We don't want to cause a panic, but for the sake of the public
welfare we think you should know: The end is coming. No, not of
the NHL playoffs; that's still a ways down the road. We mean of
the world. We're talking the big one here: bloodred seas,
earthquakes, tidal waves and, as the prophet Bill Murray
predicted in Ghostbusters, dogs and cats living together. Scoff
if you want, but the portents are piling up. In May alone we've
been assaulted by one film about a gigantic asteroid that
smashes into the globe, another about an unnaturally oversized,
green aquatic creature who crushes everything in its
path--Godzilla, not Irish swimmer Michelle Smith--and endured
previews for that upcoming dose of sunshine, Armageddon.
The millennium-eve angst that's driving these movies also is
afoot in another entertainment industry: sports. Apocalyptic
hints are in the air. Reggie White has spoken in tongues. As of
Sunday, Mark McGwire was on pace to hit 81 home runs. Chicken
Little is running through stadiums and arenas, proclaiming doom:
Baseball is killing itself! NBA life ends after Michael!
Everyone is screeching about survival or performing autopsies.
Track is dead, field is dead. Boxing is dead, horse racing is
dead, tennis is dead. Ratings are down, attendance is down. Even
ice hockey, yesterday's next hot thing, is receiving last rites.
America's most popular saloon singer died last month, leaving a
nation collectively repeating the opening words to his signature
song, "And now, the end is near...." This is no coincidence.
This is a sign of the times. We refer you to the essential
apocalyptic text, Yeats's The Second Coming, which has long
puzzled scholars with its imagery. No more. From the moment you
read the famous line "Things fall apart; the center cannot
hold," it's clear Yeats was foretelling the state of sports at
May 31, 1998
Read beyond those lines. "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the
world,/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed": Baltimore Orioles
reliever Armando Benitez and the beanball that sparked one of
baseball's worst brawls in decades (page 60). "The ceremony of
innocence is drowned": Florida Marlins fans and the ice-water
hosing they're taking from owner Wayne Huizenga. "The best lack
all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate
intensity": Michael Jordan and Latrell Sprewell.
As for Yeats's survivor, "A shape with lion body and the head of
a man,/A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun"? Well, who else
could it be but Cal Ripken Jr., slouching towards Baltimore to
play third. --S.L. Price
The Sprewell Suit
HIS DAZE IN COURT
Latrell sprewell is every lawyer's dream client: dense, defiant
and rich. Not content with the March 4 ruling handed down by an
arbitrator that reduced his suspension for throttling his coach
on the Golden State Warriors, P.J. Carlesimo, Sprewell filed
suit on May 20 against the Warriors and the NBA, charging that
he had been punished unfairly. How unfairly? The suit, which
accuses the team and the NBA of civil rights and antitrust
violations, asks for $30 million to cover lost wages and
The Warriors have declined to comment, but the NBA released a
statement labeling the suit "a poorly disguised attempt...to
reargue claims that have already been rejected...by an
Sprewell was originally suspended for a year by the NBA
following his Dec. 1 attack on Carlesimo, and he was dumped by
Golden State, which voided the remaining three years and $23.7
million of his $32 million contract. But arbitrator John Feerick
later ruled that the penalties were excessive and ordered that
Sprewell be reinstated by the Warriors and that the suspension
end on July 1.
That wasn't good enough for Sprewell, who says he's tired of
being "demonized." Despite the rhetoric of his attorneys, Robert
Gist and Robert Thompson Jr., Sprewell's case is preposterous.
The suit is merely a repackaging of the claims Sprewell made
during the nine-day arbitration hearing. Feerick ruled on every
one in his 106-page opinion, and, according to the league's
collective-bargaining agreement, both sides are barred from
revisiting the claims. So unsupportable is the suit, in fact,
that Sprewell's agent, Arn Tellem, and the National Basketball
Players' Association, which stood by Sprewell early in his case,
have refused to have anything to do with this legal outing.
Even if Sprewell's suit is destined for early dismissal,
Litigious Latrell still has a reckless-driving case--the result
of a March 1 incident in which he lost control of his Mercedes
at 90 mph on a California freeway and crashed into another
car--to keep him in court. He faces criminal charges, as well as
possible suits from the driver and a passenger in the other car,
who sustained minor injuries in the accident. The criminal case
is set to go to trial on June 23, with the prosecutors insisting
on jail time. (Their latest plea offer was 90-120 days.)
