Why it's O.K. to make first-year players sing for their supper
First off, let's make it clear that we believe the ritual
flogging of college freshmen with wooden coat hangers is wrong,
wrong, wrong. That's not wholesome hazing, and SPORTS
ILLUSTRATED won't stand for it. Nor do we condone gantlets,
forced drinking or so-called atomic sit-ups. We are, almost
unanimously, against psychopathic behavior, at least the kind
that leads to criminal charges.
That said, we like hazing and worry that recent outrages (ask
your kid about atomic sit-ups) and academic studies (ask
somebody where Alfred University is) may get it legislated out
of sports. We'd miss hazing, and sports would miss it, too.
Of course, our idea of hazing may be different from yours. But
let's assume we can all tell the difference between good, clean
fun and felonious assault. Branding is not hazing. Nor is
kidnapping. The forced consumption of goldfish may or may not be
hazing. ("That's a gray area," says one SI editor.) But why
throw the good out with the goldfish?
September 12, 1999
We don't need a 36-page report from Alfred University (it's in
Alfred, N.Y.) to tell us that "humiliating, dangerous and
illegal activity" should be curbed. But what's wrong with making
a freshman carry a senior's suitcase? Taping a rookie to a
goalpost, as the Browns do, may be borderline, but is making him
do a skit in a skirt so bad? (Answer: It all depends on the
The whole idea of hazing, when mob psychology doesn't push it
onto Court TV, is the destruction of status to foster teamwork.
This works only if there's some breakdown of ego. Cade McNown
may have signed for $22 million, but he still has to carry the
vets' shoulder pads. And if he's a bit embarrassed, so much the
better. It makes him a little more like the rest of the Bears.
Athletics, which increasingly elevates the individual far above
the team, needs more hazing. Whatever keeps a quarterback's feet
on the ground ought to be encouraged. Maybe cross-dressing isn't
the worst thing in the world ("Another gray area," says the SI
editor) if it makes for more camaraderie.
Hazing doesn't make sense in high school, where freshmen have no
egos and need no embarrassment beyond that of being freshmen.
But we're all for college and pro hazing, or whatever you want
to call it when athletes of extraordinary privilege are treated
just like the rest of the team. No coat hangers, no bloodshed.
Just a song, rook. Key of C, if you please. --Richard Hoffer
Melee at Mile High
FIELD OF SCREAMS
Would you spray Mace at someone to save a pair of goalposts?
That was the dilemma Denver police confronted last Saturday
night at Mile High Stadium, and they didn't hesitate. Faced with
a bunch of rowdy Colorado State fans who couldn't wait to
celebrate the Rams' 41-14 upset of Colorado, the cops cut loose
with Mace and tear gas, touching off a skirmish that left
several fans hurt and hundreds more running for cover. "It was
like being in a war," said Colorado cornerback Ben Kelly.
With a minute left in the game, police in riot gear had filed
onto the northeast corner of the field while joyous Colorado
State fans chanted, "Goalpost! Goalpost!" The cops had no
intention of letting them reach their goal--the Super Bowl
champion Broncos, Mile High's primary tenants, had asked the
city to protect the field. Boos, bottles and crushed beer cans
rained down on the officers as some fans chanted, "Let's get
"They tried to rush the field and were told to get back," said
police lieutenant Tony Ryan. "They didn't, and Mace was
employed. It was either that or let them have the field." One
tear gas canister was thrown from the stands back at the cops
like a visitor's home run ball at Wrigley Field. "Little kids
were holding on to their moms, trying to get away from the tear
gas," a spectator told the Denver Post.
Less than 10 yards from the spot where Colorado coach Gary
Barnett held a postgame press conference, the Post reported, an
asthmatic woman gasped. "I couldn't breathe," she said. "I've
never been so scared in my life." When the white smoke cleared,
27 fans had been arrested and at least four were hospitalized
after hyperventilating or being gassed or trampled.
