LOCKING OUT LOYALTY
The NBA's labor squabbles could well squander fans' interest in
Sports strikes kill me. Forget who's right or wrong (or even
what they're about). Just the idea that the games stop so that
some issue regarding labor or management can be advanced is a
hoot. Do either players or owners think public opinion is
massing over a sudden two-hour hole in our Sunday viewing
schedule? Do they believe protest is forming because a night out
amid mascots, blimps, Laker girls and Shaq might no longer be
possible? Is the idea that somebody--we couldn't say who--will
be brought to his knees because he won't be able to see Dennis
Rodman's latest experiments with hair dye?
Strikes, or such stoppages as the NBA has promised us with last
week's lockout, work best when the services or goods being
withheld are necessary. Food and energy come to mind. Travel is
important in this country, though workers tend to overestimate
their role in delivering it. (Any of you air-traffic controllers
feeling feisty?) In the case of mighty General Motors, for
example, nobody but the principal parties is inconvenienced by
the current strike. There are, after all, other nameplates.
But even in this sports-obsessed culture, where people seriously
discuss the likes of World Cup soccer, it takes a mighty
arrogance to think that the NBA freeze is going to produce
anything more than free time. The NBA might lose next season
over the Larry Bird exception? Interesting. Just let me click
around the dial for a second. Arena football!
July 12, 1998
This is where sports always go wrong. The players and the owners
come to believe they matter in some material way. They don't.
Baseball made this mistake a couple of years ago, and it has
taken this season's triple assault on a home run record to
finally repair damage done by the stoppage.
Basketball matters even less. While commissioner David Stern and
union president Patrick Ewing grapple over an economic system
that seems obscene to most of us, they forget that the NBA has
never been more than a cult phenomenon, occasionally riding the
shoulders of some charismatic performer into wider
consciousness. Its present success is mostly due to the luck of
an unbroken lineage of hoops royalty--Doc begat Magic begat
Michael--that could end at any time.
If sports has taught us anything about this free-agent life of
ours, it's that loyalty is a fragile thing. If the players or
owners wonder how fragile, they might check out all the Chevy
guys at the Ford dealer, or they might drift over to a Hyundai
showroom, where, if the lockout goes much past November, they'll
be shopping soon enough. --Richard Hoffer
Sid Luckman, 1916-1998
THANKS FOR EVERYTHING
Sid Luckman, 81, the Hall of Fame quarterback who led the
Chicago Bears to four NFL championships in the 1940s, died of a
heart attack on Sunday in North Miami Beach. Senior writer Paul
Zimmerman recalls one of the NFL's most influential players.
My wife showed me the obit. "You never wrote the note, did you?"
I never wrote the note. I started to write it three or four
times, the thank-you note. Something always came up. This week
...this was the week I was positively going to write it. As God
is my witness. The note was for the few days in May that I had
shared with Sid in Florida, interviewing him for a piece I was
doing on six quarterbacks who changed the game. Sid was the
logical place to start. He ran the first modern T formation. It
was like interviewing Orville Wright for a piece about flying.
I had gotten to know Sid through the years. I had interviewed
him a dozen times; sometimes we just chatted. We had played for
the same college coach, Lou Little, at Columbia. But I had never
spent as much time with him as I did in May. I had never fully
realized the warmth and splendor of this man until then.
He led me through all the scrapbooks, all the memorabilia,
moving rapidly through the hard football stuff, pausing over the
endless tributes to his generosity. The Mayo Clinic, the Special
Olympics, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, an early 1940s
note from Sid to Columbia, returning a check the school had sent
him for working with the coaches to help put in the new T
formation: "Please ask the college to accept this to help some
worthy student as partial thanks to my former coach and college."
When I arrived in May, Sid asked me where I was staying. I
mentioned some hotel. "Call 'em and cancel it," he said. "You'll
stay here with me." In the world of the million-dollar athlete
with the 10-cent attitude, such graciousness is unheard of. Nor
was I ready for what greeted me on the morning that I left. A
shopping bag loaded with presents. Presents! "These are for your
wife and children," Sid's note said. "It is a family tradition
that whoever comes to our house must take a gift along with him."
Thank you, Sid. For your gifts, for sharing a part of your life
with me, for the kind of person you were. This is the note that
I was too busy, or too stupid, to write.
