Throwing in the Towel
Beating a hasty retreat in the war on drugs
This is an article from the Aug. 10, 1998 issue
Among the many useful contributions sports have made to English
is the phrase throwing in the towel, which is what a boxing
trainer does to concede defeat in a fight and what athletic
federations have been doing with alarming alacrity in the battle
against drugs. They've cried uncle, waved the white flag, made
like Eddie Futch at the Thrilla in Manila: They've thrown in the
towel. How else to explain the curious ex cathedra pronouncement
last week of International Olympic Committee president Juan
Antonio Samaranch, who said that the list of drugs banned from
the Olympics ought to be "drastically" reduced to exclude
performance-enhancing drugs that don't have dangerous side
effects? "Doping is everything that, first, is harmful to an
athlete's health and, second, artificially augments his
performance," Sammy theorized in the Spanish daily El Mundo. "If
it's just the second case, for me that's not doping." While the
IOC is furiously backpedaling from that statement, the
impression remains that Samaranch is ready--in the words of
English running great Steve Ovett--to "throw in the towel" in
the drug war.
It must be tempting to do so, as the IOC has been buried beneath
a Samaranchalanche of drug woes. Last month U.S. shot-putter
Randy Barnes and sprinter Dennis Mitchell were suspended by the
International Amateur Athletics Federation for positive drug
tests, and four Chinese swimmers received bans for drug
violations. Meanwhile, Irish swimmer Michelle Smith could face a
lifetime ban for allegedly tampering with a urine sample (her
In light of the drug fiasco at the Tour de France, cycling
officials have not thrown in the towel--they're using the towel to
tie off an arm to raise a vein. The doping by Tour riders was
uncovered by French police, not the sport's officials, who should
know that cycling is rife with drug peddling, as well as drugged
Then there's the NFL's drug policy, which has fewer teeth than
Leon Spinks, or so it seems from prominent drug-related
casualties of recent years who weren't caught by the league
itself. Bam Morris tested positive for having five pounds of
marijuana in his car while in the presence of Texas police;
Michael Irvin was found, also by Texas police, in a motel room
full of cocaine.
At least the NFL has farmed out drug enforcement to the law; the
NCAA often encourages schools to "police themselves," which is a
bit like letting John McEnroe make his own line calls. It may be
time that we at SCORECARD, self-righteous solvers of sport's
problems, say it as well: We give. Uncle. Somebody, get us a
towel. --Steve Rushin
NFL Hall of Fame
Two Nominees for 1999
When you're one of the 36 selectors on the Pro Football Hall of
Fame committee, as I am, you're like a coach. After the
enshrinement ceremony has closed the book on one season, you
draw a deep breath and start working on next year's campaign.
Now that the 1998 inductions are history--free safety Paul
Krause, wide receiver Tommy McDonald, tackle Anthony Munoz,
middle linebacker Mike Singletary and center Dwight Stephenson
entered Canton last weekend--there are two players I'll push
hard for: Dave Wilcox, an outside linebacker for the San
Francisco 49ers from 1964 to '74, and Cliff Harris, the Dallas
Cowboys' free safety from 1970 to '79.
At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Wilcox did the unspectacular things
better than anyone else. He was all but impossible to hook to
the inside on running plays; no one at Wilcox's position ever
jammed a tight end better. In terms of technique I consider him
one of the best outside linebackers in history. Will this be
enough to get him on the ballot? We'll see.
Harris was the first of the killer-style free safeties later
epitomized by the Oakland Raiders' Jack Tatum. Harris, though,
had exceptional cover skills; Tatum was merely a hatchet man.
During Harris's era, no defensive back in the game hit harder,
and isn't that what football is all about? At least that will be
my pitch. --Paul Zimmerman
Deal of the Week
A Trade with A Catch
The trade itself wasn't that unusual. On July 23, 28-year-old
righthander Ken Krahenbuhl was sent from the Western League's
Pacific Suns (who play their home games in Oxnard, Calif.) to
the Texas-Louisiana League's Greenville (Miss.) Bluesmen in
return for an undisclosed amount of cash, a player to be named
later and 10 pounds of expertly filleted Mississippi River catfish.
