RIDIN' THAT TRAIN
Increasingly, there's this ideology juggernaut. Some cause
comes along that brooks no sensible opposition. In this case,
it's moving kind of slowly (top speed in a Cushman golf cart,
turbo and all, is about 12 mph), but it's still nothing you'd
want to get in front of. The very rightness of it has mass. In
other words: The first person to say he's sick of Casey Martin
gets flattened by political correctness.
Yet, don't you (secretly) think it's all a little much? The
initial debate was fun, with the PGA assuming the role of moral
speed bump in its stance against physical diversity (if allowed
a cart, Martin would have the unfair advantage of cup holders),
but once his position was upheld in court and accepted by most
people, couldn't it have been left at that, with the promise to
check back when he had actually done something?
Can't wait. U.S. culture doesn't have a lot of patience when it
comes to actual performance. Americans like their drama packaged
to play a little quicker than that: in news bites and portentous
commercials. Casey Martin, who will probably be used up in some
final spasm of advertorial celebrity, has been on stage longer
than most. But now that he has been handed his endorsement
deals, shared the couch with Matt Lauer, been sponsor-exempted
into a few tournaments and proposed as a golf partner for
President Clinton, is there anything left for him but to appear,
unbilled, in a milk ad?
March 23, 1998
That he hasn't played much golf seems beside the point. In fact,
Martin may be more valuable as an icon than as an athlete,
certainly to advertisers and news outlets, who much prefer their
protagonists unspoiled by failure. Better to be ordained the
hero than to chance something heroic.
As it happens, this goes against Martin's every intention. It's
no fault of his that he has become more important for his news
value than his swing. And it's too bad because, if he's not
quite mythic, he's certainly decent beyond the requirements of
his role. The other day, when more than 175 journalists showed
up at a minor league tournament to see him ride a cart, his
motorized progress was held up when one of them, blathering
away, stood in his path. A minute passed before the journalist
realized he was obstructing the entire point of his attendance.
He moved, and Martin, who'd been too polite to interrupt,
continued to make what passes for history these days.
A sudden thought: It would be a shame to be sick of a guy like
this. Yet the course of fame, however accelerated these days, is
unvarying. Martin is just one milk mustache away from a national
backlash. It's too bad, but it's true. In any case there'll be
somebody newer and fresher next week. --Richard Hoffer
Sprewell: A Choke Artist
MAYBE P.J. HAD A RASH
During the last few weeks, as he hopped from microphone to
microphone, Latrell Sprewell emerged as nothing so much as an
expert in the fine points of manual windpipe manipulation. In
his ongoing battle to spin the impact of arbitrator John
Feerick's March 4 decision even further in his favor, Sprewell
has insisted that he did not choke his Golden State Warriors
coach, P.J. Carlesimo, on that fateful Dec. 1 afternoon. His
responses have infuriated many NBA observers. Even Billy Hunter,
head of the players' union, says that Sprewell's agent, Arn
Tellem, did not have the player well prepared for the p.r.
Here are a few of Sprewell's descriptions of the ugly incident
culled from various interviews.
Said Spre: "I grabbed him, but I wasn't choking."
Said Spre: "I wasn't choking P.J. I mean, P.J., he could
breathe. It's not like he was losing air or anything like that.
I mean, it wasn't a choke."
Said Spre: "When you're choking someone, you don't have two
scratches. He had scratches from my nails. You have a ring
around your neck."
Said Spre: "If you're choking someone, you don't get scratches.
You get welts totally around your neck."
Above is a photo of Carlesimo that was taken within two hours of
Sprewell's attack on the coach. It is shown publicly for the
first time here. Draw your own conclusions.
NCAA Women's Basketball
BIG STORIES, SCANT ATTENTION
Some advocates of women's basketball believe that their college
season should start and end one month sooner. The women's NCAA
tournament might thus avoid being rendered nearly invisible by
coverage of the men's. Indeed, startling news from two women's
tournament sites last weekend didn't draw much attention.
Replays of the finish of a Midwest Regional game clearly showed
that UCLA got jobbed--twice--in its 75-74 second-round loss to
Alabama. With .8 of a second left and the Bruins leading 74-73,
the Crimson Tide's Brittney Ezell ran along the baseline before
throwing a long inbounds pass downcourt. That was a clear
violation; only after a basket may an inbounder move. But no
violation was called.
