Just when professional golf was beginning to shake its elitist
image and appeal to the masses, the PGA Tour has come up with a
way to make sure those masses don't get too close to the elite.
The Tour last week announced plans to sell a maximum of 1,000
GolfWatch passes per tournament this season, which, for a mere
$1,500 apiece, will entitle well-heeled bearers access not only
to corporate hospitality tents but also to "express walking
lanes." Set up parallel to fairways and patrolled by four or
five guards per hole, these rabble-free zones--the brainchild of
the Denver-based firm Strategic Marketing International--will be
in place at four events this year, beginning with the Nissan
Open on Feb. 27, and are scheduled to be expanded to 12
tournaments next season. For the golf world's truly idle rich
this is most assuredly a step in the right direction. Some of
those folks, however, are no doubt holding out for moving
THE COWBOY FILES
For years women's groups have tried to get across the message
that a rape victim is just that--a victim, who should be treated
with sympathy and respect, not tainted with innuendo, whatever
her personal history. A concomitant message came across loud and
clear in Dallas last week: We should not rush to judgment
against someone accused of rape, either, whatever his
background. After an 11-day investigation, Dallas police last
Friday afternoon said that the 23-year-old former topless dancer
who had accused Michael Irvin and Erik Williams of aggravated
sexual assault had recanted her story and that no charges would
be filed against the two Dallas Cowboy stars.
That won't stop many people from continuing to believe that a
crime occurred at Williams's north Dallas home on Dec. 29, the
night on which, according to the complaint that Nina Shahravan
filed the next day, Williams had raped her as Irvin recorded the
event on a video camera. She also alleged that Irvin had pointed
a gun at her before the rape. The histories of Williams (who in
1995 reached an out-of-court settlement after being accused of
sexually assaulting a 17-year-old topless dancer) and Irvin (who
is still on probation after pleading no contest to cocaine
possession last July), as well as the notorious misbehavior of
many other Cowboys, have made it easy to look cynically at the
erstwhile America's Team. But just because it's easy doesn't
mean it's right. Continuing to doubt Irvin and Williams after
they have been cleared, or assuming that they were guilty before
all the facts of the case were known, is no better than doubting
the story of a rape victim because she was a party girl, or
because her skirt was too short, or because she was drinking in
a bar at two o'clock in the morning.
Questions about the case do remain. Dallas police pointed to a
medical exam administered on Shahravan on Dec. 30 that revealed
bruises and injuries "consistent with a sexual assault." A
Dallas police lieutenant told SI on Dec. 31, "Everything she
[Shahravan] told us has checked out." As late as last Friday
morning, a Collin County prosecutor said that he believed that
his office had a good case against Irvin and Williams and that
Shahravan "had not wavered" in her story. Part of the police's
willingness to believe Shahravan was based on having found a
balled-up piece of aluminum foil in Williams's house,
supporting, they believed, her contention that she and the two
men had used cocaine that evening. But last Friday afternoon,
test results came back revealing no trace of drugs on the
aluminum foil. Shahravan recanted soon thereafter.
Police have been wrong before, and so have medical reports. And
so have high-profile celebrities been victimized by predators of
all stripe. Williams and Irvin denied their guilt all along, and
hard as it might be for a cynical public and a carnivorous press
to admit, these Cowboys were unfairly branded this time.
BOSTON WRITERS STRIKE OUT
For an example of spineless behavior, it would be hard to top
the one-two punch delivered last week by the Boston chapter of
the Baseball Writers Association of America. First, the chapter
kowtowed to Boston Red Sox CEO John Harrington, who had
threatened to boycott the group's annual dinner last Thursday
and dissuade players from attending if the writers awarded
veteran Mike Greenwell the Tommy McCarthy Memorial Good Guy
Award. Tensions that had simmered all season between the front
office and Greenwell--who in December announced he was leaving
Boston after 12 seasons to play in Japan--boiled over in
September when Greenwell began cleaning out his locker while the
Sox were technically still in contention for the American League
Although the association wrote to Harrington objecting to his
interference, it presented Greenwell with a lifetime achievement
award instead. As Harrington wanted, Greenwell did not show up.
But in a subsequent interview with The Boston Globe, Greenwell
lambasted the Red Sox, particularly embattled general manager
Dan Duquette, exactly the sort of criticism by Greenwell that
Harrington wished to avoid at the banquet.
And what happened when a Boston reporter asked chapter president
Charlie Scoggins of the Lowell Sun about the episode? Scoggins,
who is in the information business, said, "No comment."
