NO MAGIC CURE
On Nov. 7, 1991, Magic Johnson became the most famous person to
announce that he was HIV-positive. Since then he has not only
used his celebrity to fight AIDS by raising awareness and money
(more than $6 million to organizations throughout the country),
but also coped admirably with HIV by continuing to pursue a
full, even outsized, life. He starred for the Dream Team in the
'92 Olympics, opened a chain of movie theaters in inner cities,
launched a brief comeback with the Lakers, unveiled a line of
athletic shoes, signed with Fox to develop his own syndicated
talk show, toured the world playing for the Magic Johnson
All-Stars, and, with wife Cookie, adopted their second child,
Elisa. The indomitable and upbeat Magic has asserted time and
again: I'm going to beat AIDS.
But now Cookie has gone a step further: She claims Magic has
beaten it. "The Lord has definitely healed Earvin," she says in
the April issue of Ebony. "There is no virus left in his blood."
Magic was slightly more circumspect about his condition when
approached by KCBS-TV in Los Angeles. "If it wasn't for the
Lord's blessing," he said, "I wouldn't be as healthy as I am now."
Since Johnson's diagnosis, there have been significant advances
in the medication used to treat AIDS. Combinations of drugs that
include protease inhibitors, which serve to shut down HIV
reproduction, have reduced the viral load to infinitesimal
amounts in some patients. That appears to be the case with
Magic, who is being treated by virologist David Ho, one of the
pioneers in the use of protease inhibitors, and other
specialists at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New
York. "They think it's the medicine," Cookie told Ebony. "We
claim it in the name of Jesus."
But while HIV may not be detected in the bloodstream, it may
still lurk in other parts of the body. And until doctors are
certain no HIV remains in Magic and tell him he can stop taking
his medication, it will be premature to pronounce him healed.
The Johnsons' faith is obviously deep and their outlook
inspiring. But given Magic's visibility, their words may lead
people to believe too soon that the virus is eradicable.
"There's no reason to jump up and down and celebrate," says
Sidney Ho, David's brother and the operations manager at Aaron
Diamond. "It worries us that people think it's manageable, that
it'll just go away. As far as we know, the virus doesn't just go
FISH GOTTA FLY
A week after former President George Bush's triumphant parachute
jump, a sky dive by another public figure went tragically awry.
Billy the Marlin, the Florida Marlins' long-billed, maniacally
grinning piscatorial mascot, was decapitated at 6,000 feet while
attempting to parachute into Pro Player Stadium in Miami on
April 1 as part of the Marlins' Opening Day festivities. Well,
actually, a U.S. Navy SEAL dressed as Billy had the head of his
costume ripped away by a gust of wind. The quick-thinking SEAL
altered his descent to land outside the stadium; meanwhile,
another Billy took his place inside. As of Monday the head was
still missing, and the Marlins were offering a reward for anyone
who brings it in.
SEAL parachutist Lou Langlais, who took part in the Opening Day
sky dive, contends that the leap should never have been
attempted, noting that a head like Billy's "isn't meant for
jumping out of airplanes." Says Langlais, "That is a really
unruly head. It's too big. It catches too much air in that big,
UNMASKING THE MVP
The last goalie to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most
valuable player was the Montreal Canadiens' Jacques Plante in
1962. It's time for that streak to end: The worthiest candidates
for the Hart this year are Dominik Hasek of the Buffalo Sabres,
who at week's end was averaging 32.4 saves a game, and Martin
Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, whose goals-against average of
1.89 would be the league's best since 1973-74.
Because the top goalie wins the Vezina Trophy, many of the
hockey writers who select the Hart winner feel that he should
not receive both trophies. A similar unwritten rule applies
among baseball writers, who rarely vote for a Cy Young Award
winner to be the MVP. But while even the most active pitchers
are on the field for no more than 15% of a team's innings,
starting goalies play close to 75% of the time. As Casey Stengel
might have said: If you don't have a goalie, you're not going to
make many saves.
Mike Modano (35 goals, 47 assists at week's end), a formidable
two-way forward for the surprising Dallas Stars, and Anaheim
Ducks winger Paul Kariya (42 goals, 54 assists), the NHL's next
superstar, are also strong Hart candidates. But Hasek, the MVP
runner-up to Detroit Red Wings center Sergei Fedorov in 1994, is
the reason the Sabres are headed to a better-than-expected
third-place finish in the Eastern Conference. He's the most
dominant player in hockey, and he deserves the Hart Trophy.
Lee McKinney, the basketball coach at tiny (enrollment 1,801)
Fontbonne College in St. Louis for the last 10 seasons, has
always believed in heeding the input of his charges. But then
two autumns ago Denny Golden, Fontbonne's president, urged
McKinney to have his players vote to select the starting lineup
before each game. "I thought it was the craziest thing I'd ever
heard," McKinney says.
Crazy maybe, but effective. The Griffins, who play in Division
III, have gone 34-17 in two seasons of one man, one vote.
McKinney says his players not only pick the best lineup but also
perform more intensely. "When it's not just one guy deciding
your fate, everything changes," says sophomore forward Doug
Davinroy. "You have to prove yourself all the time."
The starting-by-suffrage policy, which also applies to
Fontbonne's golf, volleyball and women's basketball teams, is
part of Golden's "Declaration of Coaching," a document he drew
up 21 years ago when he was football coach at Framingham (Mass.)
State. "Everyone was talking about the Declaration of
Independence," says Golden, 55, recalling the spirit of 1976.
