SCHOOLING MR. BRYANT
Kobe Bryant, the Lower Merion, Pa., phenom who has chosen to
bypass college for an NBA career, will probably be a
middle-to-late first-round choice in Wednesday's NBA draft (page
58), so his economic future seems secure. Still, we find it
admirable that Bryant intends to pursue his undergraduate degree
through the Internet. It's true--in cyberspace it is possible to
earn credits toward a B.A. from an accredited college and never
lay eyes upon a professor. As SMU student Brett Shoulders wrote
in a class project, titled "College Degrees Earned Via the
Internet" and posted online, "You could take tests in your own
bedroom, right out of bed, unshowered, unshaved and clad only in
your boxer shorts!" (Like some college students don't go to
class looking like that?)
Since young Bryant is busy fielding endorsement offers (he has
already signed with Adidas) and probably hasn't had time to
fully explore this college thing, we've done some surfing for
him and netted a few possibilities. Because La Salle does not
offer Internet courses, Bryant can't experience the virtual
campus of the Philadelphia school at which his father, Joe,
served until recently as an assistant coach and at which Kobe
would most likely have matriculated had he not jumped to the
NBA. But if he wants to be a major-college player, academically
speaking, he can pick from dozens of other schools. In the SEC,
Bryant might like Florida, which offers 47 online courses. In
the Pac-10, Washington (40 courses) is an option, while his Big
Ten choices include Wisconsin (12) and Iowa (four).
Our suggestion to Bryant, though, is this: Stay out of the
virtual spotlight and sign on at the least-known school we could
find in our Internet search, Front Range Community College of
Westminster, Colo. Bryant could choose from Front Range's 23
cybercourses, such as U.S. history, technical writing and
pathophysiology, which sounds like something he might need after
a few go-arounds with Michael Jordan and Anfernee Hardaway. He
should keep in mind, though, that unless he is taken by the
Denver Nuggets in the June 26 draft, he will be considered an
out-of-stater and will have to pay $243.75 per credit instead of
the $53.50 paid by Colorado residents.
"With the salary he'll be making, the nonresident cost probably
won't be a problem," says Dominic Macaya, a Front Range career
counselor. Macaya thoughtfully provided his Internet address:
FR--Dominic@cccs.cccoes.edu. "E-mail me, Kobe," he says, "and
we'll have a dialogue."
Sometime during the 16-day mission that was scheduled to begin
on Thursday, the seven-member crew of the space shuttle Columbia
plans to re-create Bobby Orr's famous flying-through-the-air
goal during the 1970 Stanley Cup finals. The goal helped the
Boston Bruins win Game 4 to complete a sweep of the St. Louis
Blues. The role of the gravity-defying Orr will be played by
astronaut Robert Thirsk, a Calgary native and longtime hockey
fan who came up with the idea for the reenactment as a tribute
to Orr. Thirsk contacted the Hall of Fame defenseman, who agreed
to loan the astronaut his championship ring, which Thirsk will
wear during the mission, as well as a blood-stained Orr jersey,
which Thirsk will don for the cosmic reenactment.
If all goes well, by the way, the astronauts will complete 256
orbits, as well as the one Orr-bit.
Under pressure from baseball's executive council, Marge Schott
has relinquished day-to-day control of the Cincinnati Reds
through 1998, and good riddance. Schott, who owns 43% of the
Reds, will still inhabit her office at Riverfront Stadium, will
still cast her lonely eyes on games from her private skybox and,
if her past is any sort of prologue, will still make news with
small-minded, divisive statements. But at least Schott won't be
empowered to hire or fire employees and won't speak on behalf of
the Reds to the public or at league meetings.
No one is happier about that than Cincinnati's eight limited
partners, each of whom owns between 6% and 13% of the Reds.
Several have expressed contempt for Schott--in 1991, four of
them took her to court over distribution of club profits, a suit
that was settled out of court--and all have been embarrassed by
her string of insensitive and racist public utterances. "It's a
positive step for the franchise," minority owner George Strike
told the Cincinnati Post last week. Adds another limited
partner, William Reik, "Mercifully, the focus can now shift to
where it should have been all along--the Cincinnati Reds ball
But even as Schott's fellow owners exult in her departure, some
are unnerved by the power that the 12-member baseball executive
council, which is chaired by acting commissioner Bud Selig and
includes both league presidents and nine other owners, is
exercising over the Reds. Selig has pledged that National League
president Leonard Coleman will monitor Schott's hand-picked
interim successor, team controller John Allen, on a daily basis
to make sure Schott doesn't meddle in team business, and he also
has pledged that in 60 days he, Coleman and Schott will settle
on a permanent CEO to run the Reds. One unnamed Cincinnati
partner is reportedly threatening to sue baseball if the
minority owners are not given more control.
