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Scorecard

Feb. 15, 1999
Feb. 15, 1999

Table of Contents
Feb. 15, 1999

Faces In The Crowd

Scorecard

By E.M. Swift Edited by Kevin Cook and Mark Mravic

TYSON ON THE ROPES
The former champ's weird day in court was weirder than anyone
knew

This is an article from the Feb. 15, 1999 issue

As Mike Ty on left a Maryland district court last Friday with
his hands double-cuffed behind his back, his adviser Shelly
Finkel and the former champ's supporters cried foul. They wuz
robbed, they said--betrayed by a state's attorney who had
reneged on a plea bargain. According to them a Montgomery County
prosecutor had promised to help keep Tyson out of jail in return
for his pleading no contest to assaulting two men after a
traffic accident in Gaithersburg last summer. But there was no
such bargain. On Monday SI obtained a copy of the November plea
agreement between Tyson and the state, which stipulated only
that prosecutors wouldn't recommend a specific sentence for
Tyson and that the fighter could postpone sentencing until after
his next fight (which turned out to be a Jan. 16 knockout of
Francois Botha). That was it. The claim that there was an
agreement to keep Tyson out of jail was a lie, a publicity stunt
or both.

"I was incredulous," Montgomery County prosecutor Douglas
Gansler said of his reaction to reports of such a deal. Gansler
said he upheld the state's end of the agreement between his
predecessor, Robert Dean, and Tyson's lawyers by letting Tyson
have his January fight and never recommending to Judge Stephen
Johnson a duration for Tyson's incarceration. Why didn't Gansler
object sooner to postsentence charges that he was a
double-dealer? "You were the first to ask me about it," he said
on Monday.

As of Tuesday morning Tyson lawyer Robert Greenberg had not yet
appealed Johnson's sentence of a year in prison with another
year suspended, two years of probation and 200 hours of
community service. Such a move would be risky given the far
longer prison term his client might draw if convicted. Still, a
quick appeal is what you'd expect from a legal team that
believed it had been hoodwinked by the state. "Things are in
flux," said Greenberg. (Later, members of Tyson's team could not
be reached for comment on the plea agreement.)

Tyson's April 24 bout against an as-yet-undetermined opponent
may still happen, but his future looks bleak. His probation in
the 1991 rape of a beauty contestant in Indiana would have been
up next month, but now the judge in that case, Patricia Gifford,
may reel him back to serve four more years. His boxing license
is again in jeopardy. The once invincible Brooklyn kid who had a
chance to be his generation's great heavyweight might spend the
next half decade in a cage. --K.C.

Olympic Scandal (cont.)
EXIT, YOUR EXCELLENCY

One of the duties of leadership is knowing when to give it up.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, the 78-year-old president of the
beleaguered International Olympic Committee, has already failed
this test once. In 1995 Samaranch engineered a change in IOC
bylaws that raised the IOC's mandatory retirement age from 75 to
80, enabling him to serve until 2001. "Had he stepped down back
then, his time in office would have been remembered as the good
old days," a member of the IOC's executive board said wistfully
last weekend. Instead Samaranch is presiding over an Olympic
debacle involving bribery, drug abuse and failing IOC reform.

The serial bribery of IOC members by cities seeking to host the
Games flourished on Samaranch's watch. On the drug issue, the
IOC is so lacking in resolve that last summer Samaranch
suggested that the Games should permit athletes to use any
performance-enhancing drug not yet proved to have adverse side
effects--a proposal he withdrew in the face of criticism from
the chairman of the IOC's medical commission.

Samaranch tried to reclaim the high ground by convening a World
Conference on Doping in Sport last week in Lausanne,
Switzerland, but the meeting only confirmed that he lacks the
vision and public support required to bring the IOC out of its
morass. Attendees rejected his proposal that he be put in
control of a new independent drug-testing organization, which
the Olympic movement desperately needs if it is to regain its
credibility. Speaker after speaker, including British Minister
of Sport Tony Banks and White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey,
lambasted the IOC. Without a sweeping overhaul, they said, the
committee couldn't begin to solve the drug problem in Olympic
sports. Samaranch sat silent and wide-eyed at the head table as
Germany's interior minister, Otto Schily, said, "Everybody
should know when it's time to go."

In a closed-door meeting between a group of the IOC's rank and
file and its executive board, the members were almost
unanimously opposed to Samaranch's new plan for choosing host
cities--which would cut most of the 111 IOC members out of the
selection process. At a special IOC session called for March 17
and 18 in Lausanne, the full membership will vote on that plan,
which seems unlikely to receive the two-thirds support needed
for passage. At that same meeting, members will be asked to cast
a vote of confidence for Samaranch.

With the reputation of the IOC and the future of the Olympics at
stake, Samaranch should perform an act of true leadership: He
should resign. The IOC could then use its March session to
choose a new president and a new direction. --E.M. Swift

NFL Prep School
COMBINE AND CONQUER

The NFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis can make or
break a career. That's why NFL-bound quarterbacks Tim Couch and
Cade McNown and a dozen other top prospects have been sweating it
out at the International Performance Institute, a Bradenton,
Fla.-based boot camp where NFL hopefuls can prepare for this
year's combine, which opens on Feb. 18. "If I'd stayed in L.A.,
it'd be easy to start my days at 10 a.m. and go golfing," says
McNown, "but I'm not down here to have a good time. This is about
focusing on what matters."

