REST IN PEACE--PLEASE!
The hawking of dead athletes' memorabilia is, by definition,
rather ghoulish business, but the scramble to find filthy lucre
among the bones of Mickey Mantle has been particularly
tasteless. Since the Mick's death from cancer in August 1995,
hardly a week has gone by without some company announcing a
Mantle object for sale or auction. Marty Appel, a spokesman for
Topps Co., epitomized the sick essence of it all recently when,
in all seriousness, he commented: "The real question is whether
he becomes an Elvis or Marilyn. He has the real potential."
The nadir of the postmortem Mantle money mania so far was
reached last week by Rawlings, which ran a full-page ad in USA
Today for its Official Mickey Mantle Game Ball. The ad declared
that never before had "an actual game ball"--in this case, the
one used in the Aug. 25 game on Mickey Mantle Day at Yankee
Stadium--been "created to commemorate a legendary, deceased
player." The headline on the ad? MICKEY MANTLE MAKES HISTORY ONE
BRIGHAM YOUNG EAST?
The mother of an Oregon State football player, whose anonymity
we will protect, was studying the Beavers' schedule when she
became perplexed by the Oct. 5 entry and called State's sports
information department for help. "What school's initials," she
asked, "are B-Y-E?"
Cigar may just be the only athlete left that a common man can
appreciate. He is humble and quiet. He does his job with
excellence and grace, and then he goes home. No whining (though
some whinnying). No demands. There is not a touch of scandal
about him. No drugs. No alcohol. He has no agent. He has no
endorsements. He does not appear as a genie in a movie, does not
tell us what underwear to buy, does not wear golden shoes to
make himself noticed.
And he's resilient. Last Saturday, in his first start since his
16-race winning streak ended at the Pacific Classic at Del Mar
on Aug. 10, he went out and, in typically workhorselike fashion,
started a new streak, winning the Woodward Stakes at Belmont
Park by four lengths. When the race was over, he didn't prance
or high-hoof, he didn't leap into the seats, he didn't dis his
Other superstars are ultimately disappointments. The tall men of
basketball use tax accountants instead of their hearts to tell
them what to do next. Baseball stars wing hardballs at
photographers' heads and turn churlish at the slightest request
for an autograph. Even the wondrous Cal Ripken Jr. breaks a
record and then sells commemorative coins.
With Cigar, there's no conniving. He meets the best opponents.
No promoter with electric-shock hair feeds him a steady diet of
easy victories. No manager lets him take a seat in the dugout to
preserve his average when certain hard-throwing lefthanders take
the mound. There is a big race in Dubai in the Arab Emirates?
Fine. He's on the plane. No demands for a first-class ticket. He
His time in public is a celebration. He hears the cheers but is
not changed by them. He's no different now as a champion on the
dirt than when he was struggling to win on the turf. He treats
everyone the same.
He has staged no fake retirements. He has been involved in no
holdouts. He has never dyed his mane purple. He has one tattoo,
but it is a subtle one on the inside of his lip, a string of
identification numbers required by racing regulations. He has
made no rap videos. He plans no career in broadcasting when he
He does not live in a multimillion-dollar palace. He does not
own a fleet of foreign automobiles. He has no maid or chef or
home entertainment center. His life is basic. His sport is
everything to him.
Get him on that Wheaties box. He is the last great champion,
maybe the last we ever will see. Thank you, Cigar.
SOMEBODY PIN THIS GUY
Since the Olympics, Greco-Roman superheavyweight silver medalist
Matt Ghaffari has, among other things, appeared on The Tonight
Show and at the Paralympics, thrown out the first ball before an
Indians game at Cleveland Stadium, rung the closing bell at the
New York Stock Exchange, visited the White House and two Ronald
McDonald Houses, and spoken at the Republican Convention. Last
Saturday he competed at the Yukon Jack world arm wrestling
championships at Disney World. To hear the 286-pound nonstop
photo op describe it, however, his work has just begun. "I took
over leadership of the Olympic spirit," Ghaffari told The New
York Times last week. "I take every day to the fullest and try
to do my best to help the human race."
