Could a bare-knuckle brawl cure what ails the U.S. male?
"How well can you know yourself if you've never been in a fight?"
Brad Pitt asks Edward Norton in Fight Club, the No. 1 movie in
the country last week. It's a good question. Is today's American
man a flabby, drab IKEA boy, hopelessly out of touch with his
inner wolverine? There's one way to find out: Get in a fight.
"There's something about getting hit in the face that gives you
an adrenalized version of life," says Fight Club director David
Fincher. He's right, and that something is adrenaline, the
fight-or-flight fuel that kept our ancestors from winding up as
lion chow. "I don't see any great satisfaction in beating the
s--- out of somebody," says psychiatrist David Marcotte, "but the
instinct is there. Males tend to fight. Our socialization tries
to reduce our so-called animalistic tendencies, but those
tendencies are part of us."
In Fight Club, socialization turns men into mice. Emasculation,
Fincher calls it, and even if his film doesn't spur a
bare-knuckle-boxing renaissance, he might be on to something.
Aren't a lot of men itching to be Pitt bulls like Brad?
November 1, 1999
But those guys don't really need a punch in the face. They need a
history lesson. In 1889, in an illegal fight near Richburg,
Miss., John L. Sullivan pulverized Jake Kilrain in the last major
bare-knuckle bout. It lasted 75 rounds. We are more civilized
today, but as Muhammad Ali can tell you, boxing still hurts and
damages fighters. Fight Club is as romantic about fighting as
Pretty Woman was about prostitution--Pitt and Norton never slur
their words, and the teeth they lose are always molars, because
movie stars can't afford to have NHL smiles.
Forty years ago SI's George Plimpton tested his manhood Fight
Club-style. He fought three rounds with light heavyweight champ
Archie Moore and learned something important. He learned that
getting punched in the nose made him cry.
"I haven't seen Fight Club," says Plimpton, "but the idea that
brawling teaches manliness sounds like an impulse that needs to
be strangled. Getting your teeth knocked out isn't a badge of
honor. It's just a badge of getting beaten up."
Are you a warrior or a weeper? Most guys are a little of
both--fantasizing about feral combat but also keeping up with
NASDAQ, SportsCenter and, yes, the new IKEA catalog. A good fight
might be liberating, but a futon is forever. --K.C.
A soccer player says she was cruelly hazed by her Sooners coach
When SI's Richard Hoffer praised hazing in these pages a few
weeks ago (SCORECARD, Sept. 13), he wasn't talking about
violence or psychological abuse. But Kathleen Peay is talking
about that sort of hazing. Former soccer player Peay, 21, claims
she was humiliated by Bettina Fletcher, her coach at Oklahoma.
Peay filed a federal lawsuit on Oct. 4 charging Fletcher with
"physical and emotional abuse," which her lawyer says included
an initiation rite in which freshmen were forced to wear diapers
and simulate fellatio on bananas. The suit also names the
university's board of regents and assistant coaches Missy Durham
(now Starman) and Randall Robison as defendants.
According to Peay, the hazing took place on Oct. 4, 1997, during
a road trip to New Mexico. After a practice in Albuquerque, the
Sooners rode in two university-rented vans--freshmen in one,
upperclassmen in the other--to an elementary school playground,
where the freshmen were ordered out of their van. "We knew we
were going to be initiated because the night before we could
overhear them discussing plans," Peay says. "I locked the door
and said no. Bettina said, 'You don't know who you're f------
with.'" Peay says Fletcher screamed at her to open the door and
that Robison, who was driving the freshmen, unlocked it. (Robison
denies the charge.) After spilling out of the van, the freshmen
were forced to put on adult diapers. It was then, Peay says, that
Fletcher produced a banana and insisted that Peay and another
player simulate oral sex on it. Players were also photographed
with pickles in their mouths.
Fletcher often scrimmaged with her Sooners, and once when she
kept playing a ball that had gone out of bounds, Peay jokingly
called her a cheater. Fletcher punched her in the stomach, Peay
says, and yelled, "F--- off!"
Peay says she wanted to quit the team after the New Mexico trip
but couldn't have stayed in school without her athletic
scholarship. According to a university source, in the fall of
1998 Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione was shown
pictures of the hazing ritual, and Fletcher soon resigned for
what she called personal reasons.
SI was unable to reach Fletcher, 36, a former North Carolina
soccer player and assistant to Tar Heels coach Anson
Dorrance--himself the subject of a sexual harassment suit filed by
two players (SI, Dec. 7, 1998). Castiglione and Oklahoma
president David Boren issued statements declining comment.
Starman, now an assistant at Miami, said she didn't know enough
about the suit to comment. A lawyer for Robison, who recently
left the university, said his client took no part in the hazing.
Peay withdrew from Oklahoma last summer. She lives with her
parents in Richardson, Texas, and insists she's through with
soccer. "I have no desire to play," she says. "My self-esteem has
Fletcher apparently isn't through with the sport. She spent a few
weeks this season as a volunteer assistant at Nebraska.