Ezell's pass went to Dominique Canty, who tipped it to LaToya
Caudle, who caught it and shot a 15-foot jump shot that went in
as the buzzer sounded. Replays showed that the clock didn't
start when Canty touched the ball. The three referees left the
floor immediately, officially ending the game. NCAA officials
later reviewed the tape and, although they could do nothing
about the result, they banned the refs from working the rest of
the tournament. The referees were from neutral conferences. The
timer, however, was from Alabama. In the women's tournament, the
top four seeds in each region play at home for the first two
rounds, and Sunday's game was in Tuscaloosa.
It's hard to believe that two blatant errors would have been
allowed to stand in a men's game. The outcry would have been too
Similarly, amid all the upsets in the men's tournament, fans may
have overlooked the fact that the biggest upset--not just last
week but in tournament history--happened in the first round at
the West Regional. Not only was Harvard's 71-67 triumph over
Stanford on Saturday the first win ever, in the women's or the
men's tournament, for a 16th seed over a No. 1 seed, but also
the upset took place at Stanford's Maples Pavilion, where the
Cardinal had a 59-game winning streak dating back to 1994.
If the women had had a stage to themselves, the biggest name of
last weekend would've been that of Allison Feaster, the
Crimson's brainy and brawny senior forward. She tore through a
depleted Stanford lineup (the Cardinal's top two players,
Kristin Folkl and Vanessa Nygaard, were out with knee injuries)
to finish with 35 points and 13 rebounds.
Harvard's second-round game, against Arkansas, was played after
SI went to press, but whenever the Crimson's season ends,
Feaster's life is just beginning. She will probably get offers
from both women's professional leagues, and there's a job
waiting for her as an investment banker with Merrill Lynch.
Would a player in the men's tournament with such credentials
have drawn more attention? Bank on it.
East German Doping Trials
WALL OF SILENCE MAY CRUMBLE
In an unprecedented trial that was scheduled to begin Wednesday
in Berlin, four former East German swimming coaches and two
sports doctors face charges brought by the German government of
causing bodily harm. Alleged participants in a state-run,
systematic campaign to boost the performances of Olympic
athletes with drugs, they could face up to three years in prison.
The implications for the rest of the sports world are uncertain.
There's little doubt that East Germany's doping practices, which
were overseen by the Stasi, the German Democratic Republic's
secret police, were more extensive than any other country's. But
it's possible that the defendants--and perhaps some of the 18
athletes expected to testify--will talk about the pervasiveness
of drug use in Olympic sports, and that has drug users in many
other nations a little nervous.
At the very least the trial may have a far-reaching effect on
the history of the Games. Already athletes from Great Britain
and Australia who finished behind drug-using East Germans have
begun asking Olympic officials to disqualify the dopers and
rewrite the record books accordingly.
The trial should further lay open one of the most sordid
chapters in the history of sports, one that started in the late
1960s and continued until the Wall fell in 1989. Some experts
believe that as many as 10,000 East German athletes were doped
over the years, many unknowingly, since their coaches were told
to keep the practice secret.
Many female athletes were rendered infertile by the drugs or
developed horrific deformities, such as fingerlong clitorises.
Heidi Krieger, the 1986 European shot put champion, says she was
given so many male hormones that she eventually began feeling
like a man and changed her sex. She is now Andreas Krieger. Many
male athletes, who were given anabolic steroids, were left with
This horror show went on for decades, yet there developed in
Germany what one prosecutor called "a wall of silence" about the
consequences of the doping that to some degree persists. "One
could almost get the impression that there are no victims," says
Giselher Spitzer, assistant professor of sports history at the
University of Potsdam. "If we weren't talking about such
terrible fates, it would be funny."
Heat from the Mailman
TOTIN' TALK WAS OFF TARGET
Some say the Mailman went a little postal last week when, a
couple of days after receiving a phoned-in death threat before a
March 6 road game against the New Jersey Nets, he declared,
"From now on, I'll be packing." Karl Malone, who has a permit to
carry a concealed weapon in Utah, said he hadn't taken a gun to
Detroit and Minnesota, where his Utah Jazz had played road games
since his pronouncement, but he hasn't backed off his vow.
