SUITE AND SOUR
By dividing fans, luxury boxes ruin what's best about going to a
If in 1977 Reggie Jackson was the straw that stirred the drink,
almost a quarter of a century later he has been replaced by
someone in a crisp white shirt and a name tag who works in a
luxury suite in Your Company's Name Here Stadium. Those carpeted
aeries--served by bartenders, stocked with munchies and TVs, with
appointments every bit as swell as Alan Greenspan's to the
Federal Reserve--are the most subversive development in sports
over the last two decades. They are, essentially, antisport.
If games that other people play remain a marvelous diversion,
it's in part because they're a rare unifying force in a fractured
world: Together we trumpet Our Team, the happy conceit that the
men on the field or court or ice say something about Us. When
attending an NHL or NBA game costs a family of four more than the
rent, when the home team (and a dozen others) are available on
television every night, the most compelling reason to actually go
to a game is for the sense of community. You can sit with 18,499
of your closest friends, sharing a beer and a world view for
three hours. The infernal skybox creates a gap more dispiriting
than box seats ever did. The luxury boxes' glass barriers divide
the crowd into people who want to see the game and people who
want to be seen at the game. A luxury suite has all the comforts
of home, which is probably where its inhabitants should have
If the suites were no more remarkable than the intrusion of hors
d'oeuvres into an otherwise nacho world, they would be just
another wedge widening the gap in America's supposed classless
society--albeit one that is eligible for a hefty tax write-off.
They're more dangerous than that. The luxury suite has been a
critical factor in sports' wild inflationary spiral, working in
lockstep with payrolls and ticket prices. The naked craving for
skybox revenue has fueled the explosion of new stadiums and
arenas, pleasure palaces that often have been subsidized with
public funds. When a new stadium with a glut of boxes wasn't on
the immediate horizon, teams like the Browns and the Rams moved
elsewhere, to better-upholstered digs.
February 28, 2000
Franchises might be helpless in the face of suite seduction, but
fans are not. To those who resist, we offer a toast--with suds,
not a wine spritzer. --Michael Farber
RING OF TRUTH
An ex-champ sues over how he's depicted in The Hurricane
Joey Giardello, Philadelphia's most celebrated middleweight of
the 1950s and '60s, had a record of 100-25-7 with 32 knockouts.
To boxing cognoscenti, he was known for his artful dodge and
potent jab. But today thousands of filmgoers know Giardello, now
69, as the man who was given a gift decision over Rubin
(Hurricane) Carter in a 1964 championship bout.
The three-minute opening sequence of The Hurricane reenacts the
Dec. 14, 1964, middleweight title fight held in Philadelphia's
Convention Hall. In the scene, Carter, played by Oscar nominee
Denzel Washington, relentlessly pummels Giardello into the ropes
during the final round, only to have judges award the hometown
fighter a unanimous decision to uproarious crowd protest.
According to Giardello and to witnesses, however, Giardello was
the rightful winner of a well-received 15-round decision. Even
Carter admitted in a C-Span interview on Feb. 5, "Joey clearly
outboxed me...and therefore I did not win the title."
Claiming that the film inaccurately portrays him as a weak
fighter and the beneficiary of a racially motivated decision,
Giardello (whose real name is Carmine Tilelli) filed suit on Feb.
16 against Universal Pictures, Beacon Communications and Azoff
Films. In addition to unspecified money damages, he wants future
copies of the movie to include a trailer showing archival footage
of the fight.
While the historical accuracy of The Hurricane--which purports
to tell the "true story" of Carter's unjust imprisonment--has
been widely called into question (SI, Jan. 17), Giardello, who
lives in Cherry Hill, N.J., knew nothing about the movie until a
Philadelphia Daily News writer took him to see it in January. "I
was shocked," he says of seeing his celluloid double trapped on
the ropes, bloodied by a whirlwind of Hurricane blows. "I
thought that I had easily beat him." Contemporary reports of the
fight concurred that Giardello, the 34-year-old titleholder, was
far superior to the 27-year-old challenger. "Giardello was too
old and smart to be moved into a corner by a young bull," wrote
Robert Lipsyte of The New York Times. "Joey took over in the
10th, scoring left hooks to the body." Reported TIME,
"Counterpunching craftily, scoring heavily with short chopping
hooks, Giardello won a lopsided victory to the delight of 6,000
Boxing writer Bert Sugar, who watched the fight on closed-circuit
television, says the negative spin the film puts on a fair fight
damages not just the reputation of Giardello, a Hall of Fame
fighter, but also of a sport that has been taking it on the chin
for years. "What Titanic did to ocean travel, The Hurricane does
to boxing," he says. "Anybody with two eyes knows that Giardello
beat Carter six ways to Sunday. Thrown fights may be a cinematic
cliche, but this movie has made boxing part of a larger social
As for Giardello, a father of four who beat Dick Tiger, Billy
Graham and Sugar Ray Robinson before retiring in 1967, his
concerns are simpler: "I want my children to know that their
father was a great fighter."
