MOMENT OF TRUTH
As the Stanley Cup showed, replay is no officiating cure-all
Proponents of instant replay as an officiating tool like to
summon up apocalyptic visions of the moment when a major
championship would turn on a questionable call that could have
been reversed by a quick check of the videotape. That moment
came in the third overtime of Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup
finals. Unlike the gloomy scenario envisioned by replay's
supporters, however, officials did have replay at their disposal
and did go to the videotape after Dallas's Brett Hull slid the
puck past sprawling Buffalo goaltender Dominik Hasek for the
apparent Cup-winner. Replay officials determined that Hull had
kept control of the puck as it briefly left the crease, making
the goal legal. Many fans--those in Buffalo, especially--didn't
buy that interpretation.
So, in its moment of truth, did replay do the job it was meant
to? Judging by the Cup finals' unpleasant aftertaste, no. What's
more, the NHL's experience with video review on its grandest
stage doesn't bode well for instant replay when it returns to
the NFL this fall. Football fans should expect no more
satisfaction with officiating than they got last year, when
repeated bumbling by the refs renewed the outcry for replay.
More often than not, video adds to controversy rather than
resolve it. (Just ask Zapruder.) Why? Because human beings still
must interpret the events on the tape. Replay doesn't make the
call; it merely shifts the onus from fallible officials on the
field to fallible officials in the booth.
How often do you find yourself grinding your teeth as a
sportscaster declares that a replay offers incontrovertible
proof of one thing while you see something different? The tape
is rarely cut-and-dried. After an arguable possession call in
the 49ers-Falcons playoff game last season, Fox commentator Matt
Millen said on the air, "If somebody tells me that instant
replay wouldn't have overturned it, I'm gonna take the ball and
shove it down their throat." In the studio at halftime, analyst
Cris Collinsworth said he thought the refs had gotten it right.
We shouldn't have to resort to violence or videotape to resolve
sports disputes. Games are meant to be played by people and
officiated by people. Those who long for the days when sports
were simpler would do well to remember that in those halcyon
times, replay wasn't an issue. A blown call was a blown call.
Here's hoping that Super Bowl XXXIV doesn't hinge on a call
that's sent up to the booth. --M.M.
WHEN UMPIRES ATTACK
Ever since Roberto Alomar spit on umpire John Hirschbeck in
1996, major league umps have adhered to a zero-tolerance policy
on physical contact. If a player or manager lays a finger on an
ump, he's gone in less time than it took Dutch Rennert to
perform his elaborate strike-call dance. Some might argue that
the men in blue actually employ a less-than-zero policy,
considering that player-baiting umps start about as many
arguments these days as players or managers do.
At the same time that umps have been dishing out punishment to
those who touch them, they've gotten more touchy themselves. It
finally caught up with umpires last week when Tom Hallion was
suspended for three games without pay by National League
president Len Coleman for bumping Colorado catcher Jeff Reed
during an argument in a June 26 game.
That was hardly the first time an umpire had crossed the line.
In last year's American League playoffs Joe Brinkman placed his
index finger squarely on Indians manager Mike Hargrove's chest
during an argument over balls and strikes, prompting the
Cleveland skipper to bellow, "Don't you f---ing touch me!" The
night Hallion's suspension was announced, Larry Barnett poked
Orioles manager Ray Miller after Barnett's crew blew a fly ball
call in the fifth inning of Baltimore's 2-1 loss to the Yankees.
Miller would have been tossed immediately had the cleats been on
the other feet.
Umpires saw Hallion's suspension as political, coming amid
commissioner Bud Selig's efforts to shift authority over the
umps from the two league presidents to his executive VP, Sandy
Alderson. Union chief Richie Phillips called the penalty
"nothing more than an act of expediency designed to pander to
the people in baseball calling for the centralization of control
Phillips's verbose characterization is ridiculous. First, it
offers a shining example of the contrarian attitude umps cling
to like their lucky plate brushes. Remember how in spring
training they announced they would disregard Alderson's
directive on the new strike zone? Not exactly the kind of
behavior you want to see in supposedly objective arbiters and
enforcers of the rules. More inane still is Phillips's assertion
that Selig's plan would centralize control of umps, because that
implies that external control on them exists now. Before
Hallion, no umpire had ever been suspended, and trying to fire a
bad or out-of-shape ump--of which there are plenty--is
practically impossible thanks to the power of Phillips's union.
Phillips is fond of saying that baseball can't exist without
umpires. True, but he and his charges must realize that the job
of a good ump is to make the calls and remain as anonymous as
possible, which often means turning the other cheek. So,
contentious men in blue, here's what we ask: Lose the prima
donna 'tudes, get those chips off your shoulders and drop the
Fox Mulder conspiracy hunt. And for god's sake, keep your hands
GIRL POWER: HERE TO STAY?
