A Splitting Headache
Purse splitting, in which prize money is divided equally among two or more competitors according to a prearranged agreement, was common on the PGA Tour 30 years ago, when money was tight and golfers were not Fortune 500 companies unto themselves. Before their U.S. Open playoff in 1962, Arnold Palmer asked Jack Nicklaus if he would like to split the first- and second-place money. Nicklaus said no, and he went out and won the title. This incident, along with rumors of purse splitting by Nicklaus, Palmer and Gary Player at the 1962 World Series of Golf, led the old PGA of America to prohibit the practice. The ban was continued by the PGA Tour when it was formed in 1968 and continues today, with penalties ranging from minor fines (less than $500) to permanent disbarment from tournament play.
Last week PGA commissioner Deane Beman announced an investigation into purse splitting during certain "unofficial events" on the Senior tour. He did not name them, thereby casting a shadow on all five senior events listed as unofficial: the Senior Skins game, the Senior Slam of Golf, the Chrysler Cup, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf and the du Pont Cup. Purses for these events range from $450,000 to $1.15 million.
SI has learned that the investigation centers on the Merrill-Lynch Shootout, a weekly nine-hole contest (not even listed as unofficial) played during tournament practice rounds. Shootout purses range from $5,000 for first to $500 for 10th. Obviously, purse splitting in such a small-stakes event would not qualify as a major scandal.
That doesn't make it right, however. Purse splitting is, at the very least, deceptive, a form of false advertising that, no matter what the stakes, undermines the competitive nature of the game. Beman was correct to enlist outside counsel to investigate the allegations, and, if they prove true, he will be correct to penalize the purse splitters.
The Milwaukee Brewers last week brought in a California motivational group called Radical Reality to "motivate" their players. During a clubhouse presentation, one of the Radicals ripped a phone book in two with his bare hands.
The next day an overly motivated Steve Sparks tried to duplicate the phone-book feat—and dislocated his left shoulder in the process. The rookie righthander, a nonroster player, was scratched from his next scheduled pitching appearance and last Friday was assigned to minor league camp. Said Brewer trainer John Adam, "This is one of the freakiest injuries I've seen—and a bit annoying, because I had to look up a number later."
Covering the Big Man
If you think paying Charlotte Hornet forward Larry Johnson's $84 million contract is tough, try insuring it. Such mega-buck deals have become the rage, and one result has been a shortage of insurance for the contracts of top pro athletes.
Consider deals like Orlando Magic guard Anfernee Hardaway's $45 million over 13 years or San Francisco Giant outfielder Barry Bonds's $43 million over six. Those contracts are guaranteed, which means that the athlete gets the full amount even if he cannot perform on the playing field.
"Insurance companies are worried about their exposure if a high-priced athlete like Reggie Lewis dies suddenly," says Hornet president Spencer Stolpen. "And there are lifestyle concerns, what some call the Magic Johnson syndrome. I even had one company balk at covering a player because his agent would have controlled the proceeds in the event of death, and the insurer worried about the agent having that player killed."
With so much money on the line, teams often must get several insurance companies to share the risk. Even when a team does find insurance, the cost can be staggering. The NBA has a group policy that keeps rates down, but the Hornets, for example, still pay about $2 million a year for athlete insurance. That's 5% of Charlotte's revenues, more than any other franchise expense except salaries.
In baseball, which has no group deal, teams have to go it alone, and, as a result, many clubs insure only select players. The Giants pay more than $350,000 per year to cover Bonds's contract, which forces them to leave many other players uninsured. It's a risk, but one that pro teams will be taking more and more often if they continue signing a few stars to long-term, stratospheric contracts.
A Troubled Soul
Eric Show, the winningest and most paranoid pitcher in San Diego Padre history, died on March 16 at a drug rehabilitation center in Dulzura, Calif. He was 37.
A physics major at UC Riverside who was nicknamed Professor, Show won 101 games during his 11-year major league career, but it is for his offbeat—and frequently off-putting—approach to the game and to life that he will be remembered. Fittingly, it was in the Orwellian year of 1984 that Show first drew national attention, when he pledged allegiance to the John Birch Society and began to recruit teammates. He railed against the United Nations, Social Security, Martin Luther King Jr.... "My critics can't refute me logically," he would say with a small, shrill laugh that never reached his eyes. "They merely have an opinion."
While Show accused presidents from Kennedy to Reagan of leftist leanings, teammates questioned his cavalier attitude toward the game. He routinely showed up late at the ballpark. Pat Dobson, who was San Diego's pitching coach from 1988 to '90, once said Show couldn't pitch well unless the "moons of Remulak were aligned." Indeed, Show, an accomplished jazz guitarist, seemed at peace only while strumming his Gibson.
Show made more enemies than friends during his time in baseball. In 1985 he surrendered Pete Rose's 4,192nd career hit and then sat on the mound with his arms folded as the crowd saluted Rose for having broken Ty Cobb's record. Two years later Show started a bench-clearing brawl by throwing a pitch into the face of Chicago Cub slugger Andre Dawson, who had homered off Show in his previous at bat. Show hid in his hotel room after the beaning and later speculated on how easily a sniper could pick him off from one of the buildings surrounding Wrigley Field.
Show began taking shots at his own team in 1990. Upset by a demotion to the bullpen, he accused Dobson of ignoring him, and everyone else of talking behind his back. At the time Show was 4-8 with a 6.25 ERA. The Padres released him alter the season, and he signed with the Oakland A's. He showed up for spring training 1992 with both hands bandaged. He had cut them on barbed wire, Show explained, while fleeing two assailants outside a convenience store. The A's sent him home.
