Keith Jackson has some strong parting words about college football
This is an article from the Jan. 11, 1999 issue
I steeled myself to endure my farewells this season. Instead I
savored them. It was a little much to hear myself being called
the king of college football since I'm someone who, like Paul
Bryant, grew up riding in a two-horse wagon. But if I were king,
here's what I'd do.
First, I'd take college football back to the days when the
colleges, not the NCAA, controlled the game. If we can't trust
our colleges and universities, who's left to trust? I don't know
that you abolish the NCAA, but asking the NCAA to keep the game
clean is an admission that school officials, coaches and
athletes can't be honest. But then, maybe people never could be
honest. The Bible tells us so, right?
If I were king, the kids who produce all the money would get a
stipend. They deserve it. We give them attention that many of
them can't handle. We put them on a pedestal, and when they
wobble, we take it away. If college athletes had some
walking-around money, they'd be more inclined to stay in school.
But I'd also make sure the phone rings on both ends--it's not
fair for a player to use up a school's time and money for two
years and then leave. Make the kid hold up his end of the bargain.
I see the problems in college football. I see the sins. But I
see hope too. I see the eyes of 17- and 18-year-olds who want to
win, to go somewhere, to make a life. Damn it, society owes them
a chance! That's what this country is all about--opportunity.
One player makes a play in one game, and that play opens doors
for as long as he lives. In my perfect world, every week we'd
meet a Walter Mitty like Kevin Prentiss of Mississippi State.
He's 5'8", 153. He's a wideout, and Jackie Sherrill says he's
the best player he's got. In the SEC championship game on Dec.
5, Tennessee's ahead 10-7 in the fourth quarter and getting
ready to punt. My partner, Bob Griese, says, "This is the best
chance Mississippi State has to win." Prentiss takes the ball
and goes 83 yards down the sideline. Those few seconds for that
153-pound kid will live forever in Mississippi. For one shining
moment Mississippi State led Tennessee 14-10 in the fourth
quarter. You think the whole state didn't stand up and cheer? If
Kevin Prentiss settles down in Mississippi, he'll have a great
In and of itself, college football has no redeeming qualities.
It's what you're doing when you're 40 that matters. You don't
have to be a damn All-America. All you have to do is test
yourself and try. The game gives you that chance. If you ever
played football, you learned never to give up. Give up, you're
In my perfect world, I'll spend time fishing and playing golf
with Turi, my bride of 46 years. We're headed to that world right
now. --Keith Jackson
Halfway into the second quarter of Sunday's AFC wild-card game,
the Jacksonville Jaguars scored a touchdown to take a 12-0 lead
over the New England Patriots. Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin
ordered his offense to stay on the field for a two-point
conversion instead of settling for a point after. Question of
the week: What's up with that? NFL teams succeeded on just 41 of
105 two-point tries this season, a conversion rate of 39%.
Jacksonville had been one for two in 1998. Meanwhile, Jaguars
kicker Mike Hollis had gone 45 for 45 on PATs.
Clearly, Coughlin figured that if the Jags got two, they'd be a
full two touchdowns ahead. But with 36 minutes left to play, why
spurn an automatic point for a less than even chance at two?
As it turned out, the Patriots stopped running back Fred Taylor
at the three-yard line. The score stayed 12-0, and when New
England later closed the gap to 12-10, it looked like Coughlin's
first-half decision might cost his team the game. The fact that
Jacksonville went on to win 25-10 doesn't mean that his choice
Considering what a conservative lot NFL coaches are, it's
amazing how reckless they can be about going for two. On Oct. 18
in Chicago, Chan Gailey had his Cowboys try a two-point
conversion after a touchdown put them up 12-7 in the third
quarter. Dallas failed; the Bears kicked two field goals and won
13-12. Bill Parcells made questionable two-point calls in Jets
wins over the Panthers on Nov. 29 and the Seahawks the next
week. Jimmy Johnson went to the other extreme: After Miami went
0 for 3 on two-pointers earlier in the year, Johnson had his
Dolphins kick a useless PAT while trailing Parcells's Jets 14-9
with 6:25 left in their AFC showdown. Fittingly, Miami lost.
Coaches are crazy to go for two except in extreme situations or
when the call is a no-brainer. A two-point conversion before the
fourth quarter, for instance, is almost always a bad idea.
Unless you're getting blown out or a late touchdown puts you
ahead by a single point, going for two is probably pointless.
Grizzly Bear Fighter
PUT 'EM UP, FURBALL!
