BUT IS IT A CRIME?
A legal scholar weighs in on Marty McSorley's on-ice attack
The ongoing criminal investigation by British Columbia
prosecutors into Bruin Marty McSorley's stick attack against the
Canucks' Donald Brashear (SCORECARD, March 6) again raises the
question of whether sports violence should be treated as a
crime. McSorley certainly deserves the NHL's punishment--a
23-game suspension that will cost him $72,000 in salary--for his
outrageous violation of the league's rules and its norms. But
should the case end up in criminal court?
In a technical sense, much of what we see on the ice, on the
hardwood, on the diamond, on the field and in the ring
constitutes criminally assaultive behavior. Any unconsented-to
touching is, as a matter of pure law, a criminal assault, and no
one but a masochist consents to being clobbered. Athletes,
however, implicitly agree to the possibility of being touched,
hit and even mauled, so long as the contact is within the rules
of the sport. No hockey player has the right to file a complaint
about a hard check. No basketball player can call the cops over
a flagrant foul. No baseball player can sue if he's bowled over
in a collision at the plate.
But beyond the rules, there are norms to consider. In hockey,
fighting is expected. No hockey player, however, expects to be
blindsided by a stick to the head with 2.7 seconds remaining and
his team up by three goals. Such an attack is more like the one
by the college pitcher who threw at an opponent in the on-deck
March 13, 2000
McSorley's case is close to the line between criminal and merely
suspendable conduct. It was an extension of behavior well within
the norm of pro hockey. The clear examples of criminal conduct
differ in kind, not only in degree, from acceptable conduct.
McSorley's outrageous act is different only in degree, though
the degree is considerable--especially because it was not done
in an overzealous effort to win the game.
There's added concern when the criminal investigation is pursued
against a visiting player. Would there have been as much ardor
for an investigation in Vancouver had a Canuck attacked a Bruin?
Finally, before a case escalates into the criminal courts, there
ought to be fair warning in the form of clear statutes that
define the sorts of sports violence deemed to be criminal. On
balance, this seems like a case for harsh punishment by the NHL
but not for criminal prosecution. --Alan Dershowitz
WHO'S MINDING THE SHOE STORE?
Tank Black's indictment leaves Vince Carter's affairs up in the
Suddenly showered with enough brand-new Adidas, And1 and Reebok
sneakers to shod a gymful of Raptors, Vince Carter has started
stowing unopened boxes above his locker at Toronto's Air Canada
Centre. The mushrooming footwear collection is symbolic: Since
his magnificent dunking display over All-Star weekend, Carter
has been courted by more shoe-obsessed suitors than Cinderella's
prince, but he has been forced to shelve potential endorsement
deals. After suspending his relationship with agent Tank Black,
who was indicted on Feb. 28 on a catalog of charges, including
criminal fraud and money laundering, to which he has pleaded
innocent (Scorecard, March 6), Carter has had no one but his
schoolteacher mom, Michelle Carter-Robinson, handling his
"I do not intend to entertain any proposals from other agents at
this time," Carter said in a statement last Friday, "and
respectfully request that no one contact me concerning
representation prior to August 1 of this year." Added Mom, for
good measure: "Anyone who makes a proposal prior to that time
will be disqualified from consideration."
On hold are several deals that have yet to be sealed, including
pending endorsement contracts with Fleer and EA Sports. In
addition Carter is in litigation with Puma, his shoe provider.
He wants out of the five-year deal he signed with the company in
January 1999, reportedly because the shoes hurt his feet.
Bill Shelton, director of marketing at PMI, Black's crumbling
outfit, may be the man to take over where his indefinitely
detained boss left off. "I will be trying to get in touch with
Michelle in the near future to discuss Vince's situation," he
said on Sunday, apparently unfazed by Carter-Robinson's edict.
MORE DUMB NCAA RULES
Thou Shalt Not Undeclare
People on both sides of the Nate Webster case concur that the
Miami junior linebacker's punishment didn't fit his NCAA crime.
Webster sent in an application for the NFL draft on Jan. 10, and
"literally within an hour," says Miami athletic director Paul
Dee, wished he hadn't. But once the paperwork slid through the
fax machine and over the phone line, according to NCAA bylaws,
Webster, a two-time All-Big East player, forfeited his senior
season. Last Thursday an NCAA committee turned down Miami's
request that Webster's eligibility be restored.
