The World Court
Considering what's going on in the NBA nowadays (page 26), one might think that to commissioner David Stern the term jailed dissident refers to a member of the New York Knicks. Not so. In recent weeks Stern, America's most globally political sports czar, has spent time with two of the world's most famous political dissidents, Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky.
On May 10 Stern was one of 44 members of the official U.S. delegation that traveled to Pretoria for Nelson Mandela's inauguration as the first black president of South Africa. The group included Hillary Rodham Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, Colin Powell and Paul Simon, the senator from Illinois.
Stern's connection to Mandela began last August when a group of NBA players and coaches traveled to South Africa to conduct clinics as part of a goodwill tour of Africa. During the visit Stern's delegation had a private audience with Mandela, then president of the African National Congress. "As far as we could determine, there was literally one basketball for the millions of people in all of Soweto," says Stern. "But Mr. Mandela is a very big sports fan. His first love is boxing. [Mandela was an amateur boxer, and he stayed in shape by shadowboxing during his 27 years in prison.] He made reference time and time again to the power of sport and the impact on his country when South African athletes weren't allowed to compete."
A few weeks earlier, during an April visit to Tel Aviv for the European Final Four, Stern met Sharansky, who had been imprisoned for nine years in the Soviet Union.
"Being around these men, both of whom had given their freedom to stand up for their principles, was something I'll never forget," says Stern. "Mr. Mandela was given an NBA jacket, and he wore it for hours. But even I drew the line at getting him to say, 'I love this game.' "
Out of Bounds
Stern also commented on the immensity of Mandela's task. As if to underscore that point, David Frost of South Africa, a 10-year veteran of the PGA Tour, presented his views about blacks last week in an interview that evoked the worst of Al Campanis and Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder. Asked by Mark McDonald of the Dallas Morning News if he thought the Mandela regime might open the way for the development of black South African golfers, Frost said he didn't think so. "Blacks like the active sports," he said. "Golf's too still for them. They like basketball, soccer. There are games that they play, and there are games that we play."
Frost, 34, who has played on the PGA Tour and lived in the U.S. since 1985 while retaining a South African passport, grew up on a farm in Cape Town, where he went to whites-only schools and played golf at whites-only clubs. He said that as a child he often played with the children of the black farm employees and that his two children in Dallas have black playmates.
But Frost still holds some separatist beliefs. "I don't think it's good to grow up disregarding one race or the other...[but] I don't basically agree with integrated marriages," he said. "I think the races should, you know, stick to themselves. But I don't have any hard feelings toward blacks. I have many black friends."
Frost's comments caused a predictable buzz among the players. Jim Thorpe, the only African-American on the Tour, took strong issue with Frost. "I definitely disagree with his saying that golf is too still for blacks," Thorpe said. "I think blacks can play any sport. I believe whites can play any sport. The whole key is financial. Golf is too expensive for most black kids.
"I also disagree with races sticking to themselves. South Africa is a different place than this country. For young black kids to grow up on a golf course and play golf in a country like that, it might be out of the question. But it's not out of the question in a city like Chicago or New York or Dallas. I believe golf can bring people together."
Though there can be no question that nude surfing goes on in Ocean City, Md. (among other places), the townsfolk in the seaside resort do not care to see the practice memorialized in bronze. And so, Edmond Shumpert, a 51-year-old sculptor from Southern California, has added a pair of trunks to the 13-foot-high surfer that he's casting for Ocean City. "If the pope can do it to Michelangelo," says Shumpert, referring to the drapery that was ordered to be painted over some of the Italian artist's nude frescos in the Sistine Chapel, "I guess Ocean City can do it to me."
Shumpert was commissioned to produce a bronze statue of a surfer, both to recognize the importance of surfing to the southern Maryland community and also to memorialize Mike Chester, a surfer who lost a brave battle to cancer two years ago. Shumpert, working from photographs, produced a surfer that resembles Chester. He also produced a surfer that was buck naked, which the Ocean City community leaders did not discover until Shumpert sent them a picture of the nearly completed work. Shumpert was told: no trunks, no statue.
"I wanted it to be a classical representation," said Shumpert, "but I guess if they have the power, they can make those kinds of demands." So Shumpert sculpted in a pair of wet baggies that go halfway down the thigh.
One wonders the degree to which Shumpert's original conception was rooted in fact.
"Well, nude surfing has been known to happen," said Rick Pairo, the state masters surfing champion and one of the forces behind the project. "I've done it a few times here and there. But it's potentially a little painful, you know, with the different angles you can hit the water and also the wax on the board. Wax is a problem for any kind of body hair."
In expressing his opposition to the project, city councilman Jim Mathias told the Baltimore Sun, "Other than Senior Week, spring break, the end of the summer—I've never seen anybody surfing naked in Ocean City." Dude, that's not all that uncommon.
But Shumpert, a sometime surfer himself, swears that hanging ten naked is the only way to go. "A suit really drags you back when you shoot through a wave," says Shumpert, whose 1933 Plymouth speedster, incidentally, is adorned with a nude statuette of his wife as a hood ornament. "You're a lot more slippery without that suit."
Shumpert promises, though, that his new work, which will be ready for unveiling in three to six months, has its, well, classical elements. "Let's just say you're going to know it's a male surfer," he says.
Dude, we can't wait.
Perhaps a year too late, New Jersey's state athletic association will be taking up the issue of safety in the javelin throw. The state is one of only 16 in which the event is allowed in scholastic meets.
