Cornerstone of Sport
The world of athletics will take little note of the act of sportsmanship by Cornerstone College soccer coach Joe Veal during the first round of last weekend's Cornerstone College Kickoff Classic held on the campus of the 750-student Baptist liberal arts school in Grand Rapids, Mich. We think it should pay more attention.
After falling behind Olivet Nazarene University of Bourbonnais, Ill., 2-0, Veal's Golden Eagles came back to tie the score 2-2 with 21:27 left in the game. But alter it was announced that the goal was scored by "number 5, Jeremy Johnson," Olivet coach Larry Gary noticed that neither a Jeremy Johnson nor a number 5 appeared on the Cornerstone roster. He pointed out the omission to Veal during a break in play.
Veal realized immediately that he had neglected to include Johnson's name and number when he drew up his roster the night before, and as the game continued, he found the passage in the NCAA rule book that seemed to cover this sort of situation. He asked the referee to stop play and, during a midfield conference that included Cary, said that Johnson would have to be removed, though Cornerstone would not have to play a man short. The referees and Cary agreed. However, Veal kept reading and discovered in the fine print an additional stipulation that any goals scored by a nonlisted player could not stand. So a few minutes later Veal again stopped play and informed the referee that Cornerstone's tying goal had to be disallowed. The ref agreed, and Cornerstone now trailed 2-1. Eventually the game ended in a poetically just 3-3 tie.
In 1990 Colorado beat Missouri 33-31 in football when it scored a touchdown on a fifth down inadvertently given to the Buffaloes In the officials. Many fans thought that Colorado coach Bill McCartney should have given back the touchdown, but McCartney, perhaps amateur sport's most vocal fundamentalist Christian, would have no part of it. For Joe Veal, the choice would've been simple. "You have to play with integrity," he said after last Saturday's game. "If that's what the rules state, then you have to abide by them."
The Masters, perhaps the most important golf tournament in the world, has once again established itself as the most self-important. Last week the pooh-bahs at the Augusta National Golf Club got CBS commentator Gary McCord booted off the Masters, which he'd covered for the last nine years. The lords of Augusta whistled, and the executives at CBS scooped up their bags. And they say the caddie system is dying.
McCord's transgression was treating the Masters as if it were a sporting event, an attitude that doesn't make the cut along the sun-dappled, azalea-adorned links of Augusta. Specifically, McCord got the boot for joking that the greens were so slick that they seemed to have been groomed "with bikini wax" and for describing a piece of bumpy ground as looking "suspiciously like body bags."
Borderline tasteless? Yes. Grounds for dismissal? Hardly. Nonetheless, the CBS caddies tripped over themselves to do the bidding of their masters at the Masters. Economics played a part in the network's compliance, of course. With an evaporating sports schedule, the network could hardly afford to lose a top live event that has been on its schedule since 1956.
Then again, CBS has been bowing and scraping before the Masters for so long that it has become a way of life. In 1966 the network execs established their own parameters for free speech when, at Augusta's behest, they removed commentator Jack Whitaker (whose urbane commentary and sonorous tones would seem to play well at Augusta) because he described a surging gallery as a mob. Sniffed Masters president Clifford Roberts: "We don't have mobs at Augusta."
The McCord affair harks back to Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones's firing of radio announcer Brad Sham two weeks ago. Sham had the temerity to defend his colleague, color commentator Dale Hansen, for daring to ask coach Barry Switzer in public about reports of dissension on the coaching staff. Explained Jones: "We want our broadcasts to be positive." We don't expect the tyrannical Jones to be embarrassed by his actions. But we hope CBS execs are by theirs.
With the Jewish holidays nearing and a baseball strike going on, it seems appropriate to remember the legacy of one of the great Jewish athletes of all time, Hank Greenberg, who, in the middle of a pennant race 60 years ago, staged his own one-man work stoppage for religious reasons. On Sept. 19, 1934, the day his Detroit Tigers were to meet the New York Yankees in a game that would help decide the American League pennant, Greenberg strolled not to Navin Field (later changed to Tiger Stadium) but to a nearby synagogue for Yom Kippur services.
"My father didn't bring up the great philosophical rabbis and sages on holidays," says independent filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who grew up in Detroit. "He'd say, 'I remember when Hank Greenberg didn't play on Yom Kippur.' "
Kempner detailed that and other aspects of Greenberg's Hall of Fame baseball career in The Life and Tunes of I lank Greenberg, a documentary for which Kempner hopes to secure a theatrical release by next summer. Through old interviews with Greenberg (who died eight years ago) and his fans, spliced between on-field and off-field footage, Kempner portrays a man who, 13 years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, showed grace and dignity in the face of a prejudiced America. The 6'4", 215-pound Greenberg, who, as he himself put it, "shook his fist at Hitler" every time he hit a home run, represented a sign of hope for American Jews.
He could also play a little. In 1937 he knocked in 183 runs, the third-best single-season RBI mark and a total that no one has approached in more than 50 years. And the following season Greenberg finished just two home runs short of tying Babe Ruth's then record of 60. Though the military careers of players like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio got more attention, Greenberg was, in fact, the first major league star to enlist, joining the Army Air Forces at the age of 30.
Greenberg rejoined the Tigers on July 1, 1945, following his official discharge. In Detroit's final game of the season, in St. Louis, he shook his fist at the shadow of the Führer when he belted a ninth-inning grand slam to catapult the Tigers into the World Series, where they won for the first time in 10 years. That's a heck of an ending to any movie.
Meat, the Press
The Media Relations Playbook, handed out by the NFL to help its players deal with reporters, is a curious eight-page document that sounds like a cross between a how-to-succeed-in-business pamphlet and an etiquette primer for Forrest Gump. "Many NFL players and athletes in other sports have used the media to develop a positive image in the community," reads one section. "This often leads to important long-term business and career opportunities."
Perhaps some players take that practical advice to heart, but we've got to believe that most of them snickered when they read that they should "Stand up straight...shoulders back, head up.... Smile." If you are sitting down for an interview, the player is advised to "sit up straight and lean forward" because "it conveys interest and enthusiasm." And if you are wearing a sport coat, "leave it unbuttoned for a relaxed appearance."
If you do all these things and remember to smile, "it makes people feel good. It makes them like you. They might not remember your answer, but they will remember you as a pleasant person, someone with whom they might want to do business."
The playbook endorses the ol' end around. When faced with a tough question, the player should either not answer the question at all or not answer it as asked. The playbook elaborates: "You must bridge the gap to the positive message you want to get across. Put the question on your own turf."
Also, in today's world the playbook still feels compelled to advise players that women reporters are in the locker room "in a legitimate professional capacity" and their presence is not to be construed as "a sexual experience." After all, players who harass women reporters are probably hurting their future business chances.
Loss Leaders Win
While sluggers Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas and Matt Williams may be sorry to see the baseball strike end their chances of getting into the record books, two pitchers should be happy to have their runs at ignominy cut short. When the strike began on Aug. 12, Tim Belcher of the Detroit Tigers and Andy Benes of the San Diego Padres were, respectively, five and six games shy of the 20-loss mark, a milestone that hasn't been reached since Brian Kingman (8-20) did it for the Oakland A's in 1980.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Sir Edmund Hillary has lent his name to a line of upscale outdoor wear from Canterbury of New Zealand designed to hold up, as the promotional material trumpets, "whether you're assaulting Mount Everest or out for a weekend trek."
They Said It
Pro golfer, when asked what he thought of Tiger Woods: "I don't know. I've never played there."