Actually, the rule Webster violated is a variation of the 10th
Commandment: He spent a few days in Indianapolis in January with
Colts tailback Edgerrin James, his former teammate, and coveted
his friend's lifestyle. "Edgerrin made what--$16 million
[actually $14.8 million] last year?" Dee says. "Nate got caught
up in that." Webster watched Indianapolis practice and felt he
could compete. "My intent right then and there was to get my ass
to the draft," he told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel last
week. "I was signing whatever I needed to sign."
The rule that stripped Webster of his eligibility doesn't apply
to all college athletes. Under NCAA guidelines a basketball
player can enter the NBA draft, then return to school if he
isn't picked. Baseball players, moreover, can be drafted without
losing their eligibility because they don't "declare" for the
amateur draft. Football players, by contrast, have never been
given any leeway. Webster had to make a quick decision because
the deadline to enter the draft is in early January, only days
after the bowls are played. In 1997 college coaches persuaded
the NFL to move up its deadline from early April because they
didn't like losing star players after recruiting ended in
February. This year national high school defensive player of the
year D.J. Williams took Webster's expected absence into account
when he signed with Miami.
Even some at the NCAA think Webster's punishment comes across as
harsh. "A lot of people would agree with that," says spokesman
Wallace Renfro, "people in membership, people who implement the
rule. But you have what you have."
While Webster waits to hear whether the NFL will make an
exception and allow him into the April draft--the league could
rule as early as this week--perhaps he'll come across a tune on
a recent Jimmy Buffett album: Permanent Reminder of a Temporary
Feeling. --Ivan Maisel
U.S. SOCCER HERO
For most male U.S. soccer players not named Alexi Lalas, the
notion of being recognized on the street is pure folly. Which
brings us to the peculiar quandary of American striker Joe-Max
Moore, whose goal-scoring explosion for Everton of the English
Premier League has provided him a Q rating in England usually
reserved for Spice Girls and their spouses. While being followed
through the grocery or stopped on the sidewalk is indeed sweet
for Moore, god help him when Everton followers learn that he
lives with fellow American Brad Friedel, goalkeeper for
Everton's archnemesis, Liverpool.
"I don't know what people would say if they found out," said a
joking Moore last week, quickly noting that he and his wife,
Martha, hope to find more Everton-friendly digs soon. "I've
known Brad for 10 years. While we're very close, when we play
each other, we leave all that aside."
Playing in the Premier League on a free transfer from MLS's New
England Revolution, Moore, 29, has scored an astounding six
goals in his first eight games. In his debut, on Jan. 15 against
Tottenham, he entered the match as a reserve with seven minutes
remaining and Everton trailing 2-1, and he promptly scored the
equalizer to preserve his team's unbeaten home record. Another
goal as a late reserve in an F.A. Cup match against Preston two
games later led to a starting nod for Moore in place of local
wunderkind Francis Jeffers, one of England's top prospects.
Moore is a U.S. national team veteran, but his play in MLS--he
scored 37 goals in 77 games over three seasons--hardly suggested
impending glory across the pond. "We didn't think he would have
such an immediate impact," Everton manager Walter Smith says,
"but he has good skill on the ball, and obviously he has shown
he can finish."
Moore's knack for finding the back of the net has won him a
three-year contract with Everton and the chance to build upon
the Premiership successes of two other Yanks: midfielder John
Harkes and goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Should Moore's stellar play
continue, Everton's fans will likely demand but one thing of
their new cult hero: a new address.
More Tarnish on The Dome
Pity Notre Dame basketball coach Matt Doherty. In his first
season in South Bend, the 38-year-old Doherty--a starter on
North Carolina's 1982 NCAA championship team--has made an
earnest effort to revive a long-dormant program and evoke an ACC
atmosphere at Irish games. He even has the public address
announcer introduce the student section as the Fighting Irish's
"sixth man." Unfortunately for Doherty, those efforts have been
met with boorishness.
Before a Feb. 12 home game with Connecticut, students addressing
fans at the Joyce Athletic & Convocation Center (JACC) asked
them to cheer if they thought Huskies center Jake Voskuhl was a
"fairy." During the game the crowd taunted UConn point guard
Khalid El-Amin, who has two children, one born out of wedlock,
with cries of, "BAS-tard CHIL-dren!"
Notre Dame beat the Huskies 68-66--it was the second time this
season that the Irish, who were 17-13 through Sunday, defeated
the defending national champs--but on March 1 jerks at the JACC
may have cost their team a big win in its final home game of the
season. Against No. 9 Syracuse, Notre Dame had rallied from 16
down to within 70-68 with less than a minute remaining. Then the
Irish were hit with a controversial foul call, prompting someone
from the student section to toss a water bottle onto the court.
