THE TIGER IS HUMAN
Tiger Woods, the 20-year-old golfing sensation, has a swing that
no computer imagery could improve. His amateur record is
unmatched in modern times. In his public appearances he's polite
and earnest. Since winning a record third consecutive U.S.
Amateur in August, Woods has turned professional, signed more
than $60 million worth of endorsement contracts and played in
four PGA Tour events--contending in three of them. Tiger's
Or he was. Last week Woods proved he's human. On Tuesday he
showed up at the Buick Challenge in Pine Mountain, Ga., a Tour
event he was able to enter on a prized sponsor's exemption
awarded to him in May. On Wednesday, the day before the start of
the tournament, he withdrew, citing physical and mental
exhaustion. There's nothing uncommon about a late withdrawal;
that happens almost weekly. But it is rare for a player to
squander a sponsor's invitation. The veteran pros at the
tournament--Peter Jacobsen, Tom Kite, Curtis Strange, among
others--were openly critical of Woods's decision. The old hands
know who butters their bread.
Still, if Woods was too tired to compete competently, he made a
justifiable decision not to play. What irked tournament
administrators was Woods's decision to blow off a Thursday
dinner at which he would have received the Fred Haskins award as
the collegiate golfer of the year. The last-minute cancellation
of the dinner for 200 cost its organizers an estimated $30,000.
"I understood Tiger not playing in the tournament," said Bob
Berry, the tournament director. "I was hoping he could stay for
the dinner. The agent told me that was out of the question."
The agent is Hughes Norton of IMG, and he did not take calls
from SI. As Woods lay low in his new residence in Orlando, his
father, Earl, spoke for him. "It was an oversight, a mistake,"
Earl said of his son's decision. "Had I been there, I'd have
made sure he stayed. Hughes is focused on Tiger's professional
career. And Tiger's just thinking, I'm exhausted, and I want to
go home." And what about the money squandered on the dinner that
never took place? "Tiger has a moral responsibility to make good
on it," Earl said.
So we now know: Tiger can be selfish. Try finding a 20-year-old
celebrity athlete who's not.
A FLAT-OUT "I DO"
Injuries have long plagued Jose Canseco's baseball career, and
they had an impact on his recent nuptials as well. While
recovering from back surgery, Canseco married Jessica Seikaly at
his Fort Lauderdale-area home on Aug. 27. The small group of
friends in attendance witnessed an exceptionally private
ceremony. "We had to get married in bed," Canseco reports. "I
couldn't get out."
SWEET ON SAUER
Todd Sauerbrun, the Chicago Bears' free-spirited, second-year
punter, has become one man's media darling. The Sauerbrun
Report, a twice-monthly, six-page newsletter devoted to Todd's
comings and goings, is written, published and distributed by
John Thompson, a 30-year-old cargo agent at O'Hare International
Thompson says the intake of airplane fumes had no bearing on his
decision to launch the newsletter soon after Sauerbrun joined
the Bears in August 1995. In a previous job as a reporter for a
West Virginia radio station, Thompson had followed Sauerbrun's
career with the Mountaineers from 1991 through '94. The most
recent edition of The Sauerbrun Report, which has 40 subscribers
who each pay an annual $10 fee, offers a kick-by-kick account of
Sauerbrun's preseason, a story about the friction between
Sauerbrun and since-released placekicker Kevin Butler--whom
Thompson refers to as Butthead--and a glossary of terms such as
Sauerboot (a typical Sauerbrun punt), Sauerpooch (a kick from
inside the 50) and Sauerbrat (a bratwurst cooked over coals in
the parking lot north of Soldier Field).
Thompson has never met Sauerbrun, but he has developed a
relationship with Sauerbrun's mother, Suzanne, who receives her
complimentary copy of the newsletter at her home in Ronkonkoma,
N.Y., and regularly provides Thompson with quotes and
information. "He's a nice young man," Suzanne says, "and I was
very taken with the fact that he would dedicate this much time
to one person--especially a punter."
Suzanne says the report helps her "keep tabs on my son," and
that it was the Sept. 14 issue that informed her that Todd had
been cited for reckless driving. Maybe that's why Todd has
rebuffed Thompson's interview requests. "We go on without him,"
Thompson says. "I don't want to be excessive in my pursuit of
the guy because I don't want to come across as some sort of
It's a little late for that.
