A ONE-TWO PUNCH ROCKS CUBA
The recent defections of 1992 Olympic bantamweight champion Joel
Casamayor and world amateur light heavyweight champion Ramon
Garbey were a startling setback for Cuba. The men who fought for
Alcides Sagarra, the gravel-voiced autocrat who for 32 years has
been lord and master of the mighty Cuban team, have always been
different from other Cuban athletes--more restrained, always
sure to toe the party line. While the rest of the nation's
sports machine has spent the four years since the Barcelona
Games futilely battling a defection epidemic, the hard-line
Sagarra had kept his elite program intact, his boxers seemingly
loyal to Fidel Castro's regime and immune to the temptations of
the pro fight game. His team won seven golds at the '92 Olympics
and four at the '95 world championships, and while no one
expected quite such domination in Atlanta, Cuba has remained
amateur boxing's premier power. Sagarra has even admitted to
dreaming of "the highest level yet": winning 12 Olympic gold
Now that dream is less likely to become reality. While some
second-tier fighters had defected in the past, Sagarra had never
lost an international champion who was in his prime. But now he
has lost two. Casamayor was considered one of the gold medal
favorites in Atlanta at 125 pounds, and Garbey was a top
contender at 178. For two of Sagarra's fighters to defect on the
eve of the competition Cubans hold most sacred is a crushing
propaganda blow, a sign that disgust with the Castro regime has
infiltrated even the most rigidly monitored of groups.
There is only one precedent: In 1991 pitcher Rene Arocha
defected on the eve of the Pan Am Games in Havana, sparking a
string of departures by Cuban baseball stars that shattered the
solidarity of the team. There's a good chance that Casamayor's
and Garbey's defections will have a similar impact on the
country's boxing program.
More than two years after SI revealed that sports agents and
would-be agents had treated Florida State football players to a
$5,900 shopping spree at a Tallahassee Foot Locker (SI, May 16,
1994), the scandal has apparently come to a close. Raul Bey, a
Las Vegas businessman and wannabe agent who arranged and
bankrolled the spree, was sentenced last week to pay a $12,000
fine and serve one year in jail. Florida circuit judge Ralph
Smith, who said he assessed $10,000 of the fine to help
reimburse Florida State for the cost of investigating the
scandal, suspended Bey's sentence until later this year because
Bey is being tried on unrelated charges in California.
Bey's conviction brings to four the number of individuals fined
for attempting to woo Seminoles players with cash and clothing.
Like Bey, the others were guilty of failing to register with the
state as sports agents, a third-degree felony in Florida. The
only loose end involves Nate Cebrun, a bird dog hired by Bey to
get inside the Florida State program. Cebrun was fined $2,000
and sentenced to 30 days in jail, but, according to his Florida
probation officer, he moved back to Las Vegas after his release
last summer and failed to register with Nevada authorities as
required by his probation. Both states have issued warrants for
Cebrun's arrest for the probation violation.
The Foot Locker scandal has had other repercussions. Florida
State suspended four players for at least two games just before
the '94 season for accepting gifts from agents. And the NCAA
ruled in March that Florida State was guilty of failing to
monitor the activities of agents, giving the school's football
program one year's probation, one of the lightest penalties it
could assess for what it deemed a major violation. (Florida
State is appealing the penalty.) There has been additional
turmoil in the athletic department: Athletic director Bob Goin
was fired in October '94 because he violated a state ethics law
by having a university contractor put a roof on his house at a
A postscript: Despite the apparent closure at Florida State,
illegal contact between agents and players remains a major
concern for the NCAA.
If Olympic security forces become overwhelmed in Atlanta, they
might consider enlisting the help of Peter Westbrook, the U.S.
sabre fencer who will be competing in his sixth Olympics. "I
wanted to be Zorro all my life," Westbrook said recently,
referring to the swashbuckling, sword-wielding hero of film and
television. "I went to a Catholic school, and I used to think
about swinging on the chandeliers, saving the nuns and stuff
like that. I used to dress every Halloween as Zorro."
There has been no word on whether Westbrook plans to wear a cape
in the competition.
TOO SOON FOR A PARADE
There is no doubt that Hampton, Va., needed to move beyond the
ugly 1993 racial incident that tore it apart and transported
Bethel High School basketball star Allen Iverson from the sports
page to the front page. Slowly but surely the town was getting
past the eruption of chair throwing and brawling at the Circle
Lanes Bowling Alley on Feb. 13 of that year, and the principals
were getting on with their lives. That's why Mayor James L.
Eason's decision to declare last Saturday Allen Iverson Day, and
honor Iverson with a parade, was the wrong one. It revived
racial tensions and underscored the all-too-familiar theme that
athletes receive preferential treatment.
Iverson delighted the basketball world in two dazzling seasons
at Georgetown, and the Philadelphia 76ers made him the No. 1
pick in the NBA draft last month. But honoring a 21-year-old
because he's going to sign a multimillion-dollar contract is
dubious at best and, considering the circumstances in this case,
sends the wrong message to kids. Iverson may have been, as his
supporters contend, the victim of a justice system that was
anything but color-blind in assessing his role in the near riot
at Circle Lanes. Indeed, then governor L. Douglas Wilder granted
Iverson clemency after he had served four months of a five-year
prison sentence for maiming by mob, and an appeals court later
overturned the conviction for insufficient evidence. But the
fact remains that he was at the center of a violent and divisive
episode that didn't need resurrecting.