Never mind the passel of permits he would need to carry a
concealed weapon legally from state to state; Malone's threat
makes no sense. "He'll get himself killed or kill someone," says
the Portland Trail Blazers' J.R. Rider, that noted practitioner
of restrained behavior. "Big bad Karl...I think Karl is
ridiculous." Wow, hearing Rider suggest you're a little wacko
would give anyone pause.
Malone's shooting off his mouth raised anew the issues of
security and of athletes' carrying guns, both of which make the
NBA office squirm. The league's official position is that the
security provided for players at NBA arenas (the joint
responsibility of the league, the arena and the teams) is more
than adequate. David Stern and Co. certainly don't want their
players packing heat, a position that was explained to Malone in
a call from the league office. And it is one backed by the
players' union. "If a player insists on getting a gun, we inform
him of licensing regulations," says Robert Gadson, director of
security for the union, "but we don't advocate possession of
Rightly so. NBA teams travel by charter flight and take private
buses to and from hotels and arenas. Most of the top players
travel with at least one security guard paid by the team or by
the player. Still, basketball players, particularly superstars
like Malone, feel that they are the most vulnerable of all pro
athletes. Their relatively small traveling parties don't suggest
impenetrable regiments, as baseball's and football's do. The
intimacy of their game makes them, they believe, inviting
targets for loonies. "I'd give all the players guns," says one
player's security guard, who asked to remain anonymous. "People
do anything to get in the players' inner circle. There are a lot
of fatal attractions out there."
But does that mean a player needs to carry? The truth is, there
will always be idiotic fans doing idiotic things. Indiana Pacers
coach Larry Bird says he received dozens of threats over the
years as a player and eventually stopped paying attention to
them. Even a pistol-packin' papa like Charles Barkley, who keeps
a firearm at home and who in 1988 was busted for carrying a
licensed handgun across state lines in his car, says an athlete
shouldn't travel with a gun. "You have to trust the security on
the road," says Barkley. "Anybody who wants to get you is going
to get you."
THE WHEAT(IES) AND THE CHAFF
Pete Rose's impromptu pep talk to Cincinnati Reds minor leaguers
last week ("If you get a chance to pet the dog, pet the dog")
will likely make it that much easier for baseball's executive
council to reject future reinstatement pleas from the banned Hit
King, who in his speech violated baseball's order that he avoid
contact with players.
Another national institution, however, has no qualms about Rose.
Wheaties said last week that Tiger Woods will become their
eighth "permanent endorser," joining a high-fiber pantheon of
Olympians--Bob Richards, Bruce Jenner and Mary Lou Retton--as
well as Chris Evert, Walter Payton, Michael Jordan and...Pete
Rose. The motto, after all, is not Breakfast of Hall of Famers.
The Sit-Out Star
DREW WANTS FREE AGENCY
On March 24 an arbitrator will begin hearing a grievance filed
by the Major League Baseball Players Association that could make
J.D. Drew a free agent instead of sending him back into the June
draft. J.D. who? you ask. Despite having been the No. 2
selection in the June 1997 draft, Drew has yet to swing a
bat--or for that matter draw a breath--in a major league
uniform. Yet he has been the object of some major league
contempt. Here's a sampling of the vitriol Drew drew from the
Philadelphia Phillies, the team that drafted him but will
probably never employ him.
Veteran outfielder Lenny Dykstra called Drew "foolish" and said,
"He's making things very hard on himself." Ace pitcher Curt
Schilling, who could use a big bat in the lineup more than
anyone, said, "I have to question this kid's desire." Shortstop
Desi Relaford said, "I've heard players from other organizations
say, 'Drew? I can't stand that guy.'"
The betting here, though, is that some teams would--and
will--gladly stand him, even at the approximate $11 million
price tag Drew's agent, Scott Boras, has put on him. Last summer
Drew played in the independent Northern League, where in 44
games with the St. Paul Saints he batted .341, hit 18 home runs
and had 50 RBIs. The union and Boras contend that because Drew
played in that league, he's a free agent no longer subject to
the rules of the draft. The Phillies don't agree, though that's
probably academic; they almost certainly won't reach a deal with
Drew and, if he must return to the draft, they won't be
But whether or not Drew is declared a free agent or goes back
into the draft, it only takes one team to give him his $11
million. And talent, we should remind the disgruntled Phillies,
is almost always rewarded.
--That Nike acknowledge the truth made clear by Michael Jordan's
42-point game against the Knicks in 15-year-old footwear: It's
Michael, not the shoes.
