The 3 1/2-year plea-bargained prison sentence handed down last
week in Calgary to acclaimed Canadian junior hockey coach Graham
James hardly puts an end to a horrific tale of sexual abuse. For
victims like Sheldon Kennedy, a Boston Bruins right wing who
went public with his story of being abused by James for a
decade, the agonizing memories never go away. "I always felt I
was not normal," says Kennedy. "My life was so backwards." Adds
his wife, Jana, "The biggest crime that Graham James committed
was that he stole Sheldon's youth."
Kennedy, one of a number of NHL players who were coached by
James in the junior leagues, met with reporters last Saturday in
Calgary to discuss his struggle to overcome the pain inflicted
by James, for whom he played four seasons on junior teams in
Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and who sexually abused him more than
300 times from 1984 through '94. Kennedy was also present at
James's sentencing after James pleaded guilty to two counts of
sexual assault. Kennedy didn't testify, but it was his
gut-wrenching decision to go to Calgary police in August that
prompted the investigation of James, who in 1989 was named Man
of the Year by Inside Hockey for his coaching and his crusade
against violence in the sport.
Kennedy says that James threatened him with a gun the first time
he abused him, at age 14, and during the period that he played
for him, James forcefully engaged him in lewd acts on a
twice-a-week basis. So strong was James's hold on Kennedy that
the abusive relationship continued even after he left James's
team. Prosecutors said that James also sexually victimized
another young player at least 50 times. That player was not named.
January 13, 1997
How could a respected coach--who helped produce talent such as
Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic and Calgary Flames sniper
Theo Fleury--get away with it? It's not all that surprising,
given the environment of junior hockey. Kennedy was a troubled
youth, a heavy drinker at 14, who longed to play pro hockey, a
dream his family pushed. When the call came from James to join
his team in Winnipeg, Kennedy says, "My parents couldn't get me
to the bus fast enough." When he arrived, Kennedy, like most
junior players, was away from home for the first time, living
among strangers. Though he was deeply disturbed by the abuse,
Kennedy saw James as an authority figure and a father figure, as
well as a facilitator of his dreams. And James, says Kennedy, is
a smart man who preyed on young players' vulnerabilities.
Kennedy has been seeing a psychologist twice a week for seven
months, but going public, he hopes, will be the best therapy.
"I've had a shield up," says Kennedy. "I do not let anybody in.
People like Graham, it's like they open up your skin and replace
A PUNCH IN THE FLY
In answering a lawsuit brought by a Phoenix bartender, boxer
Michael Carbajal said he hit the bartender during a brawl
because he "was afraid of the guy." Given that Carbajal earns
his living with his fists and the bartender weighs just 160
pounds, that excuse may sound flimsy. But consider that
Carbajal, the IBF junior flyweight champion, tips the scales at
108, and the defense carries a little more weight.
HALL OH FAME
Pitcher Phil Niekro was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on
Monday, and his lengthy and productive career make him a worthy
choice. But a far more fabulous talent was left out. In fact,
Sadaharu Oh wasn't even eligible.
Because only former U.S. major leaguers and Negro leaguers can
be elected to the Hall as players, Oh, who retired in 1980 after
belting 868 home runs in 22 seasons as a first baseman in
Japan's Central League, has never been considered. "I never
heard of getting me into the shrine of baseball," says Oh, who
manages the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks. "I know there are many U.S.
players who should be in Cooperstown who are not, so I feel a
Yet of all the borderline Hall of Famers who have been
overlooked by the Baseball Writers Association of America and
the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee, the groups that vote on
Hall membership, none stands out as much as Oh. Yes, he played
in smaller parks than U.S. major leaguers do and hit against
pitchers of less than big league caliber, but he loomed as a
giant among his peers. His tater total is not only 113 more than
Henry Aaron's but also 211 greater than that of Japan's
second-leading homer hitter, Katsuya Nomura. Oh had 2,170 RBIs
and 5,862 total bases, figures that once again dwarf Nomura in
both categories. Oh says he is proudest, however, of his 2,504
walks, a figure that surpasses Babe Ruth's major league mark by
448. "It shows how the pitchers were afraid of me," says Oh.
Included in their number were most of the U.S. pitchers Oh faced
in exhibition tours. He hit home runs off Hall of Famers Bob
Gibson, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver. "He was something," Dodgers
great Don Drysdale, who faced Oh in the '60s, once said. "He was
ready for everything we threw."
