A traditionalist wonders when the kids will get bored with all
This is an article from the Nov. 16, 1998 issue
This about tears it. Not only are the kids listening to the
rock-and-roll, but they're also watching the extreme games, the
antigravity games, probably the Lolapalooza games. They've
become so addled by the rock-and-roll they think that somebody
falling out of a plane with a plank strapped to his dogs is
playing a sport! Oh, here's another one: street luge. Somebody
straps a plank to his back (who's making these damn planks!) and
Now, what in the world is wrong with football, men colliding on
industrial carpet for possession of a leather ball? Or baseball,
where people while away an afternoon standing in a kind of a
field? Those are sports, with the weight of history and good,
clean fun behind them. But what with the rock-and-roll and also
Game Boy, you can't get through to the kids anymore. Son, sit
down, let's watch a little NASCAR. Noooo, it's around the dial
It's drugs, most likely. That and the rock-and-roll and the
computer games. Kids today would no more sit still for a good
golf tournament than for an SAT review. Sadly, TV, which will do
anything for a dollar, is endorsing this generational
estrangement, putting on these extreme games in which all kinds
of kids are flying around on planks and announcers talk in a
foreign language. What is phat? What is big air? Here's the
latest development: NBC, instead of showing football on Sunday
afternoons, is planning a season of Gravity Games. This is for
the "lost generation," says NBC sports chairman Dick Ebersol.
ESPN is in its fifth year of X Games and has done so well at
capturing the lost generation that everybody is going after that
demographic. MTV is in its second season with the Sports Music
Festival. (It combines--combines--the rock-and-roll and the
motocross.) You say, Well, that's cable. But now, with Monday
Night Football ratings off and the World Series tanking, the
major networks are panicking, and NBC will be showing 720-degree
frontside airs instead of safety blitzes.
Here's the joke. Twenty years from now the kids won't like the
rock-and-roll, the Game Boy or the drugs. Bungee-jumping won't
seem so relevant. An afternoon on the couch, with some chips and
a six-pack, might seem more like it. They'll see: There's
nothing like watching a man in madras slacks stand over an
eight-foot putt. And eating the chips and drinking the beer
(maybe getting phat, but what the heck). It's what grownups do.
They'll see. They'll all see. --Richard Hoffer
NFL Rap Sheet
CRIME AND BANISHMENT
Lock the doors. Hide the women and children. Here comes the NFL.
That's the message of the book Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who
Play in the NFL, which has persuaded some fans and pundits that
pro football players are a menace to society. Authors Jeff
Benedict and Don Yaeger (an SI associate editor) ran background
checks on 509 of the 1,650 men who played in the NFL during the
1996-97 season. They found that 21% had been arrested or
indicted for what the authors call serious crimes. Benedict and
Yaeger tell hellish tales of rapes and assaults committed by
convicted NFL perps and call on the league to ban players who
have been arrested repeatedly. "Sunday's heroes," they write,
"can no longer be Tuesday's wife beaters or Wednesday's rapists."
Recent headlines have added to the drumbeat. St. Louis Rams
linebacker Leonard Little, allegedly driving drunk, crashed into
another driver, killing her. Rookie defensive end Jeff Danish
sues the New Orleans Saints after teammates allegedly beat him
in a hazing incident. Saints quarterback Kerry Collins, the
poster boy for vapor lock, gets jailed for drunken driving hours
after assuring coach Mike Ditka that he has cleaned up his act.
So who do you like this week, the Stealers? The Dol-felons?
Before we throw the playbook at NFL players, however, it's worth
noting that the charges might not stick. Start with the numbers.
Benedict and Yaeger asked the league for data on players'
criminal records, but got no response. So they gathered their own
information. Of the 264 arrests they document--many of which
occurred before the players joined the NFL--about a third were for
drunken driving, resisting arrest, carrying a weapon without a
permit or possession of marijuana. These are serious matters, but
nowhere near the red zone of crimes such as rape and assault,
which provide the book's most disturbing accounts. In any case,
as the authors state, the data in Pros and Cons pertain to
arrests, not convictions. As Richard Jewell and even Michael
Irvin can tell you, being accused isn't the same as being guilty.
Further, while "21 percent arrested or indicted" may sound like
a crime wave, there's no such thing as a crime-free profession.
