THE RIPPLE EFFECT
More impressive than U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz's performance in
the 1972 Olympics, when he set seven world records in as many
events? More revolutionary than Babe Ruth's 54 homers in 1920,
25 more than the previous major league high? More profound than
black track star Jesse Owens's four gold medals in the Berlin
Games of 1936, a feat that punctured Hitler's myth of Aryan
Taking the measure of 21-year-old Tiger Woods's victory at the
Masters was a popular pastime last week at watercoolers and
lunch counters around the country. On one matter, at least,
there could be widespread agreement: Woods's was the most
galvanizing sports achievement in his lifetime. "Everybody who
walks in talks about Tiger," says Rob Clark, owner of The Golf
Club at Wards Creek, in Baton Rouge. "It's scary."
At Pro Golf Discount in Denver, two dozen parents trooped in
asking to get clubs cut down for their two-year-old kids. In
Oswego, N.Y., a startled father watched as his sons, who until
then had played only baseball and football, dug dusty irons out
of the closet and hit balls for an hour in the rain on the
pasture behind their barn. At Scotty's Golf Park in Dallas, 10
to 15 more black players than usual showed up at the range every
day, echoing the same request: "Teach me how to swing like Tiger
At an auction benefiting the Kentucky Country Day School in
Louisville, a golf ball signed by Tiger raised $2,000 (while a
basketball autographed by Kentucky coach Rick Pitino fetched
$250). Golfsmith International, a mail-order golf company in
Austin, took an unprecedented 11,000 phone calls on April
14--the day after Tiger's win. Normally on a good day, Golfsmith
fields 8,000 calls.
Greg Johnson, the golf writer for The Grand Rapids (Mich.)
Press, related a conversation he heard at a Nashville salad bar
in which a white employee explained the concept of par to a
black truck driver who had seldom watched golf. While
acknowledging that it was a "silly and racist notion" to think
the two men might not have talked otherwise, Johnson wrote in
his April 17 column, "It did strike me that this rather long
conversation was sparked by the actions of an
African-American/Thai golfer at perhaps the most private and
exclusive of all golf clubs....This Tiger, he has the ball
rolling in a lot more ways than one."
But just as Woods's accomplishment built bridges and broadened
horizons, it also conjured up old prejudices. Under the oak tree
near Augusta's clubhouse on the final day of the Masters,
veteran golfer and 1979 Masters winner Fuzzy Zoeller, speaking
to CNN, referred to Woods as "little boy" and advised reporters
as Tiger finished his round to "pat him on the back, say,
'Congratulations, enjoy,' and tell him not to serve fried
chicken next year" at the annual champions' dinner on the
Tuesday preceding the tournament. Then, walking away, Zoeller
turned back and shouted, "Or collard greens or whatever the hell
they serve." Eight days later, Zoeller issued a statement of
apology, adding that he has "nothing but the utmost respect for
TIP-OFFS FOR THE PLAYOFFS
It's easy to forecast another NBA title for the Chicago
Bulls--and we do--but here are five somewhat more daring
predictions for the postseason, which starts this week.
1) The Orlando Magic will stun the Miami Heat in the first
round. Miami's defensive intensity is responsible for its
remarkable 61-21 record, but that style of play is also
physically and mentally draining, and it will take its toll. The
Heat also may not be able to resist thinking ahead to a possible
second-round matchup with the New York Knicks, all of which
should give the Magic--which, in guard Penny Hardaway, has the
kind of player who can dominate a short series--the opening it
needs to steal one of the first two games on the road.
2) Unlike last year when the Bulls went 15-3 in the postseason,
Chicago will struggle en route to the title. Although the Bulls
are expected to have all of their players available for the
playoffs, they have enough nicks--forward Toni Kukoc is hobbled
by an injury to his right foot, and forward Dennis Rodman missed
the last 13 games of the regular season with a strained left
knee--to make them much more vulnerable than they were during
their 1996 cakewalk. It has been five years since we've seen
Michael Jordan play in a Game 7. That's too long.
