The PGA's reluctant revolutionaries tee off on the Tour's bunker
It's hard to look like Che Guevara while wearing a Ping visor,
but a band of insurgent professional golfers is stirring up a
quiet rebellion against one of pro sports' most conservative
elites--the PGA Tour. The newly formed Tour Players Association
(TPA), which claims 50 members from among the 200 or so touring
pros, charges that the Tour is secretive about its more than
$400 million in annual revenue, of which only about 18% goes to
tournament purses. The TPA wants to know where the other 82%
goes. It also wants to know why the rank-and-file pros, who make
a 10th of the $2 million a year in prize money that a big star
does, don't share more of the wealth.
Commissioner Tim Finchem calls the TPA's speaking out
"divisive," while player Paul Azinger refers to a proposal that
would pay players who miss cuts a stipend of about $2,000 for
expenses as "socialist." Yet pros like Azinger, who is 12th on
the career money list with $7,451,410, don't have to sweat
expenses. Others do. When Mark Woodforde, who ranks 100th on the
tennis tour, lost in the first round of the 1998 U.S. Open, he
took home $12,000. When 100th-ranked Omar Uresti missed the cut
at golf's Open, he got nothing.
The TPA leaders are Danny Edwards (201st on the career money
list, with $1,212,304) and Larry Rinker (151st, $1,741,655).
They question whether the four player-members of the Tour's
policy board--Jay Haas, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III and Mark
O'Meara, who are all among the top 20 career money
winners--share their concerns. Why, the rebels ask, will only
the top 64 pros be allowed into next year's three-event World
Championships, the richest tournaments in history? Why will loot
from those events count as official earnings, which will only
widen the income gap? In a meeting with Finchem last week in San
Antonio, Edwards and Rinker stood by their demands for more
information, more power and more money.
Touring pros are too prosperous and too independent to support
radical changes, so a strike is about as likely as a modeling
career for John Daly. Yet many pros support the TPA's goals of
getting the Tourocracy to open up about its finances and spread
For Finchem there's a sure way to test the TPA's support, as
well as make good on his claim that his administration has never
made a decision "that wasn't in concert with the majority of the
players." Let all Tour players vote on the TPA's proposed
expenses stipend, and open the Tour's books. --Kevin Cook
Major League Umps
TANGLED UP IN BLUE
Here's a baseball adage that says umpiring is the only
profession in which a man must be perfect on Opening Day and
improve as the season goes on. It's hyperbole, of course: After
watching them work this year, who could possibly hold umpires to
such high standards? We'd settle for their being adequate at the
start and not getting any worse. The buzz brought on by this
giddy season has too often been tempered by head-splitting cases
of the men-in-blue blues. If a well-called game is one after
which nobody remembers who called it, let's just say we've been
getting to know way too many umpires.
Players and managers know it--more of them have been ejected
this year than in any season since the strike. And curious calls
have become an almost nightly feature on your favorite highlight
show. There was, of course, Bruce Davidson's courageous--if
highly debatable--fan-interference call in Milwaukee on Sept. 20
that turned what had appeared to be Mark McGwire's 66th home run
into a double; thankfully, Big Mac went on to render that
controversy spectacularly moot. That same day at Wrigley Field
the Cincinnati Reds' Bret Boone sheepishly toured the bases
after veteran ump Harry Wendelstedt called his drive down the
leftfield line a homer, much to the amazement even of Boone,
who, upon seeing the ball curve foul, had turned back toward the
batter's box for another hack.
On Aug. 4 Baltimore Orioles starter Mike Mussina retired the
first 23 Detroit Tigers he faced. Mussina probably needed no help
against the hapless Tigers, but afterward he admitted that his
flirtation with a perfect game was abetted by plate umpire John
Hirschbeck's overly generous strike zone.
The list of egregious calls goes on. Granted, working a major
league game in front of two Weaveresque managers and 30,000
Ueckeresque, he-missed-the-tag fans is an arduous task. Umps are
entitled to the occasional mistake. But what's most troubling is
that they seem to have forgotten their mortality. Surpassing the
butchered calls in shock value are the arrogance that often
accompanies them and the suspicion that umpires have come to
believe they're bigger than the game. Even though replays
clearly showed he blew the call on Boone, Wendelstedt insisted
that he "saw the ball clearly." Besides, Wendelstedt said, the
decision was inconsequential because Boone's two-run blast,
which gave the Reds a five-run, eighth-inning lead over the
wild-card-chasing Cubs, "had nothing to do with the outcome of
Such hubris seems to be institutional, as does a disregard for
the rule book. "Every umpire has his own strike zone," said
American League umpiring supervisor Marty Springstead in
defending Hirschbeck's performance. Then, in a logical somersault
of which President Clinton would be proud, he added, "Strike
zones are a very hard thing to define."
