NOT EASY BEING GREEN
Until last week the Minnesota Vikings' Dennis Green had been
considered in most quarters a competent and intelligent coach,
albeit one whose postseason failures had kept him from ranking
among the NFL's elite. But then bits and pieces of his book, No
Room for Crybabies, which was released early this week, revealed
another side of him: the Mad Bomber of Minnesota.
As of Monday afternoon Green was backing away from the venomous
attack on Vikings ownership that makes up the final 10 pages of
his book. Everything about those final pages is strange. His
plan to stage a hostile takeover of 30% of Vikings stock, which
would make him the principal owner, is strange. His threat that
he will sue two owners with whom he's had a stormy relationship
unless they sell him their 10% shares of the club for $12.6
million apiece is strange. His subsequent characterization of
the controversial 10 pages as "a business proposal and not a
personal attack" is strange. His timing in releasing a
contentious book in the middle of a successful season (the Vikes
are 6-2) is strange. And Green's professed shock that his
literary offensive became such a hot topic (at one point he
described his plan as merely "thinking out loud") is strange.
As of Monday it appeared that Green may have had an ally in the
admittedly perplexed person of Vikings president and CEO Roger
Headrick. Headrick, who is also on Minnesota's board of
directors, is angry that Green wrote the book but believes the
coach will not be fired before the end of the year. If Green's
job is in jeopardy after the season, Headrick believes he can
save it. "I've prevailed before with the board," said Headrick,
"and I think I can prevail again."
November 3, 1997
Headrick has a tough job ahead of him because a couple of owners
have already weighed in against Green. Said board vice chairman
Philip Maas, who, like the rest of the board's members, owns
approximately 10% of the team, "My personal opinion is that he
[Green] has shot himself in the foot. I know if one of my
employees [in his main business, a truck dealership] did that,
he'd be gone."
One wonders if Green even wants an ally. His conflicts with the
board, particularly with members Jaye Dyer and Wheelock Whitney,
have been public knowledge since the two approached then Notre
Dame coach Lou Holtz last autumn to gauge Holtz's interest in
Green's job. One theory is that Green released the book
precisely because he wants to get fired. That would free him to
seek a general manager-coach's position somewhere else a season
before his Vikings contract runs out.
But it seems unlikely that owners would line up to hire a guy
who writes bad things about his bosses and threatens to sue
them. Whether or not Headrick can save Green's job, it remains
to be seen if the coach's prose will poison the Vikings' season.
THE SAME, ONLY DIFFERENT
According to a report in last Sunday's New York Post, the Mets
are considering a plan to tear down Shea Stadium and build a
"replica" of Ebbets Field, which will include, among other
features, a three-section retractable roof, luxury boxes and a
The NBA has endured its share of labor unrest in recent years,
including two brief lockouts during the summer months of 1995
and '96, but has always found a way to settle its conflicts
before the season tipped off in November. After league
commissioner David Stern all but conceded during the September
NBA meetings that the owners intend to exercise their option to
reopen the current collective bargaining agreement next April,
however, those two loathsome labor words--lockout and
decertification--are again making stomachs churn around the
The NBA agent advisory committee met in New York last Friday
with players' association executive director Billy Hunter to
discuss strategy for the negotiation of any new deal. Eleven
high-profile agents attended, and two others, Arn Tellem and
Steve Kauffman, who were on the West Coast, had arranged to be
briefed on the proceedings. The most significant no-show was the
biggest power broker of them all, David Falk.
The primary objective of the gathering was to demonstrate
solidarity between the agents and the union. That solidarity was
conspicuously lacking two years ago, when stars such as Michael
Jordan and Patrick Ewing challenged the players' association,
then under the leadership of Simon Gourdine, when it was
negotiating the collective bargaining agreement that the owners
now intend to revisit.
Hunter said he viewed the potential reopening of the agreement
as an "opportunity to recapture lost ground" and sounded the
union's familiar battle cry: Abolish both the salary cap and the
draft. While the agents and Hunter publicly downplayed the
possibility of decertifying the union (a move that would free
the players to sue to eliminate the cap and the draft as NBA
antitrust violations), players' association sources say it was
an important subject at the meeting.