Barnett and police captain R.A. Ryan blamed fans for the
trouble, while winning coach Sonny Lubick questioned the cops'
zeal. "I wish the police had let all our supporters come down
and give us a big hug," said Lubick, "but I guess it's against
policy here to let any fans on the field."
Ciccarelli Hangs It Up
DINO WAS A DINOSAUR
He was not a graceful skater. He didn't have a powerful shot, he
wasn't a skillful puck handler and, at 5'10", 185 pounds, he
couldn't muscle his way into scoring position. Yet Dino
Ciccarelli, who retired last week after 19 NHL seasons with five
teams, somehow scored 608 goals to rank ninth on the alltime
list. He will go to the Hall of Fame thanks to a little
nastiness and a whole lot of guts.
To say Ciccarelli bothered opponents is like calling a tiger
shark in the bathtub a nuisance. Loved by his teams' fans,
despised by foes, he fought for space around the net--he circled
and nipped opponents until they gave ground, rammed them and
thwacked them and never flinched when they swatted back, and
when the puck came his way, he flicked it into the net. A master
of the so-called garbage goal, he fed off errant shots, loose
pucks and rebounds. But collecting garbage in rough
neighborhoods can be hazardous duty. His chronically bad back
limited Ciccarelli to 14 games for the Florida Panthers last
season, and they bought out his contract in July. He was driving
near his home near Detroit last week, his back throbbing, when
he decided he'd had enough.
Sitting in a spare, sweat-scented equipment room near the
Detroit Red Wings' clubhouse four springs ago, during the
Wings-New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup finals, Ciccarelli looked
handsome but worn, his swarthy, nicked-up face darkened further
by a permanent scowl. He spoke of shattering his right leg as an
amateur in 1978 and getting passed over in the NHL draft. He
hitched on with the Minnesota North Stars two years later and
soon began scoring big goals and going snarl-to-snarl with
established stars like Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kevin Lowe. In
'95, sitting in that equipment room and looking as scuffed and
dented as some of the Red Wings' gear, Ciccarelli recalled good
times--leading the North Stars to the finals as a rookie--and
bad times, like being jailed for a couple of hours in '88 for
bludgeoning Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Richardson on
the ice, and pleading guilty that same year to indecent exposure
in Eden Prairie, Minn., after a neighbor reported she had
repeatedly seen him expose himself. That incident still haunted
Mostly, though, Ciccarelli talked about how he earned his bread.
Every game, whether he was dishing out pain or scoring goals in
clusters, he took something on the chin: the butt of a stick,
the point of an elbow. His back hurt, he said, and he was
slowing down. He was 35 that season and had 529 career goals.
Asked how much longer he could endure the punishment, he said,
"Endure it?" and for the first time his scowl gave way to a
smile. "Hey, man, I love it." --Kostya Kennedy
Ump vs. Ump
THE FICKLE FINGER OF FREIGHT
The same week that his mass-resignation ploy cost 22 umpires
their jobs, Richie Phillips saw his leadership of the Major
League Umpires Association challenged on another front. A group
of dissident umps led by the American League's John Hirschbeck
charged that Phillips's little-publicized business dealings with
Major League Baseball are rife with possible conflicts.
Umpires' union general counsel Phillips is also president and
CEO of Pilot Air Freight, a privately held company that he says
has 1,500 employees and will do about $200 million in business
this year. Two of Pilot's clients are baseball's American and
National leagues, which use the firm to transport umpires'
equipment from ballpark to ballpark--business that Phillips says
amounts to about $375,000 a year.
His company's relationship with baseball management strikes the
dissident umps as more than a little suspicious. The plot
thickened last week when a New York Times story alleged that
seven Phillips supporters--all members of the umpires' union's
board of directors--were also on Pilot's payroll. "It makes me
extremely mad that people can take money and then vote on
important union matters," ump Tim Welke told SI on Sunday. "If
they're taking one dollar, that's too much."
