Greg Norman's Grand Gambit
This is an article from the Nov. 28, 1994 issue
The usually decorous world of golf got a disorienting dose of confrontation last week when Greg Norman bared his Aussie shark teeth. Norman announced plans to start something early next year called the World Golf Tour, a series of eight $3 million tournaments, to be held in the U.S. and at least four other countries. Each event would feature a field of 30 to 40 elite golfers, and the new tour would be backed by television money from those mischief-makers at Fox.
The PGA Tour reacted immediately and defiantly. Commissioner Tim Finchem issued a terse vow to enforce his Tour's strict qualifying rules, including those that can prohibit PGA cardholders from playing in events staged on the same dates as stops on the regular Tour. It all sounded like golf Armageddon—until Friday evening, when Norman and Finchem emerged from a two-hour t‚Äö√†√∂‚Äö√ë¢te-à-t‚Äö√†√∂‚Äö√ë¢te suddenly sounding willing to work together. "I really admire Tim as a person," said Norman. "Deane Beman [the previous PGA Tour commissioner] never would have met with me." For his part, Finchem said that though he doubted the PGA Tour could squeeze in a World Tour schedule as early as next year, there might be a way to accommodate a rival circuit in 1996 if the two chose to work together.
What had happened in those intervening few days? Finchem no doubt realized that the rules with which he could put the kibosh on the World Tour are precisely the features of the PGA Tour that trouble the Federal Trade Commission, which is currently investigating the Tour for possible restraint of trade. Finchem, by nature more of a conciliator than Beman, may be trying to co-opt the competition and in the process persuade the Feds that his organization isn't really the anticompetitive ogre they apparently think it is.
Meanwhile, Norman surely sensed skepticism among his fellow pros toward a global tour. Golfers are by nature a conservative lot, jealous of their reputation for being free from labor-management bickering. They're also wary of a plan that might eventually relegate the PGA Tour to minor league status, put the Tour's $82 million in sponsorship money at risk and turn golf into—horrors!—something like boxing, where stars sell themselves to the highest bidder. Norman must have listened last Friday when Arnold Palmer put his face inches from the Shark's and said, "Greg, slow down."
Golf sorely needs some sort of world tour. This year, for the first time ever, golfers from countries other than the U.S. won all four majors, yet the PGA Tour still has protectionist policies that discriminate against non-Americans like Norman, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Josè María Olazàbal and Nick Price, who are among the game's biggest draws. Golf's best moments have historically come when a Hogan met a Snead or a Palmer met a Nicklaus, yet as the sport stands now, the best players simply don't play one another often enough. Anything that would bring the stars out, whether at Doral or Dornoch, would be welcome.
Accept No Substitutes
According to the college basketball agate in one newspaper we checked last week, Austin Peay beat Croatia 97-63 on Thursday night. Before fans of last season's Ohio Valley Conference also-rans conclude that their Govs are suddenly 34 points better than the silver medalists at the Barcelona Olympics, they might want to scroll down that same agate page, where they would discover that Florida State beat Croatia, too, and Minnesota rolled past the Croatian Nationals—all on the same night. Like the so-called Latvian National Team that lost to Bowling Green last week and the Team Slovakia that took it from mighty St. Joseph's of Indiana, the many Croatias are in fact among the sundry B, junior or club teams that cross the Atlantic to help U.S. colleges tune up for the forthcoming season. The real Croatian Nationals played less than 24 hours earlier in Munich, where they whupped Sweden 88-65 in qualifying for next year's European Championships.
One Wacky Guy
According to The Times of London, French adventurer Guy Delage, who in 1991 flew across the Atlantic in an ultralight aircraft, now has something even more ambitious in mind. He intends to swim the Atlantic. Delage plans to set out from the Cape Verde Islands off western Africa next month, swimming 10 hours a day while towing a lightweight raft. He says he'll eat and sleep on the raft and, if all goes well, reach the Caribbean island of Martinique in 60 to 90 days. Delage says he has trained for two years and is prepared for the demands of the transatlantic crossing. Some skeptics remain, however. "It is ludicrous to think you can swim 10 hours a day, tow a raft behind you, climb aboard and feed yourself across 2,000 miles," says Mike Oram, secretary of the Channel Swimming Association. "I think his brain is waterlogged."
