The new USOC chief's business-speak throws a scare into minor
Olympics, meet insurance. The U.S. Olympic Committee, a largely
volunteer organization that has traditionally run with the
efficiency of an Edsel, knew it needed to get sleeker. So in
February it hired Norm Blake, former head of insurance giant
USF&G, as its first CEO. But when Blake said last week that the
USOC might reduce funding to governing bodies of Olympic sports
in which the U.S. doesn't fare well, heads turned, particularly
those that seemed destined to roll.
Blake's Management 101 jargon baffled some in the Olympic
community and enraged others. Establishing what he called a
"portfolio management discipline," he vowed that sports in which
U.S. athletes had little or no chance of winning a medal--"low
value-added programs," in his terms--would have their funding
reevaluated. "Do we want to throw money at a sport that,
frankly, would not have the means to ever medal or to make
America proud?" he asked.
By last weekend's USOC board of directors meeting in Boston,
Blake had tempered his tough talk. He declared that his
restructuring wasn't a mandate to shift cash from the have-nots
to the haves. Rather, he said, he merely wants each sport's
national governing body to justify its funding by developing a
sound business plan.
Thus, in less than a week, Blake, perhaps conveniently, went
from Stormin' Norman to Norm from Cheers, collecting handshakes
like so many frosty brews. Said Sheri Pittman, president of USA
Table Tennis, which was thought to be endangered, "He's talking
about sitting down together and, I forgot how he put it,
'sharing the family meal.' We have confidence we're part of the
family." Said Michael Massik, executive director of U.S.
Fencing, "I was disturbed to see my sport in the newspaper [as
among those in danger], and when I asked specifically if he said
my sport, he told me no."
April 23, 2000
Blake apologized for causing alarm. "It's important as an
effective speaker that you talk in terms that people understand,
so I am at fault for not expressing myself in a manner that's
more familiar to the audience," he said. "But I'm working on
that." Considering that just days before he glad-handed his way
through the meetings in Boston he referred to the athlete talent
pool as "the available feedstock," he has plenty of work to do.
No More Mr. Right
Moral paragon Mark Chmura of the Packers is accused of sexual
assault of a teenager
It wasn't too long ago that Packers tight end Mark Chmura, a
three-time Pro Bowl selection, was Mr. Green Bay. A 1992
sixth-round draft choice out of Boston College, Chmura was a
dedicated family man who appeared in United Way commercials with
his wife, Lynda; a rock-ribbed Republican seemingly headed for
political office when his playing days were over; a guy whose
rugged good looks caused women to swoon. Chmura, nicknamed
Chewy, was a man with such an acute moral sense that he refused
to visit the White House with other members of the 1997 Super
Bowl-champion Packers, so deeply did he disapprove of President
Clinton's character. Now, though, it's Chmura's morals, as well
as his future in Green Bay, that are in question.
Chmura was arrested on April 10 after an alleged sexual
encounter the day before with a 17-year-old girl at a party
following the prom for Waukesha's Catholic Memorial High. Police
say Chmura had nonconsensual sex with the girl--who often
babysat the Chmuras' two sons--on a bathroom floor in the house
of Chmura's friend Robert Gessert. Cops have recommended charges
of third-degree sexual assault against Chmura and Gessert, 42,
who's accused of fondling an 18-year-old girl at the party.
Charges are pending based on forensic tests; the two men are due
back in court on May 15.
Gessert's house is about two blocks from Chmura's in the
Milwaukee suburb of Hartland. According to a police affidavit,
the 17-year-old girl said that Chmura, Gessert and an
unidentified third man arrived at the party at about 3:30 a.m.
and began playing drinking games. Approximately 45 minutes
later, police say, Chmura, Gessert, the two girls and others
were in a hot tub. The 17-year-old told police that Gessert gave
her a vodka drink and that she became "very intoxicated." Police
say the 18-year-old was so drunk she vomited in the hot tub but
that Gessert still fondled her.
