LETTERS FROM CAMP
Summer basketball camp, once a place for kids to learn the
drop-step and perfect the crossover dribble, is no longer a
predictable parade from one station drill to another. To shed
light on the current summer scene, we offer excerpts from
letters that could have been sent from various bivouacked young
basketballers, based on what actually happened at their camps.
Music appreciation was among the activities at Dennis Scott's
3-D Basketball Camp in Sterling, Va.: "Dennis opened the doors
and trunk to his sport-utility vehicle so we could better hear
the gangsta rap from the stereo. With curse words sounding in
the background, he told us not to ask for his autograph. He
talked about his 'rage inside.' Even though the Orlando Magic
are paying him $3 million a year, he said he's going to retire
if he doesn't get what he thinks he deserves. Then he compared
himself to Barney, which is weird, 'cause he didn't look so
friendly. Some kids started crying. The guy from the rec
department called off the rest of camp and gave our parents
their money back."
"Some of us got into a fight," goes a dispatch from a
middle-schooler at Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett's camp in
Madison. "Some trashed the dorm. And when one guy pointed this
pinpoint laser light--you know, the kind used to sight guns--out
the window, the cops even showed up! Coach Bennett told muddah
and faddah that our behavior was 'unacceptable,' and said he
might not ever hold a camp for kids our age again!"
Happily, not all the news from camp is so unsettling. Consider
this epistle from the Seton Hall Basketball School in South
Orange, N.J., where the Detroit Pistons' Grant Hill made a
featured appearance: "Then Grant asked why education is so
important. I knew the answer, but Malcolm Davis got his hand up
first. 'You need an education to get a good job,' he said. Grant
pulled out a $100 bill and gave it to him! Malcolm wanted to
call his mom to tell her, but he said he didn't have a quarter."
And this, from a basketball camp in a Tel Aviv suburb: "Kareem
didn't come all the way to Israel just to teach us how to shoot
a skyhook. He had a meeting with Yisrael Lau, our country's
chief rabbi, and seemed right at home. Maybe that's because,
even though he's a Muslim, he's also a New York City native. As
he put it, 'I've been to too many kosher delis for this place to
EVANDER KNOWS BEST
Heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield is scheduled to appear
before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and
Families this Thursday to discuss the subject of fatherhood. The
group couldn't ask for more-expert testimony. Holyfield is the
father, by four women, of six children--all of whom he fully
supports and spends quality time with--and is expecting another
with his wife of nine months, Janice.
John Spano is the 33-year-old, Dallas-based businessman whose
$165 million purchase of the New York Islanders was unanimously
approved by the NHL's board of governors in February. Even
though his financial fitness was vouched for by an established
security firm hired by the league, Spano could not come up with
a $17 million payment due last month, and on July 10 he
voluntarily withdrew as owner of the team. This Friday was the
deadline set by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for former owner
John Pickett and Fleet Bank to agree on how Pickett would repay
the $80 million Fleet had loaned to Spano, who in turn paid
Pickett. If no agreement was reached, Bettman was set to
arbitrate the matter.
Until last week the Spano case had a sort of Keystone
Akkountants quality: When he owed Pickett a $5 million payment,
Spano wired $5,000; when the $17 million came due, he sent
$1,700. But on Monday it became clear that Spano's problems
extended well beyond misplaced decimal points: Sources close to
the case told SI that a federal arrest warrant had been issued
for Spano. Another source said that authorities tried to arrest
Spano at his Dallas home on charges of mail fraud and bank
fraud, but he wasn't there.
Spano has said in a deposition that he built a fortune out of an
inheritance from a grandfather named Angelo. But questions about
the source of his wealth, which he recently claimed to be $207
million, surfaced publicly this month when Newsday reported that
Spano's grandfathers were named Antonio and Charles, and that
neither died with an estate worth more than $246,000. Last week
Spano would not tell SI the amount willed to him or its source,
but did say he has documentation to substantiate his fortune. He
also said that, just as critical payments on the Islanders deal
came due, he went through "somewhat of a reversal-of-cash-flow
condition that happened to one of my businesses."
