RING IN THE NEW...PLEASE!
In accepting the blame for the New York Knicks' poor play a few
weeks ago, coach Jeff Van Gundy said, "I'm a disgrace to
myself." He was mocked for that, but how much more digestible
this year of bad sportsmanship would have been if more people in
the sports world--players, coaches, owners--had stood up and
said those words.
Take, for example, the football players from Mississippi and
Mississippi State who got into a rumble before the kickoff of
their Southeastern Conference game on Nov. 29. Over in the NHL,
at least Colorado's Claude Lemieux and Detroit's Darren McCarty
had the civility to wait until a whole three seconds were gone
in the Nov. 11 game between the Avalanche and the Red Wings
before they threw off the gloves and had at each other.
Here are a few other gentlemen who should proclaim themselves
auto-disgracers. Trevor Warren was the women's soccer coach at
Lock Haven University who at halftime of a Nov. 1 game against
West Chester University allegedly told his players he wanted
them to lose, and then made some strange lineup changes and
personnel decisions in the second half that turned a 1-0 lead
into a 5-1 defeat. Warren knew that a Lock Haven loss could
eliminate Bloomsburg University, Lock Haven's archrival, from
the three-team Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoffs,
for which Lock Haven had already qualified. Warren, who denied
that he had wanted the Bald Eagles to lose, later resigned.
Disgrace, Michael Schumacher is thy name. Schumacher's reckless
attempt to run Jacques Villeneuve off the track at the European
Grand Prix in Jerez, Spain, on Oct. 26 made Schumacher the
gas-and-gasket set's answer to Mike Tyson. Fortunately,
Schumacher ended up as the one with the damaged car and
Villeneuve went on to finish third in the race and win his first
world drivers championship.
Then there's Gov. Don Sundquist of Tennessee. Politicians
specialize in making absurd statements to ingratiate themselves
to constituents, but Sundquist went way overboard when he said
that "the Heisman award has been diminished" because it was won
by Michigan's Charles Woodson and not by homeboy Peyton Manning.
That kind of statement no doubt embarrassed the Tennessee
quarterback, who is a true sportsman.
After a year like this, it's refreshing to hear a voice of
sanity. Oakland Raiders quarterback Jeff George has declared his
belief that athletes should clean up their acts because they are
role models for young fans. The forum George chose for his
manifesto? The January issue of Penthouse.
STILL LIVING DANGEROUSLY
We are sad to report that Evel Knievel underwent hip replacement
surgery at Tampa General Hospital last Thursday, three weeks
after being injured during a round of golf at Belleview Country
Club, in Clearwater, Fla. No, he was not hurt trying to sail a
jet-powered cart over a sand trap. The 59-year-old daredevil and
X-Games pitchman stumbled into a creek bed somewhere on the back
A [SYMBOL FOR THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE]-LY VISIT
English boxer Prince Naseem Hamed's defense of his WBO
featherweight championship against Kevin Kelley at Madison
Square Garden last Friday was the culmination of a dizzying,
weeklong publicity blitz on this side of the pond. A
Sheffield-born son of a Yemenite immigrant, Hamed is already
wildly popular in Europe and the Middle East, as much for his
talent for self-aggrandizement as for his boxing ability. With
killer abs he doesn't mind showing off, in-your-face sex appeal
and sharp opinions that he voices in what he describes as a
"rogue brogue," he is, in short, boxing's answer to the Spice
Hamed (29-0) recently signed a six-fight, $12 million deal with
HBO, and with his snarling mug plastered on promotional
billboards from Times Square to Sunset Boulevard, the Prince did
the States right. In the days before the fight he held a series
of celebrity-laden parties at his New York Palace hotel suite,
appeared on Conan O'Brien's show (where he proclaimed that he
will soon "be bigger than Michael Jordan") and hung out with
another self-pronounced monarch, the King of Pop, Michael
Jackson. "I came to introduce myself to the United States," said
Hamed. "I knew Americans would like me because they appreciate
the difference between arrogant and superconfident."
It's a fine line. The much-hyped ring entrance for the 5'3",
126-pound Prince included blaring rap music, disco lights,
fog-pumping machines and $900 worth of confetti. In a 10-minute
scene that was bizarre even by boxing standards, Hamed gave new
meaning to the term shadowboxing, his silhouette visible as he
danced and jabbed behind a curtain. Kelley, meanwhile, seethed
in the ring and stood on a turnbuckle beckoning his opponent to
"come on, already."
The knockout artist currently known as Prince finally
somersaulted his way into the ring. Then he nearly saw his
American unveiling vanish in the haze. In a wildly entertaining
bout that featured six knockdowns, Hamed's faux leopard-skin
trunks touched the canvas three times. He exhibited an
unorthodox southpaw style, unloading crisp punches from the most
improbable angles--even occasionally when airborne--while
maintaining a steady stream of rubbish talk. By the time Hamed
knocked out Kelley with a straight left at 2:27 of the fourth
round, no one seemed to mind that the frenetic action in the
ring had lasted scarcely longer than Hamed's entrance.