At some point, police say, the 17-year-old left the tub and went
upstairs to change. When she returned, the 6'5", 255-pound
Chmura met her near a first-floor bathroom. According to police,
Chmura, wearing only white boxers and a dark-colored towel, led
the girl into a bathroom, locked the door, removed her jeans and
underwear and had sex with her.
Last week Chmura's lawyer, Gerald Boyle, didn't dispute that his
client was at Gessert's house that night but declined to discuss
details of what Chmura did while he was there. Police took blood
and hair samples from Chmura and confiscated underwear from his
residence. As of Monday, Chmura was free on $5,000 bail.
Following the incident, which took place at the start of Sexual
Assault Awareness Week in Wisconsin, the Packers were mum except
for a prepared statement: "As an organization we are
disappointed that Mark Chmura is involved in the type of
situation that has been reported." Their actions spoke louder.
With the 14th pick in last Saturday's draft, Green Bay selected
Bubba Franks, a tight end out of Miami.
T-WOLVES' TACO TORMENT
Curses! Chalupaed Again!
Last December, Sonics guard Brent Barry incensed the
Timberwolves and their coach, Flip Saunders, by sinking a
three-pointer with just 11 seconds left in a 110-94 Seattle
win--a shot meaningless to all but the 13,180 KeyArena fans
chanting for chalupas, the Taco Bell treat offered up
two-for-the-price-of-one when the Sonics score 110 or more
points in a home win (SCORECARD, Dec. 20).
The Mexican delights were on the line again in the waning
moments of the Minnesota-Seattle game last week, and again Barry
was the delivery man. His free throw with 8.5 seconds left gave
the Sonics the magic number in a 110-83 victory and the crowd of
14,178 reason to hit the drive-thru. Once more Saunders was
chafing over chalupas. "Every time we come in here," he said
flippantly, "the fans get to eat."
The Sleaze of Summer
Last week's decision by the NCAA to reduce and eventually
eliminate summer basketball recruiting by barring college
coaches from having any contact with high school players during
summer tournaments was aimed directly at what NCAA president
Cedric Dempsey calls the culture of summer--the corrupting
influence of amateur coaches, hungry agents and shoe-company
money that pervades off-season tournaments involving
high-school-age players. How deeply such corruption runs, and
how daunting the reforming of grassroots basketball will be, is
evident in an 11-count federal indictment unsealed last Thursday
against Kansas City, Mo., summer league coach Myron Piggie, 39.
The feds charge that between 1996 and '99, Piggie paid more than
$35,000 in cash to high schoolers Corey Maggette, JaRon and
Kareem Rush, Andre Williams and Korleone Young while they played
for his summer basketball team. That money wasn't charity.
Investigators say Piggie expected money back from the players
once they secured NBA contracts and endorsements.
"This isn't a case of $50, a pair of shoes and a prom corsage,"
said U.S. Attorney Stephen Hill Jr., who charged that by paying
the players Piggie defrauded the universities that eventually
gave them scholarships: UCLA (JaRon Rush), Missouri (Kareem
Rush), Duke (Maggette) and Oklahoma State (Williams). (Young
skipped college and now plays in the International Basketball
League.) On Monday Piggie pleaded not guilty. His lawyer,
Kimberly Gepford, questions the federal government's
The indictment underscores what a high-stakes game summer
basketball has become. Piggie, a former Kansas City public
school janitor and convicted crack cocaine dealer, received
nearly $750,000 in funding for his team from Nike,
multimillionaire philanthropist and Kansas booster Tom Grant and
several sports agents.
Each of those money providers had an agenda, and in such an
environment college coaches, who attend summer tournaments in
droves, are mere bystanders as far as the moneymen and the
players are concerned. Eliminating the coaches from the picture,
as the NCAA's well-intentioned proposal would do, may only
further empower the wheeler-dealers. Says Ralph Greene, global
director of basketball sports marketing for Nike, which along
with Adidas funds the majority of traveling teams and summer
events, "Unless kids suddenly decide they don't want to play in
the summer--and I wouldn't expect that to happen--we'll give
them the opportunity to play."