The collection of cauliflower ears and crooked noses that
congregated last week in Manhattan's Swann Galleries had come
not to box, but to bid. The objects of their desire were
fight-related books, photographs, posters and ephemera, most
from the collection of Nat Fleischer, founder and longtime
editor of The Ring magazine, who died in 1972. Baseball still
reigns as champ in the field of sports collectibles, but as the
items at left demonstrate, boxing is fighting its way up.
MEET THE NEW BOSS
When he purchased a controlling interest in the Southern Minny
Stars, a Class A baseball team in Austin, Minn., last week, Chad
Yale achieved a lifelong dream--at age 19. "I've always been a
big sports fan and wanted to be involved in something more
professional than we have here," says Yale, who was raised and
still lives in Burlington, a small town in North Dakota, and a
15-hour drive from the nearest major league city, Minneapolis.
After having fought back from a horrific injury that almost cost
him his life, Yale should find being the youngest owner of a
professional sports franchise relatively easy.
In February 1994 Chad was severely burned when a Canadian
Pacific Railroad freight train jumped the tracks in the middle
of the night just 50 yards from his family's house. He was the
first one outside and immediately went to his car to switch on
the headlights to illuminate the crash scene. "That's the last
thing I remember," he says. One of the derailed cars was a
tanker carrying propane; while Chad was in his front yard
heading for his car, the tanker exploded. His parents and
brother, who had left the house seconds after Chad, escaped with
minor injuries, but Chad suffered third-degree burns over 90% of
his body. Doctors gave him a 1% chance of survival. Though his
right arm had to be amputated, Chad recovered during an
eight-month stay at the St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center burn unit
and in the spring of '95 graduated with his high school class.
Last July the Yale family reached an out-of-court settlement
with Canadian Pacific. The terms were not disclosed, but they
were sufficient for Chad to put up $90,000 to buy his piece of
Southern Minny. (The Stars are valued at $250,000.) During his
stay at Ramsey Medical Center, Chad met former Atlanta Braves
catcher Greg Olson, who at the time was playing and coaching for
the independent Minneapolis Loons of the Prairie League. They
became friends--Olson spoke at Chad's high school
graduation--and in December 1995 Yale bought a 5% share of
Olson's team, which by that time had moved to Austin and become
the Southern Minny Stars. After the Stars went 34-45 last
season, Southern Minny's two controlling owners pulled out, and
Olson, himself a part owner and the team's general manager,
offered their stock to Yale. "It was pretty much a no-brainer,"
Yale says of his jump into sports ownership.
Yale's acquisition is just one of his ventures as a burgeoning
businessman. For the next few months he'll be busy overseeing
the construction of a 38,000-square-foot sports, recreation and
restaurant complex in Minot, N.Dak., that he hopes to open by
next October. Yale will make the 14-hour drive from Burlington
to Austin for the Stars' opening series this season but has no
plans to immerse himself in Southern Minny's baseball decisions.
"Greg's been around baseball for a while," he says. "So I'll
just go along with what he decides."
HIGH MARKS FOR MARKO
International basketball's elite new EuroLeague staged its first
EuroStars weekend in Istanbul just before New Year's, and while
there was no slam-dunk contest among the festivities, had there
been, we have a pretty good idea who would have won. Marko
Milic, a 19-year-old from the former Yugoslav republic of
Slovenia, has what those fluent in Hoopsperanto call "mad hops."
NBA scouts have been tracking Milic since he was 17, and he says
that several of them persuaded him to resist the blandishments
of such high-powered basketball schools as Alabama, Duke and
North Carolina and stay home. Their reasoning: The 6'6" swingman
would develop faster playing among the men of the EuroLeague, an
agglomeration of the 24 best club teams in 12 European
countries, than among the boys of the NCAA.
Milic says he got good advice. And there's even a touch of the
gung ho on his team, Smelt Olimpija, based in Slovenia's
capital, Ljubljana. "We're all young and without a name yet, so
we're hungry," says Milic. According to EuroLeague rules, teams
can dress only 10 players for each game, so Smelt Olimpija coach
Zmago Sagadin has the 15 men on his roster battle each other for
those spots every day in practice. That has made for a steep
learning curve. Of course Sagadin isn't so foolish as to ever
omit Milic from the starting lineup.
Like everyone playing topflight club ball in Europe, Milic,
whose parents were both first-class field-event athletes in the
former Yugoslavia, draws a salary, and his decision to play at
home offers a lesson for U.S. college coaches: They may pick off
the odd Andrew Gaze from Australia, or Dikembe Mutombo from
Zaire, or adolescent refugees from such economically distressed
European countries as Russia and Bosnia. But the most talented
Continental teens can find better competition--and make
money--playing for well-heeled clubs in France, Germany, Greece,
Italy, Spain, Turkey and even Slovenia.