PROFILE IN COURAGE
In his first eight seasons as Colgate basketball coach, Jack
Bruen staged a manic one-man show during games. By the end of
the first quarter his coat and tie were usually off, his face
was ruddier than the Red Raiders' uniforms, and he was lobbying
the referees with Pagliaccian passion. This season the sideline
histrionics gave way mostly to a quiet demonstration of courage.
And now they have ceased altogether.
Last Friday morning Bruen, 48, died of pancreatic cancer, two
months after he was discovered to have the disease. To no one's
surprise, Bruen had continued coaching. His final game on the
bench was just six days before he died, when he directed the Red
Raiders to an 80-69 win over Marist.
Under doctor's orders Bruen had tried to maintain his calm
during games this year. His jacket stayed on, his hollow-cheeked
face didn't change color as much as it used to, and his
restrained lobbying made him a self-proclaimed "ref pleaser."
Bruen himself was an everybody-pleaser. Until recently he still
held postgame court at the Hour Glass, an off-campus bar in
downtown Hamilton, N.Y., where he would chow down on wings, his
hearty belly shaking with laughter. Former Colgate players and
coaches from all levels made pilgrimages to Hamilton to see him.
All knew they were visiting with Bruen for the last time, but
Bruen stayed positive and rarely talked about himself. As Marc
Criqui, captain of the 1989-90 Red Raiders team, put it, "Jack
makes everyone who's ever played for him feel as if they're part
of the program."
It was the same with this year's team, which rarely talked about
Bruen's cancer or the special circumstances of the season. "This
win was for the coach," senior guard and captain Seth Schaeffer
said after an early-season victory over Dartmouth, "but we've
been coming to play for the coach ever since we got here."
A DUNK OF THEIR OWN
Less than a week after the NBA threw out its slam-dunk contest
in favor of a coed shooting match also involving WNBA players,
the latter league's rival, the ABL, announced that it would hold
a dunking contest for a half dozen of its most vertically gifted
women at its All-Star Game. On Jan. 17 in Lake Buena Vista,
Fla., competitors will attempt to jam on a regular 10-foot-high
rim using a regulation ABL ball, which is the size of a men's
college ball. Considering that no woman has slammed in a pro
game, there will certainly be no skying from the foul line, no
blindfolded whirlybirds and no flying over relatives sitting in
chairs en route to the hoop. But the ABL will score a publicity
coup if any of the contestants perform more than a bare-bones
"I've got special plans, but I don't want to reveal them," says
Sylvia Crawley (left), a 6'5" reserve center for the Colorado
Xplosion who routinely stuffs during warmups. "The first round
we'll see who can actually dunk. Then in the second round you'll
see some tricks."
Crawley is a cousin of Georgeann Wells, the 6'7" West Virginia
center who in 1984 became the first woman to dunk in a college
game. Crawley had two potential flushes in games last season but
missed them both. "Part of it is nerves and sweaty hands," she
says. "Also, people chase you down. No one wants to be the first
team dunked on."
This season's list of attendance-impaired college bowl games
includes the expected--Cincinnati fans have bought only 2,000 of
the 15,000 tickets purchased by the school for the inaugural
Humanitarian Bowl against Utah State in Boise, Idaho--and the
unexpected. By the end of last week Ohio State, which had
unloaded about 13,000 Sugar Bowl tickets, had taken out
newspaper ads for the first time ever in an attempt to get rid
of its remaining 9,000. The Buckeyes' Jan. 1 opponent, Florida
State, had sold only 6,000 of its 15,000 seats. North Carolina
still had about half of its 11,500 Gator Bowl tickets left. And
Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver, in an attempt to
sell out his Gator Bowl allotment of 11,500, had encouraged fans
to buy tickets to the game and donate them to underprivileged
The diminished fan interest is a side effect of the Bowl
Alliance, which each year tries to set up a national
championship game in the Fiesta, Orange or Sugar Bowl. With
top-ranked Michigan playing No. 8 Washington State in the Rose
and No. 2 Nebraska facing No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange, the
Ohio State-Florida State matchup will have no bearing on the
national championship picture, thus diminishing its appeal. "I'm
not pressing any panic buttons," says Sugar Bowl executive
director Paul Hoolahan, "but in this first three-year cycle [of
the Alliance], that is a glaring problem." Fans of Gator-bound
North Carolina are also less than thrilled with their team's
bowl berth. North Carolina (10-1) spent much of the season as a
top five team and appeared headed to an Alliance bowl; instead,
after a late-season loss, the Tar Heels will play the Hokies,
who dropped their last two games and are 7-4.
Since schools are required in their bowl contracts to buy a
certain number of tickets up front, unsold seats cut into their
take. If North Carolina, for example, has to eat 5,000 tickets
at as much as $100 a pop, a good piece of the Tar Heels'
estimated $1.3 million haul from the Gator Bowl will disappear.
Win or lose the game, that's a hit few schools can afford.