Ghaffari may have settled for silver in Atlanta, but when it
comes to publicity seeking, personal promotion and all-around
self-importance, the big guy is--sorry, Kerri--the unchallenged
HEART OF THE CASE
Northwestern sophomore Nicholas Knapp, who sued for the right to
play basketball after a Wildcats team doctor ruled him medically
ineligible because of a heart condition (SCORECARD, Nov. 27,
1995), won his case last week. In ordering Northwestern to give
Knapp, a 6'5" shooting guard, a chance to play, U.S. district
judge James B. Zagel cited the federal Rehabilitation Act, which
prohibits discrimination against the disabled.
Zagel's decision is unsettling, given Knapp's history. Two years
ago, when Knapp was a high school senior, he was playing a
pickup game when his heart stopped and he collapsed. Shortly
after that episode, which cardiologists refer to as "sudden
death," Knapp had a defibrillator--a device that can jolt the
heart back into a normal rhythm--implanted in his abdomen; he
has had no cardiac incidents since. Northwestern made good on an
earlier basketball scholarship offer that Knapp had orally
accepted, and in August 1995 he enrolled, only to be later told
that he couldn't play.
Because each side presented two physicians, Zagel concluded that
cardiologists were "evenly split" on Knapp's condition. But even
one of those two who testified that Knapp should be allowed to
play conceded that "the general recommendation by physicians in
sports medicine...is that he cannot participate in athletics."
Indeed, a national meeting of cardiologists in 1994 concluded
that moderate and high-intensity sports are inadvisable for
athletes with implantable defibrillators.
Peter Diamond, a Chicago cardiologist who has studied sudden
death among athletes, called Zagel's decision a tragedy. "I
promote exercise for my patients," says Diamond, "but if someone
has had an episode of sudden death, I never recommend
high-intensity exercise. If he's had sudden death once, he will
have it again." Zagel pointed out in his decision that Knapp has
been stable for nearly two years and that, according to one of
the doctors who testified for Knapp, the danger of a recurrence
diminishes over time. Diamond disagrees with the latter
contention. "You could not stand in front of a meeting of
cardiologists and make that claim," he says. "You would be run
off the podium."
Though Northwestern filed for a rehearing after last week's
decision, Knapp expects to be in uniform when practice begins on
Oct. 15, a fact that not even Zagel is entirely comfortable
with. The judge's ruling requires Northwestern officials to
"keep a defibrillator at courtside and a trained person who can
operate it at all times."
We only hope they never have to use it.
BMOC (BIG MONEY ON CAMPUS)
After working late one Friday night in the fall of 1994, Richard
Sheehan, a finance professor at Notre Dame, found himself caught
in the traffic leaving a Fighting Irish pep rally. There, among
the thousands of fans enthusing over the next day's football
game between Notre Dame and Stanford, Sheehan began to ponder
just how the athletic department at a school like Notre Dame
might stack up financially against a pro sports franchise. Two
years and scores of Freedom of Information Act requests later,
Sheehan has some answers. His new book, Keeping Score: The
Economics of Big-Time Sports, includes a ranking of the 25 most
valuable sports franchises. According to Sheehan, the Dallas
Cowboys lead the field with an estimated value of $428 million,
but among the top 25 he also lists three college programs:
Michigan's, 17th at $25 million; Florida's, 21st at $223
million; and his own school's, 23rd at $213 million.
Sheehan points out that his calculations of the value of college
programs are based largely on revenue and recognize the fact
that college programs, unlike pro franchises, can't be sold.
Says Sheehan, "Ego value alone--that is, the personal
gratification of owning a team--adds $70 million to the value of
an NFL franchise. Without that, colleges would rank even higher."