The 229 players currently in the Hall span vastly different eras
and styles. And not until 1971, the Hall's 36th year of
existence, did Satchel Paige become the first Negro league
player inducted. With Asian players such as Hideo Nomo and Chan
Ho Park proving that their nations' best can excel in the big
leagues, why not extend the Hall's reach to an alltime great?
It's not as though the election of Oh would lead to an influx of
Japanese league players. The voters know that Oh, a nine-time
MVP and 15-time home run leader, was a fantastic exception.
"Oh's being elected hasn't been discussed, because he isn't
eligible under our rules," says Hall publicist Jeff Idelson,
"but it's an interesting idea."
AN ORIGINAL HANGS IT UP
With Dale Brown as the LSU coach, one did not so much visit the
Tigers' basketball offices as enter the skewed universe of Dale
World. Go in intending to talk about the upcoming season and
Brown would take off on the evils of the NCAA, his favorite
topic. Ask a question about his biggest star, Shaquille O'Neal,
and Brown would suddenly grab his coat, take your arm and drive
you to his house to listen to his motivational tapes. At last
week's press conference announcing his retirement at the end of
this season, Brown touched on the following subjects: Martin
Luther King Jr., Jonas Salk, Jesus, Pope John Paul II, Noah's
ark, Walt Whitman, Jim Brown, Mount Kilimanjaro, his grandson
Christopher, Pete Maravich, Nelson Mandela and mustard seeds.
On the frequent occasions when Brown poured out his fire and
brimstone, he was blissfully unaware of contradiction. He once
launched into a monologue decrying high recruiting costs and the
volume of horse crap and flattery that a coach must use to
cajole high school stars into playing for him and then took me
to the gym and introduced his new freshman prize, John Williams,
upon whom Brown had fawned during recruiting trips to Los
Angeles. In recent years he railed against spoiled athletes, yet
when his own young star, Lester Earl, left the team in a huff
last month, Brown excused it by saying it was because Earl "was
mad at himself as a person." Brown preached against
under-the-table dealings in college basketball yet specialized
in unseemly player-coach package deals, such as the one that
brought Rudy Macklin and his high school mentor, Ron Abernathy,
to LSU in 1976, or the Howard Carter-Rick Huckaby twofer in '79.
While Brown bent the rules from time to time, I doubt that he
was a big-time cheater, and he was honestly infuriated about the
NCAA rules that he thought were unnecessarily punitive to
athletes. The best thing about him was his refusal to become
jaded. Each time you met him he seemed determined to let you in
on some new aspect of life that had gained his attention. He's
one of the few coaches I ever met who seemed to respect
journalists, partly, of course, because he was seduced by
publicity, but also because he felt he could learn something
from them, just as he could learn something from the custodial
workers at the Maravich Assembly Center. He mentioned them at
his press conference, too.
Like many of the messianic types in his sport, Brown was much
better at convincing weak talent that it was strong than at
taking strong talent and winning big. But he has won 445 games
(and lost just 288) in 25 years at LSU and in the process has
become an institution, if a bit of a loony one. And in college
basketball today there isn't nearly enough loony. --J.M.
SOCCER SALAD DAYS
Since the 1950s, when significant numbers of women began
attending soccer games in England, lads in many stadiums have
sung the Celery Song, with such ribald lyrics as "I'll tickle
her bum with a lump of celery."
Now fans of second-division Gillingham have introduced a
variation on that tradition. Gillingham has a goaltender, Jim
Stannard, who, at a soft 230 pounds, is the pudgiest player in
the division. Last winter, in an effort to drive Big Jim to
diet, the Gillingham faithful started serenading him with the
Celery Song and then chucking celery in his direction. Last
month the stalking got so out of hand that fans were smuggling
knapsacks stuffed with celery into Gillingham's Priestfield
Stadium and indiscriminately pelting players and referees; one
player even suffered a minor eye injury.
That's when the club publicly decried the low-calorie launchings
and, on Dec. 10, announced that anyone caught with celery on
Priestfield's grounds would be barred from the stadium for life.
Meanwhile, Stannard, who has refused to discuss his weight since
the celery showers began, is looking no slimmer. "They should
throw lasagna," he said. "I'd take more notice."
BAILEY'S FINE WHINE
Donovan Bailey showed his speed afoot last summer with two gold
medals that included a world record in the 100 meters at the
Atlanta Olympics. Now he's demonstrating that he's also pretty
quick when it comes to taking offense. After whining ever since
the Games that he, not Michael Johnson of the U.S., should be
recognized as the world's fastest human, Bailey was named his
country's 1996 athlete of the year by the Canadian Press wire
service. But now he's miffed that he received no votes for the
world athlete of the year award given out by the U.S.-based
Associated Press--an award Johnson won. "That's just the total
ignorance of the Americans," said Bailey.
