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SPORTS AND POLITICS...CAN TIGER MATCH JORDAN?...NBA'S FIRST BASKET...ALI-FOREMAN FILM IS A WINNER...BASEBALL LETTERS...THE STRANGE CASE OF THE HONED HELMET BUCKLE

Nov. 04, 1996
Nov. 04, 1996

Table of Contents
Nov. 4, 1996

Faces In The Crowd

SPORTS AND POLITICS...CAN TIGER MATCH JORDAN?...NBA'S FIRST BASKET...ALI-FOREMAN FILM IS A WINNER...BASEBALL LETTERS...THE STRANGE CASE OF THE HONED HELMET BUCKLE

SEE JOCK RUN

This is an article from the Nov. 4, 1996 issue Original Layout

The political air has been filled with football cliches over the
past few months as the Republican team of Bob Dole and Jack Kemp
has wasted no opportunity to conjure up Kemp's gridiron past.
The G.O.P. vice-presidential candidate recently said that the
race "is still in the third quarter" and accused Bill Clinton of
"trying to sit on a lead." It shouldn't be too long before we
hear about Dole-Kemp firing up the two-minute drill to attack
the Democrats' prevent defense.

Kemp is not the only former athlete whose name will be on the
political scoreboard next Tuesday. Heck, he isn't even the only
conservative Republican former quarterback running for office:
J.C. Watts, who led Oklahoma to Orange Bowl wins in 1980 and
'81, is trying to retain his House seat in Oklahoma's Fourth
District; and Bill Kenney, a former Kansas City Chiefs
signal-caller, is running for lieutenant governor of Missouri.

Kenney, like Kemp, trumpets his hut-one, hut-two past. His
campaign slogan is, Leadership from the stadium to the
statehouse, and the campaign cards he hands off include his
stats with the Chiefs from 1979 through '88. As of Monday,
political experts in Missouri were tabbing the Kenney race as
too close to call. Watts, meanwhile, has such name recognition
that he doesn't have to trade much on his gridiron past.
Although allegations have been made that he defaulted on a $4
million business loan in 1994, Watts, who is black, is expected
to beat his white Democratic challenger, Ed Crocker, even though
the Fourth is 90% white and predominantly Democratic.

Two other athletes who are conservative Republicans, Hall of
Fame receiver Steve Largent and world-record-setting miler Jim
Ryun, also should taste victory on Nov. 5. Largent is virtually
unopposed in his bid to retain his U.S. House seat from
Oklahoma's Second District. And though even some conservatives
are frightened by what they consider Ryun's far-right
beliefs--the Iola (Kans.) Register broke a 125-year tradition of
backing Republicans and endorsed Ryun's opponent because it
fears Ryun's "deeply religious philosophy that sets him apart
from most Kansans"--he's expected to win.

The most compelling battle involving a jock is in North
Carolina, where NASCAR legend Richard Petty, a Republican, is
slightly behind Democrat Elaine Marshall in their race for
secretary of state. Petty scores high in name recognition--95%
of the state's voters know the King--but has an approval rating
of just 38%. Perhaps that's because Petty spends most of his
stumping time signing autographs and his oratory does not, as
the Wilmington, N.C., Morning Star wrote, "always hit on all
pistons." For example, in arguing recently that celebrity can be
a drawback for a politician, he said, "My name recognition
sometimes is a minus, you know what I mean, because people just
look at you as a one-dimensional situation." And nobody, least
of all a jock turned politician, wants to be a one-dimensional
situation.

PENALTIES ARE FUN!

Sega, the video-game company, has approached the English
Football League Referees' Association about the possibility of
acting as title sponsor of the red and yellow cards issued to
offending players. Says a company spokesman, "We hope that each
time a referee has to show a player a card, the Sega branding
will remind [the referee] that, after all, it's only a game,
thereby reducing the psychological tension that referees face."
Considering the number of on-the-field skirmishes and
in-the-stands riots that happen during soccer games, isn't it
the players and the fans who need the reminding?

