This is an article from the June 17, 1996 issue
The announcement of an Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson showdown
thrilled the boxing world...five years ago. That bout, scheduled
for Nov. 8, 1991, and expected to be the richest in the sport's
history, never came off. It was postponed when Tyson suffered a
rib injury and then canceled when he went off to an Indiana
jail. The news last week that Holyfield had once again agreed to
fight Tyson, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas this fall, produced
more of a chill than a thrill.
Holyfield, 33, a two-time heavyweight champion who throughout
his 12-year career has been one of the ring's proudest warriors,
is risking not only his fistic legacy but also his health in a
bout that is no longer anywhere near as compelling as it once
was. Tyson is back, a fact he made fearsomely clear in his March
16 demolition of Frank Bruno, but Holyfield is fading fast. He
retired in 1994 after losing his title on a decision to Michael
Moorer. After that bout doctors diagnosed a cardiac condition
and advised Holyfield never to fight again.
Still he came back the next year, first claiming that he had
been healed by God and then citing further medical exams that
other doctors said showed that he had never had a heart problem.
In his three fights since, he has struggled, most recently
against beefed-up light heavyweight Bobby Czyz on May 10. Though
Holyfield stopped Czyz, he never hurt him and was gasping for
breath from the opening bell.
Holyfield will have to pass a Nevada State Athletic Commission
physical to meet Tyson. But one member of the licensing panel,
Dr. Elias Ghanem, told the New York Post last week that he had
been against allowing Holyfield to fight Riddick Bowe last Nov.
4 (Holyfield was KO'd in the eighth round) and that it would be
"a tragedy" if Holyfield were licensed again in Nevada.
With some $100 million in career earnings, Holyfield is not
putting himself in jeopardy simply for another payday. In fact
he ignored the advice of his longtime promoters at Main Events
and negotiated his own deal for the Tyson fight, accepting Don
King's insulting offer of about half the estimated $30 million
Tyson will get. What Holyfield wants is the same thing he wanted
five years ago: a chance to prove himself against Tyson. But if
he climbs through the ropes again this fall, the only thing he
will prove is his courage. And that has never been in doubt.
FAITH NO MORE
The following notice appeared on monthly bills sent to TCI of
Illinois cable-TV subscribers: "Due to popular demand, starting
June 1, ESPN2 will be on Channel 60 replacing the Faith and
STEP ASIDE, MONICA
Monica Seles is a lot of things, including a superb tennis
player and a top-notch self-promoter, but a great patriot she is
not. So her nomination to the four-member U.S. Olympic women's
team by the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA)--which was supposed
to make its choices partly on the basis of players' past
willingness to represent America in international play--was
inexcusable, as was the related omission of Mary Joe Fernandez.
Seles may be coranked No. 1 in the world, but she's no team
player. According to International Tennis Federation rules, only
those players who in the past have agreed to "make themselves
available" to represent their countries in the Federation Cup,
the women's equivalent of the Davis Cup, may be chosen as
Olympians. Seles met the criterion last October, when she
declared herself available for Fed Cup duty. But when U.S.
captain Billie Jean King asked her to play in Fed Cup
matches--against Spain in Valencia on Nov. 25-26 and against
Austria in Salzburg April 27-28--Seles begged off, citing
injuries. "I was really injured," she said last week before her
surprising loss to Jana Novotna in the quarterfinals of the
French Open. "It's not like I just didn't want to get my butt
down there to those matches." Perhaps not. But the fact remains
that Seles, a native Serbian who became a U.S. citizen in 1994,
has never played a Fed Cup match, not for the former Yugoslavia
and not for her adopted country.
Meanwhile, the ninth-ranked Fernandez, a '92 Olympic gold
medalist in doubles, has also been dogged by injuries in recent
years, but since 1991 she has played every Fed Cup match she has
been asked to play, going 13-7. In April she single-handedly
bailed the U.S. out against Austria, winning both her singles
matches and teaming with Gigi Fernandez in doubles to secure a
3-2 victory. "I'm sad, but I'm not bitter," Mary Joe said of the
Olympic slight. "I think Monica had legitimate injuries." Still,
the feeling among other U.S. players is that Seles had better
show for the next Fed Cup match, against Japan a week after
Wimbledon, or risk losing any credibility she may have left.
