THE OLYMPIC APPEAL
What's worse--suing to go to the Games, or just not caring?
Reality-based programming being white-hot at the moment, we
present for your consideration: Gold Medal Law. Watch the briefs
fly as sports attorneys leave no tort unturned in a series of
never-ending skirmishes to secure their clients a spot on the
U.S. Olympic team!
Lisa Raymond, the top-ranked American doubles tennis player,
lost an appeal through the American Arbitration Association to
take Serena Williams's spot on the U.S. team. Greco-Roman
wrestler Matt Lindland is in Sydney only after winning a
protracted legal battle that fellow 167.5-pounder Keith Sieracki
vainly took to the U.S. Supreme Court. USA Softball was twice
forced by a federal arbitrator to reselect its roster and ended
up with the original only after a settlement was reached with a
player, Julie Smith, who along with two others appealed the
One conclusion seems obvious, right? Litigiousness is now a
blight on the U.S. Olympic team just as it is on society in
September 17, 2000
That's simplistic. Better Raymond's willingness to fight to get
to Sydney than Pete Sampras's casual
Maybe-I'll-play-when-the-Games-are-in-Greece approach. Better
Lindland's legal assault than Shaquille O'Neal's and Kobe
Bryant's my-plate's-too-full spurning of the basketball
competition. When the Games went to all-out professionalism, we
all fretted over the specter of overcommercialization and
unbalanced competition. What we failed to foresee was so many
big-name pros viewing the Olympics with apathy.
For many athletes the Games are the pinnacle of years of
anonymous sweat and toil. They may not be the mountaintop sought
by Sampras and Shaq, but Raymond sees something special in them.
"To walk into that stadium during the opening ceremonies with
all those amazing athletes, there can't be too many things that
can come close to that," she said.
Of course, we should not impute completely pure motives to those
who would sue to suit up. Raymond no doubt realizes that a gold
medal would translate into endorsement deals. Even Lindland or
another athlete in one of the nonglamour sports can muscle up
his Q rating--and his bank account--by winning the gold or by
becoming a chest-thumping personality, as Greco-Roman
superheavyweight Matt Ghaffari did in 1996. "The stakes keep
going up for athletes," says Paul Haagen, codirector of the
Center for Sports Law and Policy at Duke. "They are much less
willing to defer graciously."
Because such an opportunity comes along only once in a lifetime
for many athletes, why should they? --Jack McCallum
On Aug. 28, 1945, a 43-year-old former catcher named Clyde
Sukeforth walked into an office in Brooklyn and said, "Mr.
Rickey, here is Jack Roosevelt Robinson." It was a sentence that
has led historians of both baseball and American race relations
to place Sukeforth, who died last week at 98, in a position just
above the footnotes in the chapters entitled "Branch Rickey" and
"Jackie Robinson." As the scout sent by Rickey, the Dodgers'
general manager, to look Robinson over--both as a player and as a
person--and bring him back to Brooklyn for his appointment with
history, Sukeforth was Rickey's messenger.
But if Sukeforth was a messenger, he was baseball's Gabriel, an
annunciatory angel. Robinson thought Sukeforth had come to
Chicago, where Robinson was playing with the Negro leagues'
Kansas City Monarchs, to appraise him for a rumored Brown Dodgers
team; only upon being introduced to Rickey did he learn
Sukeforth's real assignment. After the Robinson signing became
stunningly public in October 1945, the modest Sukeforth remained
in the shadows, briefly emerging 19 months later to stand in for
the suspended Leo Durocher as Dodgers manager. The two games he
managed were Robinson's first in the major leagues, and both were
Sukeforth would have other chances to manage but always declined.
"I don't ask for a great deal out of life," he said, "but I do
want contentment. I could never find it as a manager." So he
committed himself to coaching (the players loved him), scouting
(his other great move: persuading the Pirates to acquire Roberto
Clemente) and eventually to a long and contented retirement back
home on the coast of Maine.
For the mission of bringing Robinson to Brooklyn, Rickey needed
someone with very specific qualities: loyalty, of course, and
discretion; acute baseball judgment, and judgment, as well, of a
man's character; an open mind, a giving heart and, considering
the racial climate of baseball at the time, courage. Someone
defined by qualities such as these leaves a memorial that would
do honor to any man.
WORD FOR WORD
Bill Calls Venus
Venus Williams got a congratulatory phone call from President
Bill Clinton after her U.S. Open victory last Saturday.
Herewith, selected gems from their exchange.