These are the same Bluesmen who last year accepted 50 pounds of
pheasant from the Sioux Falls (Iowa) Canaries of the Northern
League for second baseman Sean Murphy and who two years ago
surrendered an unopened copy of a classic Muddy Waters album to
acquire first baseman Andre Keen from the now defunct Meridien
(Miss.) Brakemen. So when Krahenbuhl grew tired of toiling for
the fading Suns, who were 14-48 through Sunday, and expressed a
desire to return to Greenville, where he had pitched last
season, Pacific general manager Mike Begley used his live bait
to land some flavorful fillets. "That catfish," says Begley, a
former resident of Mississippi, "that's good eatin'."
The bewhiskered Krahenbuhl learned the terms of the deal only
when he arrived at Greenville's Legion Field on July 24. "I was
mad," he says. "I didn't think I deserved to get traded for
fish." That night, still steaming, he took the mound to cries of
"Hey, Catfish Ken" and set down 27 straight Amarillo Dillas. He
pitched the ninth inning of his perfect game in a driving rain,
ideal weather, everyone agreed, for a catfish.
World Cup Follow-up
Esse Baharmast, a 44-year-old soccer referee from Denver, became
an international whipping boy last month when he called a
penalty against Brazil late in its final first-round World Cup
game against Norway in Marseilles. Baharmast ruled that a
Brazilian defender had yanked the jersey of a Norwegian
attacker. Norway converted the penalty kick for a 2-1 victory
and qualified for the second round instead of Morocco, whose
players cried on the field in Saint-Etienne when they heard the
Initial television replays didn't reveal the foul, and when
Baharmast read the newspapers the next morning, he was stunned.
One called the play "an imaginary penalty." "Scandalous," read
another. A third said Baharmast had "robbed" Morocco. "I thought
they had gone crazy," says Baharmast, who like all World Cup
referees was under a gag order during the tournament. "I wasn't
worried for my safety, but I was concerned that American
businesses or the American consulate might become targets in
some of those nations."
That was when the Internet came to the rescue. In Columbus,
Ohio, Mark Christopher, a friend of Baharmast's, was surfing the
Web when he found the site of a Norwegian television network,
NRK, which had the smoking gun: a still photo of the Brazilian
defender with a fistful of Norwegian jersey. Christopher
E-mailed Baharmast's wife in Denver, and she faxed the Web
site's address to her husband in France. Baharmast then informed
the referees' committee of FIFA, the international soccer
federation, which unveiled the vindicating evidence at a press
conference in Paris.
A consummate official (even off the field he wears two
wristwatches in case one malfunctions), Baharmast is the only
U.S. ref to have worked a World Cup. He hung up his whistle
after the MLS All-Star Game on Sunday and will take over as U.S.
Soccer's Director of Officials. Yet he's still troubled by the
notion that he was correct only so long as the cameras proved
it. "Let's assume the tape wouldn't have shown the penalty,"
Baharmast says. "In the eyes of the world I would have been
guilty. Instead, I went from being guilty to being a hero.
There's something wrong with that."
The New Cradle Of Coaches?
When Frank Layden retired as coach of the Utah Jazz in 1988, the
rotund clown prince of basketball figured two things were
certain: He would never again be able to squeeze into an airplane
seat, and he would never again coach in the pros.
Yet there was Layden on July 27, thin as a scarecrow, guiding the
Utah Starzz to a 90-80 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in his
WNBA coaching debut. Layden, 66, had been hired to replace the
fired Denise Taylor. "I like teaching basketball, and I wanted to
help the women's game grow," says Layden, who will remain the
Layden isn't the only high-profile NBA figure in women's hoops.
Last Friday the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks elevated assistant
coach and former NBA star Orlando Woolridge to replace fired
coach Julie Rousseau. Erstwhile Dallas Mavericks coach Jim
Cleamons has signed on to guide the Chicago Condors of the ABL
next season, joining Boston Celtics legend and New England
Blizzard coach K.C. Jones in that league.
Why would men with marquee names coach in a women's league as
opposed to taking over a men's college program or serving as an
NBA assistant? "Success at any level gets you noticed," says New
York Knicks president Ernie Grunfeld.
Unlike Cleamons and Woolridge, Layden has no interest in
coaching in the NBA. He has lost 175 pounds since his nonsalad
days in the Show, and his goal is to transform the Starzz, who
began the season by losing 13 of 19 games, in similarly dramatic
fashion. "One of the reasons I quit coaching in the NBA was
because much of the fun had gone out of the game," Layden says.
"I don't see that in this league."