Hawks Pass on Hull
LET THE STARS HAVE THE STAR
Chicago, City of Big Shoulders and no Stanley Cups since the
Kennedy Administration, was grumbling last week about free agent
Brett Hull. The eight-time All-Star had slipped through the
Blackhawks' fingers and signed a three-year contract with the
Dallas Stars for $17 million, about $1 million less than Chicago
general manager Bob Murray lavished a few hours later on another
free agent, Doug Gilmour, also for three years. The Hull name is
magic in Chicago--Brett's father, Bobby, the best left wing
ever, played on the last Hawks' Cup winner 37 years ago--and
Brett might have lured some fans to the United Center. The one
thing Hull couldn't have done in Chicago is edge the Blackhawks
any closer to being a Cup contender. Gilmour might.
Gilmour is simply a better and more well rounded player than
Hull, a one-way right wing who can still light up a
scoreboard--he had 72 points in 66 games for the St. Louis Blues
in 1997-98--but who hasn't had 50 goals in four years. Against
the Detroit Red Wings in the second round of this year's
playoffs, Hull, 33, vanished, finishing with one point in six
games. Gilmour, who played for the New Jersey Devils for the
last 1 1/4 seasons, also has been ineffective in recent springs.
But during the 1993 and '94 postseasons the slender center wore
himself down to Kate Moss dimensions and practically willed the
Toronto Maple Leafs into the semis. Gilmour, 35, is still
capable of averaging close to a point a game. Some consolation
The more intriguing question is not how Gilmour will fill the
void at center in Chicago but how Hull, who left St. Louis after
a decade because the Blues wouldn't give him a no-trade clause,
will mesh with Dallas. High-scoring center Mike Modano will
welcome the help with an offense that sputtered in the playoffs,
but general manager Bob Gainey and coach Ken Hitchcock have
always demanded diligence as much as goals. The Stars play like
a team on which everybody scored 1,300 on the SAT, and, while
Hull is charming, irreverent and a first-class hoot, he's not
exactly hockey's most cerebral player. Hitchcock, a publicly
charming man but a nag with his players, will have his
patience--and his system--tested by a nonchalant sniper who wore
out six coaches with the Blues. They know a lot about guns in
Texas. Now they get an up-close look at a loose cannon.
THE MEL BROOKS LINEUP
The Cincinnati Reds have sometimes used the outfield
configuration of Dmitri Young in left, Mike Frank in center and
Chris Stynes in right. Thankfully, Young, Frank and Stynes
haven't yet taken the field as men in tights.
STAR-CROSSED SEMINOLES STAR
Coming out of Bethlehem (Pa.) Catholic High three years ago, Dan
Kendra--a kid with a Jeff George arm and Randall Cunningham
legs--was supposed to be Florida State's next great quarterback.
There was something special about Kendra, beyond the
otherworldly athleticism that had accounted for 8,026
all-purpose yards in high school. He drove a motorcycle and
owned a pet alligator. Once, for a newspaper photo, he dyed his
entire body green. But with last week's announcement that Kendra
will miss the upcoming season because of a torn ACL in his right
knee, his once-promising college career may be over.
After redshirting as a freshman in '95 and backing up starter
Thad Busby for two seasons, Kendra, 22, was supposed to step
into the spotlight this fall. Then a few things happened.
--April 1996: While leg-pressing 1,335 pounds during spring
workouts, a Seminoles team record, Kendra burst blood vessels in
--April 4, 1998: As he released a pass in the third quarter of
the Garnet & Gold, Florida State's annual intrasquad scrimmage,
Kendra was hit by linebacker Bradley Jennings. His right knee
was crushed, and he suffered the ACL injury.
--June 1: While trying, he says, to concoct a firecracker out of
aluminum foil and household chemicals in his off-campus
apartment, Kendra caused an explosion. Cut on the nose, chest
and stomach, he received 12 stitches. Explained Mark Richt, the
Seminoles' quarterbacks coach: "He's always dreamed of being a
Navy SEAL." No charges were filed, and Kendra later disputed
newspaper reports that he was trying to build a bomb.
--July 2: Saying, "I want to heal my knee back to 100 percent so
I can perform like Dan Kendra can perform," Dan Kendra announced
his decision to sit out the '98 season and apply to the NCAA for
another redshirt year. In the last 10 years Florida State has
had two athletes appeal for a sixth year. Both were rejected.
BRAVES JUDGE BENCHES HIMSELF
The Feb. 9 child support hearing of Atlanta Braves outfielder
Andruw Jones was marred by the inappropriate remarks of Georgia
superior court judge Joel Fryer, who praised Jones, saying,
among other things, "he's magnificent" and "he's going to play
much better this year" (SCORECARD, June 29). One day after an SI
reporter attempted to contact Fryer to question him about those
remarks, the judge removed himself from the case to "avoid any
appearance of prejudice or bias for or against anyone," as he
wrote in the recusal order.