The agents discussed ideas on how to bolster support for the
players' association on the league's two weakest union
teams--the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers--and how to deal
with two of the most vocal antiunion players, the Jazz's Karl
Malone and Charles Barkley of the Houston Rockets.
Malone doesn't use an agent and spoke out against
decertification during the last labor battle. Barkley, who may
have more pressing matters to address following a bar fight in
Orlando early Sunday morning that led to his being charged with
aggravated battery and resisting arrest, has always gone his own
Can two dissenters stop a union movement? Not alone. But the
players' association and the most powerful agents are well aware
that the strong opposition of two superstars could influence
teammates and go a long way toward derailing the union's battle
Could that be Michigan athletic director Tom Goss scrambling to
find the high road after hiring a new basketball coach to
replace the fired Steve Fisher? Before the Wolverines finally
gave 34-year-old Fisher assistant Brian Ellerbe the dreaded tag
of "interim coach" last Friday, Goss threw several programs into
turmoil by interviewing, or trying to interview, coaches already
under contract. Yet Goss sought to cover his tracks by noting
that he asked his seven finalists two questions: 1) How would
your departure "impact" your institution? and, 2) How would it
"impact" the student-athletes that you just recruited? Goss says
that when those questions weren't answered to his satisfaction,
he elevated Ellerbe.
Please. By the time he named Ellerbe, Goss's dealings had sent
ripples all over the country. Goss first went after Cal's Ben
Braun, forcing the Golden Bears to extend the contract of that
highly regarded 43-year-old coach. Then Goss went after
Bradley's Jim Molinari, 42, forcing a wedge between the coach
and athletic director Ken Kavanagh when Kavanagh wouldn't give
permission for Molinari to interview. Then Goss went after
rising-star Kevin Stallings, 37, of Illinois State, forcing the
players on Stallings's promising, senior-dominated team to sit
around and wait while their coach talked matters over with
Michigan. All told, Goss said he interviewed three dozen
candidates either by phone or in person before settling on
Goss didn't break any rules--if a college gives permission for
its coach to talk, then he's free to talk. But he shouldn't ask
us to swallow the idea that he truly cared about the other
programs. Another coach in Goss's crosshairs, Southwest Missouri
State's Steve Alford, didn't interview with Michigan because his
contract stipulates that he can entertain offers only at certain
times of the year, the week after practice opens obviously not
being one of them.
In 1995 Michael Jordan was well into a multiyear contract with
Nike that pays him some $20 million annually to endorse the
company's apparel and footwear. That year he signed a 10-year
agreement with Oakley, a maker of those wraparound sunglasses
that are increasingly popular with athletes, to hawk the
company's shades and to sit on its board of directors--a deal
that could pay Jordan up to $500,000 a year plus stock options.
But after Jordan appeared in print ads decked out in snazzy
shades and a black beret bearing Oakley's logo last year, Nike
sued Oakley, claiming that the beret constituted "apparel" and
Jordan's wearing it was a violation of his Nike contract. In
September, Nike was granted a preliminary injunction restricting
Oakley to using only eyewear in its Jordan ads.
According to an Oct. 22 article in the on-line business magazine
TheStreet.com, that's only the beginning of what could be a long
and bitter battle over the deployment and use of Jordan, an
advertising uberweapon. As Jordan is starting his own eponymous
apparel and footwear company with Nike's financial backing,
Oakley is producing a line of athletic shoes that will hit the
market next year.
Oakley plans to have a separate board--on which Jordan won't
sit--for its footwear division. For that reason, Jordan's
representatives say the dual agreements do not represent a
conflict of interest. But Oakley spokeswoman Renee Law says the
original board will have an input on footwear issues. Add to
this the fact that Nike now includes sunglasses in its
merchandise line, and it's clear that somewhere along the way,
Jordan might be sleeping with the enemy.
WHAT ABOUT DEAN?
The New York Times may be on top of things journalistically, but
when it comes to its celebrated crossword puzzle, it seems The
Times is a little behind the times. The Oct. 22 puzzle included
the following clue for 59-Across, a four-letter word:
"Winningest NCAA basketball coach." The answer erroneously being
sought, The Times admitted in its corrections column the
following day, was "Rupp."
