BACK TO THE BASKET
Presidential candidate Bill Bradley returns to his basketball
To one spectator in Des Moines's Veterans Memorial Auditorium
last Friday night, the scene could have been yanked whole from
his senior year in high school nearly 40 years ago: fan-shaped
glass backboards, a crowd of people shaped by the generous
bottomland of the Mississippi River basin, a state title game in
doubt until the buzzer.
Bill Bradley's Crystal City High lost the final of the 1961
Missouri state tournament to St. Louis University High by one
point. Last week a Newell-Fonda High Mustang slung a
three-pointer through the net with less than two seconds to play
to win the Iowa Class I-A boys' title. Afterward Bradley stood
outside the losers' locker room trying to console Des Moines
Christian senior Jon Moore. "I know exactly how you feel,"
Bradley, a former Princeton All-America, Rhodes scholar and New
York Knick, told Moore, whose 12 points in the fourth quarter
hadn't been enough. "I was disappointed when we lost in the
Final Four in college, too. It made winning an Olympic gold
medal and an NBA title that much sweeter. This is just one stop
along the road."
Moore was inconsolable, but it has been awhile since a
politician said, "I feel your pain," with such credibility, and
at least as long since Bradley unabashedly embraced the game
that made him famous. Determined to establish his bona fides as
New Jersey's junior senator since he was elected two decades
ago, Bradley shunned basketball for years. Now, as a long shot
to wrest the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination from Al
Gore, he is counting on the game to help his cause. Basketball,
he says, is "like a language--not just words but a deep
experience many American men and women have had."
Bradley's campaign sometimes seems made for ESPN, not C-SPAN. He
told one gathering that he's taking his shot now, after passing
off in 1988 and '92, because "I'm at the top of my game." Phil
Jackson, Bradley's Knicks teammate, is among his fund-raisers
and will share with Bradley's Iowa caucus workers his "team
circle" philosophy of organization. If anyone doubts that
Bradley will get as down and dirty as politics requires, his
wife, Ernestine, introduced him to one Iowa crowd as "the man
with the elbows."
For now Bradley has only a smattering of staff, fewer reporters
and no Secret Service agents in tow--in other words, he has many
unguarded moments. Political handlers live in fear of what their
candidates might say in such situations, but with the help of
the idiom of the game, Bradley is trying to invert conventional
wisdom, trying to prove anew what his old opponents know: Give
him an unguarded moment and he'll make you pay.
THE JUDGE COULDN'T SEE
Jean Williams has a clear conscience. Williams, the judge who
blew the Holyfield-Lewis fight--and became known to sports fans
by her full name, Eugenia, as well as nastier terms--concedes
that Lennox Lewis won the pivotal fifth round, but says her view
was often obstructed. "I called what I saw," Williams says.
A $39,200-a-year clerk in Atlantic City's landlord-tenant
relations office, Williams says she earned $5,100 for her night
at the fights. She is amazed that by calling the fight 115-113
for Evander Holyfield she has spurred a New York grand jury
investigation and a state senate hearing into the bout. All the
fuss is not only "very hurtful," she says, but nonsensical too.
Williams, 48, filed for bankruptcy in January, citing $33,000 in
credit card debt, and says she'd never call attention to herself
by fixing the prizefight of the year. "My office has been under
the gun numerous times," she told SI last week, referring to
city hall probes of the landlord-tenant office. "I'm not going
to do anything illegal knowing they're watching me like a hawk."
Now she's pestered by strangers and by 4 a.m. calls from
reporters. "You never know who's outside the door," says
Williams, who hopes to be just Jean again soon. As for the bout
that made her infamous, she sees Holyfield-Lewis more as a
failure of fighters than of judges: "I've seen both of them box
before, and I've seen them apply themselves more."
INHERIT THE WIND
Switzerland's Bertrand Piccard, a 41-year-old psychiatrist who's
heir to a line of adventurers, is no stranger to unscheduled
stops. Piccard was forced to park his gondola in the
Mediterranean in 1997 and in a Myanmar rice paddy in '98 in two
previous attempts to circumnavigate the globe by balloon. That's
why he and his British copilot, Brian Jones, didn't mind missing
their target, the Pyramids, by about 300 miles when they landed
their Breitling Orbiter 3 in Egypt on Sunday. Less than 24 hours
earlier, traveling at 130 mph seven miles over Mauritania in
northwestern Africa, they had completed the first
around-the-world balloon trip. As his ground crew sprayed
champagne, Piccard announced by satellite phone, "I am with the
angels and completely happy."
He and Jones had relied less on technology--their $2 million
balloon was nothing special in this biz--than on meteorology.