"This probably helps our case, based on...statements [Fryer]
made about my client," says Andrea Henson, lawyer for Jacquelyn
Barnett, the mother of the baby girl who--DNA tests show with
99.97% certainty--is Jones's. Jones's attorney would not comment
on Fryer's recusal. A new judge has not yet been assigned for
the final hearing, which likely will not take place before the
end of the baseball season.
THOMAS SECURES HIS FUTURE
The barbarians are at the gates. Of Comiskey Park. If the final
details can be ironed out with SPP Hambro & Co., a New York City
investment banking firm, Frank Thomas, the Chicago White Sox
slugger known as the Big Hurt and soon, perhaps, as the Big
Board, will no longer be a mere designated hitter but a living,
The deal: Thomas hopes to raise $20 million by offering
investors...Frank Thomas. According to the Investment Dealers'
Digest, SPP Hambro would issue bonds in Thomas's name backed by
his Sox contract, which guarantees him an annual salary of $7
million through 2006. This method of raising cash isn't unheard
of in the entertainment world--the Motown songwriting team of
Holland, Dozier and Holland, for example, recently sold $30
million of securities backed by its royalties, and David Bowie
financed his tour last summer with a similar plan--but it is
virgin territory for an athlete.
Individuals cannot invest in this big-bucks rotisserie offering.
The likely scenario is that an insurance company or a bank will
buy all the bonds (in effect giving Thomas a $20 million loan)
and then hope to make a profit from the interest the bonds pay
(probably about 4.5 points above the Treasury rate, or about 9%
as of Monday). Thomas, who owns a record company and Big Hurt
Enterprises, which oversees his charitable organization, has not
disclosed what he plans to do with the money. But he's
apparently confident he can earn more by investing it than he
will pay out in interest. The risk for investors is that Thomas
might not receive his guaranteed salary, either because of labor
unrest or because of a violation of the morals clause in his
It's a good thing nothing about this deal is tied to Thomas's
on-field performance: At week's end the 6'5", 270-pound security
was trundling along with a .275 batting average and only 14
A LATE STARTER
Linda Jackson doesn't feel old, though in the world of pro
cycling she is, at 39, ancient. When she won last month's
six-day, 274-mile Hewlett-Packard International Women's
Challenge in Boise, Idaho, most of the women in her rearview
mirror were 10 to 15 years her junior. "But," says Jackson,
"they have nine or 10 years of wear on their legs. Mine are
Fresh because Jackson, an inspiration for every nine-to-fiver
who has ever dreamed of sports glory, is just getting started. A
Canadian living in Los Altos Hills, Calif., she began biking
seven years ago when it was suggested to her as a rehabilitation
tool after a knee injury. Friends who took casual rides with her
noticed her talent and encouraged her to compete in local races.
Jackson did well in those and in 1992, partly on a lark, she
entered the Canadian road race championships, where she shocked
the field--and herself--by placing third. By then she was riding
every day, even pedaling the 40 miles to and from her six-figure
job as a vice president at Alex. Brown and Sons, an
investment-banking firm in San Francisco. In August 1993, she
quit the workaday world. "Money is nice," says Jackson, "but
sometimes you have to take a risk."
This one paid off. Since leaving her job, Jackson has emerged as
one of the world's top cyclists. She made the 1996 Canadian
Olympic team (a crash seven minutes after the start of the
65-mile road race knocked her out of the race at the Atlanta
Games), twice won Canadian national championships in the road
race and time trial, and twice finished fifth in the women's
Tour de France. "Instead of working all those hours and feeling
like crap, I'm living a life of seeing different places and
competing against the best," says Jackson. "I've never looked
--That Basketball Hall of Fame voters right two wrongs by voting
in John Thompson and Tex Winter next time around.
--That Evander Holyfield, who snubbed a $20 million offer to
fight Lennox Lewis, cared less about his wallet and more about
--That more majors were won with publinx-friendly scores like
the +6 of playoff winner Se Ri Pak at the U.S. Open.
All-Star votes received by Red Sox second baseman Jeff Frye.
At bats this season by Frye, who suffered a season-ending knee
injury in spring training.
Seasons the average major league baseball player stays with a
given team, according to a USA Today analysis.
Weight, in pounds, of Annela Ojaste of Estonia, whose husband,
Imre Ambos, carried her over a 278-yard course complete with
hurdles and water jumps in 69.2 seconds to win the annual Wife
Carrying World Championships in Sonkajarvi, Finland.