Last week Sarah Miniman, 17, who throws the javelin and discus for Watchung Regional High, was leaving the field at the end of practice when a javelin thrown by a teammate pierced the left side of her head. The eight-foot spear was embedded in the left cheekbone just below the temple; had it hit her half an inch higher, it almost certainly would have killed her. She was taken to the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where surgeons Jeffrey Hammond and Gregory Borah operated on Sarah for two hours to remove the javelin tip, which had penetrated 3½ inches. Incredibly, the only outward sign of her injury will be a barely visible one-inch scar above her left cheek. She did suffer a shattered cheekbone but is in good condition and planned to return to school this week.
On May 10, 1993, Hammond removed a javelin from the neck of Jeremy Campbell, a student at St. Joseph's High School in Metuchen, N.J., struck during practice. Campbell, who also escaped almost certain death by inches when the javelin went through the back of his neck, recovered quickly as well.
When the association's track committee sits down to discuss the safety issue—the use of rubber-tipped javelins is one possible alternative—exhibit number one should be the CAT scan of Sarah's head.
Through last weekend the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers were tied for first place in the National League's Western Division, rekindling memories of legendary Giant-Dodger pennant races that once galvanized New York City. According to one scientist with a baseball bent, there is hope that those days of intracity rivalry arc not gone forever.
In his book Planet Earth, a companion volume to a seven-part PBS series of the same name, Jonathan Weiner describes the gradual movement of large portions of the planet, called crustal plates. One plate in particular, the Pacific Plate, is slowly heading northwest and carrying a piece of the west coast along with it.
Though California is unlikely to sink into the Pacific Ocean, as many people believe, the plate movements will likely cause it to look radically different in the long run. Writes Weiner: "In 15 million years, Los Angeles, if it still exists, will be a suburb of San Francisco. The Giants and Dodgers will again be crosstown rivals."
Level the Field
Two weeks ago, after losing their opening game by a score of 19-0 to a team of all-stars from the independent Northern League, the Silver Bullets, the much-ballyhooed all-women's baseball team, announced that they would play no more games against male professionals. Senior editor Sandra Bailey assesses the significance of the Silver Bullets.
"At this time, I feel that we cannot compete at their level," said Phil Niekro, the Silver Bullets' manager. At this time? At what time have women been expected to compete even-up with men? Send Gail Devers and Carl Lewis out of the starting blocks at the same moment, and Lewis will win the 100 meters every time. Ann Meyers fails her tryout with the NBA Pacers from here to eternity. Take away Bobby Riggs's 26-year age disadvantage, and Billie Jean King never has a chance.
So what? Gender equity isn't an arm-wrestling contest or an advertising gimmick, even though that's how the Silver Bullets came about. They were born when Leo Kiely II, president of Coors Brewing Co., asked for a new advertising scheme. The man he asked, the aptly named promoter Bob Hope, once helped fill Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium for a Brave game by getting owner Ted Turner to ride an ostrich that pushed a baseball down the third base line with his nose. This time, he came up with another knee-slapper: girls against boys. It didn't work.
But the Silver Bullets may yet make a positive pitch, because the women on the team are serious about their baseball, if the idea behind their club is not. There is Julie Croteau, who in 1988 sued to win the right to play on the Osbourn Park (Va.) High School baseball team. There is pitcher Gina Satriano, the daughter of former Red Sox and Angel catcher Tom Satriano, who 20 years ago was the first girl to play Little League in California. There is Lisa Martinez, whose underhand pitching style was formidable enough to strike out Darius Gash, who played in the San Diego Padres' farm system last year.
And there are others whose stories we might just get to know and whose names we might just remember with something other than a smirk if there are no more fiascos like Opening Day. Don't put these women on the same field with Oil Can Boyd and Leon Durham, two of the ex-major leaguers who helped beat the Bullets in the first game. Put them on the field against their peers—if 24 Silver Bullets can be found, so can 48. Indeed, there is talk of an all-women's hardball league.
Meanwhile, Coors's Silver Bullet show will go on, playing male teams like the semipro Red Mountain Bandits in places like Tempe, Ariz. And the team's backers, like Ted Turner's ostrich, keep their heads buried in the sand.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
John Schireck, who owns the Outpost Sports Center in San Ramon, Calif., is selling limited-edition baseballs, each bearing not only the signature of a famous player but also his thumbprint...for $475.
They Said It
The San Francisco Giant pitcher, after being roughed up by the Colorado Rockies, on which pitch was giving him the most trouble: "The one that was coming out of my hand."
HBO Pictures announced last week that it will film the life story of Mike Tyson. The cable network is already undertaking a cross-country search to find an actor who has, according to the press release, the "muscle, attitude, and acting ability to portray Tyson." (Acting ability?) We don't want HBO to work that hard and hereby suggest the following actors for the key roles.
Snoop Doggy Dog
The rapper would need a body double-who wouldn't?—but he has the rage.
Ideal for Tyson's cerebral, tenderhearted late manager.
He's balding. He's rounding. He's perfect!
Would provide manic energy of Tyson's former trainer.
Jimmie Dy-no-mite! Walker
Career needs a boost, and talent requirements for role are minimal.
Jimmie Dy-no-mite! Walker
Mitch (Blood) Green
Jimmie Dy-no-mite! Walker
He'll have to bulk up, but he can do it.
James Earl Jones
The Shakespearean turned pitchman might as well put on a fright wig and sell out all the way.
Who knows more about living with troubled celebs than the Nasty Girl?
Oh, delicious irony!
He played the combative, egomaniacal attorney in Reversal of Fortune.