Two years ago, in the wake of the Roberto Alomar spitting
incident, umpires rightfully demanded more respect from players
and fans. But like a .220 hitter who's bound for the bench, they
deserve to be held accountable. It's sad that as the
playoffs--the cherry on top of this ice-cream sundae of a
season--begin, it's clear there are three teams on the field,
not two, that will have a say in who wins the games.
OLYMPIC RUBBER MATCH
The Ansell company of Melbourne, Australia, the official condom
supplier for the 2000 Olympic Games, has received a request from
the Sydney organizing committee for 51 condoms per athlete--or,
with the Games lasting 17 days, three condoms per athlete per
day. To the Olympic motto, "Swifter, higher, stronger," must we
now add "more often?"
MORE TROUBLE FOR CRUM
The new generation of college basketball fan probably doesn't
know it, but it wasn't too long ago that the name Louisville
meant something. Denny Crum, notwithstanding his shellacked hair
and garish sport coats, was one of the game's most respected
coaches. In the 1980s memorable players such as Darrell
Griffith, Scooter and Rodney McCray, and Pervis (Never Nervous)
Ellison led the Cardinals to two NCAA championships, two other
Final Four appearances and a .723 winning percentage.
But over the last few seasons, including a disastrous 12-20
campaign in 1997-98, Louisville has become only a blip on the
national radar screen, in the news more often for off-court
malfeasance than on-court glory. Last week's announcement that
the Cards had been put on three years' probation for NCAA
violations, stripped of one scholarship for each of the
1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons and banned from tournament play
this season threatens to marginalize Louisville even more.
The Cardinals had come off a two-year probation for recruiting
and extra benefits violations the day before the latest penalty
was announced, and the NCAA deals harshly with repeat offenders.
The violations that led to the new probation were relatively
minor: They involved benefits that Scooter McCray, then Crum's
top assistant, provided to Fred Johnson, the father of junior
forward Nate Johnson, in late 1996. (Among other things, McCray
gave his credit card to a hotel as assurance that Fred Johnson
would pay his bill.) Crum, who didn't attend last week's news
conference announcing the probation, described the violations as
"errors" that occurred "nearly two years ago."
Historically Crum has shown neither much patience with
investigations nor contrition when violations have been found.
It's possible that the school's behavior during the investigation
didn't help the Cardinals' cause with the NCAA either. Instead of
firing McCray, Louisville shifted him to a position as "special
assistant to the athletic director." (Sources say, however, that
he may yet be fired.) And last March, while the investigation was
still under way, the 61-year-old Crum was given a new
incentive-laden, four-year contract extension worth a possible
It's time for Crum, who is being treated rudely on talk radio
shows around the state, to justify that vote of confidence. As
Bonnie Slatton, who heads the NCAA's infractions committee, puts
it, "One of the reasons we hold the head coach responsible is
they are in effect the CEO of the sport."
High School Golf
THE SHIRT OFF HIS BACK
Rick Frame, who coaches the Braxton County (W.Va.) High boys'
golf team, wanted "something a little different" when it came to
the Eagles' attire this year. To that end he outfitted his
charges in camouflage. One golfer, however, refused to blend in.
Seventeen-year-old Phil Mauser said he found the shirts
embarrassing and refused to wear them. As a result he was cut
from the team. "I don't hunt, so I don't like camouflage," said
an unapologetic Phil. "Camouflage is not in the same category as
He's right about that. It's so much more subdued.
IT'S GREEK TO THEM
The birthplace of the Olympics is looking for native sons to play
baseball in the 2004 Athens Games. As host nation, Greece is
guaranteed a berth in the baseball tournament, but in a land
where Karrotos rode to epic victory in the chariot races, there
are no Homeric odes to a spear-swinging Roger Maristotle or a
thunderbolt-slinging Grover Cleveland Alexander the Great.
"We know the baseball personality Babe Ruth and, from The
Natural, Robert Redford," says Panos Mitsiopoulos, president of
the Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation, which he created in
January. "Mark McGwire, we know nothing. We have only 200 players
and one abandoned field, at an old U.S. Army base. Also, Greeks
are not so familiar with the equipment, mainly bats and balls."
