Why Army-Navy still matters
Lord, was it meaningless. The teams were awful, none of the
players had a shot at the Heisman Trophy or an NFL contract, and
neither coach had his neck on the block. The series was old and
storied, but you heard no talk of hatred. There were no fights.
There was no strutting. There were questionable calls but no
demands for instant replay. The winners felt good, but not one
insisted this was a life-altering event. Three and a half hours
of meaningless: Navy beat Army last Saturday 30-28.
But here's something strange. A crowd of 70,685--the biggest ever
at Baltimore's PSINet Stadium--turned out despite crackling cold
weather. Though neither program has finished in the Top 10 in
decades, the game sold out last summer; when previously held-back
tickets went on sale in August they were gone in less than 10
minutes. The teams came in with their worst combined record ever,
1-19, but 600 media credentials were issued, all to see and
report on some horrible football: seven fumbles, two
interceptions, ghastly kicking. At one point the Cadets replaced
their quarterback with a guy who had managed the lacrosse team
No one minded. "It's special because a lot of men and women in
America recognize this as one of the last pure games of NCAA
football," said John Ryan, the Naval Academy superintendent, last
Friday. Of course, there's more to it than that.
There are the exacting academics and the honor codes and the five
years of postgraduation military commitment. There's the one-hour
march into the stadium by the uniformed ranks, the fact that the
players mix at the end and respectfully listen to their
opponent's alma mater. There's the fact that every time a plebe
at Annapolis turns a corner, he must yell, "Beat Army!" There's
the fact that the players come from every corner of the country,
that no names are on the uniforms, that the Veterans of Foreign
Wars and not some copier company sponsors the replays on the
Jumbotron and that in an open letter published in the program,
President Clinton asked everyone to "pause to remember the brave
American sailors on the USS COLE and all our men and women in
uniform who have lost their lives in service to our nation."
There's the fact that no game is taken more seriously by those
involved, yet when the clock expires everyone understands it was
sports, nothing more, because the participants might soon be
facing death together. The last time Army played Navy in
Baltimore, in 1944, a national title was at stake for Army.
President Roosevelt used the game to sell War Bonds. Plenty has
changed, but not this: Another meaningless game was played on
Saturday, the 101st meeting in a rivalry that, football aside,
still matters most of all. --S.L. Price
Five star-studded veterans of the Army-Navy game
William (Bull) Halsey, Navy, 1902-03 As fullback, lost to Army
twice; as WWII tactical commander in Pacific, defeated Japanese
at Leyte Gulf, largest naval battle in history.
George S. Patton, Army, 1906-08 Old Blood and Guts was aggressive
end who broke nose and arms during playing days; commanded U.S.
3rd Army in WWII.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Army, 1912 Injured knee limited future
Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and 34th U.S. president to one
season as Cadets halfback.
Omar Bradley, Army, 1913-14 Cadets center was Ike's right-hand
man for Allied invasion of Europe and first chairman of joint
chiefs of staff.
Stansfield Turner, Navy, 1944-45 Middies guard turned spy chief
as Jimmy Carter's CIA director.
Q Tiger Woods hosted the Williams World Challenge last week.
What does it mean to host a golf tournament?
A Although the thought of Tiger whipping up some finger
sandwiches for a postround bash is amusing, in truth, hosting
duties at a golf event are far more impersonal. As PGA Tour
publicist Dave Lancer says, "Most of hosting is in name only."
That meant that Williams, an energy company, got to use Woods's
name to promote its event last week. In return, part of the
proceeds went to the Tiger Woods Foundation. But other hosts get
more involved. Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Invitational is held on
a Palmer-owned course, and the gregarious Arnie speaks at
several parties during the week. Says Palmer spokesman Doc
Giffin, "Bay Hill is Arnie's tournament. He wants everything
done right." Similarly, Jack Nicklaus is very hands-on with his
event, the Memorial. Once he even had concession stands change
the color of the sandwich wrappers from white to green because
he didn't like the way the refuse looked when strewn across the
course. Martha Stewart's got nothing on the Golden Bear.
