TORCH THE SYSTEM
A two-time U.S. Olympian offers a cure for what ails the IOC
A quick question from a scarred old Olympic reformer: Where were
all these howls of indignation when we needed them? Can the
world just now be learning that the International Olympic
Committee is thick with rightists, royals and petty
extortionists? Was it a secret that IOC president Juan Antonio
Samaranch worked under Francisco Franco, or that Ugandan IOC
member Maj. Gen. Francis Nyangweso--who accepted $35,000 for
Ugandan sports from the Sydney organizing committee the night
before that city was awarded the 2000 Games--was Idi Amin's
military chief of staff?
Naturally we gag when Olympia's high priests trade their votes
for auto parts or plastic surgery, but the modern Games have
always been run by a club that included some Borgias and
butchers. The Olympics' defining grace is that they also give us
men and women engaging in the toughest competition on
earth--humankind at its best and most selfless.
Until the 1980s, however, few athletes had any role in sports
government. Now athletes serve on some national Olympic
committees. Until the '80s, if you set a world record and owned
up to receiving more reward than a red-eye plane ticket and
three dollars a day, you kissed your Olympic eligibility
goodbye. Today competing in an Olympic sport can be as lucrative
as any other worthy profession. Such advances came during
Samaranch's rule as a result of a reform movement of which I'm
proud to have taken part. After finishing fourth in the '72
Olympic marathon, I served on the USOC's Athletes Advisory
Council until 1980.
February 8, 1999
We reformers had the nerve to imagine making the IOC something
better than a private club. But the IOC, with its full coffers
and total sway over cities that hope to host the games, never
felt any need to go democratic. So the best of our generation of
reformers gave up our pipe dream and started climbing the ranks
of officialdom. In 1986 my former AAC colleague Anita DeFrantz,
an Olympic rower in '76 and '80, was lifted to the IOC empyrean
"The IOC is not a corporation or a government," says DeFrantz,
now an IOC vice president, "and never again can it be that old
boys club we decried. No, we have to restructure it." Here's a
start: IOC members should be elected by their national Olympic
committees. They should serve eight-year terms, have to stand
for reelection and be subject to impeachment.
If proud old Samaranch is to salvage his legacy, he should help
reformers turn the IOC from a convention of untouchable
courtesans into a democratic body answerable to the athletes,
coaches and administrators who are the true Olympic
movement. --Kenny Moore
Hall of Fame
TAYLOR TAKES A GIANT STEP
SI senior writer Paul Zimmerman, one of 36 Pro Football Hall of
Fame voters, reflects on last Saturday's election of New York
Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
The Hall of Fame was at a crossroads when Lawrence Taylor's name
came up. Those of us who favored Taylor's election argued that
the Hall's bylaws are clear: A player is to be judged on what he
did on the field, period. The anti-Taylor faction felt that the
bylaws are wrong, that football, like baseball, should have a
good-citizenship requirement for Hall candidates.
About a dozen selectors, including me, spoke up for Taylor. "Are
we the morality police?" one asked. Another said, "Let's try not
to play God; let's play football." Four voters spoke against
Taylor. One of them said, "We talk here as if football were not
part of society," which pretty well expressed the foursome's
objection. One selector, Jerry Green of the Detroit News,
admitted later that he'd changed his vote after hearing the
arguments, particularly those that dealt with respect for our
bylaws. Green had wanted to vote no on LT, but he abstained,
which gets counted as a yes vote. That might have swung the
election, though we'll never know because the official tally
isn't made public. What matters is that Taylor made the Hall,
along with running back Eric Dickerson, tight end Ozzie Newsome
and offensive linemen Tom Mack and Billy Shaw.
At the end of the session, a proposal to add a character clause
to the Hall's bylaws was put to a vote. Its proponents said, in
effect, We might have lost this one, but at least we can keep
future LTs out. The proposal failed 24-11, with one abstention.
Pro football's concept of what characterizes a Hall of Famer
remains distinctly different from baseball's.
Taylor's on-field excellence and dedication to the game have
been rewarded. I can only hope the honor we paid him rubs off on
his personal life, which has been a mess.
Blue Jays manager Tim Johnson's lousy off-season got worse last
week when his former first base coach sent him a $1,400 bill for
vodka, whiskey, beer, food and cleaning expenses. Johnson, who
admitted in November that he had lied for years about having
served in Vietnam, bunked in the Safety Harbor, Fla., house of
then Toronto first base coach Jack Hubbard and his wife, Terry,
during spring training last year. After the season Toronto fired
Hubbard, who was soon hired by the New York Yankees as a senior
adviser. The Hubbards then fired off the $1,400 invoice to Jays
general manager Gord Ash, who forwarded it to Johnson.
"I've had enough of the Hubbards," Johnson told the Toronto
Globe and Mail last week. "Who sends you a bill for vodka,
whiskey and beer? Are the Hubbards trying to tell Ash that I'm a
drinker or something? Let me share something with you. Every day
after spring training last year, I took Jack Hubbard out, and
we'd have a few pops. Not once--not once--did he go to his
pocket to pay for the drinks."