How many young men outside the NFL have had brushes with the
law? Roughly 15%, according to the latest FBI statistics. That
means the stat that counts isn't really 21%, it is 6%, the gap
between arrests of NFL players and of men who don't play football.
Finally, Pros and Cons relies on a naive view of pro sports. The
authors applaud William Bennett, the archconservative author of
The Book of Virtues, who told them that NFL stars "are role
models for young people...boys, in particular," and should be
held to higher standards than the rest of us. Pros and Cons
contends that jocks who demonstrate "a pattern of run-ins with
the law related to violence or drugs," even those who haven't
been convicted, "should not be permitted to...carry the mantle
of role model."
Wrong. It's absurd to ask the NFL to police the off-field
activities of more than 2,500 players, exonerating the innocent
and expelling the guilty. We have police, judges and juries for
that. As for the "role model" argument, most of us realized long
ago that jocks are no more or less virtuous than anybody else.
Looking to the NFL for moral guidance is like asking the Vatican
when to blitz. --K.C.
NO SPLASH HIT
A cross between Rudy and Adam Sandler's Cajun Boy riffs from
Saturday Night Live, the megahit movie Waterboy is the tale of
Bobby Boucher (Sandler), the 31-year-old "water distribution
engineer" for a Louisiana college football powerhouse. A
hopeless mama's boy, Bobby is tormented by the players and
eventually fired by badass Coach Beaulieu.
Bobby's life changes when he's hired by another team, one so
misbegotten that its players share a single protective cup and
the cheerleaders get tanked during games. He channels years of
pent-up aggression into violent tackling, and a football terror
is born. With Bobby "opening whole cases of whup-ass," the Mud
Dogs win the Big Game. (Not to spoil the suspense, but Bobby also
gets the girl and gains social acceptance.)
Like every jock-themed movie these days, Waterboy features
cameos by sports personalities--Bill Cowher, Jimmy Johnson and
Brent Musburger among them--who have the celluloid stiffness of
Brett Fav...ruh. Here's your chance to see Lawrence Taylor
exhorting a group of children not to smoke crack. Aside from
that inadvertent droplet of dry humor, Sandler's Waterboy is the
rare sports flick that leaves us parched for the cerebral wit
and comic finesse of, say, Happy Gilmore.
FROM HIP-HOP TO THE HOOP
Master P, a rapper who calls himself "the ghetto Bill Gates,"
defied the odds to become a hip-hop multimillionaire. Now
P--using his birth name, Percy Miller--wants to perform in the
The 28-year-old Miller, a former junior college player, was to
make his debut with the CBA's Fort Wayne Fury this Friday. The
CBA, he says, "is a good way to get conditioned, to fine-tune my
game and get set for the crossover." "When the NBA lockout ends,
I'll be ready."
Miller, who hung up his mike earlier this year, parlayed a 1989
medical malpractice settlement of $10,000 into an empire that
includes No Limit Records, the No. 1 label in rap; No Limit
Sports Management--which handles NBA players including the
Boston Celtics' Ron Mercer and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Derek
Anderson; a film production company; a real estate firm; a
clothing line; and a phone-sex company. Ranked 10th on the
Forbes list of best-paid entertainers of 1997, he expects to
earn $56 million this year.
"Anybody who gets in my way, I'll dunk on him," says Miller of
his hoop dreams. "I went up on [Detroit Pistons forward Jerry]
Stackhouse the other day. I'm a show-and-tell person, and it's
time to turn on the lights." Yet his basketball resume isn't
exactly glowing. Miller says he was a high school All-America
who earned a scholarship to the University of Houston. In fact
he seldom started for his New Orleans high school team, and
Houston's 1985-86 media guide lists him as a walk-on. He found
his way to Merritt College in Oakland, where--depending on whom
you believe--he was a J.C. superstar or a part-timer. One thing
is certain: At a recent charity exhibition in Houston that
featured several NBA pros, he lit up listless defenders for 22
"I've probably seen him play, but I can't remember his game,"
says Indiana Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh. "There are lots
of guys who play pickup games with NBA players and think they can
play in the league, but that's no reference point. The CBA will
be a good gauge."
Question is, In the words of Master P's biggest hit, will Miller
Make 'Em Say Uhh?