It's just about time for Pat Plunkett and his silent partner to
hit the road. Plunkett is one of four men employed year-round by
the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto to watch over and protect the
Stanley Cup. And though Plunkett is not one of the two men who
get to carry the hallowed hardware onto the ice after the last
game of the Stanley Cup finals, he is the one who takes Stanley
on its summer victory tour. "I'm proud to do it," he says. "The
Cup has helped me make friends and go places I otherwise
wouldn't have gone."
During the season the Cup spends much of its time on display at
the Hall, though it's often summoned by NHL teams for
promotional use--and where it goes, so goes Plunkett. That's
also true in the weeks after the finals, when each member of the
winning team is allowed to spend a day with hockey's Holy Grail.
As a result Plunkett, 40, ends up toting Stanley to about three
dozen parties, most of them hosted by players, in the U.S. and
Canada. Plunkett carries the three-foot-tall, 34-pound Cup in a
hard travel case lined with form-fitting foam.
Last summer goalie Chris Terreri of the champion New Jersey
Devils had Stanley (and Pat) flown in by helicopter at sunset to
a seaside country club in Rhode Island; the arrival of the Cup
(and Plunkett) was announced to the accompaniment of fireworks.
Plunkett also brought the Cup to the White House for the Devils'
victory ceremony. He was treated like a vaguely suspicious
dignitary, getting ushered into Bill Clinton's presence with the
team--but only after he and the Cup were X-rayed and sniffed by
Plunkett knows that the next couple of months will be draining,
with long days of travel and constant vigilance to make sure
that the Cup, which has suffered dents and dings while in the
hands of winning team members, isn't damaged or stolen. "When
you get tired or wonder why you're doing it, you just look at
the names etched on the Cup," he says. "It reminds you of the
sacrifice those players made, and it's hard to feel tired or
WELL, THERE THEY GO AGAIN
The Toronto Blue Jays may be a Canadian team, but that hasn't
stopped them from cashing in on advertising opportunities
presented by an election year in the U.S. One new series of
radio commercials promoting the Jays features the presidentially
monikered Joe Carter and Otis Nixon bantering about baseball and
politics. In one yet-to-be-released spot Carter offers this
observation on his teammate's prowess on the base paths: "Mr.
Nixon likes to steal." "Yes," responds Nixon, "but I am not a
A MIXED RECEPTION
It was with conflicting emotions that Bucknell lacrosse coach
Sid Jamieson accepted the national coach of the year award from
the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) last
Saturday. On April 27 Jamieson's Bisons finished their season as
the nation's only undefeated Division I team (12-0) but didn't
receive one of the 12 bids to the NCAA tournament.
The selection committee says it declined to pick Bucknell
because the Bisons' schedule was weak. But one of the teams the
committee did choose was Army, which lost four times during the
regular season, including 14-10 to Bucknell. "Since they ran the
table," says Army coach Jack Emmer, "I thought they deserved to
The NCAA could not have found more remarkable and deserving
tournament participants than Bucknell, a Lewisburg, Pa., school
that offers no athletic scholarships, and Jamieson, who has done
as much for his sport as anyone. Jamieson has coached the Bisons
with distinction for three decades, and he spends countless
hours teaching the game and preaching self-esteem and the value
of education to Native American youths across the country.
Jamieson, a Mohawk, was instrumental in forming the Iroquois
national lacrosse team, which includes players from the U.S. and
Canada. After coaching that team from 1983 to '86, he served as
executive director and took it to the world championships in
Australia in '90, the first time that a squad of Iroquois--the
originators of the sport--had participated in the worlds.
Jamieson said he decided to accept the award only because it was
voted on by his peers in the USILA and not by the NCAA. "But
there's no way this award can take the place of what would have
been a lifetime experience for my players," he says. "Something
is going to be gnawing at these kids for the rest of their lives."
MAINTAINING THE LINK
Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris, famous
for making the Immaculate Reception of 1972, is set to make
another historic pigskin grab. He and fellow Penn State alumnus
Lydell Mitchell, a former Baltimore Colts running back, are
negotiating to buy the Parks Sausage Company, which until it
ceased production in May was the largest minority-owned business
Parks ground its first sausage in 1951 and in '69 became the
first black-owned business in the U.S. to sell stock. But in
recent years it has fallen on hard times. Harris, the owner of
Pittsburgh-based Super Bakery Inc., a national wholesale chain,
saw the chance for a little sausage-and-bun synergy, as well as
an opportunity to save a historic business. "I remember Parks
from when I was a kid," says Harris, who grew up in New Jersey.