EYEING THE TIGER

In just nine weeks on the PGA Tour, 20-year-old Tiger Woods has
demonstrated that he could become not only the world's best
golfer but also--with $60 million worth of endorsement
deals--golf's biggest off-the-course star. A more intriguing
question: Can he become the next Michael Jordan, the next
athlete to transcend his sport?

Everyone agrees that, like Jordan, Woods is talented, bright
and, as Bob Scarpelli, vice chairman of DDB Needham advertising
agency in Chicago puts it, "multicultural" (i.e., he appeals to
people from all demographic groups). Undeniably, Woods's youth
and dashing style of play have already created untold thousands
of new golf fans. But there might be a limit to golf's--and,
thus, Woods's--crossover appeal. "Basketball and football are
beer-guy sports," says Gary Conway, senior vice president at
Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago. "Golf still seems to be pretty
elitist." What Woods must do is draw the masses to the
traditionally country-club sport, a process that Arnold Palmer
began three decades ago when he made golf at least a blip on
America's radar screen and created a lifetime-endorsement career
for himself. Pro basketball's explosion in popularity during the
Jordan era has been an important factor in an endorsement career
that shows no sign of waning. Woods and golf will have to grow
together too.

Doing that won't be as easy for Woods as it was for Jordan.
Woods doesn't wear a uniform that kids can adopt, and don't
expect to see youngsters trading in their Air Jordans to hang
out at the mall in Tiger Spikes. Jordan was also helped by the
presence of other celebrities in the NBA, by his often getting
the best of superstars such as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Think you'll ever hear a barroom conversation begin with, "Man,
did you see Tiger dust Phil Mickelson"?

There's another question that no one can yet answer: Will Woods
make wise endorsement decisions? "Michael picked the right
advertisers and made the right commercials," says Ric Anello of
D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles agency in St. Louis, the man
behind the Budweiser frogs. "The Michael Jordan Nike persona is
more well known than the Chicago Bulls." It remains to be seen
if Tiger can burn that bright.

WHY NOT ORLANDO?

Just thought we would let you know that the FedEx Orange Bowl,
which is played in Miami, has announced its "official vacation
destination": the Bahamas.

A FOOTNOTE TO HISTORY

About a minute into the New York Knickerbockers-Toronto Huskies
NBA game at Maple Leaf Gardens on Nov. 1, 1946, Knicks playmaker
Ossie Schectman caught a bounce pass from Leo (Ace) Gottlieb,
took a dribble or two and made a layup. Score: New York 2,
Toronto 0.

The significance of that shot wasn't recognized until 1988, when
Ricky Green of the Utah Jazz scored the NBA's five-millionth
point, prompting league researchers to dig through old
play-by-play sheets to find out who had scored the first point.
The answer: Schectman. "When they called me, I remembered the
play, but I hadn't thought about it in 40 years," says
Schectman, 77, who lives in Delray Beach, Fla. "It was just
another layup."

On Friday night Schectman and eight others who took part in that
first game will be back in Toronto to watch the Toronto Raptors
(the Huskies lasted only one season, leaving Toronto without a
franchise until the Raptors were born last year) host the Knicks
and to kick off a season-long celebration of the NBA's golden
anniversary.

Schectman, a star at Long Island University from 1937 to 1941,
averaged a solid 8.1 points and a team-high 2.0 assists a game
in that inaugural year. But he quit before the next season
because of a ruptured intestine and a salary dispute; he went to
work as a salesman for a textile company in New York City, where
he remained until his retirement 15 years ago.

"I've been lucky," says Schectman. "To be remembered for
something like this when it could've been anybody who scored
that first basket, well, it's made an old man's life very
special."

