Play began at the U.S. Tennis Open on Monday, but only after a
seedings debacle that generated talk of a men's player boycott
and led to questions about the integrity of the U.S. Tennis
Association pooh-bahs. The USTA made a number of boneheaded
moves. First, it didn't make public its decision to change the
Open seeding method. Instead of a down-the-line adherence to the
ATP Tour rankings, the USTA used a more subjective approach,
which took into account recent results and history of hard-court
performance--a procedure similar to the one used at Wimbledon,
the only other tournament to employ such a system. The players
came to New York believing they would be seeded according to the
computer rankings and were angry when they learned otherwise.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia, the French Open champion and a
solid hard-court player, who was questionable to begin with
because of a rib injury, left in a huff after discovering he had
been seeded seventh instead of fourth, his current ATP ranking.
Second, on Aug. 20 the USTA picked the 16 men to be seeded but
didn't assign them their exact seed. It then conducted the draw
for the unseeded players and put them into the pairings grid.
Only after that did it assign numbers to the 16 seeds. The
conclusion drawn by some players was that the seeds were
arranged to favor American players and, by extension, CBS, which
has an estimated $31 million per year contract to broadcast the
Open through 2000.
Andre Agassi, for example, was plugged in as the sixth seed,
thus guaranteeing he could not meet top seed Pete Sampras before
the semis. Had Agassi been at his ATP eighth spot, he could have
met Sampras in the quarterfinals. That would have meant a
weeknight matchup on USA Network instead of boffo weekend
semifinal or final coverage on CBS.
Reaction from some players was swift and furious. "It's like
cheating," said Austria's Thomas Muster, who is ranked second by
the ATP but was made the third seed behind Michael Chang of the
U.S. "It's just so Agassi won't face Sampras in the quarters."
In response to all the clamor, the USTA held a redrawing, and
nothing came of a rumored boycott. But the seedings stood. And
on Sunday, even Sampras didn't rule out the possibility that the
USTA was looking ahead to a marquee matchup. "If that's the
case, and the USTA wanted to put us on opposite sides of the
draw," Sampras said, "I don't agree with that."
USTA president Les Snyder was being either monumentally stupid,
naive or disingenuous when he said last week, "It really hurt to
hear people say I would let commercialism influence my
decisions." Snyder's two-year term ends on Dec. 31, not a moment
HE JUST CAN'T SIT DOWN
Among the major leaguers scheduled to tour Japan and play a
series of games against professional teams in the off-season is
a certain Baltimore Orioles shortstop. We just want to let you
know, Cal, nobody will call you a slacker if you change your mind.
THE BUTLER SAID IT
As he and Carlos Huerta battled for the Chicago Bears' kicking
job, veteran Kevin Butler said: "Basically it boils down to two
choices. They can pick the kicker who kicks it longer, stronger,
higher, faster and with more accuracy. Or else they can pick
Last Friday they picked Carlos.
NOTHING TO BE SORRY FOR
Last week NBC apologized to Chinese and Chinese-American groups
that had protested remarks Bob Costas made during the Olympics
about China's human rights record. "Every economic power,
including the United States, wants to tap into that huge market
potential," Costas said during the telecast of the Opening
Ceremonies, "but of course there are problems with human rights,
property rights disputes, the threat posed to Taiwan." Costas
later said, "They're building into a power, but amidst
suspicions...especially concerning their track athletes and
their female swimmers, possibly using performance enhancing
Those were certainly not uncalled-for remarks. China's history
of human rights violations has long been a major obstacle to
more harmonious Sino-American relations. As recently as June, a
group of U.S. congressmen, citing China's human rights record,
tried to pass a resolution (eventually blocked) revoking the
country's most-favored-nation trading status. As for the drug
issue, seven Chinese swimmers were banned from the 1996 Games
for their earlier use of anabolic steroids.
Nonetheless, NBC sent a letter of apology to the protesting
Chinese-American groups. "Factual accuracy aside," says one NBC
official, "we don't want to offend anybody. We weren't
apologizing for the facts in Bob's remarks, but rather for the
feelings that were hurt."