Mitsiopoulos, a hotel owner and former horse racing
administrator in Athens, has persuaded several private schools
to add the sport to their physical education curriculum in 1999
and expects to have major league games on Greek television next
season. The government has kicked in 65 million drachma
($225,000), enough to underwrite a third of the federation's
annual budget. The Athens Olympic Organizing Committee is
charged with building a 25,000-seat stadium.
Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a Greek-American, has
offered to help by sending players and coaches from the Orioles
to Greece for tutoring and exhibition games. Mitsiopoulos hopes
Angelos, who will visit Athens next month, will also lend scouts
to find players whose Greek-American origins would make them
eligible. "We need good minor leaguers or people who know the
game well to help us master baseball's habits," says Mitsiopoulos.
We wish the forces of Hellas good luck. Clearly they face a
Sports Night Reviewed
SCORES AND HIGHLIGHTS
Keith Olbermann, who spent 5 1/2 years as co-anchor of ESPN's
SportsCenter, gives the score on ABC's new sitcom Sports Night.
The Sports Night game plan clearly is to re-create the
irreverent charm of the famous SportsCenter commercials. Those
ads took a real-life sports news operation and turned it into a
jock-ular, through-the-looking-glass world of regular-guy
anchors rubbing shoulder pads with celebrity sports heroes. The
charm was in the fantasy. However, for a show like Sports Night
(which, as an ABC program, is part of the same corporate family
as ESPN), establishing a sense of reality is what counts.
Reality? The cohosts of Sports Night (Dan and Casey, played by
Josh Charles and Peter Krause) work not in adjoining cubicles
overlooking the Otis Elevator test shaft in Bristol, Conn., but
rather in their own Yale Bowl-sized office in midtown Manhattan.
The sports banter refers to such incongruities as "the 15,000
meters" in the "World Pacific Games." And the fictional Sports
Night has an inexplicable penchant for running live shots from
five empty football stadiums, a practice that would cost about
$9 million a show to produce.
But if you can suspend your disbelief--I hate to break this to
you, but unlike Dan and Casey, Dan and Keith had no one at whom
we could bark, "Get his agent on the phone for me!"--occasional
moments of meaningful, even risky, reality may jump out at you
on Sports Night. Dan, forced by the network to apologize in the
second episode for having given an interview questioning the
propriety of marijuana laws, wonders in reply about the
propriety of "reporting about how the Miller Genuine Draft car
did in the Winston Cup." Casey is conflicted about athletes'
failures as role models and is thus thinking of leaving
sportscasting. (An aside: How much more of my life can these
people borrow before they have to pay me?)
Perhaps, ultimately, the show can survive--even entertain--by
emphasizing one nuance of the process that the writers have
nailed. The network considers firing Casey; Dan threatens to
quit. Dan dives into controversy; Casey tempers the tumult by
changing the subject to the legacy of the Starland Vocal Band.
From their first appearance on screen, Charles and Krause evince
a bond of genuine affection and cooperation that transcends
whatever chaos is erupting around them.
Dan Patrick and I used to call it our foxhole mentality. It's not
only the best part of Sports Night, it was also the best part of
working on SportsCenter.
Jim Abbott's Return
BACK IN THE GAME
In eight major league seasons with the California Angels, New
York Yankees and Chicago White Sox from 1989 to '96, Jim Abbott
had an 80-100 record that included a no-hitter in '93 against
the Cleveland Indians. Born with a shortened right arm that had
no hand, Abbott was far more than just the best one-armed player
in baseball history, but after he went 2-18 with a 7.48 ERA for
the '96 Angels, most observers thought his considerable
reservoir of talent and courage was exhausted.
Abbott took a year off, then signed a minor league contract with
the White Sox in May. He spent three months riding buses around
North Carolina (with the Class A Hickory Crawdads and the
Winston-Salem Warthogs), pitching in the Alabama humidity (with
the Double A Birmingham Barons) and toiling in an old stadium in
rodeo-rabid Alberta (with the Triple A Calgary Cannons). When
Chicago general manager Ron Schueler called Abbott up on Sept.
2, almost no one noticed.
But as he has so often done before, Abbott, 31, made everyone
notice. He finished the season with a 5-0 record, including wins
over the division-champion Indians and Yankees. His ERA was an
unimpressive 4.55, but even that isn't awful in this era of the
hitter. Neither he nor the White Sox can explain his success,
but he appears to have a future--once again--in Chicago. It was
Schueler, in fact, who twice talked Abbott out of quitting when
he was in the minors.
The key to whether Abbott returns to Chicago next year may be
third baseman Robin Ventura's re-signing with the Sox. The two
have been close friends since they were teammates on the
gold-medal-winning 1988 U.S. Olympic squad. "It's good to have
Jim back again," says Ventura. It's good for baseball, too.
