The Keenan Affair
Late Sunday night NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced a settlement in the dispute between faithless coach Mike Keenan and his jilted team, the Stanley Cup-champion New York Rangers. Herewith is our tally of the winners and losers.
•Bettman and the NHL: Winners. Bettman brought a speedy end to an ugly struggle, and he kept it in the league offices and out of the courts.
•Bettman and the NHL: Losers. Bettman slapped Keenan with a 60-day suspension for bolting to the St. Louis Blues, for whom he will be both coach and general manager, but ruled that the time be served right away—which means Keenan will be available again on Sept. 24, a week before the regular season opens. This is a bit like suspending a baseball pitcher for three days between starts.
•Keenan: Loser. His $500,000 in fines will most likely be absorbed by the Blues, who signed him to a five-year, $7.5 million deal. But for a coach who preaches togetherness, the damage to his image is incalculable.
•The Rangers: Winners. In a trade intended to compensate New York for the loss of Keenan, the Rangers swapped two well-worn players, left wing Esa Tikkanen, 29, and defenseman Doug Lidster, 33, for 22-year-old center Petr Nedved, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 1990 and a rising star. And by losing Keenan, the Rangers rid themselves of a divisive malcontent. The $25,000 line levied against the team for suing Keenan in violation of an NHL rule meant to discourage such internecine lawsuits is a bargain.
•The Detroit Red Wings: Losers. The club was lined $25,000 for negotiating with Keenan while he was still technically with the Rangers.
•The Blues: Losers. A $250,000 fine and no Nedved is a heavy price to pay for any coach. Also, they enhance their position as the NHL's No. 1 nuisance.
•The Blues: Winners. Keenan will help them competitively—at least until he jumps to his next team.
Terms of Endearment
Though contracts replete with selfish clauses favoring an athlete are nothing new, the one Denver Nugget center Dikembe Mutombo recently tried to palm off on his fiancèe was a real jaw-dropper. The prenuptial agreement that Mutombo reportedly sprang on Michelle Roberts 10 days before their scheduled June 25 wedding stipulated that she bear him a child within two years—and then return to work four months after the birth. Roberts, a Stanford medical student, would also have been required to relinquish claims to spousal or child support if the couple divorced or Mutombo died.
Predictably, the 26-year-old Roberts refused to sign. And just as predictably, Mutombo's agent refused to comment. At any rate, the deal's off and, word is, Roberts is an unrestricted free agent. It's doubtful that Mutombo retains right of first refusal.
Tipping the Cap
After being dumped by the New York Giants six weeks ago, quarterback Phil Simms said, "I'd still be a Giant if the salary cap didn't exist." Who could argue? NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, for one. Last week he said, "It wasn't only the effect of the cap on the Giants that produced the Phil Simms retirement."
It's true that New York couldn't be sure that the 38-year-old Simms would make it through another 16-game season. But it's just as certain he would still be calling signals for the Giants if the owners and players' union had not agreed on a cap, which this season mandates that each team spend no more than $34.6 million on its player payroll. Last year Simms threw for 3,000 yards and led New York to 12 wins. Now two unproven quarterbacks have taken his place, and he's an ESPN commentator.
Having heard Tagliabue repeatedly say that, even with the cap, teams will be able to keep the players they want, Simms finally vented his feelings. "He should be tested for drugs," he told The New York Times last week. "I was not let go because of the salary cap? That's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard."
It's time for Tagliabue and the players' union to admit that the cap can cripple teams—the Giants, for example, have lost seven starters since last season in large part because of caponomics—and to say it will take a couple of years for everyone to adjust to the new NFL. To deny the cap's impact in the waiving of players like Simms and AFC reception leader Reggie Langhorne (by the Indianapolis Colts) is, to quote Simms again, "absurd."
Many visitors bring bottled water to Russia. But last weekend, as the Goodwill Games opened in St. Petersburg, members of the U.S. swim team filled jugs with pool water to take home as souvenirs. The Red Army Pool's filtration system had turned the water Gatorade-green.
Problems began a week before the games, when a pool attendant forgot to bag the charcoal before putting it in the filter. With the water as black as India ink, scuba divers swept silt from the pool bottom while workers dumped in chemicals. Though by Saturday the water had taken on a more palatable avocado tint, the squeamish Swedish swimmers withdrew and flew back to Stockholm.
When the U.S. contingent got its first peek at the pool that night, one trainer asked where the frogs and lily pads were. "I felt like an Easter egg in dye," said U.S. backstroker Barbara Bedford. "I didn't know what color I'd come out."
The scheduled two-day swimming competition was consolidated and held Sunday. But not before the murky water had stained, at least temporarily, the reputation of these games.
The Dallas Mavericks made point guard Jason Kidd the second pick of last month's NBA draft because, as Dallas coach Dick Motta put it, "when the ball is in his hands, he almost never makes a bad decision." But now Kidd's decision-making skills off the basketball court are making the Mavs increasingly nervous.
Kidd, a brilliant passer and ball handler who played two trouble-free years at Cal before turning pro, has had a string of legal difficulties in the past several weeks. First came a misdemeanor reckless-driving charge; he faced a hearing in that case on Wednesday. Then there are two pending lawsuits, one filed by a female student at Cal who alleges Kidd struck her at a party in March, the other by an Oakland woman who is asking for, among other things, $10,000 a month in child support for her seven-month-old son, Jason Kidd Jr. A court determined on May 26 that Kidd is the child's father.
The Mavericks drafted Kidd despite his crowded docket, but he gave them reason to worry again last week when he chose to pass up their four-day minicamp. Kidd said he didn't want to risk injury while he was still unsigned, but given his need to polish his tarnished image and Dallas's offer to provide him with a $36 million insurance policy for the camp, the risk would have been worth taking.
Certainly Motta thought so. "Jason looked me in the eye after the draft and said, 'If I have to crawl on my belly for free to get there, I'll be there,' " Motta says. "I don't want this to affect our relationship, but I'm very upset."
Those are ominous words, especially given the Mavs' recent history with prized rookies. Guard Jim Jackson held out for most of the 1992-93 season and nearly forced Dallas to trade him, and forward Jamal Mashburn clashed with coach Quinn Buckner throughout last season, a feud that hastened Buckner's firing. Although Kidd's first year hasn't even begun, it's easy to envision him going down the same rocky rookie road.
Say It Ain't So
Last summer, residents of Santa Fe, N.Mex., began noticing something strange afoot on Old Pecos Trail, one of the main routes into the city. Shoes—all kinds, shapes and sizes of shoes—started to show up periodically in the middle of the bustling two-lane road, never in pairs, though occasionally in small groups.
In The City Different, as the state capital bills itself, such an oddity was taken in stride. Which is not to say that it wasn't subjected to exhaustive analysis. A frontpage article in the Oct. 10, 1993, edition of the Santa Fe New Mexican asked. "Is it art, litter or just...shoes?" The prevailing opinion in Santa Fe, the third-largest art market in the U.S., seemed to be that the shoes were part of a work of conceptual art in progress.
Well, the piece may finally have been completed. In late June the following ad appeared in the classified section of the New Mexican: "LOST SHOES. Frequently. Vicinity Old Pecos Trail. Please call Joe Jackson, Chicago."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The title sponsor of this month's Chicago Triathlon is Mrs. T's pierogies, the world's largest maker of the calorie-laden stuffed-dough concoctions.
They Said It
Cincinnati Red manager, on Red reliever Rob Dibble: "I tell him something, and it goes in one ear, hits something hard and bounces back out."