The American Civil Liberties Union has broader concerns, about
the taking of someone's job for inappropriate statements. "In
this case it seemed easy because of the nature of the things she
said," says Ira Glasser, the ACLU's executive director, "but
suppose an owner campaigns for, say, same-sex marriages or
relaxed immigration laws, and other owners don't like that?"
But Schott's case is extreme, and there is no doubt her actions
were not in "the best interest of the game," which the council
is obliged to protect under baseball's Major League Agreement.
Schott has embarrassed her sport and her team with a pattern of
appalling behavior, ranging from her comment that she would
"rather have a trained monkey work for me than a nigger," to a
reference to one of her players as "my million-dollar
nigger"--comments primarily responsible for her being suspended
by baseball for one year in '93--and her assessment last month
that "Hitler was all right in the beginning." Yes, baseball's
governors must be careful when exercising their power to limit
owners' public opinions. But this one was a no-brainer.
WITH FANS LIKE THESE...
After admitting his role in the killing of four show horses so
their owners could collect $570,000 in insurance money, trainer
Barney Ward, 56, was sentenced last week in U.S. district court
in Chicago to 33 months in jail. However, he got the start of
the sentence deferred until Sept. 16 because he wants to watch
his son, McLain, compete for the U.S. show-jumping team at the
McLain goes into Sunday's final round of the U.S trials tied for
the fourth and last spot on the team. Even if McLain qualifies,
his father would likely have to overcome objections by the
American Horse Show Association, which has barred him from being
present at any of its events, including the trials. If he does
get close, we hope he gets kicked.
HOPEFUL SIGNS IN THE NCAA
Last week NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey removed his
shoes and socks and dipped his toes into treacherous waters. He
suggested at a meeting of college athletic directors that the
NCAA might consider compensating student-athletes, either by
making low-interest or no-interest loans available to them, or
by allowing the athletes to accept money from a trust fund that
would be tied to their share of endorsement monies.
A related topic of conversation--and consternation--at the
meeting was the June 3 admission by All-America basketball
player Marcus Camby of Massachusetts that he had taken thousands
of dollars in gifts from agent Wesley Spears before and during
the 1995-96 season. Camby would almost certainly have been
stripped of his remaining year of eligibility had he not already
decided to enter next week's NBA draft. Calls for change by the
NCAA invariably follow some sort of embarrassing revelation, and
the news that the national player of the year, respected as a
straight shooter on and off the court, broke the rules is just
such a revelation.
Even while university sports programs generate millions of
dollars, the NCAA's antiquated rules have created a class of
athletes, made up largely of those from poorer families, who
don't have enough walking-around money to buy an off-campus
hamburger. It's an encouraging sign that Dempsey is at least
prepared to face that inequity. Though he backed off the
trust-fund idea--wisely, since it would serve only
superstars--Dempsey, in an interview with SI last week, pledged
to continue exploring ways to erase the dichotomy that exists in
many cases between rich schools and poor athletes. A couple of
possibilities are increasing scholarships to cover all
incidentals (the athletic grant-in-aid typically leaves the
student between $1,800 and $2,400 short of the entire college
cost) and broadening the range of what a scholarship can cover
(such as travel to and from campus). Most of all, he seems
determined to bring the NCAA rule book into a closer
relationship with reality, to "take a hard look at deregulation
and raising the sensitivity level of our group to some of the
contradictions in our rules." Heaven knows that NCAA wheels turn
slowly. But Dempsey has begun to stare into the heart of a
hypocritical system and realize that something must be done.
THIS WEEK IN BASEBALL
Mel Allen's death on Sunday at age 83 silenced one of the most
distinctive voices in broadcasting history. The unabashedly
partisan and ebullient calls of Allen could be heard on New York
Yankees radio and, later, television from 1939 to '64. It was he
who dubbed Joe DiMaggio Joltin' Joe and labeled Phil Rizzuto The
Scooter. And it was he who stood on the Yankee Stadium sod and
gave the introduction to both Lou Gehrig's '39 farewell speech
and Babe Ruth's goodbye in '48.
After Allen, who was born Melvin Allen Israel to Russian
immigrants living in Alabama, was let go by the Yankees, he
spent most of the next 13 years away from the game. He returned
in 1977 to gain a national audience as host of the syndicated TV
show This Week In Baseball, a job he held until his death.