Sprewell would be better off putting his legal muscle into
settling with the crash victims and heading off a jail term than
in filing a vindictive suit against the NBA.
Investigation in Vegas
RACIAL SLURS ALLEGED AT UNLV
For two years rumors have swirled at UNLV that athletic director
Charles Cavagnaro has made derisive remarks about black and
female Rebels athletes. Last Thursday, Kwasi Nyamekeye, the
assistant general counsel to Nevada's Board of Regents, wrapped
up a two-and-a-half-week inquiry into the rumors, during which
he interviewed three dozen past and present employees of the
athletic department. While Nyamekeye's findings won't be
released until next week at the earliest, one former employee
interviewed told SI that he twice heard Cavagnaro make racist
The source, who left UNLV on good terms last summer after two
years in the school's marketing department, says that while he
was riding in a car with Cavagnaro in May 1996, Cavagnaro
mentioned a wide receiver on the Rebels football team who had
been suspended the previous fall. "Out of the blue," the source
recalls, "he asked, 'Whatever happened to that Kwame Coleman
kid? Did he go back to the jungle?'" Before a staff meeting in
November '96, the source says, Cavagnaro was chatting to several
people about a preseason workout of the UNLV basketball team.
"He asked out loud, 'Y'all see that Eric Lee? He got up on that
rim like a monkey,'" the source says.
Similar remarks, including Cavagnaro's allegedly having called
the Rebels' female softball players "dykes in spikes," have been
attributed to him by other unnamed sources quoted in the Las
Vegas media. Cavagnaro, who was the athletic director at Memphis
for 12 years before coming to UNLV in August 1995, didn't return
phone calls from SI, but he has admitted elsewhere using the
word gorilla in reference to a basketball player while at
Memphis. "It had nothing to do with color, nothing to do with
race," Cavagnaro told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Here I am
defending myself, and, hell, I don't know where or why this all
Nyamekeye's report could determine Cavagnaro's future. Says the
source of Nyamekeye, "He wasn't looking for people who had an ax
to grind. He was just looking for the truth. And that's what I
NOT TONIGHT, HONEY....
It's hard to say if the recent spate of midmatch withdrawals on
the ATP tour was the result of grinding clay court play and
soaring temperatures in Europe, or merely attributable to the
feeble constitutions of the players. At the request of the
press, the tour this season began listing a player's excuse when
he retires from a match, a policy it might want to rethink.
In the German Open, Goran Ivanisevic's inconsistent performance
in his quarterfinal match must have caused him to swoon. He
retired in the second set with "dizziness." German Open champion
Albert Costa of Spain won his final two matches by default--in
the semifinal Karol Kucera of Slovakia packed it in after three
games with a blister on his big toe and Alex Corretja withdrew
in the final because of "exhaustion." (At least it wasn't the
vapors.) In the first round of the Italian Open, Sergi Bruguera
of Spain retired from his match with, yep, a headache.
FOX FACES DEATH BY HANGING
Bertil Fox stood impassively in the dock as the foreman of the
nine-member jury announced the verdict last Friday to the High
Court of St. Kitts, in the West Indies: guilty on two counts of
murder. Nor did the 47-year-old Fox, a two-time former Mr.
Universe who was once regarded as the greatest of bodybuilders,
betray any emotion as Judge Neville Smith announced the
mandatory sentence: death by hanging on the prison gallows.
The dramatic courtroom scene came at the close of a five-day
trial in which Fox stood accused of killing his former
girlfriend, model Leyoca Browne, and her mother, Violet, last
September in Violet's dress shop in St. Kitts's capital city of
Basseterre. The murders were the latest in a rash of violent
crimes involving hard-core bodybuilders (SI, May 18), whose
subculture mixes a toxic cocktail of emaciated egos, financial
hardship and anabolic steroid abuse.
Fox had been tried for the crimes in February, but the case was
ineptly prosecuted and the jury was unable to reach a verdict.
By the end of the second trial, a different prosecutor, Theodore
Guerra of Trinidad, not only had established a clear motive,
jealousy--Fox went after Leyoca after discovering she was
involved with another man--but also had called a new witness who
put the lie to Fox's testimony that he had gone to the dress
shop to retrieve his pistol from Leyoca. The witness, Druliska
Wallace, who worked in Fox's gym, testified that she had seen
Fox with the pistol the night before the killings.
