FANS BEHAVING BADLY
Who'll stop American hooligans before it's too late?
The sports hooligan used to be a uniquely British sort of jerk.
An uncouth fanatic bloodying the reputation of sport, don't you
know? Quite. But that could never happen on our side of the pond,
where athletic heroes rank right up there with God, country and
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, right?
Wrong. A new strain of hooliganism has infected sports, an
American strain that may be worse than the old one. Instead of
beating each other senseless, our hooligans want to hurt the guys
on the field.
Broncos rooters are clearly the trendsetters here, having
designed a battery-powered snowball. Denver cornerback Dale
Carter nearly lost an eye after being hit by one in October.
After another game at Mile High Stadium there was the tragicomic
scene of the Raiders' 335-pound Lincoln Kennedy climbing into
the stands to confront abusive spectators. Kennedy reportedly
bloodied one fan's lip but wasn't flagged for it because police
said he was defending himself. Eight spectators were arrested
that night, and Oakland's Charles Woodson was cited for hitting
a female fan in the face with a chunk of ice.
Last week in Vancouver--a Canadian city with American-style
hooligans--fans threw tennis balls and coins at Rockets rookie
Steve Francis, who had spurned their town when the Grizzlies
selected him in the NBA draft. What's next, machetes?
In England, where sociologists spend big pounds deconstructing
this stuff, the roots of hooliganism are said to be economic.
The thugs tend to be poor or unemployed--angry young men seeking
an outlet for their rage. Here it's the other side of the coin:
With ticket prices so high, the only people at ball games seem
to be the millionaires in the luxury suites and the drunken,
half-crazy extremists in the $80 seats who live all week for a
few hours of spouting bile at the visiting team.
Lowering ticket prices would be one way to get more sane people
out to the ballpark. Major sports also need to improve stadium
security, which currently has a snowball's chance in Tempe of
stopping dangerous hooligans. If that doesn't work, maybe it's
time to hand out police-issue Tasers to football, baseball and
basketball players. That might short-circuit the problem in a
hurry. --Alan Shipnuck
JOCKS STAND UP
Star-crossed Columbine High wins a state title
At the heart of the horror was a cry from Columbine High killers
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. "All jocks stand up!" they
shouted between bursts of gunfire that killed 12 students and a
teacher. "We're going to kill every one of you." Nearly eight
months later, wearing slain football player Matt Kechter's
number 70 on their helmets, the Columbine High Rebels stood
together against powerhouse Cherry Creek in Colorado's Class 5A
Columbine had never won a 5A title (the state's highest
classification) and hadn't been to the championship game since
1981, while the Bruins of Cherry Creek had won five Colorado
crowns in the 1990s. A crowd of more than 7,500 at Cherry
Creek's Stutler Bowl last Saturday saw the home team take a 14-0
first-quarter lead as the fumbling visitors looked bad early--"a
bit starry-eyed," in Rebels coach Andy Lowry's words. But then
Columbine, which had overcome a 17-0 fourth-quarter deficit to
beat Fairview High in the state quarterfinals, scored twice to
tie the game. Chants of "We are Columbine!" rose from the stands
late in the third quarter when Rebels safety Garrett Looney
intercepted a pass and returned it to the Bruins' eight-yard
line. On the second play of the fourth quarter, facing
fourth-and-four, Looney (yes, he plays quarterback too) took a
snap and dropped back. The running Rebels would throw only three
times all day, but Looney's lone completion found Andrew Conant
in the end zone.
"When I went to the line my only thought was that I'd better
catch it," said Conant. "Considering I had fumbled twice, I was
a bit scared." In the leaping, embracing, weeping and praying
that followed Columbine's 21-14 victory, Conant sounded dazed:
"It's strange, actually unbelievable, that we won."
"To all you guys up there, we love you," said fullback Landon
Jones, pointing skyward. "Our love goes out to their families."
"What we carried in our hearts there aren't words for," Lowry
said, adding, "Cherry Creek is a great football team, but I'm so
proud of these guys. I'm not surprised by how they stepped up."
The Sexy Eight
The Great Eight tournament in Chicago was launched five years
ago by ESPN, which said it would invite teams on the basis of
their showing in the previous season's NCAA tournament. "If we
can't have all of the top eight, we pick the best teams out
there," says ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz. "We try to pick
teams that look like contenders this year."