This Saturday the U.S. and China will play the Women's World Cup
final before a sellout crowd at the Rose Bowl and a TV audience
that should exceed that for any game of the 1999 Stanley Cup
finals. Which raises the question: Has the World Cup's stunning
popularity gotten organizers to think more seriously about a
possible U.S. women's pro league?
Yes, says Alan Rothenberg, former U.S. Soccer Federation
president and the sport's driving force in this country. He has
hastily scheduled a meeting for July 9 in Los Angeles at which
two dozen media members, prospective sponsors and soccer
officials will brainstorm about the future of first-division
women's soccer in the U.S. "We've clearly caught lightning in a
bottle," says Rothenberg. "But it's one thing to point toward a
single event like the World Cup and another thing to start a
Still, it's possible that a women's pro league would actually
perform better than Major League Soccer, its male counterpart,
at the gate and on the tube. Just as U.S. sports fans like
national teams that win, they won't settle for less than the
best pro league in the world. While MLS isn't even among the
world's top 10 leagues in terms of skill level, a women's league
in the U.S. would be the global standard-bearer for the
sport--the presence of the American players and the money
involved would be a strong draw for the rest of the world's best.
Yet Rothenberg thinks it would be harder to start a women's
league than it was to get MLS off the ground. "Men's professional
soccer had a background of some success here with the NASL," he
says. "We'd also had big attendance games for the men's national
team, and not just in the World Cup. Until the Women's World Cup
we hadn't seen a full stadium for any of the women's games this
Would fans come out week after week when no world title was on
the line? Would they want to see the U.S. stars split up among
eight or 10 clubs? One point everyone agrees on is that a league
wouldn't start until 2001, since the world's top teams will all
be playing in the 2000 Olympics. "A stand-alone women's league
like MLS is a stretch," says Rothenberg. Until a few years ago,
so was the idea of women's soccer selling out Giants Stadium and
the Rose Bowl.
Latest Running Film
Cigarette-smoking German actress Franka Potente (left) insists
she hates running, yet in the relentless Run Lola Run she dashes
through Berlin with the fierceness of Gail Devers and the grace
of Mary Decker Slaney. Recent movies about famed distance
runners Steve Prefontaine and Haile Gebrselassie tanked at the
box office, so perhaps the way to sell running to the moviegoing
public is this Teutonic turn on La Femme Nikita, a
raspberry-haired punkette with a belly tattoo who's on a mission
to find 100,000 marks ($52,000) in 20 minutes and bail her
boyfriend out of lethal peril.
Run Lola Run is Germany's biggest hit in years and has been a
critical success in limited U.S. release. Writer-director Tom
Tykwer says he aimed "to grab the viewers and drag them along"
to savor "the sheer unadorned pleasure of speed." The aptly
named Potente, owner of the best clavicles on the big screen,
"was really running for three quarters of the shooting," Tykwer
says of his star and girlfriend, "and what's in the movie is
only five percent of what she actually shot."
Tykwer says Potente found the Doc Martens she wears in the movie
very painful to run in. "For close-ups of her face and upper
body," he says, "we always changed her into good running shoes."
Potente can only be relieved that in the movie she and Tykwer
are now filming, The Princess and the Warrior, her part, in the
director's words, "is very slow." --Peter Gambaccini
Marv Levy on Cancer
SOME WELCOME COACHSPEAK
Four years ago, when Marv Levy, then the Buffalo Bills' coach,
learned he had prostate cancer, his mind raced through the
standard checklist of the cancer sufferer--rage, denial,
despair--before he remembered Len Dawson. Levy knew Dawson, a
Hall of Fame quarterback for the Chiefs and a prostate survivor,
from Levy's coaching days in Kansas City. He telephoned Dawson,
and they spoke at length about a cancer that will afflict one in
five American men in their lifetimes. Ten days later Dawson
called back to share some further thoughts. "The talks were
tremendously helpful to me," says Levy, who had his prostate
removed in October 1995. "I was fortunate enough to get through
the surgery and, remembering how meaningful the support from
people like Lenny and General [Norman] Schwarzkopf [also a
prostate cancer survivor] had been, I wanted to do something
Levy, who retired from coaching after the '97 season, has become
a one-man support group, spending hours each week in his Bills
office, phoning or writing letters to other men with prostate
cancer. There is nothing formal about his work--"There's no Marv
Levy Web site or anything," he says; "I can't even use a
computer"--it is simply heartfelt. Prostate cancer and its
treatment can affect sexual and urinary functions, so it's
sometimes a difficult subject to broach. "Often I get a call
from someone asking me to speak to his father, who is too
embarrassed to call me himself," says the 73-year-old Levy, who
splits time between Buffalo and his hometown of Chicago. "I'm
happy to make those calls."
