Yo! Yo! Ma?
Senior writer Richard Hoffer steered clear of mysterious potions before filing this report from the Asian Games in Hiroshima: Ma One, the homeopathic potion its inventor claims increases a runner's speed and endurance, had a small marketing setback during the Asian Games last week. For starters the Chinese women, who had smashed world track records last year but have been largely absent from the world circuit this year, were so slow that critics wondered if they could catch the turtles whose blood is a major ingredient in their training-table tonic. Oh, they won their gold medals, all right, but were well off their world-record times.
Then their coach and Ma One's chief chemist, Ma Junren, sabotaged sales when he explained away the subpar times as a result of "toxico-logical problems" that were possibly linked to appendectomies performed on 11 of his 12 athletes.
Gee, it couldn't have been the caterpillar fungus from his little elixir, could it?
Whatever sales were being made might have ground to a halt on that news. But Ma, who reportedly reaped a fortune on the sale of his formula, quickly put a different spin on the medical events. The toxicological problem, he said, was actually a case of food poisoning that was in no way related to his magic drink. As for the appendectomies, he told one member of the Chinese press that these were performed over the course of a year for preventive reasons. Yet he told another that he organized a mass surgery for his 11 athletes on a single day—"Do you know how much that costs?" Ma said—because their systems had been poisoned. Only Qu Yunxia, world-record holder in the 1,500, ran with a full complement of organs.
This story line played great in Hiroshima and may have even rescued Ma's marketing campaign. But among Chinese officials, who distrust the media-savvy supercoach, another story surfaced, and it had nothing to do with surgery or snake oil. Wei Jizhong, secretary general of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said Ma had been ordered to gear down his training after the record-breaking blitz. Athletes were said to be running the equivalent of 20 marathons a month, sometimes at high altitude, and were thought to be needlessly at risk.
As for any or all of Ma's explanations? Said Wei, "Ma talks too much."
Jury selection may be going slowly, but the commercial blitz generated by the O.J. Simpson case is proceeding apace.
A bronze statue of Simpson, commissioned and marketed with his cooperation, is now available for $3,395. You'll have to act fast to get one of the 20½-inch statues—there will be a one-edition run of only 25,000. Also involved in the project are those two high-profile O.J. pals, Al Cowlings and Robert Kardashian.
Meanwhile, O.J. has a starring role in O.J. Simpson: Minimum Maintenance Witness for Men, a 68-minute video that Simpson filmed in May, a few weeks before he was charged. The video is geared, as its publicity material trumpets, "toward men whose busy schedules don't leave them time for a workout regimen at the gym or health club."
Golf on Another Planet
If you made seven 2s and 14 birdies over 35 holes and lost, you would:
a) call ahead and have the butler hide the razor blades:
b) have somebody caned;
c) be Seve Ballesteros.
Last Friday, in what might have been the greatest golf match ever, Ballesteros played as brilliantly as he had at any time in his life yet lost his match to an inhuman Ernie Els at the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth in Virginia Water, England.
As spectacular as Ballesteros was, Els was even better, making two eagles and 10 birdies. In the morning round Els came to the 452-yard par-4 3rd and thumped his eight-iron into the hole for an eagle. In the afternoon he came to the same hole and bounced his second shot off the flagstick, the ball rolling 12 feet away. Hey, nobody's perfect.
In one unforgettable stretch Ballesteros went birdie, par. birdie and lost ground to Els, who merely went eagle, birdie, birdie. Ballesteros opened the back nine in the morning with birdies on four of five holes and made up no ground. Ballesteros birdied seven par-3s, only to watch Els halve him four of those times. Of the 16,000 fans watching, it's estimated that 8,000 of them went home and quit the game forever.
Incredibly, Ballesteros never led, despite an estimated 66 in the morning. On the final nine holes he birdied every other hole and still couldn't catch Els, who went on to win the championship with victories over Josè María Olazàbal and Colin Montgomerie. When it was over, Ballesteros could only shrug and say. "This Els is impressive."
And so, once again, is Ballesteros. His career was in a coroner's drawer two years ago, but now it's back. He made 13 birdies on Thursday in poleaxing David Frost 8 and 7 and played even better against Els.
Was it his fault somebody matched him against a god?
Last week in Chicago, Darell Garretson, the NBA's chief of officiating, was asked by a Chicago Tribune writer to comment on the controversial call made by Hue Hollins in the waning seconds of Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks. "All I can say is it was a terrible call." said Garretson, who was also working the game.