Troy Hurtubise, a North Bay, Ont., inventor, has spent 13 years
trying to build a protective suit that can withstand a grizzly
bear attack. While testing his invention, Hurtubise (below) has
been riddled with gunshots, blasted by dynamite and battered by
tree trunks swinging from a giant homemade pendulum. He has been
run over by trucks going 30 mph only to rise and lift his arms
in victory. He has also gone bankrupt.
Having spent more than $150,000 on his project, Hurtubise--whose
obsession dates to 1984, when he survived a head-butting by a
grizzly while panning for gold along Humidity Creek in British
Columbia--will see his Ursus Mark VI suit auctioned off this
month to pay his debts. "It should be a good auction," says an
unfazed Hurtubise, who expects the suit to go for as much as
$300,000, "but the Mark VI is obsolete."
Obsolete, maybe, but still imposing. The rubber and titanium
Mark VI stands 7'2", weighs 147 pounds and contains almost 7,630
feet of duct tape. It features air bags, a two-way radio and a
"blaster can" capable of spraying bear repellent 15 feet.
Unfortunately, the suit is so bulky that its wearer could barely
outrun a hibernating bear. In 1995 Hurtubise challenged a
grizzly but kept falling as he pursued the animal. The bear
Hurtubise, 34, insists his work can benefit others, including
firemen, policemen and volcano explorers. The United Nations has
asked him about his suit's potential use in clearing minefields.
"For years I was thought to be a nutcase," he says. "Now I get
the last laugh."
Next up: the 120-pound G-Man Genesis protective suit, which will
feature a satellite mapping system and a forearm-mounted gun
that fires rubber bullets. Hurtubise is also working on hockey
equipment, including inflatable safety underwear--air johns, he
calls them--and a high-tech helmet. Had the New York Rangers'
Pat Lafontaine been wearing such a helmet when he suffered the
concussive hit that led to his retirement last year, says
Hurtubise, "it would have saved his career." How does Hurtubise
know? He put the helmet on and tested it. With a baseball bat.
Jerry Quarry (1945-1999)
SAD END TO A LONG FIGHT
It would be a shame if Jerry Quarry were remembered only as
another Great White Hope, a crowd-pleasing pug who took
high-profile beatings from Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Quarry
was surprisingly fast, a hard hitter and a brilliant
counterpuncher. His 53-9-4 record over 27 years as a pro
included victories over Floyd Patterson and Earnie Shavers. In
another era he might have worn a championship belt. He was also
a warrior of tremendous heart--a quality that contributed to the
darker side of his legacy.
Quarry, who died at 53 in Templeton, Calif., on Sunday, had been
hospitalized six days earlier with pneumonia. He'd then gone
into cardiac arrest. His family allowed him to be removed from
life support on Sunday, but he was gone long before that. He had
spent the final years of his life stumbling through a shadowy
world of confusion and disability neurologists call dementia
pugilistica. In the argot of the not-so-sweet science, he had
been punch-drunk, his brain dying prematurely as a result of his
taking so many blows to the head.
Quarry's plight had brought him back into the public eye in
recent years. His was the classic tale of an aging fighter--a
grim echo of his old foe Ali's struggles with Parkinson's
syndrome. PEOPLE and CBS's 48 Hours showed Quarry, no longer
able to live alone, being shaved and fed by his mother and his
In 1983 the 37-year-old Quarry, then training for a comeback,
was one of three fighters who underwent neurological testing for
an SI story on brain damage in boxers. He showed no outward
signs of dementia but performed poorly on several
neuropsychological tests. A CAT scan that appeared with the
article showed atrophy in Quarry's cortex as well as a cavum
septum, a split in a crucial brain membrane. According to Ira
Casson, the neurologist who performed the tests in '83 and has
examined hundreds of boxers since, the latter condition is "the
hallmark of what happens to these guys."
Casson recalls urging Quarry not to fight again. "He was living
proof of what too many fights can do," says Casson. Yet Quarry
fought three more times, including a final comeback bout in
1992, in which he was battered for six rounds by a club fighter
for a purse of $1,050. "The damage is cumulative," says Casson.
"The sooner you stop fighting, the better chance you have."
Quarry never wanted to stop.
Risks for the Rich
A helium balloon big enough to fill the Astrodome flying 24
miles above the earth. A two-man crew wearing spacesuits and
riding in a three-ton gondola with a life-support system similar
to a spacecraft's. A fortnight of soaring at 80 mph in the
uppermost reaches of the stratosphere, where the air is .4% as
dense as at sea level. Is this a bona fide quest to make the
first nonstop, around-the-world balloon flight or just another
daredevil stunt by a wealthy CEO, in this case Dave Liniger,
chairman of RE/MAX real estate?