--That the late-season fireworks from phenoms J.D. Drew
(Cardinals) and Shane Spencer (Yankees) are a preview of another
home run race a few years from now.
--That other past NBA stars follow Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's lead
and do some high school coaching.
--That whenever possible, Davis Cup matches be played outside,
where tennis looks like tennis.
Minutes between holes in one on the 17th at Losantiville Country
Club in Cincinnati shot by John Berman, 30, from the 173-yard
blue tees, and his 60-year-old father, Dolph, from the 159-yard
Final-semester grade point average (out of 4.0) at Rim of the
World High in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., for graduating senior (and
1996 world champion figure skater) Michelle Kwan.
Worth, in dollars, of a three-year contract offered by the
Baltimore Orioles to first baseman Rafael Palmeiro that
Palmeiro's agent reportedly called "an insult."
Ratio of children that Bible-quoting heavyweight champion Evander
Holyfield has fathered out of wedlock this year to those born to
Holyfield and his wife, Janice.
Women among the 312 NCAA Division I athletic directors, now that
Denver has hired former Cornell associate athletic director
Percentage of on-line fantasy-sports participants who are male,
according to a survey conducted by The Owner's Box, an on-line
Is Holyfield or Lewis the Better Heavyweight?
He isn't the most consistent champion--struggling with Bobby
Czyz one night and backing Mike Tyson into surrender
another--but he does have more spirit and stamina than anyone
else in boxing. And certainly more skill than a stand-up Brit
who can't even level a mohawked Croat. But it's Holyfield's
refusal to lose, demonstrated in his most emotional fights, that
would turn Lewis back into a frustrated, furious one-dimensional
puncher. After all, tougher men than Lewis have left Holyfield's
ring biting mad. --Richard Hoffer
The dreadlocked Englishman was hardly a dreadnought during a
12-round decision over unknown Zeljko Mavrovic last Saturday,
but, as Holyfield said after his own lackluster win the week
before against Vaughn (Half-Baked) Bean, "Styles make fights."
Increasingly, Holyfield's style is to brawl, which would spur
the taller, heavier, younger Lewis--whose thunderous left
jab-right cross is the best in the division--to be more
aggressive. An extra edge? Wily trainer Emanuel Steward,
Holyfield's ex, is in Lewis's corner now. --R.O.
Move over, Bleacher Bums and Fenway Faithful, and make room for
another set of tormented fans: the Anaheim Anguished. The Angels
are one of four teams, not including the 1993 and '98 expansion
franchises, that haven't won a division title since 1986. (The
others are the Brewers, Expos and Royals.) Thanks to several
September swoons, the Angels' drought has been the most
tantalizing and torturous.
Avg. GB Within 5 GB Sept.
Team on Sept. 1 on Sept. 1 Winning Pct.
Angels 9 5 times .379
Brewers 12 1 time .507
Royals 12 1/2 1 time .451
Expos 13 2 times .508
The Jordan Watch
Flip-flopping on an earlier pronouncement, Michael's good buddy
Charles Barkley says he believes that MJ will return to the
Bulls if Chicago re-signs Scottie Pippen. Stay tuned....
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Fulham, a soccer team in England's Second Division, is offering
advertising space on the Craven Cottage Stadium bathroom stalls
and urinals, which the team calls "tightly targeted markets."
There are drills to run and skull sessions to nap through, but
NFL players have no shortage of free time during the week. For
most, that means more hours in the weight room. But a few
technophiles spend their leisure hours maintaining personal Web
sites. Rush to these three for a glimpse of what's happening on
and off the field. Let's hope the Webmasters don't get their
typing fingers mashed on Sunday.
Darren Bennett, Australia native and the Chargers' Pro Bowl
punter, bids fans g'day with a site featuring his diary and
scrapbook, an introduction to Aussie Rules football and Bennett's
recommendations on books to read while on the road.
Saints kicker and foodie Doug Brien tees up profiles of some of
his counterparts around the league, a placekicking tutorial that
will have you splitting the uprights and a playbook of his
favorite recipes and reviews of restaurants in various NFL
Visit the site run by the Packers' fan-jumpin', song-rappin'
receiver, where you can test- drive his newly released CD, Down
Wit'tha Bay, and the two-year-old single Jump.
sites we'd like to see
Tribute to Griffey-Belle-Rodriguez-Walker and other
For quarterbacks seeking a tryout with Browns scout Kosar.
Florida Panthers center, upset by rumors that he might be traded:
"I don't want to go anywhere. I want to be able to play golf