing enough to build a contender
•Makes a plea at the ESPYs for professional athletes to stop rapping
•Calls George Karl of Seattle the league's 'poorest coach"
•Angered that McKinney did not inform him personally that he had been traded to Sacramento, says, "Maybe we should have let Alvin strangle him"
•Says that he traded Polynice because Polynice's stats do not translate into victories
•Attempts to strangle Detroit director of player personnel Billy McKinney before McKinney traded him to Denver