Long Road Home
Khalid Khannouchi overcame 36[degree] temperatures, swirling
winds and a half-minute lead by another runner at the 21-mile
mark to set a world record of 2:05:42 at the Chicago Marathon on
Sunday morning. The Morocco-born Khannouchi will need an even
stronger finishing kick to obtain American citizenship in time
for the U.S. Olympic Trials next May.
Khannouchi, 27, fell in love with America when he won the 5,000
meters at the World University Games in Buffalo in 1993. Three
months later he was training full time on the perilous pavement
of Brooklyn after his late-night shifts as a busboy. After nearly
being run down by a speeding car, he became a daytime envelope
stuffer for a track club. In '96 his quest for citizenship, a
process that usually takes five years, was delayed because an
immigration agent didn't process his application properly.
Khannouchi's best chance to become an American soon is a
little-known provision that aids applicants whose spouses work
outside the U.S. for companies that develop American foreign
trade. His chief sponsor, New Balance, might help find such a job
for his wife, Sandra, whom Khalid met when both dropped out of a
5K race in Hartford four years ago and who serves as his agent,
trainer, masseuse and nutritionist.
At Sandra's urging, Khalid entered his first marathon in 1997,
winning Chicago in 2:07:10, which was then the fourth-fastest
time ever. This year, in only his third marathon, Khannouchi
chased Kenya's Moses Tanui for much of the race, passing him at
25 miles and shaving 23 seconds off the mark of 2:06:05 set last
year by Brazil's Ronaldo da Costa. "The wind was burning my eyes,
and I couldn't see the clocks at the mile markers," Khannouchi
says. "I didn't know it was a record until I crossed the line and
my wife grabbed me."
His years in New York have been bittersweet for the devout
Muslim. His sister, Rachida, is undergoing chemotherapy in Rabat,
Morocco, for breast cancer, which took their mother in 1995, and
his older brother Said died of a heart attack in Morocco last
year. Khannouchi has spurned Moroccan officials' offers of a spot
on their national team. "Absolutely no," he insists. "Here I have
support, good friends, family, happy life. This is my land of
opportunity--my home forever." As usual, he's thinking of the long
News, Weather, Not Much Sports
Maybe you've noticed it--no national sports highlights on
Tuesday's local news. Or on Wednesday's. More weather, less
sports. More teases about celebrity diets, less sports. At TV
stations all over the country, the sportscast is shrinking fast.
"If I were a kid coming out of college today, I would not go into
local TV sports," says Chuck Dowdle, the longtime sports anchor
at Atlanta's ABC affiliate, WSB. "There's no future in it."
Blame cable. Station managers figure sports fans won't bother
with local sportscasts when they can flip on SportsCenter, Fox
Sports or CNNSI. That's why Seattle's KIRO eliminated
out-of-town scores and cut its sports hole from 4 1/2 to three
minutes. In markets without big league teams, some broadcasting
executives question the need for national sports news at all.
"When you ask people why they watch local news, sports is at the
bottom of the list, even in Dallas," says Dave Overton, a former
news director at Dallas-Fort Worth's KXAS. Solution: Focus more
on the local in local sports. That means much more coverage of
area college and high school teams. When Las Vegas's KVBC
shifted its focus to local teams--including a Friday-night
"Operation Football" segment on high school teams--ratings jumped.
Lively and local: Some sportscasters think that's the way of the
future, but old-timers aren't so sure. "In 10 years," says
Atlanta's 50-year-old Dowdle, whose contract expires in 2006,
"local sports will be an even smaller part of the newscast."
Follow That Governor
Quick, name a governor who's tougher than Jesse Ventura. Can't do
it? Then you haven't seen New Mexico's Gary Johnson hauling his
honorable butt through an Ironman triathlon, that test of sinew
and sanity that goes like this: swim 2.4 miles, race a bike 112
miles, then run a marathon.
"Your results are measurable and your goal is clear-cut. That's
what I like about Ironman," says Johnson, 46, a Republican who
endured his first triathlon 19 years ago. Last Saturday he
finished 582nd among 1,470 competitors in the Ironman Triathlon
World Championship at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Luc Van Lierde of
Belgium won in eight hours, 17 minutes and 17 seconds, about two
hours ahead of Johnson, but at 10:39:16--a personal best--the gov
was more than six hours faster than the stragglers in the event,
for which more than 50,000 triathletes tried to qualify.
Johnson, who rises to train at 4:30 a.m. seven days a week, has
cycled across his state, climbed Mount McKinley and run 25 miles
in Army boots with a 35-pound pack on his back. "I tell people,
Find out what makes your life work, whether it's knitting, music
or art, and get as much of it as possible," he says. "In my case
Why tri so hard? For one thing, it's less maddening than
hammering out deals with the political crowd. "All you got out
here is pain," Johnson says with a grimace that doubles as a
Ready for Rhyme Time
Had enough of Rock and Roll Part II, Start Me Up and We Will
Rock You? Join the crowd and get into the latest arena anthem, I
Want It All, by Warren G, 28. Despite its PG-13 lyrics, the hit
single is the unofficial theme song of the 1999 NFL season. The
Chiefs, Dolphins, Rams and Seahawks all blast the tune on their
stadium sound systems during games. St. Louis players began
listening to the song in their locker room around the time of
their 35-7 demolition of the Falcons on Sept. 26. On Oct. 10
Rams receiver Az-Zahir Hakim scored four touchdowns in a 38-10
drubbing of the Bengals, then donned an I WANT IT ALL hat for
"I'm riding with the Rams," says Warren G (a.k.a. Warren Griffin
III), the CEO of G Funk The New Millennium 2000. He grew up in
Long Beach, Calif., with dreams of starring in the NFL but made
it only as far as the defensive backfield for Long Beach's Jordan
High. With Los Angeles NFL-free for the foreseeable future, he's
also riding with the Raiders, for whom he just recorded the track
Commitment to Excellence, to be played when they take the field.