Though Allen appeared gaunt in his last years, his voice never
lost its boyish enthusiasm. That's why, upon hearing Allen
broadcast one of the week's highlights, even today's young fans
couldn't help but shake their heads in wonder and say to
themselves, How about that!
Even though she was sitting near the finish at the Minnesota
high school class 4AA section track meet in Stillwater on June
1, Jeanne Gatzlaff never saw her daughter Sarah cross the line.
"My eyes were too full of tears," says Jeanne.
Sarah's performance was overwhelming, and not just from a mom's
perspective. A 17-year-old junior from Mounds View High, Sarah
was running the third leg of the girls' 4x800-meter relay and
vying for the lead with half a lap to go when pain began
shooting through her right calf. She kept running, but 15 meters
from the line, her leg broke ("I kept hearing the crack for days
after," says Sarah), and she pitched to the track, the baton
rolling from her grasp. "I didn't feel any pain when I was on
the ground, I just felt mad," she says. As officials yelled to
Mounds View anchor Amy Maciasek to stay behind the handoff line
or be disqualified, Sarah tried to stand, then fell again before
reaching the baton and finally crawling to the line. Mounds View
High wound up fifth.
Sarah underwent a three-hour operation to repair the snapped
tibia; she will be in a cast for eight weeks. Still, she has
some consolation as she looks forward to next season. At the
team banquet held the day after the state meet, she was named
the winner of the Mustang Pride Award, given to the athlete
exhibiting the best team spirit. "My coach said I was a lock for
that one," says Sarah.
Days between the end of John Calipari protege Ed Schilling's
coaching tenure at Logansport (Ind.) High and his arrival as
assistant with the New Jersey Nets.
Honorary Harlem Globetrotters now that Nelson Mandela has joined
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Hope, Henry Kissinger and Whoopi
Consecutive games played by Cal Ripken Jr., as of June 14, to
break the world record of Japan's ironman (tetsu jin) Sachio
1,474 and 221
NHL-record totals of regular-season and playoff games worked by
referee Andy van Hellemond, who retired last week after 25
Blood-alcohol level--twice the legal limit--registered by Rams
draftee Lawrence Phillips after he was stopped for going 80 mph
with a smoking flat tire on his '95 Benz.
Who do they appreciate? Trent Lott! Trent Lott! Trent Lott! The
Mississippi senator beat out Thad Cochran to become majority
leader in a battle of ex-Ole Miss cheerleaders.
A BALL'S BEARING
After England's disappointing 1-1 tie with Switzerland on June 8
in the first round of soccer's European Championship,
spoon-bending psychic Uri Geller suggested that team members rub
the ball England used in its 1966 World Cup final victory over
West Germany for good luck. Some players did, which apparently
helped, because England beat Scotland 2-0 last Saturday to
advance to the quarterfinal.
And so, after three decades, the ball (being kissed by England's
Geoff Hurst, hero of the '66 game, in inset photo) is back in
play. It had been all but forgotten until early this year, when
English soccer officials and media decided to track the ball
down for the celebration of the 30th anniversary of England's
only Cup championship.
The ball turned up in the cellar of Jurgen Haller, 34, an
insurance salesman in Augsburg, Germany, whose father, Helmut,
played on the '66 West German team. When the title game at
London's Wembley Stadium ended, he grabbed the ball, got some
signatures on it (Pele's among them) and gave it to Jurgen for
his fifth birthday.
"My first thought was, Sure, I'll give the ball back, I don't
need it," says Jurgen. "But then there were so many journalists
chasing us with helicopters." After courting offers from media
outlets, Jurgen sold the ball to London's Daily Mirror for an
undisclosed amount. The rest of the English press promptly
roasted him for being greedy and labeled his father a thief. "I
didn't steal the ball," says Helmut. "I was the last one to have
my foot on it when the match ended."
While the British press lambasted the Hallers (one London
Observer headline referring to Jurgen read HALLER HAS GOT ONLY
ONE BALL), the German media recalled that the ball had been
involved in the most hotly disputed goal in German soccer
history. Early in overtime of the 1966 Cup final, England took a
3-2 lead on a shot by Hurst that was ruled a goal, though
replays show that the ball hit the upright and bounced away.
England went on to a 4-2 win and to this day the phrase "Wembley
Tor" (Wembley goal) is used in everyday German to mean
"illegitimate" or "unfairly gotten."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
An Illinois-based memorabilia company is marketing Major League
Baseball's officially licensed Mickey Mantle Sluggers Series
U.S. sprinter, after winning the 100 meters at the Olympic track
and field trials in Atlanta last Saturday: "I'm Barcelona-bound!"