List Pete Sampras, the world's top-ranked tennis player for the
last five years, as doubtful for future Davis Cups. At last
week's Cup final between the U.S. and Sweden in Goteborg, he
suffered a slight tear in his left calf muscle and was forced to
default in the third set of his opening-day match with Magnus
Larsson. He left the arena in a wheelchair. According to
Sampras, the injury resulted "from an accumulation of wear and
tear," though his 17 tour dates in 1997 were the fewest of any
player ranked in the Top 10. "If I want to play another five to
seven years on tour, I'll have to reduce my number of events,
even if my ranking suffers," Sampras, 26, said after watching
Sweden clinch the championship.
Throughout his career, Sampras has been a steadfast Davis Cup
participant. But last week he questioned making a priority of an
event that generates so little buzz at home. Citing his Cup
heroics against Russia in 1995, when he won all of the U.S.
team's points in a 3-2 victory, Sampras said, "It was one of my
best efforts ever, but there wasn't an invitation to the White
House. There weren't the congratulations I get when I win a
NEW ORDER IN CANADA
If you gloss over currencies, unemployment rates, systems of
government, the death penalty and the weather, this is the
difference between the U.S. and Canada: USA Hockey announced 17
of the 23 members of the U.S. team for the upcoming Olympics in
a press release last month; the entire Canadian squad was named
last Saturday in an 18-minute bilingual wingding that was
covered live by four television networks and included fireworks,
spotlights, a video display and the stirring strains of Aaron
Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. Prime Minister Jean
Chretien couldn't make it to the Corel Centre gala in Ottawa
because he was at an official dinner with Fidel Ramos, president
of the Philippines. Chretien was thus spared from explaining
just who the heck Rob Zamuner is.
For the uninitiated, and even for some Canadians, Zamuner is a
28-year-old left wing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, about as
close as you can get to flying under the radar in the NHL. At
week's end he had nine goals and two assists in 25 games this
season. He has never scored more than 17 goals in any of his six
NHL seasons. He is a strong checker and an accomplished penalty
killer, which explains that common man stuff. Most critically,
Zamuner is not, nor has he ever been, Mark Messier.
The question on Canadians' lips on Sunday morning: Had Bob
Clarke, the general manager of their Olympic team, and his
assistants, Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier, been sniffing
Zamboni fumes when they chose Zamuner over Messier? Messier
might look all of his 36 years, but Canada had turned to that
chiseled face for comfort in hard times. He had played on
winning Canada Cup teams in 1984, '87 and '91. When U.S.
defenseman Chris Chelios was asked if Canada should pick
Messier, he replied, "In a heartbeat."
In the end, though, the selection committee found it hard to
cast Messier, the peerless leader, in a third-line role better
suited to Zamuner. Wayne Gretzky, an aging icon who made the
cut, has learned to back off a little, but Messier can't slip
into a less-aggressive persona. Clarke was also heeding the
lesson he learned in 1996 from the U.S., which defeated Canada
in the three-game finals of the World Cup primarily because of
the play of goalie Mike Richter and a group of fresh, robust
twentysomething forwards. While Clarke was solicitous of
Messier--he called him a few hours before the ceremony to break
the news--he left no doubt about the direction Canada was taking
when he named 24-year-old Eric Lindros of the Philadelphia
Flyers as captain.
"Lindros is the young horse we want to ride now," Clarke said.
"Our young players are 23 to 26, with three, four, five years'
experience in the league. It's time for that age group to step
Because of a thick fog that descended on the field, Lincoln
United and Worksop Town were forced to suspend play in the 13th
minute of their English Unibond League soccer match in
Lincolnshire recently. Word of the stoppage failed to reach
Worksop goalkeeper Jamie Holmshaw, who, lost in the mist, stayed
on the pitch for 10 minutes after everyone else had gone to the
sidelines. Said Holmshaw, "I just thought, We're doing well
here. They're not attacking much."
