Some may rue the cancellation of 468 games, but we prefer to look on the bright side of the NHL lockout, which was settled last week (page 36). Herewith, 10 reasons it wasn't such a bad thing:
1) It has turned the regular season into something meaningful.
2) NHL Pooh-Bahs finally figured out what to do with pro sports' worst midseason All-Star Game: cancel it.
3) Penguin star Mario Lemieux, who's still recovering from Hodgkins disease, will miss only half a season.
4) Fighting and penalty minutes will almost certainly be down.
5) For the first season in memory, every team media guide was delivered on time.
6) With any luck Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman will be too exhausted to speak or show their faces for months.
7) The entry draft in Winnipeg will be pushed back from June to later in the summer, so anyone attending won't have to bring snowshoes.
8) Fans on hand for any playoff games at Madison Square Garden won't have to endure the smell of Barnum & Bailey's elephants because the circus will be gone by the end of April.
9) There'll be no need to refer to the season using the cumbersome "1994-95."
10) The new last possible day of the Stanley Cup finals, July 1, is Canada Day.
Raising a Point
Here's a question the NBA's Eastern Conference coaches might consider next weekend when they pick the reserves for their All-Star squad: Will New York Knick point guard Derek Harper remain the best player in league history to have never appeared in an All-Star Game? Or should the coaches fill one of the seven remaining spots with Harper, who spent most of his 11-year career with the Dallas Mavericks eclipsed by frequent All-Stars Rolando Blackman and Mark Aguirre?
The case for giving Harper some sort of lifetime achievement recognition is a strong one. He's the only player in league history to increase his scoring average in each of his first eight seasons. And were it not for Harper's steady play this season, in which he has contributed his usual stout defense, timely three-point shooting and inventive playmaking, the up-and-down Knicks would be flat-out flatliners.
As of Monday, Anfernee Hardaway, Joe Dumars, Reggie Miller and Mark Price appeared certain to be the East's top four backcourt vote-getters. Given that both Hardaway and Miller can also play forward, and Kenny Anderson, B.J. Armstrong and Mookie Blaylock have already played in one All-Star Game each and figure to have many more in their futures, we urge the coaches to pick a fifth guard—and to let it be Harper.
Time on Their Side
With action on hold in the NHL, the Ontario Lottery Corporation this year added British soccer to its Pro-Line lottery. Some might frown on what would appear to be government-sponsored gambling, but as the old saying goes, it ain't gambling if you know the outcome.
The scene: Feathers Pub in Toronto. The date: Jan. 2. A British soccer fan, seeking help in doping out his picks, places a call from the pub to his brother in Manchester, England. The brother proceeds to tick off not only the winners of the matches but the scores as well. Why, asks the Toronto brother, was he so sure? "Because," replies the Manchester brother, "those games ended 40 minutes ago." It seems that this year the day after New Year's was a holiday in Great Britain, and several matches were played in the afternoon rather than in the evening, a wrinkle lottery officials failed to account for in setting the cutoff time for submitting picks. Any Canadian punters who caught on had 90 minutes to get in it and win it.
The Toronto brother tipped his drinking buddies to the scam, and together they made a dash for nearby lottery outlets. The group reportedly wound up collecting thousands, with seven bettors taking home $12,000 apiece. Nor were the habituès of Feathers the only ones who cashed in. Pro-Line sold 1,940 tickets, 1,690 of which turned out to be winners, and wound up paying out $783,000 on the soccer games, more than five times the usual total. "It was our mistake," says commission spokesman Don Pister.
Looking for another sure thing? Bet that before its next lottery someone at Pro-Line checks a schedule.
Keeping the Books
If you take his answering machine seriously, John Pease, who was hired on Jan. 12 as defensive line coach of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL, took more than hard feelings with him when he left his former employers, the New Orleans Saints, who fired him late last month. The recorded greeting on his home phone now offers callers copies of Saint playbooks.
Happy Valley Trails
After 33 college underclassmen renounced their remaining eligibility last week to enter April's NFL draft, we were struck by how a hidebound attitude, long prevalent in college football, has diminished over the past decade. Remember when Bernie Kosar left Miami in 1985 with two years of eligibility remaining? Though Kosar had already earned his degree, doing so in 3.27 style, and delivered a national championship to Coral Gables, he was labeled an ingrate by the Miami faithful, and the school declined to retire his number. A year and a half later the Hurricanes' Vinny Testaverde, who indentured himself for four seasons, had his jersey retired—even though he didn't graduate or win a national title.
Contrast those reactions with the way Penn State handled the news that Ki-Jana Carter, who intends to graduate with this year's class, will pass up his senior season. Fans, students, local sportswriters and coach Joe Paterno have all wished Carter the best. It has taken awhile, but the college football world seems finally to have gotten the message: You go to college to get your degree. After that it's O.K. to get on with your life, whether or not that life includes the NFL.
Mr. O'Leary's Cow
As we've said, rarely is heard a discouraging word these days from coaches about juniors who come out early for the NFL draft. Rarely, but not never. "I'll be seeing you Sundays if I go to an NFL game," Georgia Tech assistant George O'Leary told Elliott Fortune, the Yellow Jacket defensive tackle who threw his name into the draft last week. "Same as you, I'll be buying a ticket."
With his decision the 276-pound Fortune is severely testing his surname. Last season he started only four games, was suspended for another and spent time on the scout team. Still, he might have expected at least some moral support from his coach. Instead, O'Leary says, "I wish him well in his pursuit of impossibility. I told him, 'You've done some dumb things, but this is the dumbest.' "
As it usually does when enacting its myriad legislation, the NCAA had good intentions three years ago when it passed a rule barring the third assistant on men's basketball coaching staffs from leaving campus to recruit, and restricting his earnings to $12,000 in salary and $4,000 in basketball-related outside income. The restricted-earnings rule, the reasoning went, would reduce costs, encourage the development of young coaches and restore competitive balance by preventing big schools from outspending smaller ones. As with most NCAA legislation, however, there were unintended consequences. And since Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski left his team on Jan. 6 as a result of complications from back surgery, several of those consequences have coalesced into an absurdity.