While prices in the baseball collectibles market soar like a Mark
McGwire moon shot--Big Mac's 50th home run ball fetched $46,000
last week--a set of items autographed by Mickey Mantle went unsold
last month. Why? Maybe because they aren't quite Cooperstown
Among the curios made available by the Gallery of History, a Las
Vegas auction house, were Mantle-signed baseballs inscribed,
F--- YOU!, WILLIE MAYS SUCKS!, AND MARILYN MONROE TOLD ME JOE D.
"They didn't sell," says Garrett Williams of the Gallery of
History, which set minimum bids at $2,000. The balls aren't
forgeries, insists Williams, and Wayne Miller, the lawyer for
Mantle's estate, tacitly agrees.
"We're not disputing their authenticity," Miller says.
DOG BITES MAN, MAN STOPS PUCK
Your typical NHL goalie is a big, brash millionaire who sports a
mask painted with fangs and answers to nicknames like Dominator
and Cujo. Then there's quiet little Arturs Irbe of the Carolina
Hurricanes, who works for a base salary of $550,000, peers out of
a white mask marked only by a small Hurricane swirl and whose
moniker, Archie, wouldn't even be intimidating at Riverdale High.
Through Sunday the 31-year-old Irbe had the NHL's best
goals-against average (1.47) and highest save percentage (.945).
The league's player of the month for October, he is starting to
register on fans' radar even though, at 5'8", he's among the
NHL's shortest players.
In 1993-94 Irbe played a then NHL record 4,412 minutes for the
San Jose Sharks and carried the team to the seventh game of the
Western Conference semifinals. A cool customer from Latvia, he
could have been describing both his persona and his results when
he said in '94 that he'd been playing "like wall." Soon after
that season, however, he was bitten by his dog, a Newfoundland
lab named Rambo. The bite severed an artery in his right hand,
and Irbe struggled with nerve damage even after it healed. San
Jose let him depart as a free agent in 1996. He caught on with
the Dallas Stars in 1996-97 and played sporadically for the
Vancouver Canucks last season before becoming a free agent again.
When he signed with the Hurricanes in September, Irbe was
expected to back up Trevor Kidd, who stands 6'3" and has all the
swagger of his surnamesake, Billy the. But after Kidd allowed
seven goals in Carolina's first 3 1/2 periods this season, Irbe
took over. He's the main reason the 6-5-3 Hurricanes were
leading their division last week. Teammates say his easy manner
sets the tone for Carolina's buttoned-down style. In fact, Irbe
may be the only NHL star who takes a sewing kit on road trips.
He's the guy you'll see quietly mending his gear in the
visitors' locker room.
"He's playing great, and he saves us money in equipment repair,"
says Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. "The guy's a bargain."
A STURGEON SCRUBS UP
Al Michalak was pumping water from a shallow pond on his
Curtice, Ohio, fish farm not long ago when he spotted a huge
sturgeon that had no business among the tiny panfish swimming
near it. Michalak wrestled the dazed five-foot, 50-pound
sturgeon into an oxygenated minnow tank, and revived it by
cleaning mud from its mouth and running water over its gills. He
then called in David Davies of the Ohio Division of Wildlife,
who gave the fish an I.D. tag and released it into Sandusky Bay.
"A mystery," Davies called the fish-out-of-deep-water story.
What made the survival of the fish--which is middle-aged by
sturgeon standards--most remarkable was the time it spent in
water more suitable for guppies. How long? Farmer Michalak
recalls receiving a 12-inch sturgeon from a fisherman--33 years
--That Goldberg and Dennis Rodman don't get any ideas from the
campaign of Jesse (the Gov) Ventura.
--That Jeff Gordon-haters slap a restrictor plate on the sour
grapes and start cheering the new King.
--That every Triple Crown race feature as much horsepower as
last Saturday's supercharged Breeders' Cup.
Tickets given away by winless University of Cincinnati to lure
fans into Nippert Stadium for a nationally televised game against
Attendance at the Cincinnati-East Carolina game, a 24-21 victory
for the visitors.
Runners who completed the New York City Marathon faster than the
2:43 it took a New York Times columnist to drive the course in
normal traffic three days later.
Vertical leap, in inches, of Whitney the Wonder Dog and of High
Flyin' Star, the canine headliners of a traveling show called
America's Greatest Frisbee Dogs.