A customer at the New York Yankees Clubhouse Shop on Fifth
Avenue in Manhattan was browsing near a register on Sunday when
another shopper approached and asked an employee for help in
identifying a replica pinstriped jersey. The worker, an
assistant manager, unfolded the shirt in question and after a
moment of puzzled silence called out to a colleague, "Hey, who's
MIT football players, including defensive lineman-mechanical
engineering major Brad Gray, who has a perfect 5.0 average, on
the Division II and III GTE Academic All-America team.
Members of baseball's top three active RBI club now with the
Baltimore Orioles after the signing of Joe Carter (1,382), who
joins Cal Ripken (1,453) and Harold Baines (1,423).
Girls in grades nine to 12 who have used steroids to build
muscle for sports, according to an AMA pediatric journal, half
the number of boys but a 100% increase since 1991.
Soccer players on Brazil's 20-man roster who shaved their heads
in emulation of their famous and smooth-pated teammate, Ronaldo.
U.S. high schools with teams nicknamed Eagles, the most common
name by 151 over the Tigers.
AFTER THE BEEP...
The answering machine has conveyed some significant sports
transactions in recent years. Just ask now unemployed John
DEC. 16, 1997--Robinson cues up his machine and discovers a
message from Southern Cal athletic director Mike Garrett telling
him he's no longer the Trojans' football coach.
APRIL 5, 1995--Montreal Expos reliever John Wetteland checks his
machine en route to spring training. Finds out he's headed to
the wrong camp--he has been traded to the New York Yankees.
JAN. 10, 1992--Brian Shaw arrives home pondering why he warmed
the Boston Celtics bench that night. A message from coach Chris
Ford clues him in: He has been shipped to the Miami Heat.
JULY 22, 1991--After years of squabbling with coach Mike Keenan,
Chicago Blackhawks forward Troy Murray hears his favorite voice
on the machine telling him he has been sent to the Winnipeg Jets.
CATCH THE FALLING STARS
The sight of an NBA star writhing in pain was all too familiar.
New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing dislocated his right wrist
last Saturday night when he fell attempting a dunk in Milwaukee
and will miss the rest of the season. Ewing becomes the latest
in a series of top-notch players to be sidelined by injuries.
Here are two All-Star rosters of the missing in action.
Terrell Brandon, G, Milwaukee Bucks
GAMES MISSED: four* (left ankle sprain).
PROJECTED RETURN: January.
SKINNY: Elliot (Socks) Perry can't hope to fill Brandon's shoes.
Penny Hardaway, G, Orlando Magic
GAMES MISSED: 13 (left knee tendinitis).
PROJECTED RETURN: late February.
SKINNY: Injury has had li'l effect on Magic, which is 9-4
Derrick Coleman, F, Philadelphia 76ers
GAMES MISSED: 13 (irregular heartbeat).
RETURNED: Dec. 19.
SKINNY: It's news when he's in the lineup.
Scottie Pippen, F, Chicago Bulls
GAMES MISSED: 25 (bone spurs in left foot).
PROJECTED RETURN: February.
SKINNY: Now we know--Bulls can't win without Michael or Scottie.
Patrick Ewing, C, New York Knicks
SKINNY: Spike Lee's new horror flick features Chris Dudley at
foul line, Charles Oakley firing from perimeter.
Alonzo Mourning, C, Miami Heat
GAMES MISSED: 22 (left knee surgery).
RETURNED: Dec. 17.
SKINNY: Heat's 15-7 mark without him reaffirms Pat Riley's
Kevin Johnson, G, Phoenix Suns
GAMES MISSED: five (right knee tendinitis).
PROJECTED RETURN: late January.
SKINNY: Thanks to blossoming Steve Nash, Suns O.K. without KJ.
John Stockton, G, Utah Jazz
GAMES MISSED: 18 (left knee surgery).
RETURNED: Dec. 8.
SKINNY: Mailman back to his routes with return of alltime
Loy Vaught, F, Los Angeles Clippers
GAMES MISSED: 22 (back spasms).
PROJECTED RETURN: next season.
SKINNY: With or without him, they're still the Clippers.
Eric Williams, F, Denver Nuggets
GAMES MISSED: 20 (torn right ACL).
PROJECTED RETURN: next season.
SKINNY: With or without him, they're still the Nuggets.
Hakeem Olajuwon, C, Houston Rockets
GAMES MISSED: 11 (left knee surgery).
PROJECTED RETURN: February.
SKINNY: Presence of other vets hasn't turned Dream's absence
Shaquille O'Neal, C, Los Angeles Lakers
GAMES MISSED: 16 (abdominal strain).
PROJECTED RETURN: This week.
SKINNY: Lakers, 8-0 with Shaq, will be on title traq when he's
*All stats through Sunday's games.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
Ordered by a federal judge to equalize facilities for boys'
baseball and girls' softball, officials at Merritt Island (Fla.)
High disconnected the electric scoreboard, closed the concession
stand and roped off some bleacher seats at the boys' field.
Washington State quarterback, on the prices scalpers are getting
for tickets to the Rose Bowl: "I think paying $350 to watch me
play is stupid."