No Icemen Cometh. Who Careth?
Over the holidays there were lots of developments in the strike afflicting the Summer Game (page 34), but the quintessential winter sport remained on ice—in the figurative sense—after almost 100 days. SI's E.M. Swift wonders if anyone in North America gives a fig:
Where are the irate politicians bemoaning the economic hardships brought on by the NHL lockout? Why no teeth-gnashing on C-SPAN over the prospect of the Stanley Cup, the oldest trophy in professional sports, going unawarded? Where is the federal mediator riding into the fray on a white stallion of presidential praise? Correct us if we're mistaken, but isn't there an NHL team representing Washington, D.C.? Doesn't Ottawa, the capital of hockey-mad Canada, boast a club called the Senators? If NHL hockey really were the sport of the 1990s, as it was being billed just months ago, wouldn't someone—anyone—in the U.S. Congress or the Canadian Parliament have expressed outrage that the 1994-95 season has yet to begin?
The contrast to baseball is startling. In hope of breaking the impasse in that sport, President Clinton turned to Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who got the owners and players to agree to hire supermediator Bill Usery. Last week, as everyone from Jimmy Carter to Daniel Patrick Moynihan jockeyed to get involved, you would have thought the strike ranked as an issue with homelessness, Haiti and health reform. None of the interventions, real or threatened, has worked. But at least someone seems to care.
Not so, evidently, about hockey. So far Clinton, who has shown no interest in the sport beyond a phone call last spring to playoff MVP Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers, hasn't given the NHL's labor woes so much as a presidential sigh. Even in Canada, Prime Minister Jean Chrètien has said little on the lockout. "Early on, a couple members of Parliament were making noises about holding hearings and getting involved in the negotiations," says one NHL official. "But that didn't last long. We're far from disappointed about that, by the way."
Unlike baseball, hockey doesn't enjoy a U.S. antitrust exemption, so it's harder for politicians in Washington to bring legislative pressures to bear. Nor has the NHL's absence proved to be an emotional issue for anyone beyond the players and owners—and a few fans, mostly in western Canada. "Life goes on," says Washington Capital general manager David Poile. "In Canada the newspapers and television are covering a lot more junior and minor league hockey games. And in the States it's almost like there's a complete lack of interest. None. That should tell our players and owners that we're not in the same situation as baseball."
Would a mediator, whether from north or south of the border, help? Neither union head Bob Goodenow nor commissioner Gary Bettman believes so, even as the league informed the union last week that it had imposed a Jan. 16 "drop-dead" date to start the season. "We've failed to reach an agreement, but we haven't had a failure to communicate, that's for sure," says Goodenow. "As we've seen in baseball, a federal mediator can bring a lot of publicity to discussions. But he won't necessarily lead to a solution."
A solution to a problem about which, increasingly, nobody seems to care.
Thanks for Sharing
There must have been plenty of mistletoe hanging over the NFL in late December. "Losing like this reminds me of my first kiss: yuck!" said Houston Oiler linebacker Micheal Barrow as his team's 2-14 season wound down. "We were so young we didn't know what we were doing, and we just slobbered all over each other."
Meanwhile Indianapolis Colt defensive tackle Tony Siragusa fairly drooled over Indy fans for their support during a 10-6 win against the Miami Dolphins. "They were definitely the 12th man. If I could, I would give everyone other than the ugly guys a kiss on the lips."
Makes You Wanna
Heave magazine is not a journal devoted to regurgitation. It's the official publication of the International Hurling Society, an organization dedicated to the art, science and sport of throwing things. The current issue includes articles on topics ranging from the origins of the mounted crossbow to the use of armadillos for trapshooting. A feature on cow-tossing advises: "Due to a cow's asymmetrical shape, special considerations during hurling are necessary to avoid a cow spinning off range."