Fortunately, no incidents marred Iverson Day. A lone protester,
Sandra Radford, stood in the parking lot of Hampton
Coliseum--where the parade ended and where Iverson and his
family received a standing ovation--holding a sign that read
MILLIONS DON'T MAKE A HERO, MORALS DO. "I think sports makes
false heroes," said Radford. "I'm glad he's turning his life
around and glad for the breaks he's gotten. But I think we're
too quick to make a hero out of him."
A REF RUNS ROUGHSHOD
Tristam Coffin is a schoolboy, a soccer player and a practicing
Sikh. And because of his religious faith, Tristam, 12, keeps his
head covered whenever he goes out in public, be it to the
classroom or to his midfielder's position for the Franklin
(Mass.) Cosmos. He wears a blue bandanna when he's on the pitch,
and although headwear is generally prohibited by youth soccer
leagues, no one had objected in the three years Tristam has
played for the Cosmos or in the first four games of this year's
Easton (Mass.) Classic.
But in the championship game on July 1, someone did object. Ron
Quintiliani, officiating the final between Franklin and Dudley,
told Cosmos coach John Peters that Tristam would have to remove
the bandanna if he wanted to play. The coach explained the
circumstances, but unlike every other official who had initially
questioned Peters, Quintiliani wouldn't budge. Peters then sent
Tristam, bandanna-clad, to his usual spot among the starting 11.
In front of about 100 spectators Quintiliani ordered Tristam to
the sideline. Tristam went, in tears. Peters pulled the rest of
the team off the field. Quintiliani dropped the ball to signal
the start of play, and after two Dudley players touched the
ball--the second intentionally booting it out-of-bounds under
the direction of Dudley coach Chet Dawidczyk--the referee
declared Dudley the victor by forfeit.
Quintiliani was backed by Terry Powers, a tournament director,
who told Peters the bandanna needed to be removed as a safety
measure because an opponent "could grab it and pull [Tristam's]
head." That's a preposterous contention considering that the boy
also has a ponytail that hangs down his back. "Tristam was
pretty shaken," says Peters. "I took the players aside and told
them that some things are more important than soccer, that you
have to stand up for things you believe in."
Dawidczyk communicated the same message. Shortly after the
forfeited final, as the Cosmos watched the Dudley players
receive their championship trophies, Dawidczyk brought his over
to Tristam. "This is for you," he said.
After Pinnacle Sports Productions of Alcorn, Neb., won the
exclusive radio rights to broadcast Nebraska football for the
next five seasons, many Cornhuskers fans were disappointed that
the company, which paid a reported $8.6 million for the rights
last February, did not also snatch up Kent Pavelka to handle the
play-by-play. Pavelka had been calling Nebraska games on KFAB,
the school's former flagship station, since 1983 and had come to
be known as the Voice of the Huskers. Bristling at suggestions
that his company was too cheap to hire Pavelka, who earned about
$55,000 a year announcing games on KFAB, Pinnacle Sports
president Paul Aaron went public with details of his short-lived
negotiations with Pavelka. Aaron told the Omaha World-Herald
that the Voice of the Huskers had demanded the following deal to
move to the Pinnacle broadcast booth:
--A $165,000 salary, which would increase to $185,000 in the
fifth year of the contract.
--A $7,500 signing bonus.
--A golf membership at an Omaha country club.
--Three pairs of season tickets, six press passes and six parking
passes for home football games.
--A press-box seat at home football and basketball games for his
--"Exclusive discretion" in picking the rest of the broadcast crew.
--A fully equipped office in his house.
--A $250,000 life-insurance policy.
--An agreement that he would not have to submit detailed records
for entertainment expenses because "such entertainment...may
be so diversified and casual as to make the maintenance of
complete and accurate records inconvenient, impracticable and
When contacted by the World-Herald for a comment, Pavelka said
that his demands had been merely an "initial proposal" and that
he had already backed down from them. "[My lawyer and I] did
everything but beg [Pinnacle] to forget that we made the
proposal," Pavelka told the paper.
For the Voice, it seems, some things would have been better left
DROP IT! YOU'RE DRENCHED!
Word comes from Atlanta that during the Olympics police officers
will be packing, in separate holsters from their pistols,
bottles of Powerade to combat the intense heat and humidity
they'll face during 12-hour shifts.
That's not such a bad idea. Now we only hope that in an
emergency an officer doesn't reach for the wrong side of his
belt and suddenly find himself attempting to squirt a miscreant
Salary cut, in dollars, requested by the Baltimore Ravens from
receiver Andre Rison--and rejected by him--to free up money
under the NFL salary cap.
People who actually believed that '92 Olympic 100-meter champ
Linford Christie of Great Britain would make good on his threat
not to run in Atlanta; he said last week he'll be there.
Percent markdown on Michael Irvin posters at former Cowboys
teammate Ken Norton Jr.'s Game Day sports-memorabilia store in
NBA championships won as a Boston Celtic by new Celts assistant
coach K.C. Jones--eight as player, two as coach.
Transvestite volleyball players who gave up spots on the Thai
Olympic team because they feared they would be a disruption.
Consecutive Los Angeles Lakers broadcasts worked since Nov. 21,
1965, by play-by-play fixture Chick Hearn, who last week signed
a two-year contract.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
In the Finnish farming village of Sonkajarvi last week, 32 men,
each carrying a woman on his back, competed in a 780-foot
obstacle-course race in which the winner, toting a 97-pounder,
was awarded the woman's weight in beer.
The 210-pound U.S. Olympic judo heavyweight, on the challenge of
facing 300-pound opponents, as she might at the Atlanta Games:
"It's not so much trouble throwing them--it's watching that you
don't land underneath them."