High School Scandal
Readin', Writin' And Rotisserie
A special investigator for the New York City schools issued a
report last month charging that a Brooklyn high school principal
manipulated grades and approved laughable courses in an effort
to raise the graduation rate at her school. Marcia Brevot, whose
contract was not renewed in June 1997 after a year on the job at
Eastern District Senior Academy, denied any wrongdoing, saying,
"The fact that we had wonderful attendance showed the children
learned a lot." Or that they were simply having a darn good
time. Among the "nontraditional" courses Brevot instituted were
Sports Roundup Leagues (in which students earned math and social
studies credit for participating in the equivalent of rotisserie
leagues), Theory of Football, and Wiffle Ball Theory and Coaching.
Curt Flood Act
Baseball to Enter 20th Century
Even the balkiest Congressman could learn a few stonewalling
tricks from the labor negotiations between baseball's owners and
players, which is why the Senate Judiciary Committee's approval
of the Curt Flood Act on July 29 was an important--and long
overdue--milestone. The bill, endorsed by both the Major League
Baseball Players Association and commissioner Bud Selig and
expected to cruise through both houses this fall, would curtail
baseball's 76-year-old exemption from federal antitrust laws.
Says union chief Donald Fehr, "This agreement will be a
significant step toward minimizing the labor discord and
disruptions in play that have plagued our national pastime."
The Flood Act--named for the man who 29 years ago sacrificed his
career in the fight for free agency--would make it possible for
players to file antitrust suits against management when labor
negotiations break down. This leverage could force owners back
to the bargaining table and thus prevent extended work stoppages
like the one that resulted in cancellation of the 1994 World
Since only individuals can file antitrust suits, however, the
players would have to disband their union before they could drag
owners into court. That's what NFL players did in 1989. A group
led by New York Jets running back Freeman McNeil sued the
league, and players worked without a union for four years, until
they won that lawsuit--and a collective bargaining agreement
that granted them free agency.
Locked-out NBA players may be ready for a similar move. A push
by stars like Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing for
decertification of the NBA players association during the
league's 1995 labor showdown fizzled, but nearly 90% of the
players have signed a petition giving the union the power to
decertify. Marc Fleisher, a member of the players association's
agents' advisory committee, says there's a "very real
possibility" that the union will decertify if the lockout drags
Baseball's union has no reason to consider decertifying until at
least 2000, when the collective bargaining agreement expires.
Passage of the Flood Act would help ensure that players and
owners arrive at the negotiating table then on equal footing.
High School Sports
Recruiters At the Gates
Last summer the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association
(TSSAA) placed Brentwood Academy on two years' probation and
fined it $3,000 for recruiting violations, which included
improperly contacting players and providing them with tickets to
Brentwood football games (SCORECARD, Aug. 11, 1997). Few
Tennessee high school coaches were surprised. A private
Christian school of 400 students in suburban Nashville,
Brentwood is a nine-time state football champ and had been
suspected of recruiting players for years.
Brentwood responded by suing the TSSAA, and last week U.S.
district judge Todd Campbell ruled in the school's favor. Wrote
Campbell: "It is simply not the business of the state to stifle
competition among schools for students, whether those students
are athletes, musical prodigies or math geniuses." Campbell
ruled that the TSSAA had violated the First Amendment by
limiting free speech--in this case by placing restrictions on
when and how coaches can contact prospective players.
"It's a sad decision," says Rick Colbert, a lawyer for the
TSSAA, which filed an appeal last week. "The TSSAA makes sure
kids are treated like kids. There are some unscrupulous people
out there, and this decision doesn't keep them away."
The effect of Campbell's ruling may be far-reaching. According
to a lawyer for Brentwood, Tom Nebel, some 40 states have
recruiting rules similar to Tennessee's. Under this precedent
high school coaches, both private and public, could invade
middle school and junior high playgrounds and try to persuade
prepubescent quarterbacks to choose their school over another.
This isn't one step away from the insanity of college
recruiting; it's the same thing.
--That Giants manager Dusty Baker, who retired in 1986, shed his
wristbands--or else grab a bat and pinch hit.
--That John Daly be allowed to use a cart, so he can exit
tournaments more quickly.
--That all Hall of Fame inductions have moments as uninhibited
as those provided by chest-bumping Tommy McDonald at the NFL's.
Ninety-nine-to-one long shots that won at Tucson Greyhound Park
on July 28.
Bettors who had selected either dog.
Average monthly salary, in dollars, for athletes on Cuba's
Batting average of the Padres' Tony Gwynn against the Mets'
Hideo Nomo (6 for 9) in the 15 months since Nomo sued Gwynn's
wife, Alicia, for marketing jigsaw puzzles featuring Nomo's name
Amount, in dollars, for which the Liverpool soccer club is
seeking to insure 18-year-old striker Michael Owen against
illness or injury.