DEAR CAL

There are plenty of diamonds in the rough scrawls that make up
most of Seth Swirsky's book, Baseball Letters: A Fan's
Correspondence with His Heroes. Swirsky, a Los Angeles-based
songwriter (Taylor Dayne's Tell It to My Heart and Prove Your
Love are among his compositions), sent letters to scores of
former major leaguers, and the book features 97 handwritten
responses. Our favorite comes from Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar
Tuskahoma McLish, a righthander who won 92 games with seven
teams between 1944 and '64. Swirsky asked McLish how he got his
name.

"The only thing I was ever told (by my mother) was that of 6
previous children my dad was not involved in naming any of
them--so he supposedly tried to catch up, using me. He named me
after a president, a Roman emperor and an indian chief. Being
part indian I guess he felt he had to get an indian name in
there some where--i've always claimed he had to be in the
firewater to give a kid a name like that. Calvin Coolidge was
president when I was born (1925) Don't know where Julius Caesar
came from. That's about all I know. I was called Buster by all
my family."

THE RAZOR'S EDGE

Years from now, they'll still be talking in Albuquerque about
the bizarre saga of the razor-sharp buckle on the helmet of a
player in an Oct. 12 football game between Albuquerque Academy
and St. Pius X. Right now, though, they're talking criminal
behavior. As of Monday, no charges had been filed against either
the player or his father, who claimed responsibility for
sharpening the buckle. But the district attorney of Bernalillo
County was on the case, and the best guess was that some type of
criminal charge would be filed.

The episode started to unfold during the first quarter of the
Academy's 22-16 double-overtime win. Two Academy players found
that they were bleeding from wounds to their hands and arms; one
had sustained three cuts that would require 10 stitches. A third
teammate, whose arm was covered with scratches, told his
coaches, "It feels like they've got razor blades out there."
Referee Steve Fuller ran a quick check of the St. Pius players'
equipment and found what he thought were two defective
chin-strap buckles on the helmet worn by junior center Mike
Cito. After removing them, he gave the first to a St. Pius
assistant and pocketed the other.

After the game, officials found that the buckle in Fuller's
possession had been milled to razor sharpness. (The St. Pius
assistant coach said he had thrown away the first buckle, and a
search of the field failed to turn it up.) On Oct. 14 the New
Mexico High School Activities Association began an
investigation, which resulted in Cito's being discharged from
the team and then expelled from school. After the expulsion,
Cito's father, Stephen, a pediatric dentist, told St. Pius X
principal Rev. Ronald G. Schwenzer that he had done the milling.

Stephen was upset that in the previous week's game against St.
Michael's High, Mike had been a victim of what the father
considered excessive head-slapping. According to Schwenzer, this
was the elder Cito's solution to that. Several observers
describe Stephen, who was working on the sideline chain gang
during the Albuquerque Academy-St. Pius game, as a hothead. He
was so vocal in his criticism of the officiating during St.
Pius's game against Capital High on Sept. 28 that he was asked
to leave the sideline crew. Apparently, the elder Cito is not
always so bellicose; people close to Mike's sporting events
describe Stephen as "mouthy" and "macho" but also say that he
"loves children" and frequently performs charitable dental work
on youngsters from low-income families. More than one source
describes Mike as a nice, levelheaded kid. Neither father nor
son has talked to the press.

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the buckle
sharpening was teamwide, but the hope remains that this was an
isolated incident. Or, as D.A. Bob Schwartz puts it, "a really
dumb idea confined to some really dumb people."