The call in question was, of course, Scottie Pippen's foul on the Knicks' Hubert Davis with :02.1 left and the Bulls leading 86-85. Pippen did nick Davis's forearm as Davis took a jump shot, but the contact clearly came after the ball was released. Davis's two free throws then gave New York an 87-86 victor)'. The Bulls won Game 6, but the Knicks won Game 7 to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
Garretson's comment was way out of line. First, he accomplished nothing except to besmirch the reputation of a respected veteran official; there must have been a way to suggest that the call was a questionable one without embarrassing a colleague. Then, too, Garretson himself was a zebra of limited talent. His greatest contribution to improving the quality of NBA officiating came when he retired from active duty at the end of last season. He shouldn't be blowing the whistle on anyone.
No-Kick Coach II
It's time for an update on Steve Baca, the first-year football coach at Santa Fe (N.Mex.) High, and his I-won't-kick-the-ball-no-matter-what philosophy (SCORE-CARD, Sept. 26). On Sept. 30, Baca's Demons beat Los Lunas High 12-7 to snap a 37-game losing streak. True to his word, Baca attempted two-point conversions after both Demon touchdowns—and both failed. The no-kick coach must have been sweating a little when Los Lunas, trailing by five, had a first-and-goal at Santa He's three-yard line with 1:07 left, but the Demons held on for their first win since Nov. 16, 1990.
Alas, things have returned to normal in Santa Fe. The following week Baca's Demons lost to Gallup High 35-6 (one TD, failed two-point attempt), and last Friday they succumbed to Albuquerque Cibola High 49-0 (PATs not a factor). Said Baca, "We have a lot of work to do. We hit a lull after the win."
Getting a Let
There appears to be at least some good news out there in Teen Tennis Trauma-land, that province where Mary Pierce. Jennifer Capriati and other woebegone young women have recently dwelt. Three years ago Maggie Cole of Santa Cruz, Calif., then 14, turned pro at the direction of her father and coach, Chris. But over an 18-month pro career that included 16 tournaments. Maggie routinely lost during qualifying. She won a total of $550 in purses, which went to her father, who, during marathon practice sessions, reportedly showered her with obscenities and sometimes threw tennis balls at her hard enough to raise welts.
In 1993, according to Maggie's lawyer, Gordon Salisbury, Chris and Maggie's mother, Marie, split up. With her dad in Hawaii and her tennis career on hold, Maggie enrolled as a junior at Harbor" High in Santa Cruz and began living the life of a normal teenager and looking forward to college. Or so she did until August 1993, when the NCAA turned down a request from San Diego State, one of many universities interested in recruiting her, to restore Maggie's college eligibility. Though she had been reinstated as an amateur by the U.S. Tennis Association and the California Interscholastic Federation, an NCAA eligibility representative ruled that Maggie, "through her father, used her athletic skills to generate approximately $45,000 from a private investor" who had bankrolled her pro career.
In his appeal letter to the NCAA, Salisbury included the opinion of Dr. Cheryl McLaughlin, a psychologist who had worked closely with Maggie, that "it was unsafe for her to even speak her own mind about her tennis future when [her opinions] differed from those of her father."
And on Sept. 29, against all odds, the NCAA came to its senses. The eligibility committee heard Maggie's appeal and absolved her of responsibility for actions the committee ultimately attributed to her father. While she won't be able to play in matches as a freshman at whatever college she chooses, Maggie will be eligible to receive a full scholarship and practice with the team, and all restrictions on competition will be dropped in her sophomore season. Upon hearing the ruling, Maggie screamed with delight and relief.
As it happens, two 14-year-olds, Switzerland's Martina Hingis and Venus Williams of the U.S., recently decided to turn pro (SI, Oct. 17). By becoming pros, they will beat new Women's Tennis Council guidelines, set to take effect on Jan. 1, that will prevent girls from becoming full-time pros before age 18. Maggie Cole doesn't presume to second-guess their decisions. "I can't tell them what to do, only that they should be sure," she says. "And at 14, there's no way you know for sure."