The latter view might play best in light of recent weeks'
events. On Christmas Day, British balloonist Richard Branson,
head of the Virgin Group business empire, was plucked with his
two copilots from shark-infested waters off Hawaii. Thus ended
Branson's third attempt at an around-the-world flight, but after
conceding that he has "definitely used up my nine lives," he
didn't rule out another try.
Two days later, 90-mph winds and three-story-high waves killed
six sailors in the 54th Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race. Of the 115
boats that began the race, only 45 finished. The winning skipper
was software mogul Larry Ellison, whose crew included Lochlan
Murdoch, son of Rupert.
Thrill seeking by supersuccessful businessmen, from Howard
Hughes to Ted Turner to today's daredevils, may reveal an
alpha-male drive toward displays of dominance or simply a need
for a hobby more exciting than golf. "If everyone had the
financial resources and the contacts I have, everyone would do
it," says Liniger, 52, currently stuck in Alice Springs,
Australia, waiting out bad weather as he prepares for a launch
this Saturday. He says he is confident he and his fellow
balloonist Bob Martin will succeed--or at least survive--despite
the fact that no one has ever flown such a craft so high or
landed one so large.
Suing the Marlins
The future looked sunny when Miami's WQAM agreed to pay $15
million to be the Florida Marlins' flagship radio station from
1997 through 2001. The Marlins drew thousands of loyal listeners
en route to winning the World Series in their first season on
WQAM. But like everything else touched by owner Wayne Huizenga's
dismantling of the Marlins, the radio deal went bad last year as
the smelly Fish lost 108 games.
Last week WQAM sued the club and Huizenga, claiming that
Florida's fire sale cost the station dearly. The station wants a
rebate and a reduction in rights fees.
The Los Angeles Clippers can only hope KEZY never hears about
THIS IS YOUR DOG ON CHOCOLATE
Upper lips are trembling in England's whippet-racing circles. A
furor over dog doping has rocked the gentlemanly sport since the
British Whippet Racing Association (BWRA) recently introduced
drug testing. After several of the lean, hyper canines flunked
the tests, the association banned their owners. The inside dope:
The animals came up positive for theobromine and caffeine. The
source: chocolate, a popular dog treat in Britain.
Whippet owners howled. With no prize money or betting in their
sport, they said, they had no reason to cheat. "People's lives
are being ruined," whined dog owner Mark Pettitt. Still, the BWRA
refused to roll over.
Lawsuits may be next. As the London Independent reported last
week, "Pettitt may indeed be forced to cry havoc, and let slip
the whippets of war."
--That everyone could experience a moment like the one the
49ers' Terrell Owens had on Sunday with 0:03 left.
--That poor, pooped Pete Sampras had pulled out of a few fall
events instead of next week's Australian Open.
--That the 3% spike in bowl attendance this season won't have
the NCAA adding even more bowls.
Unanswered points scored by Oakridge high school of Arlington,
Texas, in a 103-0 win over Duncanville Christway Academy in the
Oakridge Girls Classic.
Rose Bowl tickets UCLA returned to game organizers.
Price in dollars of the Ferrari 550 that British soccer star
David Beckham received as a Christmas gift from his girlfriend,
Average percent increase in attendance this season for the 14 NHL
teams that play in NBA markets.
Average percent decrease in attendance for the 12 NHL teams
(excluding expansion Nashville) in non-NBA markets.
Players chosen in the 1994 NFL draft ahead of Jamal Anderson, who
led the NFC in rushing this season.
Interceptions this season by Ohio State's Antoine Winfield, the
Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's best defensive back.
Mulligans on the first tee by Bill Clinton during a New Year's
Eve golf outing, which means the President was technically lying
7 on the tee.
Do It Yourself
It's high noon in a California ghost town, and your only friend
is the Colt .45 on your hip. The sport is Cowboy Action
Shooting, in which modern-day gunslingers fire live ammo at
metal targets that drop like stuntmen when struck by bullets or
buckshot. "We've got almost 18,000 members--men, women and kids,
doctors, lawyers and CPAs," says Ken (the Chiseler) Amorosano of
the Single Action Shooting Society, which sponsors hundreds of
gun games nationwide. Competing for speed and accuracy with
single-shot pistols, rifles and shotguns, competitors aim for
End of Trail, the April world finals held at a 30-acre ranch in
Norco, Calif., where dusty streets and saloon facades serve as a
life-sized shooting gallery for about 500 competitors. The
shootists bill their game as "the most fun the law allows." If
it gets any more popular, there might be a few lawbreakers
showing up at End of Trail: scalpers.