This third trash-tossing incident of the game forced referees to
assess a technical foul on the crowd with 8.8 seconds left, and
Syracuse's Ryan Blackwell hit two of four free throws to ice the
victory. Doherty still gamely walked over to the student section
and saluted it for its support this season.
Notre Dame students used to understand the difference between
class and crass. In 1974 the Irish, inspired by a raucous home
crowd, ended UCLA's NCAA-record 88-game winning streak. The
Raycom television announcers that day named the student body the
game's most valuable player.
To avoid any further self-abasement, Notre Dame officials might
entreat their lewd, overzealous Dookie wannabes to commit the
following lyrics to memory. They already know the melody:
Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame,
And our opponents, do not defame,
Thanks so much for your support,
Please don't throw objects onto the court,
What tho' your actions meet with rebuke,
Just keep in mind: We're ND, not Duke,
Otherwise we'll soon be waving
Bye-bye to Do-her-ty.
The Ride Of His Life
City slickers venturing into New York's Central Park this
Thursday through Sunday might be surprised to see their urban
oasis overrun by an exotic contingent. Four denim-clad cowfolks
from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association will be in the
Big Apple as part of a push to broaden their sport's appeal
among Americans who aren't white males living west of the
One of the most conspicuous embodiments of rodeo's changing face
is reigning champ Fred Whitfield. Last year Whitfield, 32,
became the first black rider to win the world title in the
prestigious all-around division. With 1999 earnings of $217,
819, he pushed his 10-year career total to more than $1.3
million. Also on Whitfield's belt are four championship gold
buckles in calf roping, a skill he has been developing since he
and his brother, Anthony, inspired by a rodeo fan from their
neighborhood, fashioned lassos out of vacuum-cleaner cords and
junkyard scraps while growing up in the Houston suburb of Cypress.
"People in my hometown were always wondering why I wasn't
playing basketball or football," says Whitfield, who stands 6'2"
and weighs 210 without his boots or Stetson. "In the early years
of my career people wondered where they hell I came from."
Although he says he's still snubbed by a few "no-good rednecks"
on the rodeo circuit, Whitfield has become an inspiration to
fans and future cowboys of color across the nation. "I get
recognized all the time now," he says. "One lady wearing a FRED
WHITFIELD T-shirt ran up to me at the national finals last year
and just couldn't stop crying. 'Don't worry,' I told her. 'I'm
not going anywhere.'"
RED LETTER DAY
Fire up the barbecue and roll out the Red carpet for a reunion
in Cooperstown on July 23. With 1975 World Series homer heroes
Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez already having been voted to the
Hall of Fame's class of 2000, the announcement that former Reds
skipper Sparky Anderson will join them, courtesy of the Veterans
Committee, should have brought goose bumps to anyone old enough
to remember You Sexy Thing hitting the top of the charts.
Giants games sold out for the 2000 season at Pac Bell Park,
compared with four all of last year at Candlestick.
E-mails Capitals owner Ted Leonsis got in an 11-minute span
after revealing his address on Jim Rome's radio show.
Rise in average NBA salary this season, from $2.63 million to
$3.17 million, according to Bloomberg News.
World Cup and Olympic downhill wins by U.S. men skiers since
'93, all on the same course at Lillehammer.
Years that Herman Masin, 86, has served as the editor of Coach
Magazine, covering 640 issues.
Former Raiders All-Pro Lester Hayes's Super Bowl XVIII ring,
which went to a bidder on eBay for $18,200. According to The
Boston Globe Hayes hocked the ring for $800 last April to pay
for emergency dental work. When he didn't reclaim it, the
pawnbroker put it up for bid. Hayes offered the seller $16,000,
but she refused.
The Marlins' and Dolphins' arena, with the name Pro Player
Stadium for six years or until a court rules on the matter.
Despite Fruit of the Loom's decision to liquidate its
unprofitable Pro Player line, the parent company is on the hook
for $2 million a year for the venue's naming rights through 2006.
Mets spring training invitee Garth Brooks, from a foul tip off
his left foot. Said Brooks, "It was the hardest ball I hit all
day." No word on whether he'd be replaced in the lineup by Chris
Three-time U.S. Olympic pentathlete Mike Gostigian, 37, and
three-time U.S. Olympic fencer Sharon Monplaisir, 39, on Feb. 29
in New York City. They chose Leap Day to honor the Games'
quadrennial tradition. Says Gostigian, "We'll train for our
anniversary every four years."