Venus: So what happened? Where'd you go? [Clinton had left
Arthur Ashe Stadium when rain delayed the start of the women's
Clinton: Well, it got rained out, and I waited as long as I
could. I had to come home to have dinner with Hillary, so we got
here in time to watch the whole thing.
Venus: I wanted to have dinner too.
Venus: How is everything going with the Millennium Summit?
Clinton: Oh, it was great.
Clinton: We had people from 165 countries there.
Venus: Oh, wow!
Clinton: I got to them all, and that was nice.
Venus: You know we suffered through traffic for all this...
Clinton: I know.
Venus: ...while you guys shot straight through. That's OK,
though. You got special privileges.
Venus: I do have one question also.
Venus: Because, see, me and my accountants, sometimes we have a
tough time with me not wanting to pay my taxes. I do...
Venus: ...but do you think that you could lower my taxes,
please, Mr. President? Did you see me today? I'm working hard.
Clinton: What state do you pay in?
Venus: I'm in Florida, so I pay a high property tax.
Clinton: Yeah, down there....
Venus: So what can you do about it?
Clinton: Not much right now. There may be something coming out
soon. We're working on it. I think there ought to be special
rules for athletes.
Venus [laughing]: Can I read your lips?
Venus: How's your daughter?
Clinton: She's doing great.
Venus: And the dog?
Clinton: He's doing great too.
Venus: Say good luck to Hillary also, because I'm like seeing
these Rick Lazio commercials [Hillary's opponent in New York's
U.S. Senate race].
Venus: And I'm like, Man this is unbelievable, but I've never
seen any commercials on her--I don't watch much TV--but 'All the
way [to her],' you know.
Clinton: Yep. You take care.
Venus: Thank you.
Tiny Olympic Teams
These are some of the smallest contingents expected in Sydney
Liechtenstein (2) One judoka, one air-rifle shooter
Palestine (2) One swimmer, one walker
Sierra Leone (3) Two track and field athletes, one weightlifter
East Timor (4) One boxer, one weightlifter, two marathoners
Tanzania (4) One track and field athlete, three marathoners
Andorra (5) Two swimmers,
one track and field athlete, one marathoner, one trapshooter
Nepal (5) Two swimmers, two track and field athletes, one
Palau (5) Two track and field athletes, two swimmers, one
Instance in big league history in which one pitcher was relieved
by another with the same name, after Mets lefthander Bobby Jones
replaced Mets righthander Bobby Jones on the mound against the
Two-day score by Mark Rypien in the Buy.com Tri-Cities Open; he
missed the cut by 15 strokes.
Indians' home record, through Monday, since manager Charlie
Manuel ordered a Ping-Pong table removed from the clubhouse.
Rise since May in emergency room-treated injuries from fold-up
Hourly wage offered by the Seminole Okalee Indian Village in
Florida to alligator and snake handlers.
SPORTS ON THE NET
Last week Major League Baseball struck a deal with the law firm
of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius to acquire the Internet domain name
mlb.com, ending years of frustration for fans seeking baseball's
official site. That still leaves plenty of sports organizations
and teams that don't own the domain names you'd think they would.
YOU TYPE IN YOU GET
avalanche.com "Your final destination for extreme winter sports
bears.com Stuffed collectibles site; offers "beloved bears,
plush puppies and more"
bills.com Bill service ("Now you can feel at home paying
your bills online")
cowboys.com "The Original Western Web Site"
diamondbacks.com Puzzling home page with picture of unidentified
expos.com On-line personal ads site; includes the "Adult
ioc.org International Outreach Center ("This site-owner
powered by Jesus")
saints.com Guide to religious saints, "from St. Aidan to
Pope St. Zosimus"
In a Pickle
NFL trainers, who say it's unnecessary to consume pickle juice
before and during games to boost sodium levels in the body, as
the Eagles and some college teams are doing. "Ninety-nine
percent of athletes get the amount of electrolytes they need to
perform their best through proper diet and fluids like
Gatorade," says a press release issued by the Professional
Football Athletic Trainers Society.
NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199--which bans student-athletes from using
their athletic ability for financial gain--by Alabama-Huntsville
sophomore tennis player Roseleena Blair. The NCAA declared Blair
ineligible after she appeared in Playboy's Sexy Girls in Sports
pictorial in its August issue. Blair was 0-12 as the Chargers'
No. 5 singles player last spring.
A request by Australian cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman that
Adelaide scrap its plans to rename the road to its airport after
him. Bradman, 92, is upset that numerous businesses on the
thoroughfare have registered for name changes that include his
moniker, such as Bradman's Cafe on the Drive and Erotica on
The tip of Spanish cyclist Mikel Zarrabeitia's right ring
finger, by the spokes of his front wheel as he attempted to fix
his distance counter during the 11th stage of the Tour of Spain.