The Sheehan list underscores the enormous financial stakes
involved in college sports today. While pinning down the exact
costs and revenue in college programs can be, according to
Sheehan, "murky" business--"Do you factor in alumni gifts under
revenue? Include administrative overhead under costs?" he
asks--the payoff can be considerable, at least for the top
schools. But only the top schools. According to Sheehan, as few
as 30 college programs are making money. But by any accounting
the athletic department at South Bend is raking it in. Says
Sheehan, "I've told the administrators here, 'If you included
all the revenue you guys make, it would be embarrassing.'"
NOT QUITE GETTING IT
When the Miami Dolphins announced last month that Joe Robbie
Stadium would henceforth be known as Pro Player Park (SCORECARD,
Sept. 9), many fans decried the slight to Robbie, the Dolphins'
revered founder. In an attempt to appease the faithful, Pro
Player Inc. president Doug Kelly decided to amend the name as a
way, he said, to bring "some of the tradition back." The place
is now called Pro Player Stadium.
Games Lou Holtz has coached at Notre Dame, breaking record held
by Knute Rockne.
Age at which gold medal diver Fu Mingxia of China retired last
week, proclaiming that she is "too old."
Nicaraguan presidential candidates who have offered the job of
sports minister to Indians pitcher and native son Dennis Martinez.
Days that Kentucky hoops fan Wally Clark, 45, plans to wait in
line to be first admitted to Wildcats' Big Blue Madness game on
Football powers (Florida State, Florida and Wisconsin) rated
among nation's Top 10 "party schools" by Princeton Review.
Football power (BYU) rated among nation's Top 10 "stone-cold
sober" schools by same publication.
Fans named for Paul (Bear) Bryant who met at last Saturday's
Alabama game in Tuscaloosa to dedicate museum to the 'Bama coach.
Major league baseball players are more orally fixated than other
athletes. Here are a few of the mouthwatering treats into which
they sink their teeth.
A taste of the tape.
A club sandwich of gum and tobacco.
Here come the sun...flower seeds.
And for dessert, a pinch of dirt.
Something for Everyone
Classic Sports Network
Fathers and grandfathers, take heed: You can stop spinning
hyperbolized tales about your childhood sports heroes and cease
wondering where Joe DiMaggio has gone. He's on the Classic
Sports Network (CSN), and so are a lot of other things that,
many years after they happened, are still well worth watching.
Chances are your progeny will agree.
Nostalgia combined with an extensive video archive is proving to
be an alluring draw for CSN, one of the most promising
franchises on the glutted cable-TV landscape. An independently
owned network cofounded by Steve Greenberg (son of Hall of Famer
Hank) and Brian Bedol, a former senior vice president of Time
Warner Enterprises, CSN reaches only 15 million of America's 70
million cable-equipped homes. But it expects to be in 40 million
homes by 2000, and, having purchased rights to many sports film
and video archives, CSN seems to have plenty of material to hold
its audience. For hoops junkies, there's Michael Jordan's
game-winning bucket for North Carolina in the '82 NCAA
championship game. Baseball lovers can watch the Brooklyn
Dodgers and the New York Yankees battle in the '56 World Series.
Football fans can watch the '62 NFL championship game between
the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. Boxing
aficionados can watch Rocky Marciano knock out Archie Moore
(above). Yes, there's pro wrestling, but the CSN lineup includes
other oddities that are interesting, like The Superstars and
Sports Challenge, the '70s trivia show emceed by a
sideburn-sporting Dick Enberg.
CSN's first installment of Those Who Changed the Game, which
focuses on Lou Brock, Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Namath and Bobby
Orr, also shows a touch for original programming. And on Sept.
29 and 30, the network will air a 14-hour marathon of Home Run
Derby, hosted by none other than Albert Belle. Any outfit that
can make that guy camera-friendly must be on to something.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
A Texas A&M alumnus is attempting to gain access to the Texas
Longhorns' football playbook through a request filed under the
state's Public Information Act.
New York Yankees owner, evaluating his ace pitcher: "David Cone
is in a class by himself with three or four other players."