Times, through Sunday, Chuck Wepner had watched Rocky, which was
inspired by his 1975 heavyweight title fight against Muhammad
Times paralyzed Chinese gymnast Sang Lan has seen her parents
since being named to the national team six years ago at age 11.
Arrests for scalping during the Goodwill Games in New York City.
Can Andre Agassi get back to No. 1 at age 28?
Mr. image-is-everything is at last obeying his thirst for
big-time tennis. His priority last year was the babbling Brooke;
this year it's the U.S. Open. After starting 1998 ranked No.
122, he has moved up 111 places and figures to stay hot during
the hard-court season, in which his KO return of serve is most
lethal. When Agassi's on, one wonders why he's had the world's
most mercurial career. This side of his wife's, that is. --L.
Agassi recently summed up his attitude toward tennis this way:
"I get into it and I'm driven, then I decide to tune out." This
year he has gotten into it long enough to drop 18 pounds, win
four tournaments and ensure an amazing surge in his ranking.
Talk about driven! Past performance, however, says there's not
much gas left. So cue up a Suddenly Susan rerun and dim the
lights--it's just about time for Andre's nap. --Sandra Bailey
Do you have any idea what pressure can do to a man with a bat in
his hands? When the stress comes from having a teammate or two or
three peering in from the base paths, it makes the average major
leaguer a slightly better hitter. Of course, not all batters
respond the same way. Through Sunday, here are the ones most
affected, for better or worse, by having men on base when they're
at the plate.
Bases Empty With Runners On Diff.
Mike Blowers, A's .164 .308 +.144
Bobby Abreu, Phillies .253 .384 +.131
Rich Aurilia, Giants .231 .354 +.123
Jeff Cirillo, Brewers .267 .390 +.123
ML AVG. .261 .274 +.013
Ryan Klesko, Braves .318 .235 -.083
Dave Martinez, Devil Rays .286 .200 -.086
Joey Cora, Mariners .307 .212 -.095
Brian Jordan, Cardinals .371 .274 -.097
STUMP THE FAN
You may be able to name the Arizona Diamondbacks' fourth starter
or the Baltimore Ravens' fifth defensive back, but we're betting
that some pro sports fly so far beneath your radar that you can't
answer even the most basic questions about them. Can you match
the league with the franchise and the fun fact? In this case, a
perfect score would be zero.
1 Major League Roller Hockey
2 National Volleyball Association women's indoor league
3 World TeamTennis
4 National Lacrosse League
5 Women's Pro Fastpitch
A Idaho Sneakers
B Tampa Bay Fire Stix
C Wisconsin Fury
D New York Riot
E Syracuse Smash
V Star player holds a day job in the team's ticket office
W A wealthy family bankrolled this league because of their child's
interest in the sport
X Twelve Hall of Famers have passed through this league's ranks
Y The 1998 champions played their home games at a high school in
Z One recent player of the week did stunts in Batman and Robin
ANSWER KEY: 1-D-Z; 2-C-Y; 3-A-X; 4-E-V; 5-B-W
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
Soccer great Diego Maradona intends to sue the wife of former
teammate Claudio Caniggia for claiming that he kissed her
husband after goals because he's a homosexual.
Most people tend to think of softball as the homer-happy game
played at family reunions and in after-work summer leagues, in
which fielders have a glove on one hand and a brewski in the
other. Well, forget the stereotypical garish uniforms and
postgame keggers and check out these sites that showcase a
harder side of softball.
Step up to the on-line home of the six-team Women's Pro Fastpitch
league, now in its second season, for schedules, stats, player
profiles, links to individual club sites and information on
The official site of the Amateur Softball Association of America,
the sport's governing body, keeps you up on news and rule
changes. Also, read daily reports filed by U.S. players during
their run for the women's world championship, which they won last
Friday in Japan.
The fledgling U.S. Professional Softball League, a men's
slo-pitch circuit scheduled to begin play in April 1999, still
needs players and franchise owners. Find out how you can break
into the lineup.
sites we'd like to see
No more smudges. At this site you can download a shareware
version of software that lets you keep score cleanly, on a
laptop, on the bench.
Web gallery for those on the trail of LPGA sensation Se Ri Pak.
Chat room for Dallas Cowboy campers to compare notes on their new
Jersey Athletic Control Board on why Tyson should have his
boxing license reinstated: "I see Mike solving many of the