But Phillips says that only two current union board members,
Bruce Froemming and Drew Coble, work for his airfreight company.
Froemming couldn't be reached last week, but Coble acknowledged
getting $10,000 a year for such p.r. duties as making luncheon
appearances on Pilot's behalf. (Former umpire Don Denkinger, who
evaluates umps for the A.L., does similar work for Pilot.) Coble
and Phillips insist there's nothing wrong with their dual
duties. "It's not a conflict," says Phillips, accusing
Hirschbeck's group of "attempting to destroy my reputation."
There's no shortage of dialogue among the combatants. In Phoenix
last week, umpire Mark Hirschbeck--John's brother--was
confronted by crewmate and Pilot employee Froemming in the umps'
dressing room at Bank One Ballpark. "This is going to get ugly.
It's going to get personal," Hirschbeck says Froemming told him.
"And we're going to bring up dirt on anybody we can bring up
dirt on. If [your brother] wants a war, we're going to give it
Fan vs. Hockey Star
THERE OTTAWA BE A LAW
Ottawa Senators season-ticket holder Len Potechin has had it
with Senators captain and leading scorer Alexei Yashin, who's
demanding a trade unless he gets a $4.4 million raise to $8
million a year. If Yashin holds out and misses Ottawa's Oct. 2
opener against the Flyers in Philadelphia, real estate mogul
Potechin plans to high-stick it to him with a $5 million lawsuit.
"Yashin is the deciding product in a package deal offered by the
Senators to season-ticket holders," says Potechin's lawyer,
Arthur Cogan. "Leaving the team for reasons other than trade or
injury--intentionally interfering with the team's promise to the
fans--constitutes a breach of contract." Cogan says that if
Potechin wins the case, he'll give the $5 million to "sick kids
who can't play sports at all."
The Senators opened training camp on Sunday. Yashin, who spent
Saturday watching tennis at the U.S. Open in New York, had a
flight booked for Switzerland, where he planned to train with a
Swiss club team.
NCAA Drug Case
PEARL DROPS A DIME
Basketball coach Bruce Pearl hasn't lost many games in his seven
seasons at the University of Southern Indiana. He's 180-36. But
Pearl, who was an assistant at Iowa before he turned the
Screaming Eagles into perennial contenders for the Division II
title, has lost a couple of prospects in unusual ways. Last week
he triggered a police raid on the Evansville apartment of two of
his Eagles--one of whom, 6'6" forward Demetrius Drew, was caught
in the bathroom, where he allegedly tried to flush so much
marijuana down the toilet that the toilet backed up. Drew, who
was unavailable for comment, faces a felony charge of marijuana
possession and has a court date set for Thursday.
Why would Pearl sic the law on someone he expected to be, in his
own words, "the second-best player on the team"? The answer, he
says, is that he didn't mean to do it.
Early last week a Southern Indiana player who was one of Drew's
roommates informed the coach that someone in their suite--"not
Demetrius," he told Pearl--was doing drugs. "To protect my
players, I asked the authorities to correct the situation. I
didn't call security on one of my players," says Pearl, adding,
"I didn't feel like a snitch."
Pearl, 38, has been called a snitch before. He was at Iowa in
1988 when, in a desperate attempt to firm up an oral commitment
from high school standout Deon Thomas, he taped a phone
conversation in which Thomas claimed Illinois had offered him
$80,000 and a Chevy Blazer to play in Urbana-Champaign. Pearl
handed the tape over to the NCAA. The investigation that
followed led to sanctions against Illinois for violations
unrelated to the Thomas case, but the Illini got their man
anyway--and Pearl got the Linda Tripp treatment. Condemned by
everyone from Illinois fans to Dick Vitale, he left Iowa and was
out of coaching until Southern Indiana made him an offer in '92.