Since a balloon has no propulsion system, its pilot must keep it
in the speediest air he finds going his way. Like a freeway
driver changing lanes, Piccard kept shifting altitude to take
advantage of winds at different heights, keeping Orbiter 3 clear
of storms, mountains, hostile airspace (two American balloonists
who strayed over Belarus in 1995 died when Belarussian
helicopters shot them down) and stagnant air. "It was like a
jigsaw puzzle, and finally we put it all together," said Alan
Noble, the team's flight director.
Switzerland's new hero has adventure in his blood. In 1932
Auguste Piccard, Bertrand's grandfather, piloted the first
balloon to reach the stratosphere. Auguste also invented the
bathyscaphe, a submersible in which his son Jacques--Bertrand's
father--explored the 36,000-foot-deep Mariana Trench in the
While the homage may be coincidental, it's fitting that the
intrepid Piccards and the Star Trek captain have sound-alike
surnames. Such men are born to boldly go you know where.
THROWIN' A SAMOAN
Last week's expulsion of six IOC delegates confirmed
expectations that the organization's small fry would be punished
while the big fish swam away. "When [IOC leaders] were looking
for someone to blame, it must have been easy to say, 'Throw the
Samoan out,'" said Western Samoa's Paul Wallwork, who was
expelled because his wife accepted a $30,000 loan--later
repaid--from Tom Welch of the Salt Lake City bid committee.
Sergio Santander Fantini of Chile, who was also expelled, noted
that of the 10 ousted delegates (including four who resigned),
nine were from developing countries. Meanwhile, big shots such
as Australia's Phillip Coles and IOC executive board member Un
Yong Kim of South Korea survived the week.
A U.S. Justice Department investigation into the Salt Lake City
bidding process continues, however, and federal indictments
could lead to new embarrassments for the IOC. Congress is also
joining the fray. Next month the Senate will consider removing
the IOC's tax-exempt status, which could make U.S. corporate
sponsors rethink their support.
In its meeting last week in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC
adopted a change in the way the site of the 2006 Winter Games
will be chosen: No members will be allowed to visit candidate
cities, and the full membership will choose between two
finalists selected on the day of the vote. The IOC also
established an ethics commission to be made up mostly of non-IOC
members, and it opened its financial records to the public.
Still, real reform may depend on another new commission, IOC
2000, whose mandate is to examine and, if necessary, reinvent
the Olympic hierarchy.
IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, who received two standing
ovations during his opening speech in Lausanne, promptly named
himself chairman of IOC 2000. He will appoint the commission's
members. As IOC vice president Anita DeFrantz puts it, "What's
the new IOC? The IOC without 10 members."
Cheating at Minnesota
Minnesota's basketball scandal threatens to take down a few
university officials along with coach Clem Haskins. How could
the Gophers keep a program running on cash payments and
falsified classwork? Apparently it happened because Minnesota
allowed Haskins to operate an academic counseling unit for his
team independent of the one that served all other Gophers sports
"The basketball players are only allowed to interact with
academic staff that has been anointed by the coach," read a memo
sent to athletic director McKinley Boston by then director of
academic counseling Elayne Donahue in 1992, "and the coach only
anoints those he can co-opt." In 1995 professor Sander Latts
triggered Haskins's anger by questioning the authorship of a
paper submitted by a Gophers basketball player. In '97 Latts got
a research paper from forward Courtney James--one of the players
whose assignments former athletic department clerk Jan
Gangelhoff claims she ghostwrote--that the professor still ranks
among the 10 best he has read in his nearly 40 years at
Minnesota. Again Latts voiced his doubts about the paper's
provenance, this time to an academic oversight committee. Again
he got nowhere.
In January former academic counselor Rick Marsden--who is gay
and has filed a sexual discrimination suit against the
university--swore in an affidavit that a coach (whom he later
identified as Haskins) asked him to write papers for a player in
1986. University general counsel Mark Rotenberg says Minnesota
hasn't formally investigated Marsden's charge because the school
can't question him on the matter pending a hearing on its motion
to have the case dismissed.
Haskins, Boston and other Minnesota employees have been asked by
the school not to discuss the matter. But when news of the
scandal broke two weeks ago, the coach responded by declaring
that next year's Gophers would be "coached by Clem Haskins."
Like Haskins's depleted Gophers team at the NCAA tournament,
that prediction now looks like a loser.
Drag racing is the pure pursuit of speed, but what if speeds get
out of hand? Last month Tony Schumacher became the first driver
to hit 330 mph on a quarter-mile National Hot Rod Association
drag strip. That's a jump of 100 mph from the top speed of 1967.