The four-year-old institute is run by IMG, which represents the
college football players who take part. It features the latest
weight and flexibility training equipment, two Olympic-sized
pools and a domed 70-yard artificial-turf field. Athletes get
one-on-one attention from nutritionists and sports medicine
specialists as well as such tutors as longtime NFL quarterbacks
coach Larry Kennen and former Dolphins offensive line wizard John
Sandusky.

After four weeks at the institute last year, San Diego State
offensive tackle Kyle Turley--projected as a mid-to-late
first-round draft pick--was tabbed seventh by the Saints. Turley
signed for a little more than $2 million a year, almost double
what 20th-choice Terry Fair got from the Detroit Lions.

"Some of what we do here might look weird," says institute
director Mark Verstegen, "but from sleeping to eating to working
out, we're setting the foundation for what it takes to be a pro."

Ray Allen's Day Job
SECRET AGENT

A six-year, $71 million contract extension like the one
Milwaukee Bucks guard Ray Allen was about to sign on Monday
hardly raises eyebrows in the NBA. What's unusual about the deal
is that Allen, a third-year star who may be best known for
playing Jesus Shuttlesworth in Spike Lee's He Got Game,
negotiated it himself. He dealt directly with Sen. Herb Kohl of
Wisconsin, the Bucks' owner, when Kohl wasn't busy in Washington
hearing arguments in the Clinton impeachment trial. For help
with legal technicalities, Allen retained Johnnie Cochran for
$500 an hour--substantially less than an agent's 4% to 10% fee.

Allen isn't the first NBA player to go agent-free. In recent
years Grant Hill, Tim Duncan and several others have worked with
lawyers they paid by the hour (SCORECARD, July 20, 1998). The
league's new labor agreement may soon leave still more agents
looking for work. With strict salary limits in place, many
players have no reason to pay an agent millions. "I'm not
comfortable with somebody telling me, 'We'll get you $9
million,'" says Allen, who was part of the players' negotiating
committee during the lockout. "I know that's the limit--it's not
something I need an agent to do for me. That's probably why so
many agents took a hard line on the lockout. They knew players
would do what I've done."

McCarver's Out
WHEN THE BEST JUST WON'T DO

Impartial thoughts are rare gems in local sports broadcasting,
which makes the New York Mets' decision to dump Tim McCarver and
hire Tom Seaver all the more disheartening. In 16 seasons with
Mets flagship WWOR-TV and 15 years working national baseball
telecasts on ABC, CBS and Fox, McCarver developed into one of
the game's best TV analysts. When New York manager Bobby
Valentine blundered, McCarver called him on it. When Mike Piazza
spent his early days as a Met swinging the bat like Mike
Mordecai, McCarver said so.

When WWOR's contract expired after the '98 season, rival WPIX
bought the Mets' over-the-air TV rights. That gave the team an
excuse to make a change in the booth for the 50 games WPIX will
carry. "I think there are some in the organization who felt I
was too critical," says McCarver. Including the thin-skinned
Valentine? "They said it was not Bobby Valentine's decision, and
I'd hate to say I think it was," says McCarver. "That's
speculation." Says Valentine, "I had nothing to do with it."

Even McCarver thinks Seaver was overdue to become a voice of his
old team: "He's the greatest player ever to wear a Mets
uniform." Yet while Seaver may be a New York hero, his hiring
does Mets fans a disservice. A bland talking head who was
anything but terrific in the Yankees' booth in the early 1990s,
Seaver is about to become a walking conflict of interest. On top
of doing TV for the Mets, he will be a consultant for the club,
helping coach pitchers throughout the organization.

McCarver, who will remain Fox's top color man, can only hope
he's not the last local announcer who refuses to root, root,
root for the home team. "How in the world can praise be
legitimate if praise is constant?" McCarver asks. "That's not
commentary, it's bootlicking."

Fast-track Rehab
A CRASH COURSE IN COURAGE

After an 18-wheel tractor-trailer slammed into half-miler Joetta
Clark's car last fall, Clark thought she might never run again.
The truck barreled into her midsized sedan, plowing it into the
median strip of a New Jersey Turnpike on-ramp. Clark was pinned
inside for half an hour. She suffered a concussion, torn stomach
muscles, two torn vertebral disks and damaged nerves in her left
eye.

"I was glad to be alive," says Clark, 36. But as the daughter of
Joe Clark, the hard-nosed high school principal from Paterson,
N.J., whose story was told in the movie Lean on Me, Joetta has
plenty of backbone. After a day in St. Elizabeth Hospital in
Elizabeth, N.J., and three weeks of bed rest, the three-time
Olympian and 12-time U.S. women's 800-meter champion set her
sights on the 1999 Millrose Games in New York.