So how come four schools that didn't survive the second round in
March--Arizona, Cincinnati, Kansas and North Carolina--got
invited to this week's 1999 Great Eight? Maybe because the event
isn't just made for TV, it is made by TV, and Oklahoma versus
Maryland doesn't make for great ratings. "Based on what happened
last March, we should have been invited," says Oklahoma coach
Kelvin Sampson, whose Sooners advanced to the Sweet 16 before
losing to Michigan State. "But I guess Kansas is a little bit
prettier for this dance."
Great Eight guidelines stipulate that no conference can be
represented by more than one team. Since two Big Ten and two Big
East schools reached last year's final eight, Sooners athletic
director Joe Castiglione knew a couple of spots would be up for
grabs. He worked the phones over the summer in hopes of getting
Oklahoma invited, but the Sooners didn't get the call. Likewise,
when Duke, another Final Four team, declined to participate, its
berth went not to Sweet 16 team Maryland but to North Carolina,
a first-round loser.
ESPN likes to boast that it provides a national stage for
little-known teams, and often it does. Just as often, however,
it helps the rich get richer. The network clearly favored the
sexiest programs during last week's ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and
despite the fact that Kansas has made just one Elite Eight
appearance in the past five years, the Jayhawks have appeared in
the Great Eight four times in that span. It's a pattern that
leaves schools like Oklahoma feeling like wallflowers.
"If you want an event for schools with the best traditions and
you sell it that way, fine," says Sampson, "but don't call it
something it isn't." --Seth Davis
IBF SECRETS REVEALED
We've all heard tales of poor kids who worked their way to the
top. Nowhere are those inspiring stories more common than in
boxing, a sport in which champions routinely rise from the slums
to achieve immortality. To reach the golden city at the end of
boxing's Rocky road, you have to let the blood, sweat and tears
Another means to the same end allegedly involved letting cash
flow. Last month a federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted Bob
Lee and three other IBF bosses for soliciting payments to rig
their rankings and accepting bribes totaling at least $333,000.
Twenty-three boxers, along with 14 promoters and managers, are
alluded to in the indictment, but none is mentioned by name or
charged with any crime. By cross-referencing information in the
indictment and the IBF's past rankings, however, SI has deduced
the identities of many of the boxers who benefited. The
indictment is silent on whether the boxers knew of the alleged
The biggest alleged payments were to arrange fights for or
improve the rankings of heavyweights George Foreman, Axel
Schulz, Francois Botha and Joe Hipp. After Foreman shocked
Michael Moorer to win the IBF heavyweight title in 1994, his
camp paid the IBF $100,000 to allow him to face the unranked
Schulz. After Foreman won a decision, Schulz's handlers gave the
IBF another $100,000 to order a rematch that never came off
(SCORECARD, Nov. 15). Botha and Hipp also moved into title
contention, thanks in part to payments of $10,000 and $20,000,
The indictment also alludes to two current IBF champions, junior
middleweight Fernando Vargas and junior welterweight Terron
Millett. The IBF allegedly solicited $25,000 in May 1998 from
someone the indictment identifies as "Promoter Number 6" to rank
Vargas as the No. 1 contender. The indictment says Promoter 6
made the payment, and indeed Vargas was moved up to No. 1 the
A January '98 bribe of at least $4,000 from "Promoter Number 5"
allegedly boosted Millett from No. 9 to No. 5 in the IBF junior
welterweight rankings (and also improved the ranking of junior
welterweight Freddy Rojas). Three fights later Millett got his
shot against champion Vince Phillips and won. Millett says he
knew nothing of any bribe: "I thought I moved up by beating
According to the indictment, the IBF took five bribes totaling
$18,000 from "Manager Number 5" to push Miguel Julio up its
lightweight ladder and fix the rankings of several other boxers.
A sixth payment of $5,000 was to guarantee that the IBF would
compel Oscar De La Hoya, who had won the lightweight title, to
fight Julio. But De La Hoya ignored the IBF and defended his WBO
belt against Genaro Hernandez.
Although No. 1 rankings were arranged for as little as $2,000,
in at least one respect the IBF was a bastion of virtue: It
apparently strove to protect the integrity of its system of
bribery. According to the indictment, after agreeing to a
$10,000 bribe to move super middleweight Reginaldo Andrade from
No. 10 to No. 2, the IBF dropped him from its rankings five
months later when the money didn't arrive. --Tim Graham
SUMMITT AIMS HIGHER
As she steered her Mercedes sedan along Knoxville's Alcoa
Highway last week following the Tennessee women's 72-66 win over
Purdue, coach Pat Summitt sounded worried. "I'm concerned about
my team," she said, even though her No. 3-ranked Lady Vols had
just beaten the defending national champions. "The pressure
everybody feels is greater this year. Our juniors almost got
spoiled last season, but now it's different."