3) The team widely considered most likely to pull a first-round
upset, the Portland Trail Blazers, won't. The Blazers, the No. 5
seed in the West, are big and talented, but they're also too
immature and inconsistent to beat their opponents, the Los
Angeles Lakers. Coach P.J. Carlesimo never knows which of his
moody players, particularly Isaiah Rider or Clifford Robinson,
will be in a funk. Don't be surprised if the Blazers win one
game in a rout but still lose the series.
4) Shaquille O'Neal of the Lakers will have a huge postseason.
Even if Shaq's injured left knee, which caused him to miss 28
games in February, March and April, isn't completely healed,
it's close enough. He's had 39- and 42-point performances since
his return on April 11, and his long layoff seems to have left
him fresh. The only center in the West who can hope to match up
against him is the Houston Rockets' Hakeem Olajuwon.
5) The guess here, nonetheless, is that the Utah Jazz's
experience and home court advantage will be too much for any
team in the West to overcome, and that the Jazz (page 44) will
face Chicago in the best NBA Finals since the Lakers' seven-game
victory over the Detroit Pistons in 1988. Bulls in seven.
TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE
During an April 14 appearance on ESPN's Up Close interview show,
San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds offhandedly referred to
Greg Norman's choking at the 1996 Masters. At least one viewer
took issue with that assessment. Watching at home, Greg Norman
picked up the phone and reached ESPN during a commercial break
to complain. Told of the Shark's call-in carping, Bonds came
back on the air and said, "I'm sorry, Greg Norman, 'cause you're
not a choker. I'm the choker. I choked in the playoffs three
years ago." For a .191 lifetime postseason hitter, that's
standing in there.
The 56 women who showed up at the WNBA's three-day tryout last
weekend in Orlando were an eclectic mix of diehard dreamers and
aging stars with something to prove. For former USC All-America
Pamela McGee, 34, who has starred in Brazil, Italy and Spain,
the chance finally to play again in the U.S. was enticement
enough to make the trip. If she felt any bruised pride about
having to audition, she hid it well. "I'm excited for this
opportunity," McGee said.
To get admitted to the Orlando camp and have a chance to be
among the 32 players selected in Monday's draft, McGee and the
others had to sign a one-year contract with the WNBA. The
eight-team league, which begins play on June 21, also holds an
option for a second season. The base pay for those selected will
be determined by where they're picked, from $37,500 for the
first three choices to $15,000 for fourth-rounders; an undrafted
player will earn $10,000 if she makes a roster as a free agent.
That salary structure failed to draw the best available rookies,
such as Georgia forward La'Keshia Frett and center Kara Wolters
from Connecticut, who are considering turning pro with the ABL,
which completed its inaugural season last month.
The WNBA's advantages over the ABL are its relationship with its
parent, the NBA; its impressive lineup of sponsors, such as
General Motors and Nike; and its television package with NBC and
ESPN. But with Katrina McClain's signing late last week, the
nine-team ABL had eight of the 12 members of the 1996 U.S.
Olympic team in its fold. That's because, for all the talk about
the WNBA's deep pockets, the ABL has shown more willingness to
put up cash now. The ABL, who plays 40 games a season in
contrast to the WNBA's 28, will raise its maximum salary from
$125,000 this year to $150,000 in 1997-98. Moreover its $50,000
minimum matches the top salary the WNBA is paying the 32 players
it has already signed (though the WNBA made notable--and
lucrative--exceptions for '96 U.S. Olympians Lisa Leslie,
Rebecca Lobo and Sheryl Swoopes).
Last Saturday, Lobo insisted the real test of the two leagues
will not be which is fastest or flashiest out of the gate but
which "has a business plan that will ensure long-run success."
To judge by the turnout in Orlando, a lot of players aren't yet
ready to bank on the winner being the WNBA.
Bill May is a heck of a synchronized swimmer: just 18, crisp and
graceful, dazzlingly athletic and...male. The only male, in
fact, ever to compete in the U.S. championships. Two years ago,
in his first appearance, May was viewed as a sort of mascot.