The Blue Devils' interim coach is Pete Gaudet, 52, the former headman at Army who came to Durham as Krzyzewski's chief adjutant in 1983. When the restricted-earnings rule was passed, Gaudet was earning about $71,000, most of it from a personal-services contract with his boss that put him in charge of Krzyzewski's basketball camp. But when the rule took effect in August 1992, Duke was faced with a dilemma: Either turn one of its two young, full-time assistants, Tommy Amaker or Mike Brey, into the restricted-earnings coach and plug Gaudet into one of their vacated slots, or make Gaudet the third assistant and therefore ineligible for the windfall from Krzyzewski's camp. Gaudet did not want to become an on-the-road recruiter, and Krzyzewski did not want Gaudet's wise head to be absent from practice, so Duke reluctantly chose the latter option. Gaudet has taken a part-time job teaching phys ed at Duke, while his wife, Maureen, has begun work as a substitute teacher. As of last week, as the Blue Devils remained winless in the ACC, he was making barely $300 a week for doing a $300,000-a-yearjob.
With his boss's blessing, Gaudet sued Krzyzewski, Duke and the NCAA over the new rule, claiming interference with his contract with Krzyzewski. But last week a Durham County superior court judge dismissed that suit. Nonetheless, Gaudet is one of some 275 restricted-earnings assistants currently represented in a class-action suit against the NCAA.
School after school is filling its full-time slots with young assistants because the head coach wants their energy on the recruiting trail. Thus the restricted-earnings rule isn't achieving one of its purposes: providing entry-level coaching opportunities. But Ken Kirkman, Gaudet's lawyer, got little sympathy when he argued that the rule should be overturned because its intent bears little relationship to its actual result. Says Kirkman: "As far as an organization like the NCAA goes, it can do what it wants to."
The celebratory hangover from Nebraska's national title had hardly worn off when Cornhusker football players began appearing in the news pages of the Lincoln papers. Last week receiver Reggie Baul said he would plead guilty to a charge of receiving stolen property in connection with the theft of a wallet in November, and running back Lawrence Phillips entered a not guilty plea to an assault charge stemming from an incident last March. This comes after defensive lineman Christian Peter's no-contest plea last spring to a sexual assault charge, for which he's currently serving an 18-month probation. Meanwhile, defensive back Tyrone Williams is still awaiting trial on felony charges, pending for nearly a year, of firing a gun at an occupied car.
Legal maneuvering, a crowded docket and a change of attorneys have put off Williams's trial. The disposition of Baul's case was delayed in part because he initially pleaded no contest, changed that to not guilty and then changed his plea again. As a result of several continuances granted by a county court, Peter wasn't sentenced until a year after the sexual assault. And in the case of Phillips, a trial date has been set for March 7—again, almost a year after the alleged incident.
It's not surprising that Nebraska coach Tom Osborne didn't suspend any of the four from the Huskers' Orange Bowl appearance. But was there an unstated reason the three unresolved cases weren't disposed of earlier, when Nebraska's football fortunes might have suffered? "I know some people are ready to believe that we give special favors to Nebraska football players," says city prosecutor Norm Langemach, who points out that Phillips was scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 23, the day the Huskers left for Miami, and didn't show up. "But continuances are the bane of the justice system."
And a boon to a team trying to win a national title.
At age 100 the Van Cortlandt Park golf course in the Bronx is the oldest public course in the country, but its most challenging feature has only recently been added. The 203-yard par-3 17th hole now confronts Gotham's golfers with a 20,000-cubic-yard stretch of garbage alongside the fairway. The junk hazard, made up mostly of construction debris illegally dumped by contractors over the past year, has altered the soil chemistry around the hole, killing off 96 trees. American Golf Corp., which runs Van Cortlandt, called the dumping "an error on the part of one of our middle managers" and has promised to restore the "integrity" of the hole. Then again, American Golf also runs the Pelham/Split Rock Golf Course elsewhere in the Bronx. That's where detectives from the city's auto crimes division recently unearthed a 1988 Honda buried near Pelham's 14th hole.
Who says you can't find a parking place in New York?
Lady with a Mast
The all-woman crew of America¬¨¬®‚Äö√¢• drew most of the attention as the defenders series for the America's Cup began last week off San Diego—especially after beating Dennis Conner's Stars and Stripes in one of two races. But a part-woman hull got its share of looks too. "I hope this blonde will turn heads," says Roy Lichtenstein, the 71-year-old Pop Art legend whose mermaid graces the length of the third boat in the series, the PACT95 syndicate's Young America. "She's a colorful, mysterious character who's comfortable and confident in her ocean home."
Alas, Young America was discomforted on Jan. 4, when a small tornado tore through her compound, doing close to $1 million in damage and pockmarking Lichtenstein's masterwork. "She took a sharp poke in the chin," says Kevin Mahaney, who skippered the repaired boat to victory over America¬¨¬®‚Äö√¢• on Sunday. "She may be blemished, but her spirit is unbroken."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
A man in Troy, N.Y., has received a U.S. patent for a table-or wall-mounted mechanical arm designed to give a sports fan watching a game alone on television a high five after an exciting play.
They Said It
ESPN anchor, on notoriously porous Washington Bullet forward Don MacLean, who got into a brawl while defending a girlfriend: "That's the first person he's defended this year."