Fox declined to comment as police whisked him off to jail. He is
expected to appeal.
SCIENCE MARCHES ON
Recently we told you about the groundbreaking UCLA study in
which, according to a school press release, scientists "crunched
the numbers" to prove that hot goalies are a "key factor" in
winning a Stanley Cup (SCORECARD, May 11). Now, from Illinois
State, comes another cry of eureka! According to a university
publicity release, Steve McCaw, a professor of health, physical
education and recreation, has completed a study showing that in
Stanley Cup play "hockey teams that score a lot of penalties...
are often losers."
McCaw and his co-author, John Walker, a Dallas physician,
reviewed Stanley Cup championship series from 1980 through '97
and determined that 13 times in those 18 years the team with the
most penalties for violent play wound up losing the series.
McCaw and Walker say that they hope their findings will "help to
convince more coaches and players that excessive violence and
bullying have no place in hockey." Science, alas, can do only so
South African Rugby
REIGN OF ERROR ENDS
The sports world is a little better because Louis Luyt, who
ruled South African rugby with an iron fist and an apartheid-era
mentality, stepped down as president of the South African Rugby
Football Union (SARFU) on May 11. Defiant to the end, the
66-year-old Luyt (pronounced LATE) never admitted any wrongdoing
and insisted he was done in by "spineless white people."
Despite the ascension of Nelson Mandela to the South African
presidency in that nation's first all-race elections in 1994,
rugby remains a predominantly white sport in South Africa. Luyt,
a brash Afrikaner and a former rugby star who had made millions
in the fertilizer business, was the primary reason for that. He
made no secret of his apartheid beliefs and did nothing to open
the sport to blacks. When Mandela appointed a commission last
year to study allegations of racism and corruption in Luyt's
administration, Luyt hauled Mandela into court, where in two
days of testimony the president was pressed to justify the
commission. Even some of Luyt's supporters found his treatment
of Mandela high-handed, an opinion certainly held by the
black-dominated National Sports Council (NSC), South Africa's
Luyt, still believing he had majority support within rugby,
refused to honor an NSC request to apologize to Mandela.
However, after a majority of SARFU's executive members and
provincial affiliates turned against him, Luyt left the meeting.
As calls for his resignation came in ("Please go, for the sake
of the game," pleaded star flanker Francois Pienaar, who
captained the Springboks, South Africa's famed national team, to
the 1995 World Cup championship), Luyt finally resigned. His
action opened the way for tours of South Africa by teams from
Ireland and Wales that had been jeopardized when the NSC,
frustrated by Luyt's obstinacy and employing a powerful tactic
from the antiapartheid era, called for a boycott of its
country's own rugby team.
However, the sports world has probably not heard the last of
Luyt, who is still president of the Golden Lions rugby union,
the richest SARFU affiliate. "White people do not believe
anymore that they can protect what is important to them," says
Luyt. He claims that the "overwhelming majority of South African
rugby players back me." If that's true, it's way past time for
those players to step into the real world and leave this bigot
back in the shadows.
TRADING ON LOYALTY
Barring any last-minute glitches, the Cleveland Indians this
month will make available to investors some four million shares
of stock in the team. If the public buys the shares at the
expected price of $15 apiece, Indians owner Richard Jacobs will
realize a $56 million bonanza. The NBA's Boston Celtics, the
NFL's Green Bay Packers and the NHL's Florida Panthers have made
similar public offerings in the past. What makes Cleveland's
deal different is that the promise fundamental to the issuing of
new stock--give us your money now, and we'll try to make you
more later--is being openly breached from the start.
In documents filed in connection with the offering, the Indians
concede that they have pushed profits so hard over the past five
years that their current growth rate is unsustainable. They also
acknowledge that a hefty portion of revenues during those years
has come from postseason receipts (never a lock), while saying
that increases in player salaries (a lock) "could have a
material adverse effect on the Company's value." Nor do the
shareholders have any recourse if they don't like the way Jacobs
is running the club. His special Class B stock--of which he owns
all 2.3 million shares--has 10,000 times the voting rights of
the Class A stock the public is getting.
Despite the dim prospects of any return on their investment,
die-hard Cleveland fans will likely snap up the stock and brag
to their friends that they "own" a piece of the team. That will
only encourage other team proprietors to see stock sales as a
no-risk way to reap millions. What looks like an ordinary Wall
Street public offering is merely another way for an owner to
take money out of the fans' pockets and put it into his own.