HIGH SCHOOL SCANDAL
Though he coached the Henry Ford High football team to the
Detroit Public School League title last fall, Mike Marshall has
little to say about the season. His aversion to speaking is
understandable; the tremors from a startling decision he made
last summer are just now being felt.
Upon learning that Eric Knott, his star tight end, had been
charged in August in the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl,
Marshall did nothing--not even notify officials at his school. "I
wanted [Eric] to be able to go through his senior year without
that kind of distraction," Marshall said after the charges became
public knowledge in late January. Though he has admitted having
heard "a million different stories" about the incident "way back
in the summer," he chose not to tell school administrators
because, "It was a lot of he-said-she-said kind of thing."
According to the police report, Eric, along with quarterback
Damon Dowdell and a third boy who was not on the team, assaulted
the girl last July 25 in Eric's father's car. Responding to a 911
call from the girl's mother, cops said they saw her leave the
vehicle, which was parked down the block from her house, and run
toward them, screaming that she had been forced to perform oral
sex. She later charged that she was forced to engage in sexual
intercourse, among other sex acts. Eric, who was 17 and thus an
adult under Michigan law, was arraigned on two counts of
first-degree criminal sexual conduct and pleaded not guilty.
Sixteen-year-old Damon and the third boy, as juveniles, were held
but not charged with any crime.
Eric, whose trial is set to begin on March 15, was all-state in
1999, with 42 receptions and 10 touchdowns. One of the nation's
top tight end prospects, he attracted interest from such schools
as Miami and Michigan State. When Eric announced that he would
attend the latter in a press conference on Jan. 24, a Detroit law
enforcement official recognized his name, searched computer files
and discovered the charges. He then passed the information to The
Henry Ford athletic director Maurice Menefee expressed outrage
that Marshall had not apprised him of the allegations against
Knott. "I'm completely in the dark about all of this," Menefee
said when the news broke, "and it looks like somebody's gone out
of his way to keep this from me." While Miami coach Butch Davis
says he knew nothing of the charges, Michigan State officials
admit that Spartans coach Bobby Williams, who recruited Eric, was
aware of "a legal matter" but claims not to have known of its
Michigan State has yet to sign Eric to a letter of intent (though
the Spartans are holding a scholarship open) and has delayed the
admission of Damon, an all-state quarterback rated among
Michigan's top 20 prospects, who signed with the Spartans before
news of the incident broke. Prosecutors reopened the case against
Damon and the third boy; the two will stand trial in juvenile
court for sexual assault. Dowdell has denied taking part in the
For now, both Eric and Damon remain at Henry Ford, as does
Marshall. Reached last week by phone, Marshall was alternately
combative and reticent when asked about his failure to inform
school officials of the allegations against Knott. He said he
always understood the gravity of the situation but refused to
offer any explanation for his actions. He hinted that Henry Ford
administrators and college recruiters also knew of the
allegations and said he was eager for "the real truth to come
out." After angrily rejecting the notion that Henry Ford High
might take disciplinary action against him, Marshall laughed when
asked if he would be back coaching next season. "Hell yeah," he
said. "And we're gonna win the championship again."
PRO CLUB TO LAS VEGAS?
Dreams of Big League Teams
Once a symbol of financial foolhardiness and moral decadence, Las
Vegas is trying to reposition itself as more than just Sin City.
According to Mayor Oscar Goodman, one thing the fastest-growing
city in the country needs to "fully reinvent itself" is a big
league team. With visions of a town in which bookie and athlete,
bettor and fan, can coexist, Goodman has brought his mission to
just about every owner looking to unload or move a club. He says
he already has had talks with three franchises, which he won't
name, and was set to meet with another (all bets are on the
Rockets) on Thursday.
Even if Goodman--a former attorney for the mob who himself was
reinvented last year when he was elected in a landslide--can sell
an owner on the merits of Vegas, plenty of obstacles stand in his
way. There is the Nevada Resort Association, which might question
the need for a fifth Las Vegas sports complex, on top of the
19,000-seat Thomas & Mack Center, Mandalay Bay Events Center, the
MGM Grand Garden Arena and the 9,000-seat baseball park used by
the Triple A Stars. Then there are major league commissioners,
all of whom are loath to associate their game with the nation's
With a delegation of Vegas civic leaders in tow and pie charts
in hand, Goodman barnstormed the New York offices of the NBA's
David Stern and the NHL's Gary Bettman in September to outline
his proposals for bringing a team to his city. While Stern
acknowledges the probability that the Rockets, for one, may
relocate in the wake of Houston taxpayers' rejection of a bill
to fund a new arena, he also says that Las Vegas "is not likely
to be considered" if it doesn't ban betting on NBA basketball.
The NHL seems slightly more flexible. "At the very minimum we'd
expect the UNLV rule to apply," says Bettman, speaking of the
system now in place in Las Vegas that bans betting on the Runnin'
Rebels. While Goodman was "dynamic and passionate" in his pitch,
according to Bettman, the NHL, with two new franchises next
season, "has no plans for [further] expansion or relocation any
Goodman foresees a day when everyone from casino bosses to league
officials accepts the application of the UNLV rule to a
Vegas-based major league team. "Gambling may be the city's
lifeblood," says Goodman, "but game-fixing is a nonissue in
Nevada, where lines are closely monitored by the best gaming
agencies in the world."