Left arms that had to be surgically reattached after being torn
off two of the 1,600 participants in a mass tug-of-war in
Time it took U.S. Representative Matt Salmon (R., Ariz.), 39, to
complete Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
Pounds lost by Salmon while training for that event.
Margin by which Salmon outran Vice President Al Gore, 49.
Price, in dollars, of the malfunctioning radio helmet that St.
Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil called "an embarrassment to
American technology" after a 28-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Approximate percentage of NBA players who "smoke marijuana and
drink excessively," according to an investigation by The New
DEGREES OF DIFFICULTY
The temperature in Cleveland for Game 4 of the World Series was
the coldest in the history of the Fall Classic. Here's a look at
some of sport's most thermometrically memorable moments.
U.S. OPEN June 20, 1964; Congressional; Washington, D.C.; winner
Ken Venturi nearly faints
STANLEY CUP FINALS, Game 4 May 24, 1988; Oilers vs. Bruins;
Boston Garden, fog game
SUGAR RAY ROBINSON-JOEY MAXIM, LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE FIGHT
June 25, 1952; Yankee Stadium; Sugar Ray and ref both collapse
ALL-STAR GAME July 12, 1966; Busch Stadium, St. Louis
BOSTON MARATHON April 19, 1976; Run for the Hoses
WINTER OLYMPICS, 1988 Calgary, Chinook wind blows
WORLD SERIES, GAME 4 Oct. 22, 1997; Jacobs Field, Cleveland
NFL CHAMPIONSHIP, Packers vs. Cowboys; Dec. 31, 1967; Lambeau
Field, Green Bay; Ice Bowl
FIRST BASEBALL GAME IN THE ARCTIC (between whaling-ship crews),
Feb. 19, 1894; Herschel Island, Canada
ONLY IN HOLLYWOOD
Moviegoers have been confronted recently with a succession of
Kings. Don Kings, that is. In the past seven years the
polysyllabically malapropian boxing promoter with the high-rise
hair has appeared, been depicted or been caricatured in a
variety of films. A sampler:
FILM: Rocky V (1990)
CHARACTER: George W. Duke
PLAYED BY: Richard Gant
KINGLINESS: Slick-talking promoter lures naive-yet-powerful
heavyweight Tommy Gunn (played by naive-yet-powerful heavyweight
Tommy Morrison) from Rocky's camp with promises of riches and
fame; Gunn ends up bloodied in the gutter.
KINGSPEAK: "This is your medical report. It's not so good, but
we can work around it."
FILM: The Great White Hype (1996)
CHARACTER: Rev. Fred Sultan
PLAYED BY: Samuel L. Jackson
KINGLINESS: Slick-talking promoter ballyhoos multimillion-dollar
heavyweight title match between out-of-shape champ and
guitar-strumming, poetry-reciting challenger.
KINGSPEAK: "I like you. You have a goal. You have a blind,
stupid belief in yourself. I want to offer you a job."
FILM: When We Were Kings (1996)
CHARACTER: Don King
PLAYED BY: Himself
KINGLINESS: Slick-talking promoter plays ringmaster of the 1974
Muhammad Ali-George Foreman Rumble in the Jungle in this Academy
KINGSPEAK: "This is my dream and desire: Let me engender a large
amount of money...put it in the sun...so it can germinate and
FILM: Devil's Advocate (1997)
CHARACTER: Don King
PLAYED BY: Himself
KINGLINESS: Slick-talking promoter, in a satirical cameo,
effusively greets old friend John Milton (played by Al Pacino),
a lawyer who also happens to be Satan, ringside at a Roy Jones
KINGSPEAK: "So glad you could come, my man!"
FILM: Don King: Only in America (1997)
CHARACTER: Don King
PLAYED BY: Ving Rhames
KINGLINESS: Slick-talking promoter is portrayed at key points in
his life--including the time he kicked a man to death--in this
HBO docudrama (set to debut this month) based on Jack Newfield's
book on King.
KINGSPEAK: "You want to make some money, get yourself some
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
According to a recent survey by Boating magazine, a married boat
owner is more likely to carry a wallet photograph of his boat
than of his spouse or children.
They Said It
University of Minnesota basketball coach, on coaching salaries:
"As much money as we make--and I understand the people who say
it's too much--it's also not enough."