"A miracle's not going to happen overnight, but we'll work as
hard as we can to turn the company around."
Harris, who hopes to finalize the deal this week, says he is
committed to keeping the business in Baltimore. That's good news
to 219 displaced workers, who would do well to shout out an
updated version of the company's familiar ad slogan: "More Parks
Number of media credentials requested for Game 2 of the NBA
Finals by nonjournalist Bob Dole, who was granted seven by
league p.r. man and registered Democrat Brian McIntyre.
Complimentary finals tickets given by the NHL to a Denver
retiree named Stanley Cupp.
Right crosses landed by Jennifer Capriati to the left eye of a
Tampa nightclub waitress when the tennis star angrily swung at
her own boyfriend and missed.
Gallons of "disability blue" paint applied to Atlanta streets on
Sunday to mark Olympic marathon course.
5,000 and 2
Fine in dollars and years of probation received by Hall of Famer
Willie McCovey for evading taxes on income earned signing
autographs at memorabilia shows.
Busts of Elvis remaining in Cincinnati Reds' TV booth after
Marge Schott ordered broadcaster Marty Brennaman to remove his
tribute to the King.
America's Greatest Olympians,TBS, June 30, July 1 and 4
Spirit of the Games, HBO, June 18, 23 and 26
Without swallowing these documentaries' implied (and misguided)
premise that the Olympics were once a sanctuary of all things
pure and righteous, one can nevertheless appreciate the films'
celebration of a time when going for the gold did not mean
lining up a Visa endorsement.
We might cringe at an effort that focuses purely on U.S.
Olympians, as the two-hour TBS documentary does, were it not the
work of our celluloid Homer of the Games, Bud Greenspan. His
films have made heroes out of hundreds of otherwise forgotten
athletes from dozens of countries, and his three-hour 100 Years
of Olympic Glory (which is still in TBS's rotation) is an
international celebration. As usual, Greenspan has come up with
a winner. Along with his segments on Bob Beamon's jaw-dropping
29'21/2" long jump in Mexico City in 1968 and hat-wearing Dave
Wottle's last-to-first surge to win the 800 meters in Munich in
'72, Greenspan presents the tale of canoeist Frank Havens.
Frank's father, Bill, an Olympic rowing favorite in '24, skipped
that year's Paris Games to witness the birth of Frank, who 28
years later won a gold in Helsinki and sent a telegram to Bill
that ended, "I'm coming home with the gold medal you should've
HBO's Spirit, produced with the assistance of Black Canyon
Productions, hops haphazardly among eras, but that scarcely
diminishes it. The strength of the one-hour film is in the
herky-jerky, technicolor majesty of the home movies that form
its essence. There is Bob Mathias (photo) long-jumping at a high
school meet a few months before he won the decathlon in London
in 1948. There are Olympic sweethearts Harold Connolly of the
U.S. and Olga Fikotova of Czechoslovakia emerging from their
virtual royal wedding in Prague in '57. And there is the
immortal Paavo Nurmi, by then 55, trotting into the stadium in
Helsinki in '52 bearing the Olympic torch. Spirit is a
Greenspanesque addition to the genre, and that is Olympian
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Until the country's sports minister objected, France's
synchronized swimming team planned an Olympic program that
evoked the Holocaust, featuring goose-stepping swimmers and a
reenactment of the deaths of Jewish women in Nazi concentration
camps, set to music from "Schindler's List."
COURTING A DREAM
It is ironic that the Los Angeles firm that employs attorney
Sonja Henning specializes in employment law, because Henning is
about to make a risky job change. The 5'7" point guard, who
starred on Stanford's 1990 NCAA title team, is giving up her
$70,000-per-year position to take a shot at the eight-team
American Basketball League, the women's pro league that begins
play in October. Henning, 26, who was one of 122 to survive
tryouts at Emory University two weeks ago, awaits the June 19
draft in which she is expected to be among the first half dozen
point guards selected. Her salary will probably be in the
$50,000 range, and she has no guarantee that her firm will take
her back. "But what this league is about," says Henning, "is
Minnesota Twins first baseman, on Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud
Selig, who has occupied baseball's top office on a supposedly
temporary basis for almost four years: "We have to communicate
to Mr. Selig that 'interim' commissioner doesn't mean 'for life.'"