"I'm thinking, Here's a chance to democratize our program."
Golden's manifesto, which the other Framingham coaches and
Golden's players signed, included such benign exhortations as
"Give each team member a fair and honest chance to play" and
"Remember that it is a privilege, not a right, to coach." But it
also provided the revolutionary, "Let 'em vote." Golden isn't so
sure the freedom helped that first team's athletic success (his
Rams finished 5-4), but, he insists, the system was cherished by
"The voting process is a maturing and freeing experience," says
Golden. "Everyone who works with Division III players knows how
hard they work. Why not reward them with trust?"
TOBACCO'S ROUGH ROAD
In his Opening Day start against the San Diego Padres on April
1, New York Mets righthander Pete Harnisch threw shutout ball
into the sixth inning. Then he gave up three straight homers and
went to the bench, spent. Harnisch attributed his collapse to
withdrawal symptoms from a 13-year chewing-tobacco habit, which
he had quit cold turkey two weeks earlier. Harnisch had trouble
sleeping and woke up sweaty and shivering. Still disoriented and
anxious on Sunday, Harnisch was scratched from his second start;
on Monday he went on the disabled list. While the Mets remained
uncertain whether his symptoms were strictly related to tobacco
withdrawal, more than a few players and managers who have tried
and failed to give up their nicotine fixes felt an empathetic
Detroit Tigers pitcher Doug Brocail had dipped one can of
smokeless tobacco a day for six years before attempting to quit
this spring. "I was a wreck," says Brocail. "I was taking
Nicotrol [an over-the-counter nicotine patch]. I'll continue to
use that, but right now I'm dipping again." Tom Kelly, the
Minnesota Twins manager, has given up chewing tobacco three
times in 15 years, only to resume his habit each time. "You see
those movies of drug addicts shaking and sweating when they have
to give it up cold turkey," Kelly says. "I'm sure it's not the
same, but I've lain on the floor for a couple of days."
For a month and a half, Cleveland Indians manager Mike Hargrove
has resisted snuff, which he has used for more than a decade.
"When I tried to stop before, it felt like my eyes were sinking
into my head," says Hargrove, who has found abstinence less
taxing this time. "It was like I was looking through a tunnel."
Because of baseball's long stretches of nerve-jangling
inactivity, those close to the game often turn to tobacco to
help relax them, even though it can cause various forms of oral
cancer. Then they're hooked. The Twins' Paul Molitor didn't chew
until six years ago, when he became a full-time designated
hitter and got bored sitting on the bench. He recently appeared
in a public service announcement with his 12-year-old daughter,
Blaire, who says, "If you can't quit for yourself, quit for
Molitor hasn't quit yet.
The best soccer player of his time, Diego Maradona, 36, has made
more headlines in recent years for battling cocaine addiction,
shooting an air rifle at reporters and lecturing at Oxford than
for footballing. Still, after a stint in drug rehab last August,
Maradona was poised to make a much-anticipated comeback with
Argentina's beloved Boca Juniors, with whom he won the league
title in 1981.
At the club's behest the pudgy Maradona had agreed to train
rigorously, to refrain from insulting team officials and to
undergo psychological testing. But when he realized that Boca
Juniors are sponsored by Nike and that their traditional
blue-and-gold uniforms now bear Nike-mandated white stripes,
Maradona bowed out. "It's just that I hate the Americans,"
Maradona said in announcing that he would not return. "I
realized that while I was eating a steak at home."
HE LEFT HIS MARK
Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, who died of heart
failure on Sunday at 84, was known as the Squire. A self-made
multimillionaire, he lorded over the politicians and power
brokers he invited to his box at RFK Stadium. In 23 years of
owning the Redskins, Cooke built three Super Bowl champions. He
collected antiques, fine wines, real estate, wives--he married
five times--and sports franchises: In addition to the Skins, he
at various times owned minor league baseball's Toronto Maple
Leafs, the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and the NHL's Los Angeles
Kings. Driven, arrogant and erudite, Cooke always made an
impression, as SI's Tim Crothers recalls.
I spoke to Jack Kent Cooke only once, and I will never forget
him. On Dec. 7, 1991, I was fact-checking an SI story about
Cooke and needed to confirm some sensitive anecdotes. Since
Cooke had chosen not to speak with SI for the story, I believed
my chances of getting him to come to the phone were nil.
I dialed the number of Cooke's estate outside Washington and a
man answered who sounded as if he might be Cooke's butler. I
asked if I could speak to Cooke, and he informed me that I
already had. For the next 90 minutes, I rather unsuccessfully
attempted to confirm the stories about Cooke's life. Those he
thought flattered him, like the tales of his early days selling
encyclopedias, he embellished colorfully. Any anecdote that
hinted at his legendary thrift, talked of his excessive vanity
or otherwise cast him in a bad light, he brushed away with
antique phrases like "Dear boy, that's folderol." Cooke seemed
to relish our conversation, and soon he began to interview me. I
realized that he was no longer treating me as a fact-checker but
as a protege.
At the end of our talk, this man who could be cantankerous and
generous at the same time insisted that I read a tome on
investing that would teach me how to be a success in business. I
read the book and discovered that it might have been helpful had
I already been as wealthy as Cooke. So I wrote to him about the
book, citing the famous quote that Ernest Hemingway attributed
to his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald: "The very rich are different
from you and me."
Several weeks later I was astonished to receive a note from
Cooke in the mail. "Perhaps you're right about the book, Tim,"
Cooke wrote, "but I knew Fitzgerald and he never said that."