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: JOHN DYKES The autograph-signing Petty, the flag-waving Kemp and the Bible-toting Ryun are among the former jocks seeking public office. [Drawing of Richard Petty, Jack Kemp, and Jim Ryun running on trail]COLOR PHOTO: JOE PICCIOLO Can the talented Tiger give golf the kind of kick that Jordan gave hoops? [Tiger Woods celebrating in front of crowd]COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD TERMINE/CTW [Cookie monster in scene from TV show Sesame street]FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: ANDREW MCCLOSKEY [Half-eaten muffin; two batteries; half-eaten apple; bottle of whiskey]B/W ILLUSTRATION [Word bubble with euphemistic characters for obscenity]COLOR PHOTO: HOWARD L. BINGHAM [Muhammad Ali on bus]COLOR PHOTO: GREG SORBER/ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL A milled buckle (circled, next to a standard one) has cut deep in Albuquerque. [Two chin-strap buckles]

GO FIGURE

89
Days of hell endured by Olympic security guard Richard Jewell
between the time he was named a suspect in the Atlanta bombing
and the FBI's dropping him as a suspect last week.

2,094
Days after Terry Norris pounded him into retirement number 3
that Sugar Ray Leonard, 40, signed for a February comeback fight
against Hector Camacho.

1
Length of cut, in inches, on nose of Denver Bronco Ed McCaffrey
after he removed Breathe-Right strip secured with Stickum.

46,500,000
Americans who play basketball, according to a Sporting Goods
Manufacturers Association survey that found hoops to be the most
widely played team sport in the U.S.

53,100,000
Americans who take part in the most widely played sport, bowling.

40
Tins of chocolate chip cookies (13 to a tin) recently ordered
from the Connecticut-based Cookie Connection by Chicago Bulls
sweet tooth Dennis Rodman.

HARD RAIN

Here are some of the vast array of objects the Braves say Yankee
Stadium fans heaved at them during the Series.

Healthy breakfast food.
Batteries of all types.
A veritable fruit salad.
Booze bottles, full and empty.
Profane invective, a New York specialty.

SCOUTING REPORT

A KNOCKOUT
When We Were Kings, Gramercy Pictures

In September 1974, Leon Gast, then a 37-year-old fashion
photographer turned filmmaker, set out for Kinshasa, Zaire, with
700 rolls of 16-mm film, 10 camera crews and a contract to make
a documentary about a black music festival to be held in
conjunction with the George Foreman-Muhammad Ali heavyweight
championship fight. When Foreman's eye was cut in sparring and
the bout was put off for six weeks, Gast remained in Africa,
recording Ali's preparation for the fight of his life. Now, 22
years later, after going to court against promoter Don King to
gain control of the footage and chasing down funding and a
distributor, Gast at last has unveiled his film. When We Were
Kings, which opened last week for limited runs in New York City
and Los Angeles, was worth the wait.

Far more than just a fight film, Kings offers a vivid picture of
a tumultuous event and time. Zaire's dictator, Mobutu Sese
Seko--a "closet sadist," in the words of Norman Mailer, who
narrates parts of the film--put up $10 million of his
impoverished country's money to bring the fight to Kinshasa,
along with such entertainers as James Brown and B.B. King.
Gast's film captures the emotional impact felt by many of the
American blacks visiting Africa for the first time. "We left
Africa in shackles and fetters and chains," booms Don King in
one scene. "Now we're coming back in splendor."

Most splendorous of all, of course, was Ali (above). These days,
largely because Parkinson's syndrome has left him enfeebled and
nearly mute, Ali has become a sort of national teddy bear--warm
and fuzzy and safely beloved. It is electrifying to see him
here, at 32, fiercely fit and animated, crackling with energy
and humor. Facing a seemingly invincible foe in the undefeated,
26-year-old Foreman, Ali visibly wills himself to victory,
drawing strength from the adoring crowds that followed him
wherever he went. "He's in my country," says Ali at one point,
contemplating Foreman's predicament. Gast's brilliant film
evokes a time when the whole world was Ali's country. --R.O.

THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US

Announcers for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who begin major league
play in 1998 at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, will be required
under a contract with the stadium's title sponsor to call every
home run hit at the park "a Bank One boomer."

THEY SAID IT
Tyrone Hill
Cleveland Cavaliers forward, to a Cavs public relations man
after a reporter asked Hill when he got married: "When did I get
married?"