REAL MEN DON'T SPIT
In a civil society, few acts are more repulsive than one person
spitting on another. When Roberto Alomar, the Baltimore Orioles'
second baseman, spat in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck after
being ejected from last Friday night's game against the Toronto
Blue Jays, he inexcusably degraded a man in front of 30,116
spectators at the SkyDome and millions of television viewers.
Hirschbeck may have made a bad call on strike three; that's
human error. By registering his protest with spittle, Alomar was
The next day American League president Gene Budig suspended
Alomar for five regular-season games. Alomar immediately filed
an appeal, which grants him a hearing with Budig. That's his
right. But this is wrong: The hearing won't be held until after
the World Series.
Alomar played last Saturday night and hit the game-winning homer
that clinched the American League wild card for the Orioles.
He'll play in the postseason, too. During the off-season Alomar,
with legal representatives at his side, will no doubt express
his contrition to Budig, who might reduce the suspension. So
Alomar might miss a whole series in April, when his teammates
are playing with decidedly less at stake. This is not justice.
Order is the domain of the umpire, and when a player willfully
spits in an umpire's face, the only just response is swift and
meaningful punishment. Budig should have held an emergency
hearing on Saturday morning and benched Alomar for the next five
games, regardless of where they fell on the calendar. Were
Alomar to serve his sentence during baseball's holy days--at a
season's climax and during postseason games--any player would
think twice before repeating Alomar's reprehensible outburst.
BIRDIES, EAGLES AND...
During the America East men's college golf tournament, held last
month in Stowe, Vt., Serge Hogg, captain of the eventual
champion Towson State team, was standing over a putt on the 6th
green when he looked up to see a moose--a large bull moose, in
fact--running up the fairway toward him. The antlered interloper
got within about 30 feet of Hogg and his playing partners before
hooking into the rough. Said a shaken Hogg later, "It was one of
the few times I have ever feared for my life on a golf course."
One of the times? Where does Hogg usually play, the Serengeti
Plain Country Club in Tanzania?
SONNY'S SIDE DOWN
Sonny Vaccaro is not Santa Claus, though that's how he portrays
himself to college basketball players. He gives away plane
tickets, shoes and clothes, usually on the basis of whether a
player has been bad or good on the court. He doles out his
largesse to those who can be most useful to him. Vaccaro is an
Adidas rep, and his ultimate goal is to promote the sneakers and
clothing made by his company. Now his so-called generosity may
disrupt the seasons of St. John's players Felipe Lopez and
Vaccaro admits that he bought round-trip New York-to-Las Vegas
plane tickets for Lopez and Hamilton last August so that the
players could attend a basketball camp conducted by Tim
Grgurich, an assistant with the Seattle SuperSonics. The trip
clearly violates an NCAA bylaw prohibiting "preferential
treatment, benefits or services because of the individual's
athletics reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a
In the case of Lopez and Hamilton, the "pay-back potential" to
Vaccaro is obvious, and the Big East's NCAA liaison is examining
the incident. At issue is Vaccaro's claim that he has a
long-standing personal relationship with Lopez and Hamilton and
that by bringing the players to Vegas he was not seeking to win
their allegiance. Of course, buying allegiances seems to have
been Vaccaro's MO when he worked for Nike in the late 1980s and
ingratiated himself with high schoolers Alonzo Mourning and
Juwan Howard. Both players went to Nike-subsidized programs--at
Georgetown and Michigan, respectively--and both signed with Nike
upon turning pro. Vaccaro shows no remorse over the
Lopez-Hamilton incident. "I've done things like that before, and
I'll do them again," he says. And he knows the NCAA can't
Unfortunately, the only way to stop Vaccaro's meddling with
collegians is to penalize the players he woos. A year ago Cal
star Tremaine Fowlkes was suspended for 14 games for taking
$1,800 from an agent. Lopez and Hamilton's punishment should be
no less. That's the best way to warn the next player Vaccaro
"befriends." And to make it clear that in college basketball,
there is no Santa Claus.
THE FINISH LINE
A great long run came to an end last Saturday night in
Boston--the Eliot Lounge closed its doors for the final time. An
unprepossessing little bar on Massachusetts Avenue, about a
block from the 26-mile mark of the Boston Marathon, the Eliot
Lounge was, for 25 years, the closest thing runners had to a
Hall of Fame. If you came to Boston to run the marathon, you
made a point of going to the Eliot Lounge to tip a few in its
hazy yellow light. With framed photos of the race's past
champions and the national flags of all the winners, with a high
jump bar 8'1/2" off the floor (Javier Sotomayor's world record)
and a strip of tape on the floor measuring 29'41/2" (Mike
Powell's long jump world record), the Eliot was part shrine,
part social club. Now the landlords plan to convert the space to
luxury suites for an adjoining hotel.