"I needed a target," said the eight-time Millrose 800-meter
champ before last Friday's 800 final at Madison Square Garden,
her 21st Millrose appearance. As she shot from the starting
blocks, "I was scared," she said. "I didn't know what to expect,
so I just ran aggressively." Clark led for three laps before
Meredith Valmon caught up and won in 2:04:37, less than half a
second ahead of Clark.

On Saturday, Clark returned to the intense postaccident rehab
she has endured for the past four months. Her leg muscles are
still weaker than they were before the wreck, and she has
headaches caused by the trauma to her eye. "It's just good to be
walking," she says. Also running and driving. For six weeks
after the accident she was afraid to get behind the wheel of a
car and was driven around by family and friends. With that fear
beaten, Clark needs only a part-time chauffeur--and has one in
fiance Ronald Diggs, whom she plans to marry in September. "He's
kind, patient and intelligent," she says of Diggs, a Wharton
School of Business grad, "and he's a really careful driver."

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY FRED HARPERCOLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY FRED HARPER COLOR PHOTO: BUTTERFIELD & BUTTERFIELD AUCTIONEERS CORP., 1998 Heisman Trophy Estimate: $100,000-plusCOLOR PHOTO: BUTTERFIELD & BUTTERFIELD AUCTIONEERS CORP., 1998 Picasso Girl, by Donna Summer Estimate: $800 to $1,200TWO COLOR PHOTOS: BUTTERFIELD & BUTTERFIELD AUCTIONEERS CORP., 1998 Golf bags and clubs Estimate: $1,000 to $1,500COLOR PHOTO: BUTTERFIELD & BUTTERFIELD AUCTIONEERS CORP., 1998 Three-quarter-sized O.J. statue, by Gene Logan Estimate: $2,000 to $3,000FIVE COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: ILLUSTRATIONS BY A.G. DUFFY Heart Murmurs Cupid's arrows are flying this week, along with basketballs, golf balls and a few poison darts.

Wish List

--That Shaq would swallow his pride and shoot free throws
underhanded.

--That the PGA Tour would move the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
to summer or fall, when it almost never rains in northern
California.

--That by this time next year Walter Payton is back to his old
sweet self.

Go Figure

16
Snake charmers hired to patrol the cricket grounds during
matches between Pakistan and host India, following threats from
Hindu militants to release venomous snakes among spectators.

71
Times ESPN cut to a shot of Maryland basketball coach Gary
Williams during its broadcast of the Terps' Jan. 3 game with
Duke.

21
Times ESPN cut to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski during the same
game.

79
Goals surrendered by the Kuwaiti hockey team in consecutive
losses to Japan (44-1) and China (35-0) at the Winter Asian Games.

500,000
Counterfeit Big Berthas and other big-name golf clubs seized by
the U.S. Customs Service since March 1996.

1
Pro sports owner on the Brewers' roster after catcher Dave
Nilsson, a native Aussie, bought the eight-team Australian
Baseball League.

$250
Contribution to a Port St. Lucie, Fla, Babe Ruth league that was
turned down by the league's president because the contributor
said she was a witch.

the goods

Who Wants a Heisman?

Log on to www.livebid.com on Feb. 16 and you can place a bid on
a Heisman Trophy. This one comes with some imperfections--the
word athletic is misspelled as atletic on its plaque--and some
baggage: It's the 1968 Heisman won by O.J. Simpson.

Proceeds from the Simpson auction, which is being conducted by
the Los Angeles branch of Butterfield & Butterfield, will go
toward settling the $25 million civil judgment won by the
families of murder victims Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson,
O.J.'s former wife, against the football Hall of Famer in 1997.
His Heisman, the first of its kind to hit the market, is
expected to fetch at least $100,000. Among other seized
Simpsonalia: more than 100 trophies and plaques, five football
jerseys, six sets of golf clubs, the painting Picasso Girl by
disco diva Donna Summer and an award from a candy company naming
Simpson the 1973 Life Saver of the Year.

STATITUDES

As of Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes were 23-20-9 and leading
the Florida Panthers by four points in the NHL's Southeast
Division. If the Hurricanes--formerly the Hartford Whalers--hold
on to first place, they'll earn the franchise's first division
title since 1987. A winning season would also end another
impressive streak of futility: eight straight losing records.
That barren stretch has made the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise
one of the most consistent losers in league history. Here are
the clubs that have stayed south of .500 the longest since the
NHL's 1967 expansion.

TEAM LOSING STREAK SEASONS

Canucks 1976-77 to 1990-91 15
Red Wings 1973-74 to 1986-87 14
Devils 1974-75 to 1986-87 13
Maple Leafs 1979-80 to 1988-89 10
Hurricanes/Whalers 1990-91 to 1997-98 8
Penguins 1979-80 to 1986-87 8
Capitals 1974-75 to 1981-82 8

This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us

The Trail Blazers, whose p.r. campaign is meant to dispel the
team's Jail Blazer image, signed forward Art Long, who was
jailed in 1998 for a parole violation and has been convicted of
domestic violence and of selling marijuana--but cleared of
punching a police horse.

They Said It
TREVOR WINTER
Timberwolves rookie center, after seeing $21-million-a-year
teammate Kevin Garnett's pay stub: "I got about what they took
out of his check for Medicaid."