--That the U.S. Senators seeking to cut funds for
closed-captioning of Jerry Springer's show to protect the
sensibilities of deaf viewers consider Dick Vitale's broadcasts.
--That leg-fracture victim Picabo Street makes another gallant
return, then mellows out in one long apres-ski.
Percent drop in peanut sales at Space Coast Stadium after the
Marlins began selling only shell-less nuts this spring.
Career winning percentage for Rick Bowness in seven seasons of
coaching the Bruins, the Senators and the Islanders, the last of
whom fired him last week.
Supportive phone calls from fans received in the first four
hours after his firing, by ousted Fayetteville (N.C.) State
basketball coach Rick Duckett, whose team went 17-10 this season
and who was reinstated a day later.
Skydivers who linked up in two formations over Zephyrhills,
Fla., breaking the world record of 114.
Pages in the questionnaire given to prospective jurors for Don
King's retrial on fraud charges in New York.
First-team All-Americas on the top-seeded NCAA tournament teams,
an unprecedented sweep.
Value, in dollars, of jewelry (including a Super Bowl ring)
pilfered at Miami airport from Denver Broncos linebacker Bill
WILL TIGER WOODS REPEAT AT THE MASTERS?
Last year's romp gave Tiger a blueprint to draw on for years. On
Augusta's extra-wide fairways, Woods is the best driver by a
mile. He never hits more than an eight-iron to any par-4 and
hardly more to the par-5s. Just as important, his rivals believe
he has an edge. Nicklaus and Palmer weren't kidding when they
said Woods will win 10 green jackets. --Jaime Diaz
His mugging of Augusta last year was masterly, but before Woods
plans his champions' menu for '99, he must regain the composure
he lost last summer. In the hunt seven times in his last 13
starts, he hasn't won since July. Plus, despite Tiger's length,
it was his putting that iced it last year, and lately he's been
shaky on the greens. Get the tape measure for a new jacket.
The Flyers and the Islanders dumped their coaches last week,
bringing to six the number of NHL teams that have brought out
the firing squad this season. But fans in Philadelphia and New
York had better not hold their breath waiting for their teams to
rocket up the standings. In the past five years 47 coaches and
managers in the NHL, NBA and major league baseball have been
handed a blindfold and cigarette in midseason. Replacements have
occasionally outperformed their predecessors, but when it comes
to wins and losses, the new boss is usually the same as the old
NEW DIRECTION NHL NBA MLB
Midseason coaching changes* 13 16 10
Teams that improved 9 7 5
Teams that got worse 4 9 5
Avg. change in win pct. +.035 +.013 +.014
New coaches above .500 3 4 2
MOST IMPROVED (WIN PCT.) PREFIRING POSTFIRING CHANGE
NHL: 1994-95 Jets 9-18-6, .364 7-6-1, .536 +.172
NBA: 1996-97 Bullets 22-25, .468 22-13, .629 +.161
MLB: 1995 White Sox 11-20, .355 57-56, .504 +.149
*Minimum 12 games under each coach.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
Tony Robertson, a 17-year-old basketball star at St. Andrew's
School in Barrington, R.I., who's shopping for an AAU summer
team, wants, in his high school coach's words, to "play for
someone who's with Adidas."
One hundred twenty-six games will be played in 33 cities by the
time the NCAA men's and women's basketball champs are crowned.
These sites will guide you through all the action on the roads
to San Antonio and Kansas City--without your having to make
travel plans or check local listings.
The NCAA's official tournament site features live cybercasts
(above) of every game, stats and background information on all
128 men's and women's teams as well as a year-by-year look at
mad Marches past.
Get inside the huddle with scouting reports on the strategies of
the top teams--including animated diagrams of signature
plays--and analyses that reveal how to stop Connecticut's press
or the Tennessee women's motion offense.
Keep track of the journey to Kansas City with brackets and stats
for the women's tournament and find links to other women's hoops
sites we'd like to see
Home page chronicling the high incidence of hit batters in
Downloadable CAT scans from the NHL.
"If you're choking someone, you don't get scratches. You get
welts totally around your neck."
They Said It
Veteran Minneapolis Star Tribune sports columnist, asked on a
sports talk show for his thoughts on Tara Lipinski: "All I know
is that Mr. Clinton's ratings keep on going up, so maybe you
people should find something else...."