What's really needed is an end to the money-in-a-shoebox
mentality of summer basketball. Nike and the other shoe
companies must require a strict accounting of where their money
goes and must be willing to cut off the pipeline to amateur
coaches who abuse summer funds. Greene says Nike already has
such precautions in place. Given the Piggie allegations, it
appears they need to be tightened considerably.
The Lesson He Never Had
In a sport in which appearance is as important as performance,
it's fitting that Rudy Galindo, the only openly gay elite
American figure skater, is now the first to speak publicly about
being HIV positive. "It's not in my nature to hide," says
Galindo, the 1996 U.S. champion, who was in New York last week
with the Champions on Ice tour. "When I came out, I expected
other athletes to follow my lead. That never really happened, so
who's to say that I won't be alone in this too?"
Galindo may be a pioneer among his peers in terms of full
disclosure, but he isn't the first to be infected with HIV.
Several high-profile members of the skating community have died
from AIDS, including Ondrej Nepela of Czechoslovakia and John
Curry of Great Britain, gold medalists in men's singles in 1972
and 1976, respectively; 1988 ice-dancing bronze medalist Rob
McCall of Canada; and, most recently, Robert Wagenhoffer, a
former U.S. junior national champion.
In 1992 the Calgary Herald reported that 40 Canadian and U.S.
male skaters and coaches had died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Shortly thereafter the U.S. Figure Skating Association (USFSA)
incorporated AIDS education into its sports-science seminars for
skaters. But by '96, when '88 Olympic gold medalist Brian
Boitano insisted that "AIDS is a nonissue in skating" and that
"among the elite, 95.8 percent are straight," skating's
HIV-education efforts had dwindled. Despite Galindo's HIV
announcement, the USFSA has no plans to reinstitute its AIDS
seminars. "The sport has changed from a decade ago," says USFSA
spokesman Bob Dunlop. "We're not really a big brother-type of
Galindo, who watched his big brother, George, and two of his
coaches die of AIDS, wishes that as a kid growing up in a San
Jose trailer park, he'd had someone "to drill the importance of
safe sex into my head." With naive teens in mind, he was back on
tour the weekend after his March 1 diagnosis, hoping his
presence on the ice would serve that purpose. While he prefers
fast, flashy programs, he has lately been skating to Barbra
Stresiand's melancholy Send in the Clowns at his fans' behest.
Says Galindo, "Kids must see me and realize that they don't want
to go through what I'm going through."
The NBA playoffs begin this weekend, and much of the focus will
be on Pat Riley and his struggling Heat. In three of his four
seasons in Miami, the Master of Mousse has bowed out in the first
round. The sweltering South Florida summer may be two months off,
but the four-time NBA champion coach--who chose not to rebuild his
team despite its postseason failures--could be feeling the heat
Minutes into his comeback from right knee surgery that soccer
star Ronaldo blew out the same knee.
24-hour hockey channels applied for with the Canadian Radio-TV
and Telecom Commission in '00.
Georgia Tech men's golfers, every member of the nation's No. 1
team, who made the dean's list last fall.
Yardage of a punt by women's track team member KaLena Barnes in
Nebraska's spring football game.
Cost for Cavaliers fans 5'5" and under to attend Tuesday's home
finale, in honor of 5'5" Earl Boykins.
--A lawsuit filed by Tiger Woods's ETW Corp. against Jireh
Publishing, over artist Rick Rush's print The Masters of
Augusta, which depicts Tiger during his 1997 win. A federal
judge ruled that Rush's prints were protected under the First
Amendment as "an artistic creation seeking to express a message"
and were not merely merchandise.
--Dan Marino's locker, in mahogany and glass etched with DAN
MARINO, 13 QB, at the Dolphins' training facility. Contents
include a knee brace, rosary beads and self-portraits by
daughters Niki and Alexandra.
--The Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting, by George Dohrmann of the
St. Paul Pioneer Press, for his stories on academic fraud in the
Minnesota basketball program. The revelations led to coach Clem
Haskins's departure and an overhaul of the athletic tutoring
system at the school.