Hubbard, speaking through Yankees p.r. director Rick Cerrone,
calls the matter "private and personal." The Blue Jays and
Yankees will meet for the first time this spring on March 4 in
Tampa. So far, no fireworks are scheduled.
Mexican Pro Wrestling
He makes his entrance to a chorus of catcalls and whistles,
stirring the crowd into a frenzy of hate with a cap that reads
BORDER PATROL and a baseball bat inscribed LA MIGRA--Mexican slang
for the U.S. border cops. He's American Rebel, and to the fans at
a rickety ring in Anaheim, he's the baddest of bad guys.
In the WWF, villains like Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik
kept crowds yelling for all-American heroes. In the
Anaheim-based World Power Wrestling (WPW) circuit, which
features the Mexican pro wrestling style called lucha libre
(free fight), it's the rudos, or bad guys, who are draped in the
red, white and blue. American Rebel carries placards scrawled
with the lines I DON'T HATE MEXICANS, I JUST DEPORT THEM and
WANTED: ONE BEANER TO CLEAN MY GARDEN. A cartoonish white
supremacist called the Hardkore Kid wears the uniform of a
skinhead: white T-shirt, black suspenders and calf-high Doc
Martens. There's even a ruda on hand--Black Widow, whose masked
head is topped by hornlike shocks of raven hair. Says the Widow,
who won't reveal her real name, "For the women in the audience,
I'm the gringa who's going to steal their husbands while they're
sitting home pregnant."
The WPW is the brainchild of Mexican-American Martin Marin, who
wrestled south of the border for 10 years before bringing lucha
libre's acrobatics and antigringo jingoism to the large Hispanic
population of Orange County. "In Mexican wrestling the Americans
are almost always rudos," he says.
The WPW's Americans figure they're performing a public service.
"These women can't do anything if their husbands want to sleep
with some gringa," says the Black Widow, "but they can scream at
me. They can throw things and yell f--- you at American Rebel,
which they can't do to a cop."
The Rebel, a 6'5", 300-pound, 17-year-old Orange County high
schooler named Jake Reynolds, is thrilled to be working in the
sport he loves. "It's hard to get into big-time wrestling," he
says. "There are no places around here to train, and no schools
for it." Reynolds says his villainy is no act: "American Rebel
is 100 percent me. I just don't like people liking me." Still,
he insists he doesn't share his character's disgust for the
crowds that boo him. "No, I don't hate them," says the Rebel.
"Some of my best friends are Mexicans."
MAZEL TOV, BOBBY!
One of the world's most famous fugitives surfaced last week for
a bizarre interview on a Hungarian radio station. Former world
chess champion Bobby Fischer, who is on the run from U.S.
authorities for tax evasion and for flouting economic sanctions
against Yugoslavia with his $5 million 1992 match against his
old rival Boris Spassky in Belgrade, apparently hasn't reformed.
When asked how he liked Budapest, he said, "It's a fabulous
city. But let's forget this chitchat. What is going on is that I
am being persecuted night and day by the Jews.... Goddam Jews in
America have gone and grabbed it all." When the interviewer
pointed out that Fischer is Jewish, Fischer said, "If you want
to go to the little boys' room, we can see who is the Jew." This
is one former champ we wish hadn't come back.
Super Bowl Commercials
Apple, FedEx, Pepsi and other advertisers who paid more than
$1.5 million each for 30-second spots during the Super Bowl
might have been smarter to sponsor the Ice Capades. A study
reported in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental
Psychology found that violent TV can "decrease viewers' memories
of brand names and commercial messages." The author, Iowa State
psychology professor Brad Bushman, says that slam-bang
programming like Karate Kid III, clips of which he screened for
200 test subjects, makes viewers so angry that they have trouble
paying attention to ads. His work fails to explain Sunday's
unforgettable Victoria's Secret ad.
PEPPERIDGE FARM POWER
Like four out of five dentists, Juan Antonio Samaranch prefers
Crest. The International Olympic Committee president's brand of
toothpaste is one of the revelations contained in a "draft
itinerary" prepared by the Salt Lake City bid committee for
Samaranch's 1991 visit to Utah and obtained by SI last week.
--Samaranch should be addressed as "Mr. President" or "Your
--He must be the last to arrive at any party or meeting and the
first to leave.
--In a car, he must sit in the right rear and be the first to
--His hotel room should be equipped with a NordicTrack system
that can be stored below the bed, and must be stocked with
plants, fresh fruit and Pepperidge Farm Southport cookies.
Ali to the Rescue
BRINGING PUNCH TO THE PARTY
Organizers of the 50th annual Rochester (N.Y.) Press-Radio Club
Day of Champions dinner had a problem. On Jan. 22, three days
before the $125-a-plate awards banquet, the star attraction
canceled. New York Yankees pitcher David Wells, who had agreed
to a $15,000 appearance fee to accept the club's Sports
Personality of the Year award, said he had to stay home in Tampa
with his pregnant girlfriend, Nina Fisher.