Milic is expected to spend a couple of years maturing in Europe,
so it will be a while before we get to see whether Milic is the
next Toni Kukoc. We'll also have to wait to size up his dunking
technique. But judging by the between-the-legs, lefthanded,
afterthought slam he issued from the EuroStars' pregame layup
line, the wait will be worth it.
Baseball cards of home-run-interfering Jeffrey Maier that will
be made after the 12-year-old New York Yankees fan's parents
nixed an offer from Upper Deck.
Years between national titles won by Angelo Schiralli, a guard
on the 1966 Notre Dame team, and his son, Nick, a Florida
special teams player.
Flavors (Chocolate Power Play, Hat Trick Sundae, Three Star
Mint, Slap Shot Vanilla) of Colorado Avalanche brand ice cream
sold in Denver.
Dollars won at craps at a Puerto Rican casino by Cincinnati
forward Ruben Patterson--who like other collegians is not
prohibited by the NCAA from casino gambling--during a recent
Times a Medical College of Wisconsin technician magnified a
nucleus of a white blood cell to produce by happenstance an
image that resembles the Green Bay Packers logo.
BROOKLYN PIPE DREAM
No sooner had Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley announced
that he was putting his team on the market last week than the
New York tabloids began speculating that da beloved Bums might
at last be returned to Brooklyn. Sorry, Noo Yawk, chances are
the retro look modeled here by current Dodgers star Mike Piazza
is as close as anyone will get to that Ebbets Field of Dreams.
A SENSIBLE PROPOSITION
It wouldn't be an NCAA convention without litigation, and the
court case that was a hot subject at the meetings this week in
Nashville is a beauty. A class-action suit filed in Federal
court in Philadelphia by an all-star array of lawyers contends
that oft-assailed Proposition 16 (originally known as Prop 48)
violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The suit was filed by two former high school track stars from
Philadelphia, Tai Kwan Cureton and Leatrice Shaw. Both are
African-American, and both were honor students who graduated in
1996 from an inner-city school. Both had good enough grades in
their core courses to satisfy Prop 16 requirements but failed to
reach the necessary standard on the SAT; thus, they were
declared ineligible to compete as freshmen at any Division I
school. The suit alleges that most major colleges then lost
interest in Cureton and Shaw. Cureton is now a freshman at a
Division III school, Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., where he
is running track. Shaw is a freshman on an athletic scholarship
at Miami; she won't be allowed to compete until next year, and
she'll have only three years of eligibility.
Like Cureton and Shaw, the vast majority of student-athletes who
fail to meet Prop 16 requirements are black, and the lawsuit
argues that the NCAA's reliance on SATs and ACTs--racially
biased tests, the suit states-- disproportionately denies
opportunities to African-Americans. The suit isn't likely to go
away; the lawyers who filed it are a determined bunch who in
1995 won a court fight to get Brown University to comply with
Title IX stipulations, a decision that was recently upheld in
appeal. But the NCAA did move to eliminate one point of
contention. On the table in Nashville was a proposal
called--don't wince--Proposition 68, to keep "partial" academic
qualifiers ineligible as freshmen but grant them a fourth year
of eligibility. The freshman year would become, in effect, an
academic redshirt year in which to focus on classwork without
having to give up a year of sports eligibility. Late Monday the
measure passed, though only by a 173-145 vote. The provision
might be a first step toward staving off what could become an
ugly court battle.
After an NCAA-record 117 straight losses dating back to Jan. 18,
1992, Rutgers-Camden's men's basketball team beat Bloomfield
College 77-72 on Jan. 7. While the Pioneers were going without
winning a single game...
NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace won 26 Winston Cup races.
Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus won 10 (six gold in Barcelona and four
bronze in Atlanta) Olympic medals in gymnastics.
The Atlanta Braves won 484 games and three National League
Steffi Graf won 11 Grand Slam tournaments.
Uta Pippig and Cosmas N'Deti each won three Boston Marathons.
Michael Johnson won 37 straight 400-meter finals.
Oprah Winfrey won eight Daytime Emmys. And, oh, yes, Bill
Clinton won two presidential elections.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
Before Magic Johnson and his traveling all-star team arrived in
Jakarta last week on a tour to raise money to fight AIDS,
Indonesia's health minister urged citizens to get information
"so that this HIV-positive athlete will not spread the disease."
Pro high diver, on the dangers of plunging headfirst into a pool
from heights of as much as 80 feet: "It's the safest thing in
the world, but it could kill you."