On Sunday an 85-62 drubbing of No. 25 Wisconsin made Summitt the
second women's basketball coach to win 700 games. (The other is
Texas coach Jody Conradt.) If Summitt maintains her current
average of 27.8 wins a year she'll supplant Dean Smith (879
wins) as college basketball's winningest coach in 2006. A
thousand wins? She could reach that in 2010. "I think I have a
few good years in me," says Summitt, 47. "When I reached 20
years, I thought I could get to 25. Now that I've reached 26, I
think I've got 30 in me."
For now Summitt will focus on a team still searching for an
identity in the post-Chamique Holdsclaw era. Though Tennessee
shocked the U.S. national team 65-64 in the preseason, it was
stunned at home by Louisiana Tech in its season opener and
looked sluggish against Purdue. "We don't have anybody every
night who is stepping up," Summitt told the Lady Vols after that
game. "Is that too much to ask of a group? That's why they call
it team. But you won, so congratulations."
Motoring on the Tennessee campus near Chamique Holdsclaw Drive,
Summitt reflected on life without the best Lady Vol of them all.
"I miss her," she said of three-time All-America Holdsclaw. "I
miss seeing her and talking with her, and of course against
Louisiana Tech, I really missed her." --Richard Deitsch
After three arrests and five suspensions in six NBA seasons,
Isaiah Rider swooped from Portland to Atlanta this year. He was
late to camp, missed the Hawks' season opener and bitched about
his playing time. "Make me the Man," Rider said. Since then he
has averaged 21.6 points per game and hasn't gone AWOL even
once. Either Atlanta is showcasing Rider, hoping his Man act
makes some sucker of a general manager want to trade for him, or
the league's bad boy is growing up.
Cost of high-speed phone lines at Duke that let students use
their laptops while waiting in line for basketball tickets.
Price of a pair of Buster Brown sports shoes for kids to be
endorsed by Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa.
Bonus that Florida State coach Bobby Bowden earned on Sunday
when his team got its Sugar Bowl invitation.
Caddies who asked to work for Sergio Garcia before he chose Nick
Faldo's former caddie, Fanny Sunessen.
Pounds in the pivot on Dec. 1 as the Suns' Oliver Miller and the
Rockets' Thomas Hamilton jockeyed for space.
Tae-Bo impresario Paul Monea, who paid $1.3 million for Mike
Tyson's 62-acre estate in Southington, Ohio. The
25,000-square-foot house on the property features a
10,000-square-foot pool house, a full-sized basketball court and
a movie theater with zebra-striped carpet.
Oft-suspended sprinter Ben Johnson, by Libyan leader Muammar
Gadhafi to train Gadhafi's 25-year-old son, Saad, to play with
the national team. "I will make the kid a soccer machine," said
Johnson, who will not be allowed to touch the younger Gadhafi or
look him directly in the eye.
A team of St. John's athletes, which since Oct. 29 has matched
wits with other Big East squads in the Tucker Anthony investment
firm's stock portfolio management contest. Through Monday the
Red Storm led with a 37.7% gain on its hypothetical $250,000
The Canadian Amateur Boxing Association (CABA), which canceled
flyweight competition in an upcoming tournament after Sikh
flyweight Pardeep Nagra--who wears a beard for religious
reasons--won a lawsuit challenging the CABA's ban on facial hair.
FIFA, soccer's international governing body, after its
exhaustive two-year study concluded that men play rougher than
Leap Of Faith
Daredevil Felix Baumgartner, 30, of Salzburg, Austria, spent the
night of Dec. 2-3 hiding from security guards at the base of the
125-foot statue of Jesus that towers over Rio de Janeiro. Just
before dawn Baumgartner used a crossbow to shoot a cable over
the statue's right arm. He pulled himself up and enjoyed the
sunrise from an eight-inch-wide perch on one of Jesus's fingers.
"Balancing between life and death," he called the experience.
After leaving flowers behind, Baumgartner jumped, opened his
parachute and drifted safely to a getaway car.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The $24.95 Stadium Pal--essentially a condom attached to a
plastic bag worn under the pants--lets male football fans
urinate without leaving their seats.
a battery-powered snowball.
Saints defensive tackle, on the 49ers: "That team without Steve
Young is like Earth, Wind and no Fire. It's like Kool and no