The NHL revamped its rule book last summer in an effort to
increase scoring and liven up games that too often looked as if
they were being played on sand, not ice. So far, the attempt has
failed: Through Sunday, leaguewide scoring had fallen, from 5.37
goals per game to 5.24. Thirteen teams, however, had scored more
goals this season, and their increased offense had generally
paid off in the standings. Here are the teams that had boosted
their goals-per-game (GPG) averages the most and how much they
had raised their winning percentages.
Team 1997-98 1998-99 Diff. 1997-98 1998-99 Diff.
GPG GPG Win Pct. Win Pct.
Maple Leafs 2.37 3.16 +.79 .421 .600 +.179
Senators 2.35 3.00 +.65 .506 .581 +.075
Sabres 2.57 3.00 +.43 .543 .690 +.147
Rangers 2.40 2.72 +.32 .415 .483 +.068
Lightning 1.84 2.08 +.24 .268 .273 +.005
Ski-Joring, Bog Snorkeling and Cow Pies
The fightas with arthritis geezerama featuring George Foreman
and Larry Holmes may have been canceled last week, but there'll
be no shortage of strange sports events this year. Next month
brings the Shrovetide Pancake Race in Liberal, Kans., an
illiberal Feb. 16 competition in which women sprint while
wearing aprons and flipping flapjacks on handheld griddles. Then
come the U.S. Ski-Joring Finals on March 13 and 14 in Red Lodge,
Mont. Ski-Joring is like cross-country skiing except that each
skier is pulled by a horse. After a March 19 visit to Virginia
Beach, Va., for the Shamrock Sportsfest, with its Irish pasta
party and children's marathon, hit Springfield, Mo., for the
April 22 Typewriter Toss, in which secretaries heave Olivettis
and Selectrics at a bull's-eye from a platform 50 feet high.
On July 3, Wetton, England, will host the World Championships of
Toe Wrestling, an upside-down version of arm wrestling in which
contestants lie on their backs, lock big toes and try to pin
their foes' feet. On Aug. 30, Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, is the
scene of more Union Jacking around, at the World Bog Snorkeling
Championships. Boggymen including 1997 champ Pete (Peat)
Beaumont will don flippers and try to snorkel 120 yards through
thick muck in less time than Beaumont's record 1:44, a clip of
nearly 2.4 mph.
More fastidious racers can head to Nome, Alaska, for the Sept. 6
Great Bathtub Race, the Indy 500 of porcelain pushers.
Competitors roll wheeled tubs brimming with bathers and bubble
baths while carrying soap, towels and bath mats. The following
week in Stanley, Idaho, golfers will face hazards including
heifers and cow pies in the Sawtooth Cow Pasture Open.
New Year's Eve '99? There's not much on tap but a few Bowl games.
If they're still around, maybe George and Larry can square off in
Times Square. Call that bout Really Auld Lang Syne.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
In lieu of the canceled NBA All-Star Game scheduled for Feb. 14,
NBC is considering airing a WCW wrestling card starring Goldberg
and Hulk Hogan.
Your New Year's hangover has passed, and snow has fallen over
much of the country, which means it's time to wax up and hit the
slopes. Whether you're looking for a weeklong vacation or merely
to get away for the day and make a few runs, visit the Web first
to ensure that you're ready for the ski season. Here are some
sites to schuss through before taking the chair lift--or cozying
up to the fireplace in your favorite lodge.
If the hip-deep powder beckons, first check out the Complete
Skier, which offers equipment reviews, on-line lessons and an
extensive resort listing that recommends hot spots for
death-defying vertical drops and lively apres-ski scenes.
No flakes on the ground in your neck of the woods? Log on to
make sure that the same is not true at nearby mountains:
SnowReport.com broadcasts daily Real Audio snow reports from
resorts around the U.S. and Canada.
A virtual visit with the National Ski Patrol could help you avoid
the real thing on the slopes. The NSP provides guidelines for
safe skiing and snowboarding, including how to get fit for the
season, how to use equipment and how to stay warm and dry.
sites we'd like to see
On-line resume postings of NFL coaches who were fired immediately
following the 1998 season.
A virtual surgical procedure for anyone who watched all 23
college bowl games the last few weeks.
Basketball coach at Bellarmine College in Louisville: "We're so
young we've decided to dress only seven players on the road.
We're pretty confident the other five can dress themselves."