While Spano has questions to answer, so does Bettman, who
recommended Spano to Pickett as a possible buyer and in April
called Spano "the type of person we want as an owner."
Apparently the bankers' confidence in Spano contributed to the
league's gullibility. "Our guidelines were not applied
negligently," says Bill Daly, the NHL's senior vice president
for legal affairs. "But we have to go back and assess the
procedures so it never happens again."
On July 16, several hours before her quarterfinal bout in the
first USA Boxing Women's National Championships in Augusta, Ga.,
LaKiea Coffen left her hotel room for a nearby Taco Bell, where
she vaporized much of the menu. Coffen, a 165-pound amateur from
Washington, D.C., soon paid the price. Following her three-round
thumping of Heather Dunn she came face to face with the toughest
foe of 'em all, Kid Porcelain. "LaKiea's got a lot of skills and
talents," said Barry Hunter, Coffen's coach, after his fighter
threw up. "But sometimes you have to learn to be serious."
That's a lesson most of those in the distaff fight game have
already learned. The women's nationals, with smooth footwork,
purposeful jabs and more-Etonian-than-you'd-expect sportsmanship
on display, was far removed from the grotesque blood-a-thons
marking the sport's professional version and associated with
current pro champ Christy Martin. "And the discipline!" said
Sandy Martinez-Pino, a member of the board of directors for USA
Boxing, amateur boxing's domestic governing body. "Ask the
trainers who the first boxers are to show up at the gym each
morning. It's the women. They could be the future of the sport."
Or the present. Along with Coffen, 19, who won her weight class,
several others in the field of 67, spread out over 12 divisions,
could become crowd-pleasing pros. The best was 132-pound champ
Melissa (Honeygirl) Salamone, a blur from Miami who, picking up
on the braggadocio expected of sweet scientists, all but
guaranteed a future win over Martin. "She punches," said
Salamone. "I box."
By last Saturday night's finals the talk at ringside was already
about a world amateur championship, a spot on the Olympic
program, even respect. "I swore I'd never, ever, ever work with
a girl," said Johnny Duke, who has been a trainer for 54 years
and has worked with Mike Tyson. "I said if women got hit in the
boobies it would cause cancer. But I gave it a chance, and I've
changed. There's something special about women's boxing and
about this event. By being here, we're making history."
THE CARBOHYDRATE OF THE '90S
The Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs are on a pace to become the first
team in the history of the Double A Eastern League to hit 200
home runs. While some attribute their power surge to juiced-up
baseballs and weaker pitching, many Sea Dogs instead give credit
to an over-the-counter nutritional supplement: creatine
monohydrate. "It's definitely made me stronger," says designated
hitter John Roskos, whose 23 dingers through Sunday are more
than twice his total for all last season with Portland.
Creatine is an amino acid synthesized in the liver and pancreas
and present in meat and fish. Stored in the muscles, it helps
regenerate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), one of the body's
sources of quick energy. According to a study in July's Journal
of the American Dietetic Association, weightlifters who took
supplementary creatine could do more powerful jump squats and
more bench-press repetitions because their ATP was replenished
faster. "It's no different from the discovery in the 1970s that
carbo loading could help marathon runners," says one of the
study's authors, William Kraemer, a professor of applied
physiology at Penn State. "Creatine is like a carbohydrate for
the anaerobic system."
Those who swear by the powder include major league sluggers
Brady Anderson, Edgar Martinez and Gary Sheffield; members of
the 1996 U.S. Olympic women's volleyball team; and three fourths
of the San Francisco 49ers. Many use it to work out, saying it
helps build muscle mass and stave off fatigue. But some doctors
and trainers believe it may predispose athletes to cramping and
dehydration, and warn that no studies on its long-term effects
have been conducted. Says Mark Asanovich, the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers' strength and conditioning coach, "It sounds
scientific. It's so-called natural. But that doesn't necessarily
make it good."