It was Bill Rodgers who put the Eliot on the map. In 1975, after
the first of his four Boston wins, Rodgers was asked how he
planned to celebrate. "I'm going to the Eliot Lounge to have a
Blue Whale with Tommy Leonard," he said, referring to the
Eliot's longtime bartender and guiding spirit, who himself ran
22 Bostons. Two years later Rodgers wound up at the Eliot under
different circumstances. After dropping out of the marathon at
the top of Heartbreak Hill, he went to the Eliot to watch the
finish on television. "It was one place I knew I could go where
I'd know someone," he said.
That's how most runners felt about the Eliot.
Miles from target that Army paratroopers delivering the game
ball to Kennewick (Wash.) High landed, alighting on a different
gridiron and prompting fans there to suspect a terrorist attack.
Dollars paid at auction for a toilet that once stood in the
Cleveland Stadium suite of Browns owner Art Modell.
Fine, in dollars, levied on Ottawa Senators forward Alexandre
Daigle after he joked about a "big bomb" in team exec Trevor
Timmins's bag as they boarded a flight in Pittsburgh.
Collective pay, in dollars, of top five executives at Bear
Stearns, a Wall Street investment firm--topping by $23 million
the payroll of the Chicago Bulls, the NBA's highest-paid team.
Vote apiece for Sammy Baugh, Joe Namath and Mickey Mouse in a
Palm Beach Post poll asking readers who should replace injured
Dolphins QB Dan Marino.
Last week's Louis Vuitton Classic car show--celebrating 100
years of the U.S. auto industry--parked 50 of the world's rarest
vintage cars in Manhattan. Three that caught our eye:
1955 D.A. Lubricants Indy roadster
1935 Aston Martin Ulster Le Mans racer
1954-55 Ferrari 121 LM sports prototype
Hockey sur Glace
By Peter LaSalle, Breakaway Books, $20.
All too often, works of sports fiction amount to hyperbolic
accounts of rambunctious Texas football teams or overwrought
odes to batted balls and tee shots. But Hockey sur Glace, a
collection of seven short stories and four poems, is a sensitive
portrayal of outdoor hockey players, whose rugged aura is
derived in part from playing in bitter temperatures on rough and
Set primarily in hardscrabble Canadian and New England towns,
the stories are less about the particulars of the game and more
about the moods that envelope the characters. In "Van Arsdale's
Pond," a group of boys sets out through the snow, skates and
sticks in tow, in search of a place to play. As they trudge
through the woods, they are hoping that the days after the first
freeze will bring "nothing more in the sky than the welcome gray
dimness, no sun and only cold."
Though game action rarely appears in the stories, the scenes
that do unfold sur glace (French for "on ice") are often at the
crux of the narratives. In "Wellesley College for Women, 1969,"
a story about a Harvard student's infidelity and subsequent
guilt, one shift of a pickup game is all the hockey described.
As the protagonist, Willy, steps onto the ice shortly after his
unfaithful act, he is suddenly at home, his guilt momentarily
forgotten as the other players watch him skate, in awe. Says
Willy, "It's all in the simple stride, smooth and from the hip,
and how you look just so goddamn relaxed wearing the big
battered leather gloves."
Unfortunately, LaSalle's writing is as uneven as the frozen
ponds and rivers upon which his subjects skate, and the codas of
some stories fall flat. But LaSalle, who wrote the 1984 novel
Strange Sunlight and a previous collection of short stories,
does a good job conveying the culture that defines a pond hockey
player's world. The essence of the collection comes through in
"Hockey," the best of LaSalle's efforts: "The outside, where the
white birches grew in clusters, was almost dark. The inside,
with the light off, was even darker. John liked the winter. He
liked hockey. Hockey." --K.K.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
The cover of Texas Tech's 1996-97 course catalog features an
action photo of former Red Raiders basketball player Darvin
Ham, who left school after last season without having earned a
Olympic gymnast, on her search for a boyfriend in college: "I
don't want a party animal guy...but I don't want a nerd. I
don't want some macho hunk jock guy, but I don't want him to be
a wimp. And he can't be tall, either."