Having just played the 100th game in their storied rivalry, the players, coaches and fans of Ohio's two most celebrated high school football powers, Canton McKinley and Massillon (SI, Nov. 14), had to wait only two weeks for the 101st. The Bulldogs and Tigers met again in Akron on Saturday, in the regional final of the state playoffs, and this time Josh McDaniels seized the moment. You may recall that McDaniels, the Bulldogs' quarterback and placekicker, had missed an extra point wide right in McKinley's 42-41 loss to Massillon on Nov. 5. Ryan Bucchianeri, the Navy kicker who blew a potential winning field goal against Army in 1993, heard of Josh's travails in the aftermath of that game and called on the phone to encourage him.
Recent history seemed to repeat itself on Saturday when, after a McKinley touchdown late in the first quarter, McDaniels's kick again sailed wide right. "It was dèjà vu," McDaniels would say. "I was thinking I might end up feeling the way I did last time." But in the fourth quarter, with his team trailing 20-19, he found Mark Thewes with a 46-yard touchdown pass. Moments later, with McKinley going for a two-point conversion, McDaniels handed off to running back Julius Lancaster, then slipped into the end zone, where he caught Lancaster's pass. McKinley held on to win 27-20 and take a place in the state semifinals—while McDaniels took a place in the McKinley football pantheon.
Ten days after losing his heavyweight championship to 45-year-old George Foreman, 26-year-old Michael Moorer announced that he was retiring from boxing to go into law enforcement. While his decision to quit the ring was hardly a shocker—throughout his 36-bout career, Moorer had seemed ambivalent about the Sweet Science—his choice of a new profession raised some scarred eyebrows. Moorer, after all, once pleaded guilty to slugging a policeman during a brawl. Perhaps he simply figured, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
But hold that badge. Forty-eight hours after retiring, Moorer unretired, saying he had quit rashly, out of frustration over his personal life. According to his manager, Moorer has already signed for a rematch with Foreman. Even by the revolving-door standards of pugilistic pensioneering, this is a dizzying re-entry. Long ago, when Moorer was all of nine years old, Foreman had his own second thoughts after retiring—but at least Big George waited 10 years before reconsidering.
To Ruin a Bruin
Disciplinary proceedings begun last week in Toronto against Alan Eagleson provide a glimpse of what may be the biggest rip-off ever of an athlete by an agent. In a 17-pagc, 44-count bill of particulars, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the governing body of lawyers in Ontario, has charged Eagleson, the player agent and onetime chief of the NHL Players Association, with a variety of wrongdoing, from unauthorized loans of union funds to embezzlement of airline tickets to collusion with NHL owners. But perhaps the most breathtaking of the allegations concerns Eagleson's treatment of his first and most prominent hockey client, Bobby Orr. In 1975, with Orr looking for a new contract toward the close of his 12-year career, Eagleson allegedly "failed to disclose to Orr...an offer from Boston which included an 18.5% ownership" in the Bruins. Orr wound up signing a deal with Chicago; the value of the Boston franchise was recently estimated to be $88 million. Eagleson's lawyer says his client will contest all charges. But if this particular allegation holds up, Eagleson will have cost the former Bruin great more than $16 million.
Martina Navratilova's retirement from singles competition last week should have been a moment of unalloyed tribute. And it might have been, were it not for the ham-handedness of Madison Square Garden in raising to the rafters a banner graced with Navratilova's name, only to remove it as soon as the Virginia Slims Championships ended five days later.