He was a relief pitcher of distinctive rhythms: deep, snoring
naps in the bullpen that stretched through a game's first five
innings; languid ninth-inning strolls to the mound that tested
the patience of even the most unalloyed baseball purists; an
endless, silky windup that uncoiled fastballs that until recent
years hit 100 mph. On July 15 in Miami, Lee Smith, whose 478
saves make him baseball's career leader, decided he had had
enough of the game. Even though the 39-year-old righthander had
made good on five of six save opportunities this season, he
asked Montreal Expos general manager Jim Beattie to scrawl out a
letter of resignation for him and then signed it in his hotel
room before heading home to Castor, La., and closing out a
career that had taken him to eight teams in 18 seasons.
"Maybe he heard the fish were biting back home," said Expos
first baseman David Segui. "Knowing Lee, that would be something
he'd want to attend to."
Smith sometimes took four pitches to warm up for a save, but he
needed six years to warm up to baseball. "What's a Chicago Cub?"
he asked after the Wrigleyites chose him in the 1975 draft.
Basketball was his first love--he averaged 32 points his senior
season at Castor High--and he harbored dreams of playing
professionally until '81, when his knees started to go. By '83
Smith had become one of baseball's most intimidating relievers.
"I don't run from anybody," slugger Dusty Baker said that year.
"But the general opinion around the National League is that
you're in no real hurry to get to him."
Nor was he in any hurry to get to them. Asked once by Cubs
manager Dallas Green why he walked to the mound so slowly, the
6'6" Smith replied, "I don't see anyone running out to face Mike
Schmidt. They can't do anything until I get there."
The suddenness of Smith's departure seems at odds with the
deliberateness that marked his career. When he got to the
ballpark last Tuesday, Beattie said, "The retirement letter of
the major league saves leader is hand-written. Somehow, it
doesn't seem right." But there was a felicity to that: Smith
made 1,016 relief entrances at his own pace; his leave-taking,
too, was at a speed of his choosing.
Holes in one within an hour on the same hole, the 125-yard No.
8, by golfers at Ryan Hill Country Club in Osceola, Neb.
Combined feet of home runs by the St. Louis Cardinals' Ray
Lankford, who became the first player in the 28-year history of
Cincinnati's Cinergy Field to hit two upper-deck shots in one
Amount, in dollars, of tax increase per household that voters in
Chazy, N.Y., rejected--thus forcing Chazy Central Rural High to
drop its baseball, basketball, soccer and softball programs.
Cans of beer needed to fill the Stanley Cup, as determined by
several partying Detroit Red Wings.
Fans who had their heads shaved outside the Kingdome to emulate
clean-headed Seattle Mariners outfielder Jay Buhner (and to get
a free ticket).
Women among those bald Mariners faithful.
DOING HARD TIME
In 1994, Cal basketball coach Todd Bozeman agreed to pay the
parents of recruit Jelani Gardner $15,000 a year to have their
son play for the Golden Bears. Since being forced to resign a
year ago Bozeman hasn't found full-time work, and last week the
NCAA hit him with an eight-year "show-cause" penalty, meaning he
must get the approval of the organization's committee on
infractions before he can take any athletics-related job at a
member school between now and 2005. Bozeman's was the
fourth-longest show-cause ever meted out. Here are the top
three; none of the disciplined has since worked at an NCAA school.
DON BEASLEY, basketball, Northwestern State in Louisiana; fired
1988, penalized '90.
Offered cash, clothes and cars to recruits in the mid-'80s;
arranged for a trainer to take the SAT for a prospect.
FIFTEEN YEARS; now owns an investment firm in Athens, Ga.
WILLIE ANDERSON, football assistant, Oklahoma State; resigned
1986, penalized '89.
Recruiting violations, including a $5,000 cash payment to
receiver Hart Lee Dykes on signing day in '85.
TWELVE YEARS; now an assistant at NAIA Langston (Okla.)
PETE LONGDON, women's gymnastics, New Mexico; forced to resign
in 1992, penalized '92.
In '91 provided a recruit with lodging, meals and a stand-in to
take two standardized tests.
Ten years; now a paramedic in Albuquerque.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
During a ceremony honoring boxing promoter Don King, NAACP
president Kweisi Mfume likened King to Jackie Robinson as a
ABC golf commentator, on a portly reporter who stumbled and
rolled into a bunker at the British Open: "Instead of getting
out in two, it took two to get him out."