Show spent the next two years in and out of rehab centers. Last July, San Diego police found him strung out on crystal methadrine and had to subdue him with pepper gas. Show said people were out to kill him and begged the cops to shoot him.
The autopsy report did not give a cause of death, and officials say it will be at least four weeks until they know for sure what killed Show. Whatever the final cause, it was something that had been coming on for a long time. Though Show was estranged from the Padres at the time of his death, the team no doubt had a special place in his troubled heart. "We were a family," he once said. "A dysfunctional family, but a family just the same."
Cremains of the Day
The slogan of Canuck's Sportsman's Memorials, Inc., in Des Moines, is, We can't get you to heaven, but we promise to land you in the happy hunting ground.
Proprietor Jay Knudsen is speaking literally. On several occasions Knudsen has taken cremains of an avid sportsman, loaded them into a shotgun shell, gone to the deceased's favorite hunting spot and fired, "just the way he wanted it done."
Knudsen, who operates Canuck's with his son, Jay Jr., has poured cremains into fishing lures, golf shafts and vulcanized basketballs, and he has even emptied the remains of a prized hunting dog into a hand-carved quail. So far he has created 127 sportsman-oriented receptacles. In this field a question about the most unusual request seems almost irrelevant, but Knudsen has an answer.
"I heard from a group of fishermen," he says. "They had a long-standing bet about which guy would catch the most fish in the first 30 minutes of their trips, and they always used an hourglass to time it. Well, one of them died, and I'm getting an hourglass ready. They'll use the cremains to time their bet." Thus shall the sands of time keep this group together.
Knudsen, 52, has elaborate plans for his own cremains. They will be poured into three decoys (a loon, a duck and a goose), and Jay Jr., 29, will take Dad on several hunting excursions that they have enjoyed in the past. "I know this sounds offbeat," says Jay Sr., "but, really, what is more special? An urn that the family never saw before? Or something, like a decoy, that had a lot of meaning to the person before he died?"
The Morning Sweatshop
It used to be that morning couch potatoes could lie around guilt-free. After wolfing down bacon and eggs, they could recline and watch a few talk shows, an old sitcom, maybe Cagney in a movie classic. Not anymore, not with the proliferation of morning exercise shows, which typically highlight beautiful people getting themselves into distressingly good shape, sometimes at luxurious resorts. It's enough to make you stop calling in sick. Herewith, our look at some of these shows.
Sexy Exercisers in Revealing Outfits
Uses Trendy Madonna Mike
Lots of Muscles
Overly Perky Exercise Leaders
•When Anthony Russell was Miami's assistant director of academic support in the late 1980s and early '90s, his office in the Miami athletic complex was one of the most popular spots on campus for varsity athletes. Members of the baseball, basketball, crew, football, golf, tennis, track and swimming teams would line up to apply for illegal cash payments (an average of $1,700 per player) in Pell Grants, which are supposed to go to needy students (SCORECARD, Aug. 31, 1992). Russell would secure the grants for less-than-impoverished athletes by misrepresenting the financial wherewithal of the athletes and their parents. In return Russell would exact cash payments of $85 to $100 from the athletes, monies that he used to support a $3,000-a-month cocaine habit. Last week Russell, who secured $240,263 in illegal Pells, was sentenced to three years in prison for fraud.
The athletes avoided indictment by entering a pretrial diversion program and repaying the money. But the sad fact remains that a large number of them—85—lined up with their hand out, joking all the while about the "measy oney," the players' code for the easy money.
•Fay Vincent has decided to go ahead with his book, tentatively titled And the Horse They Rode In On: My Tumultuous Years As Baseball Commissioner (SCORECARD, March 14). The book will be published next year by Little, Brown. Vincent was angered when his 39-page proposal, which excoriates some of baseball's owners and team executives, was leaked to the press. It will be interesting to see if the book, to be written with Newsweek's David Kaplan, is as controversial as the proposal.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Technology is now in place that will allow television stations to electronically superimpose their own advertising signs over the stadium signs that would otherwise be visible on the screen.
They Said It
The Utah Jazz guard recently acquired from the 76ers, whose wife is expecting a child in May, on whether the mid-playoff due date was had timing: "Hey, I was with Philadelphia."
ESPN Fitness Pros
Sexy Exercisers in Revealing Outfits
Suggests that rolled-down coveralls and turned-around baseball caps are requisite exercise attire; introduced "cardio-funk" into America's a.m. lexicon.
Wisecracking mesomorphs in tank tops; women lifting in bikinis; muscle porn at its best—or worst.
Overly Perky Exercise Leaders
Infants bounce from Jolly Jumpers as mommies and daddies work out; if the show were any homier, the Waltons would be doing jumping jacks.
Guru Denise Austin has one degree in exercise psychology and 1,000 exercise outfits.
Body by Jake
Jake Steinfeld. the self-proclaimed "trainer to the stars," has started his own 24-hour fitness network, on which he urges you to "work your buttisimo"; the concept of hell is alive.
Bodies in Motion
Former Israeli decathlete Gilad Janklowicz wants you for his personal exercise army—or he'll kick your buttisimo.
Women in provocative fatigues tumbling down hills and power-marching under the whir of battle choppers; this is why Bill Murray enlisted in Stripes.
Overly Perky Exercise Leaders
Leader Cynthia Kereluk sometimes shown on split screen; by the end of the show, you're twice as sick of her.
Uses Trendy Madonna Mike
Muted, surrealistic lighting makes it look like The Bad-Acid-Trip Workout.