Who's Minding the Net?
Among casual followers of soccer, Tony Meola is considered to be the American goalie, the man who will probably protect the U.S. net during the World Cup. Many observers in the soccer community, however, believe that Meola is not, by a long shot, the best man for the job. They favor either Kasey Keller or Juergen Sommer, neither of whom has spent much time with the U.S. national team. Keller and Sommer made history together last week when they became the first Americans to start at both ends in an English First Division game, Keller for Millwall, Sommer for Luton Town.
The subject of Keller, in particular, is a prickly one for U.S. coach Bora Milutinovic. Last summer, after Keller had concluded an outstanding season for Millwall, Milutinovic did not invite him to join the national team for the U.S. Cup, the Copa America or the CONCACAF Gold Cup, competitions that would have been excellent proving grounds. Keller has, in fact, started only one game for the national team since Milutinovic took over in 1991.
The outspoken Keller may have hurt his chances by clashing with U.S. Soccer Federation officials. Their biggest battle came two years ago, when Keller, then training with the U.S. team, insisted on wearing his own goalie gloves instead of gloves made by Adidas, with which the federation has a contract. Meola, too, has his own endorsement deal with another company, but he had cleared it with federation officials.
While Meola and his backup, Brad Friedel, have been getting lukewarm reviews for their play, both Keller and Sommer have been earning raves in England. Millwall's fans, some of the most rabid and critical in the world, named Keller MVP for the 1992-93 season. "It's ludicrous that a goalie who's good enough to play a hundred games in the English First Division has played only one for the U.S.," says Ridge Mahoney, a writer for Soccer America.
Milutinovic has to submit his 22-man Cup roster by June 3, and the feeling is he will choose three keepers. Meola and Friedel, both of whom have been training and playing full-time with the U.S. team, will likely be two of them. Some observers think that Sommer, who only recently emerged as a topflight international goalie, would be a better third goalie than Keller, who wouldn't take well to a backup role. It would be a shame, however, if Milutinovic fails to put the best man in the most critical position in the world's most important soccer competition.
The Boston Organizing Committee, a group of Beantown business leaders dedicated to bringing the 2008 Summer Olympics to their city, recently released a study that they say shows that Boston will be capable of hosting the Games in 14 years.
Yeah, right, a city with the worst stadium facilities in the country wants to host the world's most logistically challenging athletic competition.
"The vision of the Summer Olympics in Boston at the dawn of the 21st century shimmers in front of us," reads the study.
Yeah, right, like heat waves off the hoods of a few thousand official Olympic vehicles stuck in Hub traffic.
"The summer Olympics in Boston would be like no others," continues the study.
Now, that we agree with.
It's Not Miller Time—I
Until last weekend the media spotlight had no trouble finding Cheryl Miller, the former Southern Cal basketball star who's currently coaching the Women of Troy. But Miller, the 1983 and '84 Final Four MVP who this season guided USC to the regional finals after stepping in for Marianne Stanley last fall, was nowhere to be found at the Women's Basketball Coaches Association convention at the women's Final Four in Richmond. Though she would have been expected to present the Player of the Year award to USC center Lisa Leslie, Miller stayed away, recovering from what she said was a case of walking pneumonia. It's not certain, however, that illness was the whole story.
After taking a job that several other coaches had turned down as a show of support for Stanley, whose contract had not been renewed when she demanded a salary commensurate with that of men's coach George Raveling, Miller has had a bumpy first season on the bench. Some USC players, including Leslie, who dedicated her Player of the Year award to Stanley, remained upset by the firing. According to associate head coach Fred Williams, no coach sent scouting videos to Southern Cal, a common courtesy among college coaches. And reportedly only Leon Barmore, the coach of NCAA runner-up Louisiana Tech, sent a congratulatory note when Miller got the job.
Is Miller also being snubbed because she retains much of the cockiness that turned off some coaches when she was a player? After the Women of Troy lost to Stanford by 30 points in February, Miller announced that Southern Cal "would not lose again." Then, after USC lost to Barmore's Lady Techsters in the Mideast regional final, she said she would have to "wait and see" about going to Richmond to mingle with her colleagues because she had "a lot of yard work to do." Obviously, tact still isn't Miller's strong point.
There are those who see gender inequity in the collective cold shoulder Miller is getting from coaches, including those who are women. Would people be so put off by Miller if she were a man? "Just look at Reggie," said Miller recently, referring to her Indiana Pacer brother, one of the NBA's premier trash talkers. "He's a millionaire for being a jerk."
It's Not Miller Time—II
"Baseball and beer," said Dennis O'Malley, the president of Halo Distributing in San Antonio, a couple of weeks ago as he dangled $1 million of Miller Brewing Company money in front of the local citizenry. "You pretty much can't say one without the other."