The most gratifying score we saw from last weekend's college
basketball action was this one: Iowa 101, Long Island University
69. Seventy-two hours earlier, on the night before Thanksgiving,
the LIU Turkeys, er, Blackbirds, had defeated Medgar Evers
College, a Division III school in Brooklyn, by the absurd score
of 179-62, the largest margin of victory in NCAA history. There
was no letup during the game from the Blackbirds, who pressed
throughout and kept their leading scorer, guard Charles Jones,
on the court for 30 of the 40 minutes. Nor were there any
On Saturday, LIU learned that, as T.S. Eliot wrote, "humility is
endless." The Blackbirds also learned how effective their
nonstop pressure style is against a Top 20 team. "We couldn't
play our pressure defense because every time we got close, [the
referees] would blow the whistle," Jones complained after the
blowout in Iowa City. A frustrated Jones, who had scored a
school-record 53 points against Medgar Evers, had 21 points
against No. 14-ranked Iowa. Pipe down and take your lumps,
We'd like to report a nice bounce-back win for Medgar Evers,
but, alas, the Cougars were routed 102-57 by the College of
Staten Island last Saturday. The fact that Medgar Evers lost to
a Division III team by 45 points makes LIU's 117-point victory
all the more hollow.
Twenty-four-year-old WBC welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya,
known as the Golden Boy, could just as easily be called the
Golden Goose. He's boxing's biggest draw outside the heavyweight
division, and his every move is analyzed for its impact on the
sport's balance of power. Thus, when De La Hoya's camp announced
on Nov. 13 that trainer Emanuel Steward had been fired and that
Robert Alcazar would take Steward's place--even as De La Hoya
prepared to defend his title against Wilfredo Rivera on Saturday
in Atlantic City--the rumor mill went to work.
The juiciest theory was that De La Hoya's promoter, Bob Arum,
had ordered the dismissal because he suspected Steward of trying
to recruit De La Hoya for rival promoter Don King. Steward, the
hottest trainer in boxing these days and one respected
throughout his career for his independence and integrity,
angrily denied any dealings with King. "I've never stolen a
fighter in my life," he says. "I've always told Oscar that he's
blessed to be with Bob Arum, and to have Bob question my
integrity truly hurts."
Publicly, Arum downplayed any concerns about King or about De La
Hoya's loyalty and insisted that Steward, who also trains WBC
heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis, had been let go because he'd
been spreading himself too thin. Steward, who had worked with De
La Hoya for only two fights, took issue with that assessment as
well, pointing out that he recently moved his gym--and Lewis's
training camp--to Big Bear, Calif., so he could be with De La
Hoya full time.
It turns out that the firing had more to do with internal
intrigue than with external meddling. Steward suspected that his
ouster was engineered by Oscar's father, Joel, a former boxer
who has maintained a strong influence over his son's career.
Oscar, speaking to the press from his training camp last week,
confirmed that notion. While calling Steward "a good friend," "a
great person" and "a great trainer," he said that he had gone
along with the firing only to keep peace in his family. "My
father thought [Steward] wasn't showing me much," said Oscar. "I
didn't want to argue with my father."
He will have to at some point. Under Steward, De La Hoya had
recaptured the confidence and the offensive skills that had
deserted him under his previous handler, Jesus Rivero. Whether
Alcazar, who has worked with De La Hoya since the fighter's
amateur days, can keep him at his best remains to be seen--as
does the question of whether De La Hoya can seize control of his
own destiny. After all, even golden boys have to grow up.
ANOTHER SHOE IN THE DOOR
Did you notice the new variety of preseason warmup act that has
emerged in college basketball? Club teams coached or managed by
men with ties to AAU teams and to sneaker companies dotted the
fall exhibition schedules of big-name teams.
The most prominent of the clubs were the California All-Stars
and the Converse All-Stars. The former is managed by brothers
David and Dana Pump, whose Los Angeles-based summer teams, known
as Pump 'n' Run I and II, are AAU powers. David is a consultant
to Adidas, and both brothers have close ties to Adidas executive
Sonny Vaccarro. David's main duty for the shoe company, he says,
is organizing summer events that feature high school players.
The Syracuse-based Converse All-Stars are coached by Mickey
Walker, who has long been a presence--as a coach, talent broker
and team manager--on the upstate New York AAU scene.
Because AAU coaches are so influential in the lives of the
blue-chippers who play for them in the summer, both the Pumps
and Walker are in a position to inveigle college coaches into
scheduling games against them. They could say, "Play us and pay
us a guarantee of as much as $10,000, or we won't send our top
AAU kids your way." While David Pump says, "We don't have a say
in where kids go [to college]," Walker may be more candid. "It's
not so much whether an AAU coach can make a kid go to your
school," says Walker. "But I might tell a kid not to go to you,
and that's where the problem lies."