With or without Drew, Pearl says he's looking forward to
starting the season and taking a shot at a record that might
last well into the next millennium. If Southern Indiana can
start the year 20-0, Pearl will reach 200 victories in fewer
games than any other coach in college basketball history.
--That John McEnroe had a superego to go with his super ego.
--That Casey Martin cashes a few more Nike tour checks and earns
his PGA Tour card.
--That guys with fastballs like Kevin Costner's had a chance in
Karats of gold in a diamond-studded wedding ring that divorced
angler Ron Monsen turned into a fishing lure.
Times the top-seeded woman at the U.S. Open has failed to
reach the semifinals since 1968.
Attendance increase for the Sacramento Monarchs, the only WNBA
team that sold more tickets per game this year than in 1998.
Operations endured by Broncos left guard Mark Schlereth since he
joined the NFL 11 years ago.
Amount straphanger John Olerud pays for his subway trip to work
as the Mets' first baseman.
Estimated cost of the University of Minnesota's continuing
investigation of its men's athletic department.
Years since a Canadian had won a PGA Tour event in Canada
until Mike Weir did it at the Air Canada Championship.
NFL players with physiques worse than that of 6'5", 335-pound
Colts tackle Tarik Glenn, according to Muscle & Fitness magazine.
Will Sammy Sosa be the first player whose homers in a season
outnumber his team's wins? Sosa's Cubs, coming off a 6-24 August
that was the worst month in their 124-year history, are as
thrilling as watching paint dry. Here's a look at their
Former Chicago Orphans became Cubs in 1907
Went 530-235 from 1906 to '10 and played in four World Series
Won 1908 Series--a feat still cited on T-shirts at Wrigley Field
Lost 1945 Series and vanished from Fall Classic for good
Re-adopted old-style blue pinstripes on home whites after going
60-94 in '56
Traded Lou Brock in '64 for Ernie Broglio--who'd go 7-19 as a
Cub--and two guys who were even worse
Led National League East for 155 days during glorious summer of '69
Lost eight straight down the stretch to finish eight games
behind the Miracle Mets
Andre Dawson gave club a blank contract for '87 season
MVP Dawson had 49 homers, 137 RBIs for $500,000
Won division in '84 and led Padres 2-0 in best-of-five NLCS
Lost '84 NLCS 3-2; finished last in Dawson's MVP year
Dealt Rafael Palmeiro for Mitch Williams in '89
52 Cubs saves for Williams, 356 homers and counting for Palmeiro
Won 93 games and cruised to division title in '89
Lost NLCS to Giants, leaving Series prey to killer earthquake
Got Sammy from White Sox for George Bell in '92
Dead last this season despite division-high $60 million payroll
Beat Giants in a one-game wild-card playoff last year
Sosa had 58 homers through Monday; Cubs had 55 wins
DON'T do it yourself
Walk up the Wild Side
Most kids who get locked out of the house wait around for Mom
and Dad to get home. Ten-year-old Alain Robert scaled his
family's seven-story apartment building near Paris and climbed
in a window. Twenty-five years later the 5'4", 105-pound urban
mountaineer known as Spiderman has climbed buildings including
the Framatome Tower in Paris (left), the Empire State Building,
the 1,482-foot Petronas Towers in Malaysia and, on Aug. 20,
Chicago's 1,454-foot Sears Tower--all without a rope or any
other tools. Robert, who has been jailed on four continents for
his illegal summitry, spent his teen years honing his skills on
the cliffs in the south of France and now trains in a decidedly
low-tech manner: climbing the walls in his attic. The only
climbing aids he uses are rubber-soled shoes and talcum powder
for his hands. Dangerous? Sure, but as Robert sees it, "You are
born to die one day.... I prefer to die in action."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The Triple A Tacoma Rainiers' Umbrella Night was rained out.
They Said It
White Sox pitcher, on booing Chicago fans: "They're jealous.
When we go to Burger King or McDonald's, we don't yell at them
if our burgers aren't cooked right."