Cost, in dollars, of the Sugar Ray Leonard-endorsed Slam Man, a
human-shaped punching bag with a computer and a speaker that
tells the user where to hit it.
Dollars that a Pittsburgh spa company says the Penguins, who
filed for bankruptcy last month, must pay before the firm will
fix the team's hot tub.
Career winnings, in dollars, of Steffi Graf, who broke Martina
Navratilova's record for female athletes.
DO IT YOURSELF
It's spring in the Great White South. That means daytime
temperatures above zero and no nighttime temperatures, since
this is the other land of the midnight sun. Until recently polar
athletes who wanted to ski, hike or jog in Antarctica had to get
there by ship, an arduous trek. Now the Beaconsfield,
England-based Adventure Network International will fly you to
the southernmost landing strip on earth, a solid ice runway at
the company's Patriot Hills base camp in the Antarctic interior.
From there, 680 miles from the South Pole, you can cross-country
ski in daylight around the clock. It isn't cheap--$14,000 per
person for a two-week ski safari, and $25,000 for an airborne
expedition to the Pole--but neither is Club Med, and this is
more memorable. Says one Antarctic veteran, "It's like going to
the moon." Adventure Network may someday shoot for the moon. The
14-year-old firm hopes to offer a new destination soon: outer
The NFL ranks quarterbacks by passer rating, a stat so arcane
that most fans simply judge signal-callers by their yardage
totals. But those numbers can be padded by receivers who catch
five-yard tosses and dance to 20-yard gains. Here are the
quarterbacks who get the highest percentage of their yards
through the air--and the pass-yardage leaders with the
percentages of their totals that have come from their
Quarterback Pass Yds. Post-Catch Yds. Pct.
Neil O'Donnell, Bengals 1,638 533 32.5%
Drew Bledsoe, Patriots 2,052 738 36.0%
Chris Chandler, Falcons 1,538 571 37.1%
Jake Plummer, Cardinals 1,420 555 39.1%
Quarterback Pass Yds. Post-Catch Yds. Pct.
Steve Young, 49ers 2,435 1,110 45.5%
Brett Favre, Packers 2,129 938 44.1%
Bledsoe, Patriots 2,052 738 36.0%
Peyton Manning, Colts 1,873 995 53.1%
Being point man for the owners in the ongoing labor negotiations
has been a hair-raising experience for NBA commissioner David
Stern...in more ways than one. A few other sports celebs have
also undergone tonsorial makeovers. In Style fashion editor Hal
Rubenstein rates the new looks.
The NBA commish may hope his new fuzz makes him look more sage
than suit to his player-adversaries. GRADE: B+
Perhaps inspired by her role in a recent Disney skate-tacular,
the Olympian has Mulanized from ice queen to warrior princess.
Could the lockout and slow sales of his latest album have the
center-rapper prepping for corporate job interviews? GRADE: C-
Nice kid's 'tudey new 'do may be what the WNBAer needs to upbraid
her game. Sure doesn't seem to have hurt Venus Williams any.
Funny how a $91 million contract can put a smile on your face.
So Mets new prize catch says Fu-ey on playing mad. GRADE: A-
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
A Stone Mountain, Ga., man was arrested and charged with murder
after he used tickets taken from the three victims to treat
himself and two friends to the Oct. 18 Atlanta Falcons-New
Orleans Saints game.
THE NBA is grounded and college basketball doesn't start hopping
until January, which leaves sports fans on ice for the next few
months. Skate over to these sites to immerse yourself in hockey's
past and present. Who knows? You might even start looking forward
to all-NHL, all-the-time sports pages and highlight shows.
Catch up on a century or so of history at the Hockey Hall of
Fame's site. The Toronto museum offers cybertours of its current
and permanent exhibits, a photo gallery and bios of the Hall's
Slam! Sports (big surprise: it's a Canadian site) provides the
most comprehensive hockey coverage on the Web, with standings,
stats and insider info, plus hard-to-find news on minor leagues
and major junior leagues.
The Zamboni company's site explains exactly what the "hottest
machine on ice" does and how Zamboni technology has evolved since
the vehicle was devised by a California ice-rink owner in the
sites we'd like to see
On-line transcript of Thomas Hearns's post-comeback-fight press
Chat room for hoops junkies forced to get their fix from the ABL.
lost to Michigan State: "I don't get paid to think like that; I
get paid to do what they tell me."