"Marv was unbelievable with me," says Ian MacDonald, whose
prostate cancer was diagnosed in September 1997. MacDonald, a
sportswriter for The Gazette in Montreal, met Levy in the '70s
when Levy coached the Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
"I called him up," says MacDonald. "I said, 'Listen, I don't
want to bother you....' I mean, it was the middle of the season.
He had enough bloody things to do. But we spoke once a week. If
I didn't call him, he would call me."
Levy's doctors say he is healthy and shows no signs that the
cancer has returned. He has a checkup every six months and
continues to spread the word. He doesn't add anything startling
to the national conversation about prostate cancer--men over 50
should have have annual screenings; early detection is
critical--but sometimes it takes the right messenger to get the
JUNKIES ON RADIO
America's hot new radio show is called The Sports Junkies, but
its four twentysomething hosts often go for long stretches
without mentioning sports. The Junkies--John Auville, Eric
Bickel, Jason Bishop and J.P. Flaim, four boyhood buddies from
Bowie, Md.--were watching a former schoolmate's cable-access
talk show four years ago when Bickel's mother-in-law said, "You
guys could do that." She was right. Within a year the Junkies
were a hit with a daily three-hour call-in show on WJFK-FM in
Washington, D.C., and in May they went national with a 50-city
"We don't claim to know everything," says Flaim. But that
doesn't keep the Junkies from sounding off on everything from
the Redskins' ownership to the Wizards' woes to their own
expanding adult-movie collections. "For the last year or so
we've had a running argument over who would win a fight between
a shark and a crocodile," says Flaim. "Three of us say the
shark, but Jason keeps saying a 25-foot crocodile would win. We
argued about it for half an hour the other night." Even guests
have a hard time sticking to sports. "Paul Azinger came to the
studio to talk about the Kemper Open," says Flaim, "but ended up
talking about pants."
The Sports Junkies' dramatic on-air highlight came in December
1997 when Flaim, a Temple Law School graduate, opened an
envelope containing the results of his bar exam. "Listeners had
been placing bets for and against me," he says. "I failed, but
it was good radio." Flaim passed the bar the second time, but he
has no immediate plans to give up his current gig to practice
law. "We're four friends talking about sports for a living," he
says. "You can't beat it."
--That Pete Sampras keeps his Austin Powers-like chest hair
under wraps during future Grand Slam victory celebrations.
--That no one drags global politics into Saturday's U.S-China
Women's World Cup final.
--That Juan Gonzalez, who's shunning the All-Star Game because
he wasn't voted in, has to spend his three days off painting his
Voters among the 865 SABR members asked to name baseball's 100
best players who did not include Babe Ruth on their ballots.
Distance that Rick (Pellet Gun) Krause, 45, spit a cherry pit to
win his 11th world title.
World record for cherry-pit spitting held by Krause's 20-year-old
Seven-footers, from five countries, whose rights the Mavericks
now hold: Chris Anstey (7 feet, Australia), Shawn Bradley (7'6",
U.S.), Dirk Nowitzki (7 feet, Germany), Bruno Sundov (7'2",
Croatia) and 1999 draft pick Wang Zhi-Zhi (7'1", China).
ERA of Cincinnati lefthander Steve Avery in the first inning of
his 16 starts this season.
Avery's ERA from the second inning on.
Days after citing a quadriceps injury and withdrawing from a
200-meter showdown with Maurice Greene at the U.S. national
championships that Michael Johnson ran the fastest 400 meters of
the year, in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Trouble in the Heartland
For fans of the Big Ten the past month has brought a string of
disquieting events that range from the trivial to the tragic.
JUNE 5: Police find Michigan State tailback Little John Flowers
shooting dice in a Kalamazoo park, after which he allegedly
resists arrest. The day before, Spartans basketball stars Mateen
Cleaves and Antonio Smith had pleaded innocent to stealing a
40-ounce bottle of beer from an East Lansing 7-Eleven.
JUNE 7: Chris Foster, a 38-year-old guitar maker, accuses
Indiana men's basketball coach Bob Knight of battery after an
alleged altercation outside an Ellettsville, Ind., restaurant.
Foster claims Knight grabbed him by the throat. After an
investigation the Monroe County prosecutor says he finds no
evidence to file charges against Knight.