Beginning in 1997 the Orange Bowl will no longer be played in the Orange Bowl. The game will move to Joe Robbie Stadium, largely because the all-powerful bowl alliance wants to stage any potential national-championship game in a venue with luxury boxes and other sponsor-friendly amenities not found in the old stadium. However comfortable the new place will be for the fat cats, it will be hard to match the thrills for the masses that the Orange Bowl has provided in its 60 years of hosting New Year's games. Here are five of the best:
1. 1946: MIAMI 13, HOLY CROSS 6. With the score tied 6-6, Hurricane defensive back Al Hudson intercepted a pass on the final play of the game and ran 89 yards for the game-winning touchdown, arguably the most famous play in Orange Bowl history. The gun sounded as Hudson crossed the Crusaders' 35-yard line.
2. 1965: TEXAS 21, ALABAMA 17. With the Crimson Tide trailing 21-17 in the fourth quarter, Joe Namath, playing with an injured knee, led a late 'Bama charge. But on a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, he was stacked up on a quarterback sneak, and Texas held on.
3. 1969: PENN STATE 15, KANSAS 14. The Jayhawks appeared to have the game won when the Nittany Lions' two-point conversion attempt (following a late touchdown) failed. But Kansas was flagged for having 12 men on the field, and Penn State capitalized on its second chance as halfback Bob Campbell swept across for the decisive two-point conversion.
4. 1984: MIAMI 31, NEBRASKA 30. The Hurricanes led 31-17 before the Cornhuskers battled back to make the score 31-30 with 48 seconds left. A PAT would have tied the game and probably maintained Nebraska's No. 1 ranking, but Husker coach Tom Osborne elected to go for the win. Turner Gill's pass to Jeff Smith was knocked down in the end zone by Ken Calhoun, giving Miami its first national title.
5. 1994: FLORIDA STATE 18, NEBRASKA 16. A 22-yard field goal by freshman Scott Bentley with 21 seconds left gave the Seminoles, who were 17½-point favorites, an 18-16 lead, but the Cornhuskers got a chance to win when an official's decision put one second back on the clock. However, Byron Bennett's 45-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left, handing Osborne another Orange Bowl loss and finally giving Florida State coach Bobby Bowden a national title.
They Said It
Orlando Magic center, when asked if he visited the Parthenon during a recent trip to Greece: "I can't really remember the names of the clubs that we went to."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Former USC running backs Anthony Davis and Charles White will oppose former Notre Dame running backs Allen Pinkett and Vagas Ferguson in the first-ever American Gladiators college edition, to be aired on Nov. 19.
Dance to the Music
Have you ever gotten a three-Excedrin headache from a pounding arena organ? Have you ever been manipulated into an embarrassing, rhythm-impaired frenzy that ends up with you live on the scoreboard's big screen? Well, now you can re-create these delightful experiences in your own home with Jock Rock, a compilation of songs frequently played at sporting events and available-soon on cassette and CD. Herewith our review of the Jock Rock playlist.
Hall of Famer [Hall of Famer]
Definite Starter [Definite Starter]
Utility player only [Utility player only]
Bench warmer [Bench warmer]
1. WE WILL ROCK YOU, Queen. Time to abdicate. [Utility player only]
2. BLITZKRIEG BOP (HEY! Ho! LET'S GO!), Ramones. Hey! Ho! Get it outta here! [Bench warmer]
3. ROCK AND ROLL PART TWO (THE HEY SONG), Gary Glitter. The luster's off, but it's still a keeper. [Definite Starter]
4. MONY, MONY, Tommy James and the Shondells. We'll pay money, money not to hear this anymore. [Bench warmer]
5. SHOTGUN, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars. Bull's-eye! [Hall of Famer]
6. I GOT YOU (I FEEL GOOD), James Brown. The hardest-working song in arena rock. [Hall of Famer]
7. TEQUILA, The Champs. Nice, but too many shots of this leave you feeling queasy. [Definite Starter]
8. DANCE TO THE MUSIC, Sly & the Family Stone. Funk standard never fails to get 'em on their feet. [Hall of Famer]
9. BORN TO BE WILD, Steppenwolf. There's a time to be born and a time to die. [Utility player only]
10. WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU, Romantics. What we like is when this one's over. [Utility player only]
11. SHOUT, Isley Brothers. One word: TO-GA! [Hall of Famer]
12. TAKIN' CARE OF BUSINESS, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. This baby's workin' overtime. [Bench warmer]
13. BANG THE DRUM ALL DAY, Todd Rundgren. Just not in our ears. [Bench warmer]
14. NA NA HEY HEY KISS HIM GOODBYE, Steam. Kiss it goodbye. [Bench warmer]