G travels from L.A. to the Bay Area to watch Oakland home games,
taking particular interest in the play of one of his NFL
acquaintances, Raiders defensive tackle Darrell Russell. Two
other NFL connections run even deeper: G's friendships with
Patriots defensive end Willie McGinest, an old Pop Warner
teammate, and Bears receiver Curtis Conway, a Pop Warner rival.
(Warren G wore a number 80 Chicago jersey in Conway's honor in
the I Want It All video.) He has considered getting back into
playing shape--maybe even going the Master P route and trying to
play in the pros. "We killed that notion," says Wron G, Warren's
uncle. "We don't want him limping around onstage."
He didn't grab his crotch or flip off the fans on Sunday. He
just lost. Again. Mike Ditka is 1-5 this year and 13-25 with the
Saints, whose suddenly saintly 60-year-old coach is signed
through 2002. "Could you guys put up with me until I was 73?" he
asked reporters. "You might have to wipe the drool off my chin,
but I'll be O.K." Thirteen more years? Ricky Williams might make
a million by then.
NBA players who are at least 7 feet tall, compared with only
nine who stand less than 6 feet.
Rushing yards by Leonard Jones of Denver's Montbello High in a
52-7 win over George Washington High.
Seconds it took Daniel James to KO Steve Tuckett, including the
10 count--shortest bout ever in Britain.
Net worth, in billions, of WWF CEO Vince McMahon after the
company's stock offering last week.
Touchdowns this season by Texas A&M tailback Tiki (Touchdown
The penalty meted out to Florida State receiver Peter Warrick
for his celebrated department-store scam. Warrick pleaded guilty
to petty theft and will do 300 hours of community service but no
jail time. "A miracle from above," coach Bobby Bowden called the
return of Warrick, who caught 11 passes but also dropped a couple
in the Seminoles' 17-14 win over Clemson.
A 376-yard drive by Jason Zuback (SCORECARD, Oct. 25), who
four-peated at last Saturday's World Long Drive Championship in
Former Twins and Senators owner Calvin Griffith, 87. In 1978
Griffith, whom SI once called a "penurious crank," told a
Waseca, Minn., banquet crowd why he moved his team from
Washington, D.C., to the North Star State: "Black people don't
go to ball games, but they'll fill up a rassling ring.... We
came because you've got good, hardworking white people here."
Thomas Mikunda, with shotgun pellets fired by Indiana
basketball coach Bob Knight. Mikunda took 16 pellets in the back
and right shoulder when hunting buddy Knight accidentally shot
him instead of a grouse. Knight paid $581 in fines, and his
victim didn't grouse--maybe Mikunda felt honored to have been
shot by the General.
WORD FOR WORD
"My best score against Tiger on the Isleworth golf course is an
81. He gave me 11 strokes, which means he had to shoot a 70. He
politely shot a 66.... He played a par-5 from his knees and
parred it. Basketball, he's got no left hand. That's from
playing golf. He's got a nice little jumper; he just can't
dribble with his left hand. We worked on his baseball when he
came up to Minnesota before the Ryder Cup. I told him, 'Hit it
like a big ol' slice,' so he didn't turn his hands over. That's
how you hit. Your hands will automatically come through at
contact, so don't try to help it and turn them over, because
you'll jam yourself. He hit one to the warning track." --Ken
Griffey Jr., discussing his Windermere, Fla., neighbor Tiger
Woods on Dallas's KTCK radio.
The sport is speed skiing--a onetime Olympic exhibition--in which
Ludwig Schawill of Austria and other human bullets zip downhill
at more than 135 mph. Gear includes Kevlar helmets, curved poles
with aerodynamic grips (right, obscuring Schawill's face) and
skintight, polyurethane-coated Lycra suits with hard-foam shields
in back. The foam keeps a fallen skier from being burned up by
friction as he skids down the course. The world record is 158
mph, 27 mph faster than winner Jeff Burton's average in last
week's NASCAR Pop Secret 400.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Alan Rondi of Dublin, Calif., pleaded guilty to cruelty
to animals and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine after he
partially blinded a barn owl with a slingshot--the bird's
screeches disrupted his enjoyment of Monday Night Football.
Aren't a lot of American men itching to be Pitt bulls like Brad?
They Said It
Fired Indians manager, asked if he planned to go hunting: "Now is
not a good time to put a gun in my hand."