The lines Goodman probably should be most worried about are those
at the ticket window. The failure of the International Hockey
League's Thunder and the lukewarm support for the Stars raise the
question of whether Vegas residents will ever abandon their TV
sets for box seats.
When last we saw him, he was an assistant at Alchesay High in
Whiteriver, Ariz., on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. Now
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finds himself at an even more remote outpost:
the Clippers' sideline. As L.A.'s new assistant he'll tutor raw
big men Michael Olowokandi and Keith Closs, attempt to impart
some winning attitude and, just maybe, help Angelenos discover
that L.A. has another NBA franchise.
Miles snowmobiled by several Forest Hills High fans from Jackman,
Maine, to Rangely for a basketball game.
Trail Blazers who have scored 20 points or more in a game this
Roses at the ceremony in which Dodgers outfielder Gary Sheffield
and his wife, DeLeon, renewed their vows.
Holes Tiger Woods played in Tour events between double bogeys
from November 7 until last Friday.
Final record of Spokane's Rogers High boys' basketball team
under first-year coach Craig Ehlo.
A sitcom coproduced by Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett, who
reportedly has teamed with producer Brad Grey (The Sopranos) and
Hungry Man, the outfit that created those self-mocking
behind-the-scenes ESPN promos, to do a series based on Garnett's
entourage, which he calls the Official Block Party.
Dennis Rodman, from prospective Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's
guest house. The Worm had been renting the 1,800-foot residence
since signing with Dallas on Feb. 3, but the league said the
arrangement violated the salary cap. Rodman has moved to the
trendy Deep Ellum section of Dallas, home of the city's hottest
In Harvard Business School, former NHL enforcer Ken Baumgartner,
33, who had 13 goals and 2,244 penalty minutes in 13 seasons.
Quizzed by a reporter about the apparent anomaly of a onetime
goon going to business school, the Bomber, now a Bruins
assistant, shot back, "What were your GMAT scores? What was your
A recent vote allowing Texas Motor Speedway to sell beer. After
being flooded with complaints from irate race fans who would have
been prevented from toting in their own beer coolers, Speedway
general manager Eddie Gossage decided not to take advantage of
the new law, thus passing up an estimated $1.2 million in annual
Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi appear set to tie the knot. Will the
conjoining of her 107 career singles titles and 22 Grand Slam
victories and his 45 and 6 create the greatest sports pairing
ever? Here's a look at a few other memorable sweat marriages.
Emil Zatopek and Dana Ingrova
Olympic gold medals in 10,000 meters in '48; in 5,000, 10,000 and
marathon in '52
Olympic gold medal in javelin at Helsinki in '52; silver at
Rome in '60
During training Emil often carried Dana on his shoulders to
build up strength as he ran.
Harold Connolly and Olga Fikotova
Their '74 divorce
Olympic gold medal in hammer throw for U.S. at Melbourne in '56
Olympic gold medal in discus for Czechoslovakia in '56
2 sons, 2 daughters
A year after their Olympic Village romance, he cut through Czech
red tape, married Olga and brought her to the U.S.
Terry Bradshaw and Jo Jo Starbuck
Their '81 divorce
Four Super Bowl rings as Steelers quarterback
Three U.S. pairs figure skating titles; two bronze medals at
Said self-proclaimed male chauvinist Bradshaw of wife No. 2,
"All she wanted to do was spend my money...and skate."
Ray Knight and Nancy Lopez
MVP of '86 World Series; scored winning run in classic Game 6
48 career LPGA victories; three majors; four-time player of the
"Women in Georgia are like servants to their men," said Lopez,
"and it took me a while to get Ray over expecting that."
Don Drysdale and Ann Meyers
His death in '93
'62 Cy Young Award; long held record for consecutive scoreless
Four-time All-America guard at UCLA; Olympic silver medal in '76
2 sons, 1 daughter
He courted her by showing up at her New Jersey Gems games with
Bob Uecker in tow (and she still married him).
Al Joyner and Florence Griffith
Flo-Jo's death in '98
Olympic gold in triple jump at Los Angeles in 1984
Three golds and two silvers at L.A. and Seoul; her 100-meter
record still stands
At their Las Vegas wedding she wore a $29 gown and veil from
Goodwill, her costume from the previous Halloween.
Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci
Individual gold in parallel bars and team gold in men's combined
at '84 Games
Five golds, nine total medals at '76 and '80 Games; first gymnast
to score a 10
She dug her heel into his foot during their church wedding in
Bucharest, symbolizing her lifelong grip on him.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
All-Stretched Out Limo Service of Linthicum, Md., has received
more than 40 requests to rent the bullet-riddled Lincoln
Navigator involved in the Ray Lewis incident, including one from
a couple on Valentine's Day.
A skybox has all the comforts of home, which is where its
inhabitants should have stayed.
They Said It
Broncos guard, 34, on why he'll return for another NFL season:
"After assessing my abilities, I realize I don't have any other