The San Antonio city council can. Last week its members voted 10-1 against a proposal to name the city's new baseball park Miller Lite Stadium. Through Halo, its San Antonio distributor, Miller had offered to contribute $1 million to help build the park for the San Antonio Missions (a Class AA franchise in the Texas League affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers) in exchange for having the stadium named after its product. But hundreds of residents called or wrote the council to protest the idea, both because they found it unseemly to name the stadium after an alcoholic beverage and because they objected to naming the park after a company that would contribute only 10% of its cost. The council took the hint. "I've never been in this position before," said O'Malley. "I've got a check for a million bucks, and nobody wants it."
Nothing like having the support of the home fans when times are tough, eh?
The NBA Minnesota Timberwolves were 19-52 at week's end, but that's not the bad news. The bad news is that only 2% of the fans who responded to a recent poll by the St. Paul Pioneer-Press named the Timberwolves as their favorite team.
The NHL Dallas Stars, who moved to Texas from Minnesota last year, drew 5%.
Since the start of the Whitbread Round the World Race in Southampton, England, six months ago, the French maxi yacht La Poste has survived a damaged mizzenmast, pounding gales, two straight weeks of rain and bitter cold in the South Atlantic Ocean, and icebergs off Cape Horn. All that, though, was nothing compared to the crew's Kafkaesque encounter with Uruguay's justice system.
At 4 p.m. last Saturday, La Poste departed Punta del Este on the fifth and penultimate leg of the 32,000-mile Whit-bread with only 11 of her 15 crew members on board. Left behind in a Uruguayan jail as the 85-foot yacht set out on the 5,475-mile journey to Fort Lauderdale were Patrick Deloffe, Yves Kernaleguen, Pascal Lassus and Florent Rupert. The first two had been charged with assault and deprivation of liberty, the second pair with only the latter charge following a bungled burglary, even though they were the intended victims.
On March 20 six of La Poste's crewmen returned to their rented house in Punta del Este, where they discovered a burglar. They subdued the intruder, tied him up and notified the police. For their trouble the six were hauled in by Uruguayan police (two were released a short time later) and charged with assaulting and illegally detaining the alleged burglar.
Police in Maldonado said, "The Uruguayan citizen was charged without imprisonment with the crime of attempted burglary." Why the four Frenchmen were charged and imprisoned is only one of the issues La Poste management and race officials are trying to sort out.
Meanwhile, with four crew members now entering their third week in jail and no date yet set for a court hearing, the most difficult leg of La Poste's voyage may be through the rocky shoals of the enigmatic Uruguayan justice system.
After pleading guilty last week to carrying a concealed handgun in his car, Houston Rocket guard Vernon Maxwell publicly apologized for the incident. Maxwell said he realized that he was a role model and should not be involved in anything illegal. He then said he planned to carry a shotgun in his car, since that is legal.
Ed Zern, the longtime "Exit Laughing" columnist for Field & Stream, died recently at age 83. Zern wrote many books, but he will be best remembered for his 1959 review of a reissue of Lady Chatterley's Lover, the piece, which originally ran in Field & Stream, was reprinted in Hunting and Fishing from A to Zern. Of the D.H. Lawrence novel, Zern wrote:
"This fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of considerable interest to outdoorminded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways of controlling vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper. Unfortunately one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savor these sidelights on the management of a Midland shooting estate, and in this reviewer's opinion this book cannot take the place of J.R. Miller's Practical Gamekeeping."
Publications from The London Times Literary Supplement to Reader's Digest reprinted the review, but Zern always said he was most pleased by "the seven letters from Field & Stream readers asking where they could find a copy of J.R. Miller's Practical Gamekeeping."
Though baseball buffs dissect strategy endlessly, one significant aspect of the major league game has been underanalyzed—the various angry responses a batter can make to being hit by a pitch. Sooner or later this season—probably sooner, considering how many mound-charging incidents have taken place in recent years—a batter will take exception to getting plunked and will seek redress in one of these time-honored ways.
1. Batter, a la Teddy Roosevelt charges the hill.
2. Feeling he needs backup, batter brings along a friend.
3. Batter lollygags on way to first, then suddenly veers for a flank attack.
4. Cut off by pitcher's henchmen, batter tries to juke his way to adversary.
5. Batter stays at home and sends message by air.
6. Batter decides, as Kansas City Royal Brian McRae did last year, that opposing manager is the real culprit.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Several male weightlifters from what used to be East Germany have had breast-reduction surgery because the performance-enhancing drugs they took caused them to grow female-sized breasts.
They Said It
The legendary soccer star, on Switzerland coach Roy Hodgson's edict to his team that it abstain from sex during the World Cup: "Generally, I think normal sex is not a problem."
The Choleric Collector
Perhaps you saw the news that John McEnroe, tennis's eternal bad boy, has opened his own by-appointment-only art gallery in the SoHo section of New York City. We submit that the following works would be a sublime marriage of concept and content in a Johnny Mac gallery.
The Scream (also known as The Cry)
Mac has been known to scream and cry...and that's just during warmups.
Mac frequently blew his top at umpires.
Alexey Von Jawlensky
Mac's personality often changed from set to set.
Mac played the game with an Aeschylean intensity.