All involved deny using their influence to demand games. Says
Walker, whose Converse All-Stars lost 128-74 to Duke on Nov. 1,
"[Blue Devils coach] Mike Krzyzewski doesn't give a rat's ass if
I get him a player. He wants his kids ready for the season, and
he needs a good game from our club." That's probably true. But
how about a coach from a school that doesn't have the recruiting
wallop of Duke? "I'm not naive," says Walker. "I know that some
college coaches might be intimidated by an influential AAU coach."
The sneaker companies provide the club teams with shoes and
gear. They say they do not pay either the coaches or the
players, who are ex-collegians, some of whom now perform in the
CBA or foreign leagues. However, the companies' influence is
evident. Fresno State, North Carolina State and Tennessee were
among the Adidas-backed programs on the California All-Stars'
schedule. Two Converse all-star teams, Walker's and the
Stroudsburg, Pa., Converse World All-Stars, which include young
international players, were on Arkansas's preseason schedule.
Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson--surprise!--has an endorsement
contract with Converse. "If there's a foreign recruit we like, I
get a chance to see him play here," Richardson says. "We don't
go overseas. They have to come to us over here." Once again
there's the potential for abuse: Powerful coaches with big-money
sneaker deals get to curry favor with top international talent.
The NCAA says it is aware of these strange preseason bedfellows
but, at present, is not investigating. We submit that these
arrangements are worth a long, hard look.
PAINT IT RED AND GOLD
According to one less-than-scientific theory making the rounds
lately, the hopes of San Francisco 49ers fans this season may
rest as much on the 54-year-old legs of one Mick Jagger as they
do on the 36-year-old arm of quarterback Steve Young. The last
three times the Rolling Stones went on a U.S. tour, in 1981, '89
and '94, the 49ers went on a tear, winning the Super Bowl the
following January. So never mind San Francisco's 44-9
shellacking at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday
(page 56). As Mick and the boys roll across the country
performing in support of their latest album, Bridges to Babylon,
the Niners (11-2) just might be on a bridge to Supe XXXII in San
Prize money, in dollars, won by Tiger Woods this year, a PGA
Bonus, in dollars, Titleist gave Woods for finishing atop the
Prize money, in dollars, earned by 35-year-old Joel Sherman of
New York City, for winning the World Scrabble Championship, in
Hours hiked daily by 89 runners over three weeks to reach the
17,000-foot starting line for the Everest Marathon.
Runners who finished the climb but failed a prerace medical exam
and were forced to drop out.
Licensed women hunters in the U.S. and percentage of all hunters
who are women, according to the National Shooting Sports
Penny Hardaway's pip-squeakish sidekick can be a Big Pain-y, but
he got us thinking about what a few other li'l incarnations
might be like.
Li'l Charles's barroom-brawling bite is as big as Big Barkley's.
Like her be-braided alter ego, Li'l Venus is drawing a bead on
Can Li'l Marv rehab his namesake's image in a big way? He says
The trade demand that Scottie Pippen leveled at the Chicago
Bulls last week was only the latest incident in a career filled
with emotional spikes and dips. Some HIGHLIGHTS and LOWLIGHTS:
JUNE 1987: After four years at little-known NAIA school Central
Arkansas, Pippen is drafted fifth overall by Seattle SuperSonics
and immediately traded to Bulls
FEBRUARY 1994: Named All-Star Game MVP
OCTOBER 1996: Named one of NBA's 50 greatest players
MAY-JUNE 1997: Starts all 19 of Chicago's playoff games despite
being hobbled with foot injury and averages 19.2 points and 6.8
rebounds as Bulls win their fifth title
JUNE 1990: Comes down with migraine during warmups before Game 7
of Eastern Conference finals against Detroit Pistons and scores
just two points in Bulls loss
MAY 1994: Angry that he wasn't called upon to take game's
deciding shot, Pippen sits out final 1.8 seconds of Game 3 win
over New York Knicks in Eastern Conference semifinals. Pippen
later says he knew his decision was controversial but, "I just
JANUARY 1995: Upset over officiating in game against San Antonio
Spurs, Pippen picks up chair near Bulls bench and hurls it
DECEMBER 1997: In limbo
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
Tropicana Field, which will be the home of the American League's
Tampa Bay Devil Rays beginning in 1998, will offer fans an
in-stadium hair salon.
English soccer star, on the attraction of playing in MLS after
the 1998 World Cup: "In America, once you're famous, you're
famous for life. And they make great pina coladas!"