A request by O.J. Simpson's lawyers for an injunction to stop
the filming of a CBS miniseries based on the book American
Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense, by
Lawrence Schiller. Los Angeles Superior Court judge David Yaffe
ruled that Simpson would not suffer "irreparable harm" from the
show, because the material had already appeared in the book.
Here's SI writer-reporter Brian Cazeneuve's lowdown on the Sydney
Olympic Village, which will play host to most of the 10,300
athletes partaking in the 2000 Summer Games.
Over the 33 days the Village is open, the catering staff of
2,000 will serve more than two million meals in the Village
dining hall, which seats 5,000. The caterers have stockpiled
three million soft drinks, 530,000 gallons of bottled water,
500,000 apples, 243,000 pounds of beef, 150,000 pounds of
poultry, 62,000 pounds of cheese, 40,000 gallons of milk, 38,600
pounds of lamb, 25,000 loaves of bread, 22,000 pounds of pasta
and 2,760 pounds of bean sprouts.
The first gold medalist
That would be Chilean rower Felipe Leal, who scored 317 million
in Baywatch pinball, one of the 60 pinball machines in the game
Athletes can play not only pickup basketball but also pickup
boccie in the Village.
British athletes brought a London phone booth (above) and
plopped it down outside one of their apartments.
Show me the Yuan
Among the subtitled movies being offered in the Village cinema
are Mad Max in Arabic, Jaws in Turkish, The Full Monty in
Hungarian, Girl, Interrupted in Greek and Jerry Maguire in
Nelson Mandela strolled the grounds with the South African team.
More power to them
The Village is the largest solar-powered community in the world.
Sleeping with the horses
The International Equestrian Centre has a separate Village for
the grooms, farriers and veterinarians who travel with the
The Village has 549 massage tables.
Taking no chances, even athletes attending Catholic, Hindu,
Islamic and Jewish services at the Religious Services Center in
the Village have been making pilgrimages to rub the tummy of the
center's Buddha, the Village good-luck charm.
In case you really needed to know, there's enough toilet paper
in the Village to stretch from Sydney to Perth and back two
Are they or aren't they? The buzz of the week was about the
possible Serena Williams and LaVar Arrington love match. On
Thursday the New York Post ran a story, headlined SERENA NETS
NFL HUNK, that quoted sources saying the tennis star and the
Redskins' linebacker had begun dating over the summer. Williams
had reportedly even visited State College, Pa., to party with
Arrington (below) and some of his former Penn State teammates.
Redskins p.r. director Doug Green says the story is untrue:
"They know each other. They may have been at some party
together, but they're not dating. [Arrington is] quite upset
about the report." Serena's lawyer, Keven Davis, says, "It never
happened, and it's not going on. I'm not saying she'll never
have a boyfriend one day or never get married, but LaVar's not
the one." Whatever the case, Serena was spied watching the
Panthers-Redskins game on Sept. 3 in the players' lounge at the
In publishing, timing is everything, which is why celebrated New
Yorker baseball writer Roger Angell is tearing out what little
hair he has left. Last January, Warner Books signed Angell to a
high six-figure contract to write a book about Yankees pitcher
David Cone. Since then, Cone has had what can charitably be
described as a miserable season--at one point he failed to win
in 15 straight starts--capped by last week's shoulder
dislocation. Says Angell, "On the last day of spring training,
we thought he might have the best season of his career. That
would have been a great story. Now, it's either Greek tragedy or
Groucho Marx. I'm 80 years old. This is too much for me."...
Golfer Hank Kuehne, the 1998 U.S. Amateur champion, and '80s pop
star Paula Abdul have split. They were together for about three
Move over, Master P: The latest musician to get into the sports
agent business is Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds, who has teamed
with Charlotte entertainment lawyer Ken Harris to form Edmonds
Sports Group. Harris is director of legal affairs for BDA Sports
Management, whose clients include Terrell Brandon, Antonio Davis
and Michael Olowokandi.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
The Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania Action Fund is
selling condoms commemorating recently razed Pitt Stadium, with
packaging that includes an image of the arena and the phrase
FEELS LIKE IT'S NOT EVEN THERE!
Venus: How's your daughter?
Clinton: She's doing great.
Venus: And the dog?
Clinton: He's doing great too.
They Said It
Tigers assistant general manager, after Al Gore threw batting
practice at Comerica Park: "I hear he's looking for a four-year
deal with a four-year extension."