JUNE 18: Two-time All-America guard Rob Murphy flunks out of
Ohio State. Says Buckeyes football coach John Cooper, "We're not
going to go through the same thing we went through last summer,"
referring to the fire the school drew for the seemingly easy
time it gave the grade-challenged Andy Katzenmoyer.
JUNE 25: As a result of the academic scandal in the Minnesota
basketball program, coach Clem Haskins accepts a $1.5 million
buyout of his contract.
JUNE 29: For the second time in 18 months Iowa City police
arrest backup Iowa quarterback Randy Reiners on an
alcohol-related charge after Reiners is found "sleeping or
passed out" in a parking lot at 2:26 a.m. He pays a $50 fine and
$15 in court costs.
JUNE 30: Ann Arbor police begin an investigation of Michigan
offensive linemen Jonathan Goodwin and Maurice Williams and
former Wolverines fullback Demetrius Smith in connection with an
embezzlement ring at a local Kmart. A search of Goodwin's and
Williams's apartment turns up $3,000 worth of allegedly stolen
merchandise, including phones, furniture and toilet paper.
JUNE 30: The NCAA places Purdue's men's basketball program on
probation for two years for major rules violations involving
recruiting, extra benefits and ethical misconduct, and it
recommends that the university pay $380,000 in penalties.
JULY 2: Former Northwestern basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong is
shot dead while walking with two of his children near his home
in Skokie, Ill. The murder is part of a hate-crime rampage in
the Midwest over the weekend; the suspect, who later takes his
own life, is a former student at Illinois and Indiana.
Go Fourth and Prosper
Sunday's star-spangled Wimbledon sweep by Americans Lindsay
Davenport and Pete Sampras (above) and the U.S. women's World
Cup win over Brazil proved once again that sporting events have
become as big a part of Independence Day as fireworks and beach
traffic. But for every outstanding Fourth feat there seems to
have been a moment of ignominy.
1912: Ty Cobb steals second, 1976: Tim McCarver hits grand
third and home in fifth inning slam but is called out for
of win over Browns passing teammate Garry Maddox
on base path in win over Pirates
1939: Lou Gehrig intones, 1930: Future Yankees owner
"Today I consider myself the George Steinbrenner is born
luckiest man on the face of
1939: Red Sox and A's bats 1909: Honus Wagner's "torpedo"
explode for combined 54 runs bat--loaded with fireworks--
in doubleheader at Shibe Park explodes when he swings
at first pitch of at bat
against the Reds
1985: Braves and Mets play 1964: Game between A's and
a 19-inning classic, which New Orioles is called at 8:30 p.m.
York wins 16-13, postponing after nine innings with score
Atlanta's postgame fireworks tied 6-6 so that Baltimore's
display until 4:01 a.m. postgame fireworks display can
start on time
1997: U.S. gold medal swimmers 1999: British soccer star
Mark Henderson and Summer David Beckham and Posh Spice
Sanders are wed in Lake Tahoe are wed outside Dublin
1999: U.S. women's soccer team 1994: U.S. men's soccer team
beats Brazil 2-0 in World loses to Brazil 1-0 in World Cup
Cup semis at Stanford Stadium match at Stanford Stadium
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Dodge will pay $1.4 million over the next four years to be the
official sponsor of the sports rivalry between Oregon and Oregon
The all-star game is back in Beantown after a 38-year break. Hit
these sites to get a jump on the midsummer classic's festivities
in sports-mad Boston.
On the league's official site scout the bios of tomorrow's
stars, who will be showcased in the All-Star Futures game. Catch
Sosa, McGwire and Co. live, fielding questions at press
conferences or aiming at the Green Monster during batting
practice. Scan the stands at Fenway with a Web cam during the
home run derby or the game itself. And after the game, review
All-Star '99 video highlights. Also, watch golden oldies,
including the Bambino hitting the first All-Star four-bagger in
'33 and Ted Williams tangling with the outfield wall at Comiskey
Park in '50.
Peek into the warped psyche of a diehard Bosox fan whose site is
dedicated to convincing the baseball world that trading Babe
Ruth (above) in 1920 doomed Boston to perennial fadeouts.
Locked out of the game? Pour over this guide to Boston's best
sports watering holes. Just don't expect Ted Danson to slide a
pint across the bar to you at Who's on First or the Cask 'n
sites we'd like to see
Cyber support group for Tour de France cyclists trying to
complete the race after going cold turkey.
Suggestions to John Daly for creative ways to make bogey at the
upcoming British Open in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Former Bulls center, on how he and his Chicago teammates reacted
to the meditation therapy coach Phil Jackson had them go
through: "A lot of guys just fell asleep."