Today's nitromethane-fueled dragsters are the fastest in
racing--so fast that overtaxed engines often disintegrate,
leaving the NHRA's Safety Safari to vacuum up burned pistons and
"We're right on the edge of our limitations," says Dale
Armstrong, crew chief for top-fueler Larry Dixon. "How far are
we going to go--340, 350, 360? Do we have to kill somebody to
open people's eyes?" Armstrong wants to curb speed with
NASCAR-style restrictor plates, but that's heresy to fans who
like their action earthshaking. Crowds at the Gainesville (Fla.)
Raceway last Saturday nearly outroared the cars as Dixon and 15
other drivers qualified for the final day of the NHRA's
Gatornationals with speeds topping 320 mph, making Saturday the
quickest day in top-fuel history. While no top drag racer has
died in a crash since Blaine Johnson in 1996, NHRA president
Dallas Gardner concedes that dragster technology is "pushing the
envelope" of speed and safety. "We won't sacrifice safety," says
Gardner, noting that the latest tires are considered safe at 350
mph and that tracks have raised and lengthened guardrails to
protect drivers and fans.
"The cars' construction is good," says Armstrong, whose man
Dixon was a semifinalist behind Sunday's winner Mike Dunn, "but
you still sit in a little cage of tubing." He thinks his
crowd-pleasing sport, in which fans mingle freely with drivers
in the pits, could please crowds with a little less speed. "The
motors would live longer, and you'd have better side-by-side
racing," says Armstrong. "The fans didn't quit going to Daytona
when NASCAR put restrictors on, did they?"
--That the NFL would make its replay decision retroactive to
--That we could all lose a PGA Tour playoff and settle for
--That Tim Johnson finds work in his true calling, politics.
Winning streak of the Celtics in St. Patrick's Day home games,
dating to 1972.
Salary a young Joe DiMaggio would command in today's free-agent
market, according to a computer analysis by SportsBusiness
10,000 to 1
Odds offered by English bookmaker William Hill that Brooklyn
Beckham--son of soccer star David Beckham and fiancee Victoria
Adams, a.k.a. Posh Spice--will, like his dad, get sent off in a
match between England and Argentina.
50 to 1
William Hill's odds that Brooklyn will front a pop group called
the Spice Boys.
Rank of NCAA basketball coach among 250 jobs listed from best to
worst in the new Jobs Rated Almanac--just ahead of sewage-plant
operator and a few spots behind janitor (154) and undertaker
Rank of big-league baseball player in the same book, just ahead
Order of finish of Yang Yang and Yang Yang, two skaters from
China, in the 1,000 meters at the World Short Track Speedskating
Disgrace under Fire
Tim Johnson, who was fired as Blue Jays manager last week for
telling whoppers about serving in Vietnam (he never got closer
to combat than training troops in Southern California), need not
fear for his future. If history's a guide, leaving a coaching
job under a cloud isn't a career-killer.
Role model Scandal Fallout
Lefty Driesell, Len Bias's Resigned
Maryland cocaine death in 1986
Hired by James Madison in 1988; led Dukes to '94 NCAA
tournament; now coach at Georgia State
Barry Switzer, Players arrested on Resigned
Oklahoma rape, gun and drug in 1989
football coach charges; Sooners
put on three years
Hired by Dallas Cowboys in 1994; won Super Bowl XXX
Pete Rose, Accused of Banned
Reds manager associating with from game
gamblers in 1989
Hosts radio show, hawks Hit King paraphernalia on TV shopping
Kevin Mackey, Arrested for DUI Fired
Cleveland State after leaving a in 1990
basketball coach Cleveland crack
League, CBA, Global
Has coached in National Basketball League, CBA, Global
Association and Argentina; now with USBL's Atlantic City Seagulls
Wimp Sanderson, Allegedly slapped Resigned
Alabama longtime secretary, in 1992
basketball coach who then filed sex
Hired by Arkansas-Little Rock in 1994
Rollie Massimino, Battled school over Resigned
UNLV basketball secret $375,000 in 1994
coach "supplemental salary"
Hired in 1996 by Cleveland State
Jim Harrick, Caught cheating on Fired
UCLA basketball his expense account in 1996 coach
Hired by Rhode Island in 1997; led Rams to Elite Eight in '98
Butch Hobson, Received cocaine Fired
Scranton/Wilkes- at team hotel in in 1996
Barre Red Barons Pawtucket, R.I.;
manager via overnight delivery
Hired in 1997 as scout by the Red Sox; now manages Sarasota Red
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
A helicopter carrying PGA Tour golfer P.H. Horgan III to the Bay
Hill Classic landed on an Orlando soccer field, scattering about
a hundred five- and six-year-olds who were playing there.
acquired from the Islanders last Saturday: "He's been great at
every level he's played at except the NHL, the Olympics and the