--Triathletes at the Sydney Games, by divers on underwater
scooters carrying sonar guns to scare off sharks in Sydney
Harbor. The system was tested at a triathlon on Sunday; not a
single competitor was devoured.
--A dozen Orlando-area residents, by billboards for the city's
Arena Football franchise. The ads depict a large-chested woman
and read FAKE LEFT, FAKE RIGHT. PREDATORS FOOTBALL IS BACK! Said
team G.M. Jeff Bouchy, "If we weren't getting complaints, [the
ads] didn't work."
Big John's Scorecard
SAGE OF THE LINKS
Harvey Penick might have had John Daly in mind when he wrote
that in both golf and life, "you must accept your
disappointments and triumphs equally." Lord knows Daly has had
plenty of both in his 33 years.
At age 7, teaches himself to play at Bay Ridge Boat and Golf
Club in Dardanelle, Ark., using adult set of Jack Nicklaus
At 12, sips homemade wine from mason jar; wins men's title in
Fredricksburg, Va., at Lake of the Woods Country Club
Meets Dale Crafton, scion of one of most prestigious families in
Blytheville, Ark., in Blytheville hotel bar; they marry
Divorce goes through while he's in Swaziland on South African
tour; breaks right pinkie while trashing hotel room but still
Wins PGA Championship as ninth alternate; gives $30,000 of prize
money to family of fan killed by lightning during tournament
Domestic dispute with second wife, Bettye, leads to plea bargain
for misdemeanor harassment, two years' probation
Enters rehab at clinic in Arizona; counseled by former Cowboy
and cocaine addict Thomas (Hollywood) Henderson
Shoots 6-over 77 in first round of Kemper Open; is disqualified
from the tournament after failing to sign scorecard
Becomes first ever to reach green in two on 630-yard par-5 17th
at Baltusrol, longest hole in U.S. Open history; finishes 33rd
Receives second PGA Tour suspension after picking up ball on
11th hole of Kapalua International in Maui and quitting
Prevails over Costantino Rocca in four-hole playoff at St.
Andrews to win British Open, his second major
Finishes 18th in Volvo Scandinavian Masters in Sweden; downs
three beers to end three years, seven months of sobriety
Leaves Betty Ford Clinic; third wife, Paulette, files for
divorce; Wilson terminates endorsement deal with him
Signs four-year, $8 million contract with Callaway; withdraws
from U.S. Open after 27 holes because he has the shakes
Is tied for lead for most of first round of U.S. Open but shoots
septuple-bogey 11 on 8th in final round and finishes last with
Dumped by Callaway after admitting to drinking and gambling;
says he fell off wagon after 26 months by pounding 12-pack in
Signs one-year endorsement deal with Sobe; says that the
company's nonalcoholic beverages "taste good with vodka"
Argues with recovering-addict girlfriend in a McDonald's parking
lot over who's driving home; cops mediate but make no arrests
No athlete in the world can match Ken Butler's skill with a
hockey stick--or, for that matter, with a tennis racket, a ski
pole or a three-wood. While you may be imagining that Butler is
the next Bo Jackson, it's better to think Bo Diddley: Using
strings from guitars, violins and other instruments, and gentle
manipulation, Butler reworks old sports equipment (and other
junkyard goodies, including hammers and plastic Uzis) into
musical instruments. On his creations, some 200 of which clutter
his Brooklyn loft, the formally trained painter and former
college cyclist has produced a sound he describes as "hybrid
Hindu Hendrix" for audiences from The Tonight Show to Thailand.
Check out his CD, Voices of Anxious Objects.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
A Tamaqua, Pa., police officer lost his job after a jury found
him guilty of giving a 10-year-old Little League pitcher $2 to
bean a 10-year-old batter.
Should we bother, Blake wondered, with sports that lack "the
means to ever medal or to make America proud"?
They Said It
Twins bullpen coach, on the retirement of Gary Gaetti, whom he
managed in Class A: "I had him 25 years and $25 million ago."