The society itself sprang half-formed from the minds of dentist John Quincy and engineer Richard Clifford, both of Fort Worth. Two years ago, inspired by the Holstein-slinging catapult in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, they began work on a 25-foot trebuchet, a medieval siege weapon. "The problem was, we couldn't find any plans for trebuchets," says Clifford. "They stopped making them around 1350." So they enlisted a team of engineers from the University of Texas. The resulting device can heave a bowling ball 250 yards down the firing range that doubles as Quincy's front yard.
Next year the IHS hopes to unveil what Clifford calls the Big One, the world's largest mechanical hurling machine. One hundred feet tall and anchored by a 10-ton counterweight, it should be powerful enough to propel a Buick more than 200 yards through the air. "I've purchased 80 acres of land adjacent to my property," says Quincy, "just so the Buick will have somewhere to land." He talks of charity events such as Hurling for Hospice, where, for a $20 contribution, a donor could watch an item of choice—a dishwasher, a piano, a 1,000-pound block of Spam—chucked across the skies. "I figure the Big One will be able to throw a 180-pound mime about a third of a mile," he says. "Of course, we'd never actually throw a mime. At least not a live one."
Rescue at Sea
In October, when French sailor Isabelle Autissier made landfall at Cape Town with a 5½-day lead after the first leg of the round-the-world BOC Challenge, race director Mark Schrader called her 1,200-mile advantage over her 17 rivals, all male, "incomprehensible." SI's Amy Nutt details the equally unfathomable events befalling Autissier between South Africa and Sydney during the second leg of yachting's most perilous solo race:
On the night of Dec. 2, in the Indian Ocean six days out of Cape Town, gale-force winds and 12-foot seas were buffeting Autissier's 60-foot sloop, the Ecureuil Poitou Charentes 2, when the boat suddenly rolled onto its side, snapping its 83-foot mast like a matchstick. The 38-year-old Autissier was forced to cut loose the heavy rigging and ripped sails that bound the broken mast to the boat and threatened to damage its hull. "Thirty knots of wind, sea dark, sky crying," she messaged despairingly to shore. "There is almost nothing left on the deck, nothing left of my dream."
Autissier was only half right. Still determined to be the first woman to win a major long-distance yacht race—she was dismasted in the BOC four years ago and finished seventh—the 5'8", 130-pound former marine biologist jury-rigged a new mast from a 30-foot spinnaker boom and attached two tiny headsails. Within 24 hours she was under way again, heading toward the Kerguèlen Islands, 1,100 miles downwind. After 10 more days at sea and three in the Kerguèlens making repairs, Autissier reentered the race, informing BOC officials on Dec. 16, "I'm heading for Sydney as fast as I can."
A dozen days later BOC race officials received two satellite distress signals from Autissier's boat—but no word from her. Some 18 hours after that, on Thursday, an Australian military plane spotted Autissier, about 900 miles southeast of Adelaide, her boat dismasted again and being tossed by 40-foot waves. On New Year's Day she was picked up, ending a search-and-rescue operation characterized by a spokesman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority as surpassingly difficult and ultimately very lucky: "Looking for her was like looking for a pin in the Grand Canyon." Autissier was weary but unharmed, her race finally over but her dream once again deferred.
It's Up to You, Ryan
Having noted that Ryan Minor, a junior forward at Oklahoma who has also been drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, scored 31 points in an 86-84 loss to mighty Arkansas last week, we wanted to learn more about him. From a Sooner media guide we discovered that his hobbies are sleeping and watching TV, that his favorite movie is Major League, that before games he likes to watch MTV and that he considers "the attention" the best thing about being an athlete.
And what's the toughest thing? "Being stereotyped."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
NASCAR plans to develop theme restaurants and new licensed products because, says an official of the stock car racing organization, "we're a sport, obviously, but we're also a lifestyle."
They Said It
Girls' basketball coach at the Catlin Gabel School in Portland, on his team's 115-4 victory over Columbia Christian: "It was a really big win for us. It was a morale booster."