The banner ceremony, dreamed up by the Garden's marketing and promotions staff, was to commemorate Navratilova's career, her 53 singles victories in the Garden and her 167 tournament titles overall, the most by any player, man or woman. Or was it to sell more tickets to the Slims session on Nov. 15 that included her farewell? Either way, the "tribute" merely confused the honoree, provoked distracting controversy and appalled at least one Virginia Slims executive, who disavowed any involvement with it. Buried in pre-event publicity was a minor detail: The banner wouldn't go up and stay up, to hang alongside those honoring former Knicks and Rangers, but would be hoisted only during tennis events. There is just one tennis event at the Garden—the Slims. Worse, nobody saw fit to point out the fine print to Navratilova until the last minute. "It seems like more trouble to put it up and take it down than to just leave it up," said Navratilova, who was reluctant to make an issue of the matter.
Paul Munick, vice president of athletics and family entertainment at the Garden, bridled at criticism of the ceremony and says the decision will stand. "The folks who are up on the ceiling are Knicks and Rangers who have been in this building hundreds of times," he says. "It's their home. With all due respect to Martina, it's not her home." But if she hadn't somehow made the place her home, why was the Garden raising the banner? And once deciding to honor her, why slacken the embrace by doing so halfheartedly?
"Should we have bought her a Rolls-Royce?" asks Munick, who suggests Navratilova was angry because she had lost her last singles match, a first-rounder with Gabriela Sabatini, who went on to beat Lindsay Davenport in the final.
The banner may go up on at least one nontennis occasion. Rock singer Melissa Etheridge, a friend of Navratilova's, will insist that it hang during her concert at the Garden on Dec. 13. Etheridge is also asking her friends in the music business to insist on the same thing when they play the building.
In the Pink
Jim Ryan, a doctor and avid golfer from Columbus, Ohio, had heard the story all his life: How his grandfather Earl Ryan, also a doctor, had helped the great Bobby Jones win a U.S. Open. The year was 1926, and the Open was being played at Scioto Country Club near Columbus. Jones trailed after the first day and, suffering from a severely upset stomach, fell apart on the second, shooting a 79. In agony Jones asked for a doctor. Grandfather Earl, who lived nearby, was called. After a consultation he prescribed Pepto-Bismol, and Jones went on to win the Open by a stroke. In gratitude he gave Dr. Ryan the ball he had holed for the winning birdie.
That memento, which Earl Ryan passed on to Jim, has a companion now. Earlier this year Jim served as first-aid director for the PGA Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club, near Columbus. On the morning of the third day, tournament leader Tom Lehman got in touch with Jim to say his stomach hurt so much he wasn't sure he could continue. Could Dr. Ryan suggest anything?
As a matter of fact, Dr. Ryan could suggest Pepto-Bismol. Relieved of pain, Lehman went on to win the tournament. It was his first PGA Tour victory. In gratitude he gave the doctor a ball.
"I guess I have a story for my grand-kids," says Ryan.
Close Casting Call
During Filming of Cobb, the forthcoming film about the misanthropic Hall of Famer, actor Tommy Lee Jones (left, in picture) came perilously close to experiencing what real-life, latter-day, helmet-wearing big leaguers dread: taking a Roger Clemens fastball in the ear. The script called for a big, tough Philadelphia Athletic pitcher to brush back Jones, who plays the title role, and Clemens was picked for the part. As the cameras rolled at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Jones's helmetless Cobb took two of the Rocket's heaters, then taunted the pitcher before ducking away from a third. The Red Sox star immediately regretted letting that last one go. "I threw it too hard," says Clemens, who found himself thinking of the only major leaguer ever killed by a pitched ball. "For a second there I was afraid we were going to be doing the Ray Chapman story."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
William Usery, the supermediator who's attempting to broker a settlement between baseball's owners and striking players, is being paid a reported $60,000 a month by each side for his services.
They Said It
An Unidentified Waitress
Addressing Brooke Shields and Andre Agassi in a Los Angeles restaurant during the couple's first date together: "Are you ladies enjoying your food?"