Sometimes, though, facts are more important than feelings.
Costas was right to broach the subject, and the network was
wrong to apologize for it.
THE MAD HATTER
Florida Marlins outfielder Andre Dawson, who announced on Aug.
14 that this would be his final season, should be a Hall of Fame
shoo-in. If he is invited to Cooperstown, the 42-year-old Hawk,
who also played for the Montreal Expos, the Chicago Cubs and the
Boston Red Sox, told Chicago reporters last week that he would
wear a Cubs cap.
Such pronouncements have become old hat for Dawson. Asked in
June 1993 which cap would appear on his plaque, Dawson, then
with Boston, said, "Probably the Red Sox." But this year, only
one week before a Florida road trip to Chicago, Dawson said he
planned to be enshrined in a Marlins cap. When asked about his
latest change of heart, Dawson said that the Chicago papers had
misunderstood him and repeated his promise to wear the Marlins
Dawson has been a model of class and professionalism throughout
his 21-year career. He just needs to find the right way to cap
Minutes of free advertising per week lost by Nike when
management at KGW-TV in Portland decided last week that
sportscaster Steve Bartelstein should stop wearing swoosh
apparel on the air.
Difference, in dollars, between a recently sold (for $90,000)
Gold Glove award won by Mickey Mantle and the Willie Mays Gold
Glove award sold in 1994.
Winning New York Numbers lottery ticket on Sunday, which was
also Mickey Mantle Day at Yankee Stadium.
Total poundage of chunky minor league managers Marty Scott of
the St. Paul Saints and Doug Simunic of the Fargo-Moorhead
RedHawks, who squared off in a sumo-wrestling match for charity
last week at St. Paul's Midway Stadium.
Insignia painted in white on tack boxes, buckets and stall
webbings in the barn of trainer James Bond, whose Will's Way won
last Saturday's 137th running of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
Leland's Boston Garden Auction on Sept. 27 will include the
following items for Bruin- and Celtic-ophiles:
Cam Neely mouthpiece ($100-$200)
Original 24-second clock ($500-$1,000)
Red Auerbach stogie ($100-$200)
Original Garden Zamboni ($3,000-$5,000)
THE SCORECARD POLL
Duds and Studs
When he took Baylor defensive tackle Daryl Gardener with the
20th pick in April's NFL draft, Miami Dolphins general manager
and coach Jimmy Johnson thought he had grabbed a sleeper. Four
months later many NFL observers are wondering if Gardener, a
talented but often lethargic player, will ever come out of
hibernation. In an SI poll of NFL G.M.'s, coaches, personnel
directors and scouts, Gardener (left) was the overwhelming
choice as the rookie most likely to be a bust, garnering 14
votes. No other player received more than two.
One NFL assistant says, "You had to watch a lot of film to see
this guy make a play. We were wondering who'd take a chance on
him. We knew it wasn't going to be us." Says one personnel
director, "In the Senior Bowl he'd have one good play and four
bad ones, and he'd always have an excuse." The guy who chose
Gardener in the draft refused to pick a potential bust (even
anonymously). "I don't think you can pick any of these rookies,"
said Johnson, "and say he's a bust after one year. It takes two
or three years for some guys."
Another sleeper in the April draft, Denver Broncos linebacker
John Mobley, who played at Division II Kutztown (Pa.) State, was
the clear-cut winner, with six votes, as the rookie most likely
to make a major impact this season. "This kid has all the tools
you look for to be not just a great player but a superstar,"
says a Philadelphia Eagles scout of the 15th pick. "He's got the
potential to be a once-in-a-lifetime linebacker."
As for much-ballyhooed and much-troubled former Nebraska running
back Lawrence Phillips, now of the St. Louis Rams: He finished
second to Mobley with three votes and also got two mentions in
the bust category.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
Before last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, a race in which he
finished second to Michael Schumacher, driver Jacques Villeneuve
credited practice runs on a Formula One computer game for his
winning the pole position.
Cincinnati Bengals coach, on being asked to talk about the
sophistication of his offensive line: "I think offensive
linemen, in general, would be offended if you called them