Dollars in damages for which a Carlisle, Pa., Quality Inn has
sued a neighboring driving range, charging that errant golf
balls are driving away guests.
Average annual rate of inflation for consumer goods since 1991.
Average annual percentage increase in ticket prices for the four
major sports leagues since 1991, according to Team Marketing
WHICH SLUGGER WILL WIN THE HOME RUN RACE?
From last year's All-Star break to this year's, Mark McGwire
ripped 64 home runs, a prelude to another home run title and,
yes, The Record. Unlike Sammy Sosa, he's been through the media
circus and he's not notoriously streaky. The St. Louis strongman
also has a cushion (he's a virtual lock to be the first man to
enter August with more than 41 homers), he has more home games
(43) than road games (33) after the break, and he has fans in
every ballpark on his side. More power to him. --Tom Verducci
Or KEN GRIFFEY JR.
Sure, sure the power guy, not the all-around player, is the best
bet in a home run contest. But the junior circuit is going to
make Junior the champion. The pitching's not as strong in the
American League as it is in the National, and American parks are
more homer-friendly. Griffey doesn't have the Mac Man's pure
muscle, but it's his sweet swing that can make any kind of pitch
go the distance. Then, too, Griff, who thrives in the spotlight,
has more protection in the lineup than McGwire does. --J.M.
The american team's punchless, three-and-out performance in the
World Cup was just another reminder that on the pitch the U.S.
is still strictly Third World. But Stateside soccer fans can
take heart: Compared with American squads in several other
international sports, our Cup entries, with a .265 win
percentage, have been powerhouses.
Sport Sad Saga
Men's Soccer 4-12-1 in World Cup, never past 2nd round
Men's Team Handball 4-26-1 in Olympics, top finish 6th
(out of 6)
Men's Field Hockey 0-19-2 in Olympics, top finish 3rd
(out of 3)
Fencing 1 Olympic medal (bronze) since 1948
Cross-country Skiing 1 Olympic medal (silver) since 1932
If Nancy Lopez leaves the sport she helped revolutionize having
never won the U.S. Open--she failed again last week at Blackwolf
Run--she'll have plenty of company among athletes with one
gaping hole in otherwise glowing resumes.
Black Sox' tragic hero hit .408 in 1911 and finished at .356 for
career, third highest life batting average
Victimized by playing in the Ty Cobb era, Shoeless Joe never won
a batting title
Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer
Two towering figures in golf's modern age won 13 majors between
The Slammer never won the U.S. Open; Arnie, son of a club pro,
came up empty in the PGA
Hall of Fame righthander had career record of 243-142 and nine
High-kicking dominator received only one Cy Young vote (in 1971)
America's greatest miler (above) set world record after freshman
year at Kansas and three more in career
Hard-luck Jim won a silver, but like still-active Mary Slaney,
never earned Olympic gold
Bjorn Borg, Ken Rosewall
All-court artisans won 19 Grand Slam tournaments between them
Sweet-stroking Swede never took U.S. Open; Wimbledon title
eluded rock-solid Aussie
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Eight prisoners, including a murderer and a rapist, escaped from
a jail in Rayong, Thailand, while guards, engrossed in the
telecast of the Croatia-Germany World Cup match, ignored
Fighting through hordes of autograph hounds hardly counts as
quality time spent with your favorite major league player. And
those television and newspaper reporters never seem to ask the
questions you want answered. So how can a fan touch base with
what's going on between the lines? Check out these individual
players' Web sites, where you'll field batting tips and
clubhouse gossip--along with sales pitches for baseball
memorabilia--as if you were sitting at the end of the dugout
The Blue Jays' Roger Clemens uses his site to assess his
performance on the mound after every start and to answer E-mail
questions from fans. The Rocket also launches into an in-depth
pitching guide covering everything from proper mechanics to the
differences between two- and four-seam fastballs.
Have a cybermound conference with Oakland A's starter Tom
Candiotti, who discloses, in pictures and text, his "magic
formula" for throwing the knuckleball that has kept him in the
majors for 15 seasons.
In addition to stats and live game updates, Phillies catcher
Mike Lieberthal posts an off-the-field photo gallery and dugout
diary entries so fans can get the scoop on things "they might
not read in the press."
sites we'd like to see
Reebok's posting of reasons for dropping a 7'1" Laker endorser.
Real-time video for Cup fans whose teams lost on shootouts.
They Said It
QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Ruler of Britain, on a referee's nullification of a second-half
goal by England in its penalty-kick loss to Argentina in the
World Cup: "One is not amused."