"People laughed," says Linda Witter, the Ohio State coach. "No
one took him that seriously--it wasn't like he could do splits."
Last year the reaction was much the same. But at the nationals
last weekend in Orlando, May not only showed he can do a mean
split but also created major waves in his sport. He placed
fourth in the team routine, sixth in duets, seventh in figures
and 10th in the solos. Mostly, he brought startling power to a
"I don't think a lot of the synchronized swimming community
likes him being here," says Donn Squire, a meet official. "And
judges, they don't give him the benefit of the doubt. He's
breaking down a lot of barriers that some people don't want
May, a senior at Santa Clara (Calif.) High, shrugs and smiles at
any pioneer talk. He's a quiet kid, a former gymnast who
discovered the sport in his hometown of Cicero, N.Y., nine years
ago while waiting poolside for his younger sister to finish her
lessons. "I had the choice of sitting around for an hour till
she was done," he says, "or getting in myself."
He got in. Having moved to California in 1995 to join the
renowned Santa Clara Aquamaids, May, who is one of two male
competitive synchronized swimmers in the U.S., now finds himself
at the center of a storm. At the nationals, he was clearly one
of the four or five most talented performers. While other
competitors could do eight or nine spins at a time, May hit 15.
In the freestyle, he put on an explosive display of sharp,
high-flying moves, then got a mediocre 89.578 points (other top
performers were scoring in the low-to-mid 90s). "He looks like a
hurricane in the pool," says Witter. "That score made no sense."
May, a member of the junior national team last year, ignores the
controversy. "All I can do is try my hardest, have fun and
satisfy my goals," he says. "How can I control what other people
Players from the three major Florida colleges among the top 18
picks in the NFL draft.
Score by which Robert Morris College of Chicago's baseball team
lost to St. Francis last year, and score by which the Eagles
avenged that loss this season.
Regulation baseball fields in Israel, now that former Kansas
City Royals groundskeeper George Toma has upgraded the diamond
at Kibbutz Gezer for this summer's Maccabiah Games.
Percentage of fly-fishers who are male, according to a survey by
a fishing tour packager.
Combined score of two games bowled by Jerry Ellis, 50, and his
teammate and son, Tim, 25, on the same night in Arcanum, Ohio.
Starting players in Saturday's Chicago Cubs-New York Mets game
who began the day batting under .200.
Jars of Jaromir Jagr peanut butter, named for the Penguins'
forward, sold in three weeks in Pittsburgh-area shops.
A DEVILISH RESURRECTION?
The New Jersey Devils, who as of Sunday led the Montreal
Canadiens 2-0 in the opening round of the NHL playoffs, are
favored to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup
finals. If they get there and win, they'll become only the third
team to win the Stanley Cup one year, fail to make the playoffs
the next and then regain the Cup the year after that. No NBA or
NFL team has ever had a title-to-golf-course-to-title run, and
the six baseball teams that so yo-yoed did it before divisional
play, when only two teams reached the postseason each year. Here
are the NHL's Lazaruses.
Team Won cup Missed out Won cup
Toronto Maple Leafs 1944-45 1945-46 1946-47
Montreal Canadiens 1968-69 1969-70 1970-71
Ballplayers go for fishing like crappies go for minnows, which
is how tackle company Shimano lured two ringers for its series
of angler trading cards. (Can you spot the pro?)
Seattle slugger bats, throws (and casts) right
Padres hero takes pride in his on-bass percentage
Host of TV fishing show won't make the Show
About 80 baseballs are used during an average major league game.
Here's what happens to them.
18 are scuffed, tossed out by the ump and later used for batting
60 get fouled into the stands, most behind home plate and down
the leftfield line
2 are belted for home runs
About 181,000 balls are used in the course of a major league
season. Together they weigh about 29 tons. You could transport
them all in an 18-wheel rig, with room for a few bats and gloves.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
The first collectors' pins for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt
Lake City went on sale on April 8, 1,767 days before opening
greens, or whatever the hell they serve."
Dodgers fan, on what his first move would be if he were named
commissioner of baseball: "Lower Denver."