--That, after building a Lakers team that got to the brink of
the NBA Finals, vice president Jerry West find an owner who
--That Mark McGwire sit out a couple of months so that the
season's last days will have some suspense.
--That the republic recover from the protest staged at the NFL
meetings last week by coaches and assistants upset with their
Batters struck out by Kristy Goodrich of Lordstown (Ohio) High
in a 21-inning fast-pitch softball game against Bristol High.
Batters struck out in the same game, a 6-2 Bristol win, by
opposing pitcher Megan Everson.
Percentage decline in ratings for ABC's telecast of the final
round of the Byron Nelson Classic from last year, when Tiger
Woods won, to this year, when Woods wasn't in contention.
Beanie Babies that will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in
honor of David Wells's perfect game, which took place on Beanie
Baby Day at Yankee Stadium.
Bowling score rolled by Steelers running back Jerome Bettis in
the Johnny Petraglia Pro-Am in North Brunswick, N.J.
Cost, in dollars, of the Chicago business license that will be
required of building owners near Wrigley Field who sell rooftop
seats for Cubs games.
Percentage of male fans leaving major league baseball games who
are legally drunk, according to recent tests by physicians.
SHOULD BASEBALL HAVE A NO-LEAVING-THE-DUGOUT RULE?
Pitchers who deliver discordant chin music should be
punished--by the league, not by vigilantes from the opposing
team's dugout. Bench-clearing brawls raise the likelihood of
injuries to players and only make ugly situations uglier. Anyone
who saw Darryl Strawberry's sucker-punch last week knows just
how ugly. It's time lawless players were shown that though
baseball has no commissioner, it has a sheriff. --Stephen Cannella
True, such a rule would ensure that no batter charged the mound.
(Who's gonna pick a fight when outnumbered nine to one?) But,
like it or not, the bench-clearing brawl is a necessary evil. It
holds the pitcher accountable. Face it, the only thing that
keeps American League hurlers from plunking Albert Belle four
times a game is the prospect of having him storm the mound,
supported by a horde of teammates. --Mark Bechtel
This season the NHL--never known for a baseball-like obsession
with numbers--began keeping track of eight new statistics. Sure,
these figures give puckheads something to argue about and
numerologists something to analyze between periods, but in the
postseason the new stats seem irrelevant. Here's where each of
the NHL's conference finalists ranked through Sunday among the
16 playoff teams in four of the new categories. In the
postseason, goals for and against are still the only numbers
Team Capitals Sabres Red Wings Stars
Giveaways/Game 3rd 16th 10th 7th
Takeaways/Game 15th 1st 14th 5th
Hits/Game 15th 13th 12th 6th
Face-off Win % 8th 16th 5th 3rd
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
At least 16 New York City high school coaches in various sports
are alleged to have purchased fake first-aid and CPR
certificates (certification is required of all coaches) from
another city coach.
There are no Summer Olympics this year, so for many sports fans,
sitting through a Michael Johnson soft-drink commercial is
probably what passes for paying attention to track and field.
But with Sunday's Prefontaine Classic, the NCAA Championships
(June 3-6) and the U.S. nationals (June 19-21) on tap, and with
the international season heating up, track and field will be
hitting full stride over the next few weeks. Here are a few
sites to help you keep pace with the world's best runners,
jumpers and throwers.
The official site of the IAAF, the sport's world governing body,
provides meet schedules, results and athlete profiles from all
over the globe and keeps tabs on world records in every event.
Also, check out the IAAF's on-line science magazine for news on
innovative training techniques.
Tap into Trackwire for in-depth coverage of the NCAA track and
field scene, including weekly Top 25 men's and women's team
rankings, same-day meet coverage, championship previews and
interviews with some of the sport's young lions.
Bounce through this jumpers' mecca for shoe and equipment
reviews, training tips, listings of coaches in your area and
gravity-defying video clips (above).
sites we'd like to see
Cyberclubhouse where fans can while away TV-mandated multiday
hiatuses between NBA and NHL playoff games.
Commemorative site on the All-Star catcher's seven-day career as
They Said It
Coach of Brazil's World Cup soccer squad, when asked what he
felt about a ban on players' wives and girlfriends from team
accommodations during the tournament: "I'm in favor of sex
before, after and even during the game."