Fortunately for the Press-Radio Club, another of its
honorees--photographer Howard Bingham--is well connected. When
Bingham heard that Wells had bailed, he called a buddy. "Don't
tell anyone," said Muhammad Ali, who was in South Bend, Ind.,
"but I'll be there."
On the night of Jan. 25, Bingham's acceptance speech was
disrupted. Ali, who had touched down in a private jet minutes
earlier, ambled into the banquet hall at the Rochester Riverside
Convention Center, waving to a surprised crowd of 1,100. The
Champ shook hands with everyone on the dais and traded a few
friendly barbs with Bingham and a couple of jabs with fellow
boxing great Carmen Basilio. Ali left after 20 minutes, blowing
kisses to the cheering crowd, which was trying to remember the
name of the guy who hadn't shown up.
--That John Elway decides to go for three.
--That the Dirty Bird makes like the dodo.
--That the golf world would give Arnold Palmer a Lifetime
Achievement Skin and spare the man further embarrassment.
Shots on goal by the women's hockey teams of Brown and Colby,
respectively, in a 9-0 Bears victory.
Amount Duke will be paid to move its 1999 home football game
against Florida State to Jacksonville.
Consecutive hours ultramarathoner Ted Corbitt spent power walking
to celebrate his 80th birthday.
Payoff on a $1 trifecta at Tampa Bay Downs after the win, place
and show horses came in at 36-1, 57-1 and 59-1, respectively.
Estimated betting, legal and illegal, on Super Bowl XXXIII.
Budget of Ecuador for 1999.
Big league organizations Mike Morgan has been with now that he
has signed a minor league deal with the Rangers.
Cost to join the Yellowstone Club, a private ski resort near
Maximum height in centimeters of sides of bikini bottoms to be
worn by women's beach volleyballers, according to a new rule by
the sport's governing body.
Drink and Be Mary
Martina Hingis won the Australian Open, but Mary Pierce had more
dazzling supporters: Nike-sponsored Maryonettes who cheered
Pierce on through four wins before she fell to Hingis in the
Illinois Republican Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee, is leading the team of prosecutors in the impeachment
trial of President Clinton. Fifty-six years ago, as a backup
center at Georgetown, Hyde did battle with another titan--George
Mikan of DePaul--in the NCAA Final Four.
"March 25, 1943--I can still feel the excitement of playing in
Madison Square Garden," Hyde says of the '43 semifinal in which
the Hoyas beat Mikan's Blue Demons 53-49. A 6'3" string bean,
Hyde started the second half after John Mahnken fouled out
trying to stop the 6'10 1/2" Mikan. Hyde held Mikan to a single
second-half point, mostly by shoving and elbowing him. "I know I
will spend a lot of time in purgatory for what I did to Mikan in
that game," says Hyde, whose lone basket of the tournament came
that day. The Hoyas lost to Wyoming 46-34 in the final.
Last week Hyde said he would "obviously" prefer watching
basketball to "having to deal with the present situation" in
Washington--by which he did not mean the '98-99 Hoyas' sub-.500
The Glory and the Power
They're two heroes with millions of admirers, but when Mark
McGwire paid his respects to Pope John Paul II in St. Louis last
week, even Big Mac had to bow to something bigger.
JOHN PAUL II MCGWIRE EDGE
Height 5'8" 6'5" McGwire
Weight 180 250 McGwire
Rings One (Papal) One ('89 World Series) Even
Kisses Airport runways Maris family McGwire
Burns Incense Andro Pope
Specialties Latin Mass, Muscle mass, Pope
the Big Guy the big fly
Inspiration Holy Madonna Tony La Russa Pope
Supporting Cast Cardinals, Cardinals, Pope
Dominican nuns Dominican Cub
Fallibility None Outside slider Pope
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Fans at the Australian Open besieged court attendants in hopes
of taking home anything Anna Kournikova had touched; one towel
boy was offered $63 for a sweat-soaked Kournikova towel--and
refused to give it up.
You wouldn't know it from the stampeding crowds at their
exhibition games, but NBA players will have to make nice if they
want fans to forgive them for their role in the six-month
lockout. Some players have reached out by clearing personal
space on the Web. Log on to learn more about your favorite
player. He may even lure you back to the games.
Basketball is just a small part of Shaquille O'Neal's world.
Visit the on-line Shaq-porium to keep tabs on his rapping and
acting careers, listen to audio clips of him holding forth on
hoops and life, and exchange E-mail with the Shaqman.
Grizzlies guard Mike Bibby spent the last seven months waiting to
play his first NBA game--and tending his Web site. Live the NBA
rookie's life through a cybertour guided by the former Arizona
star. E-mail him questions and look for his playing tips and
David Robinson's home on the Web features the standard boatload
of hoops news and stats and a chance to chat up the Admiral
himself, plus lots of information on the charitable David
Robinson Foundation, started by the player and his wife in 1992.
sites we'd like to see
For tennis fans who can't get enough of Aussie Open phenom.
Daily reports on Jack Nicklaus's hip-replacement rehabilitation.
They Said It
Hornets coach, evaluating rap mogul and NBA hopeful Master P,
who has been working out in the Hornets' training camp: "I'm not
going to say anything critical. He might be my owner one day."