The Braves' John Rocker by FantasySports net.com, whose press
release calls the move "a blatantly transparent attempt to gain
SIGNS OF THE SEASON
BLUE BILLBOARDS HERALD ARENA BALL'S ARRIVAL IN L.A.
Before you turn cartwheels at the news that Arena Football is
back on for 2000--when players voted on March 1 to form a union
instead of battling team owners in court, the owners reversed
their decision to cancel the season (SCORECARD, March 6)--get a
load of the ad campaign of the first-year Los Angeles Avengers.
Sprouting like fungus in the muck of rainy Southern California
has been a billboard-and-poster blitz promoting the Avengers'
opener on April 9 against the Oklahoma Wranglers. While citizens
in Azusa discovered that ON APRIL 9TH, TWELVE MEN WILL GO BOTH
WAYS, residents in El Monte were assured that on the same date
EIGHT OKLAHOMA TOURISTS WILL BE BEATEN IN DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES.
Meanwhile, denizens of West Covina could rest easy knowing that
on opening day SIXTY-NINE WON'T BE OUT OF THE QUESTION. Of
course, the Avengers meant 69 points. Oh, behave!
Said team spokesman John Tamahana of the campaign: "In time, it
will be revealed as a play on words. This is a well-thought-out
campaign, and we're not naive enough to think that it's not
pushing the edge."
Several Azusans were not naive enough to find the idea anything
but offensive. In the middle of a downpour last Monday, they
climbed a billboard promising that ON APRIL 9TH, SIX BEAUTIFUL
WOMEN WILL SHOW YOU THEIR PANTIES--cheerleaders, we hope--and
doused the last word with black paint. Seems they aren't ready
for some football.
He may be the most captivating Cuban this side of Elian
Gonzalez, but Internet billionaire Mark Cuban--whose offer to
purchase the Mavericks was approved by the NBA Board of
Governors last week--has a strong rival for most off-the-wall
NBA executive in 76ers president Pat Croce. Here's the tale of
"I was just a short dorky kid who couldn't get a date."
Transferred from Pitt to Indiana; earned business degree
YOUTHFUL HIGH JINKS
Opened Motley's Pub at Indiana though not old enough to drink
Left first computer job after refusing to vacuum carpet
EARLY BRUSH WITH GREATNESS
Played pickup ball with Hoosiers star Isiah Thomas while in
Co-founded AudioNet in 1995; sold company (renamed
Broadcast.com) to Yahoo! last April for $6 billion
Trailblazers owner Paul Allen, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
WHAT OTHERS SAY
Mavericks coach Don Nelson: "He's a walking shot of adrenaline."
Flashes E-mail address on Reunion Arena scoreboard; buys
postgame drinks for fans in Mavs Club
Did the raise-the-roof sign at midcourt before January home game
ON MICHAEL JORDAN
"Just another guy wanting Internet advice. I told him he made
some terrible moves, like jordan.com."
ON SIGNING RODMAN
"We expected Dennis to be flamboyant. The NBA isn't life or
45, Lansdowne, Pa.
"I had the baby face and was always getting picked on."
Transferred from West Chester to Pitt; got physical therapy degree
[YOUTHFUL HIGH JINKS]
Was kicked out of a West Chester dorm for fighting
Swept floor with opponents on way to two national karate titles
[EARLY BRUSH WITH GREATNESS]
Worked on sore muscles of Julius Erving as 76ers conditioning
Founded Sports Physical Therapists in 1983; sold it to NovaCare
in '93 for a reported $40 million
Gong Show creator (and former client) Chuck Barris, Walt Disney
[WHAT OTHERS SAY]
Wife, Diane: "Part of Pat's dimension is that he's demented."
Greets fans at arena; has handed out courtside tickets to those
with cheap seats and to stadium workers
Rappelled from stadium rafters to celebrate 1999 playoff berth
[ON MICHAEL JORDAN]
As a distant cousin of singer Jim Croce, would know not to tug
on Superman's cape
[ON SIGNING RODMAN]
"That's how I know Mark is the Number 1 wacko."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
IOC executive Marc Hodler of Switzerland is leading a campaign
to make bridge an Olympic event.
Athletes agree implicitly to being mauled, as long as the
contact is within the rules.
They Said It
Chairman of Houston's new NFL franchise, after bidding $560,000
for the 1,279-pound grand champion steer at the city's livestock
show and rodeo: "Needed an offensive tackle."