Perhaps Bailey, who is due to meet Johnson in a 150-meter
showdown on May 31, should be reminded of the facts: In Atlanta
he won one individual gold and broke the 100-meter mark by .01
of a second. Johnson won two golds--in the 200 and the 400, an
unprecedented double for a man--while shattering the world
record in the 200 by .34 of a second. By what measure, besides
his own, could Bailey possibly be considered more outstanding
Dollars pledged by Atlanta Hawks guard Steve Smith to help build
an academic center, in honor of his late mother, at his alma
mater, Michigan State.
Snickers bars eaten during the Islamic holiday of Ramadan by
Saudi soccer star Saeed Al-Awairan, a transgression that, along
with his having kissed a woman and partaken of wine, led to his
banishment from the national team.
(and counting) Seasons of minor league baseball played by Pete
Rose Jr., who recently signed with the Cincinnati Reds' Class AA
Dollars per year in salary new Minnesota football coach Glenn
Mason will get--$275,000 more than university president Mark
Yudof, who was hired the same day.
Children sired by the 29 married players on Brigham Young's
Cotton Bowl-winning squad.
NCAA PRESIDENTS SHOULD GET REAL
As college and university administrators gather in Nashville
this week for the NCAA convention, they should ponder these
words from the Reverend James Loughran, S.J., president of Saint
Peter's College, a Division I school in Jersey City, N.J.
Loughran believes there is an inherent conflict between what he
calls the "irreconcilable objectives" of academic integrity and
This is what needs to be said to the 16-member council of
presidents charged with governing the NCAA's three divisions:
Your efforts are doomed to fail if you continue legislating more
rules and calling for more vigilant enforcement, while at the
same time negotiating ever more lucrative TV contracts,
million-dollar endorsements and the like. You have a chance to
succeed only if you acknowledge the contradiction built into
big-time sports and force a choice between professionalism and
amateurism, dollars and academic integrity.
Suppose I proposed measures such as these: elimination of
athletic scholarships, controls on coaches' salaries and income,
and distribution of bowl and tournament profits to needy
students. I would be hailed as yet another reformer, but my main
point would be lost--namely, that colleges with big-time sports
programs are torn between opposing purposes. Suppose I proposed
something more radical: that the NCAA be disbanded and that we
institute a five-year moratorium on intercollegiate athletics so
we can revive recreation and intramurals on campuses. No doubt I
would be dismissed as an extremist and again would not be taken
The NCAA presidents need to face these facts: Big-time college
sports conflict not only with amateurism but also with academic
integrity and the ideals of any good college; in the system that
exists, this conflict is inescapable, and, therefore, reform is
impossible. Presidents must get others--fellow presidents,
faculty members, politicians, parents--to face these facts. Then
it will be time to discuss publicly where sports and competition
belong in American higher education.
Touting her new Yaz swimwear to Conan O'Brien, Baywatch's
Yasmine Bleeth said she'd never heard of Carl Yastrzemski but
wondered aloud, "How does he look in a bikini?" You make the
The Swinger Suit, complete with bat holster.
The Keep Your Mitts off My...model for chesty defensive plays
(above), and the Two-Piece Runner complete with designer sliding
Miguel Indurain, Spain's most renowned athlete and perhaps the
greatest cyclist ever--he won an unprecedented five straight
Tours de France--announced his retirement last week at age 32. A
few facts about Big Mig:
--His endurance was due in part to his ability to suck it up: His
7.8-liter lung capacity is about four liters above normal.
--He never reigned in Spain: His best finish in his own nation's
Tour was a second in 1991.
--He suffered from stage blight: During his five Tour de France
victories, he won only 10 individual stages.
--He'll always have Paris: In 1993 President Francois Mitterrand
awarded Indurain the French Legion of Honor.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
A recent pro fight card at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center in
Salisbury, Md., was sponsored in part by the Peninsula Regional
Medical Center, which took a page in the program to advertise
the center's "intensive care" approach.
THEY SAID IT
Vice president of basketball operations for the Utah Jazz, on
the incongruity of casting matinee idol Tom Cruise as a sports
agent in the movie Jerry Maguire: "They should have used that
guy who played Ratso Rizzo."