The Hole Truth
Those seeking refuge from the hot political topic of the day,
read no further. Of course chads are relevant to the sports
world. The NBA All-Star paper ballot, for instance, requires
fans to punch out circles to cast a vote for a player. So what
happens when a fan leaves his chad hanging? If your pen doesn't
create a clean hole, will your vote for Theo Ratliff be tossed
Fear not: A full and fair count is guaranteed--at least according
to Jeff Gehl, CEO of BigBallot, the polling company that has
handled the NBA All-Star vote tallying for 25 years. Gehl
contends that BigBallot's vote-counting machines, which employ
technology called intelligent character recognition to detect the
amount of light that passes through a punched out hole, are
superior to the older optical character recognition devices used
in the election in Florida. With the NBA ballots if at least 50%
of a light beam passes through the hole, the vote is good--meaning
a hanging chad likely gets counted, while a pregnant chad
doesn't. Despite what Al Gore might say, Gehl argues that the
distinction is good enough. "The point is, our new technology can
pick up more of those in-between votes," he says.
BigBallot, which handles the All-Star counting for Major League
Baseball and the NHL as well as for the NBA, also uses
proprietary technology to better pick up voting irregularities
such as the tactic of driving a nail or drill bit through layers
of ballots. Such watchfulness, Gehl says, reduces the possibility
of fraud--meaning that this year's NBA All-Stars will be
determined by what happens on the courts, rather than in them.
Close-cropped gladiator 'do; pruned sideburns and mustache;
salt-and-pepper soul patch.
The Lakers coach's chic new SoCal minimalism breaks sharply with
the bushy mountain-man aesthetic he cultivated in Chicago.
Stylist Billy Yamaguchi, who was recommended by Jackson's
girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, employed the principles of feng
shui--typically used in interior design--for Jackson's look.
Says Yamaguchi, "With Phil, I wanted to enhance his water
element, his reflective, profound dimension. By taking the beard
off, we enhanced his facial structure." A risky step in the
cutthroat world of NBA courtside fashion, perhaps, but Yamaguchi
aimed to indulge Jackson's mystical side: "I know Phil is a Zen
person, and when people think of Zen, they think of simplicity.
I wanted to make sure I created something that was simple yet
had a lot of power."
"If you need to consult some ancient mythology before you comb
your hair, you're trying way too hard," says Esquire executive
editor Scott Omelianuk, co-author of Things a Man Should Know
about Style. "The impulse to cut it short when you're losing it
is right, but there's a malignant aspect to his appearance, like
he's some Soviet-era apparatchik." And the soul patch? "A
godawful affectation," says Omelianuk. "The whole look is a
weird combination of David Letterman and a white Dizzy Gillespie."
--Pope John Paul II, as an honorary Harlem Globetrotter. In a
ceremony that took place in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican,
the team presented the pope with an autographed ball and a
framed jersey with john paul ii on it. Other honorary
Globetrotters include Nelson Mandela, Henry Kissinger and Whoopi
--Rockies reliever Bobby Chouinard, to one year in prison after
he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for hitting his wife,
Erica, and pointing a gun at her head last Christmas. He'll
serve the sentence in four three-month stretches during
baseball's off-seasons so that his career won't be interrupted.
--By the USOC's board of directors at its quadrennial meeting, a
resolution making either George W. Bush or Al Gore its honorary
president and Dick Cheney or Joe Lieberman its honorary vice
chairman. Presidential elections previously had been settled by
the time the USOC handed out these ceremonial honors.
--After 122 years, varsity football at Swarthmore (Pa.) College.
The school's board of managers voted to cut the program, as well
as men's wrestling and women's badminton, to try to limit
recruited athletes to 10% to 15% of each entering freshman class.
--Tradecade.com, by two Bears fans who want the team to dump
second-year QB Cade McNown. The site suggests Chicago use
McNown's $2.35 million salary next season to hire more beer
vendors, bring back the Honey Bears cheerleaders and clone
linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Did you catch Martina Navratilova's surprise cameo last month on
NBC's Will and Grace? She played herself during a flashback
sequence in which she's dumped by the hard-partying Karen in a
1980s disco. Co-executive producer David Kohan says he plans to
work other sports figures into the show, which won't be a
stretch because Will will soon start dating a male sportswriter.
Kohan is already planning a scene in the Knicks locker room and
would love to have such players as Marcus Camby and Larry
Johnson involved. Says Kohan, "Come on, a guy named Johnson in a
men's locker room with two gay leads. Imagine the
Pro volleyball player cum Playboy cover girl Gabrielle Reece is
preparing for the next stage of her career: pro golfer. Reece
(right), who first hit the links in January, is working with a
club pro in L.A. and hopes to qualify for the LPGA's Q school in
August 2002. "It's humbling," says Reece, "but I love the
grinding. It's an opportunity to continue trying to master
Geri Halliwell, the artist formerly known as Ginger Spice, is
becoming a regular at Mavericks games in Dallas. Halliwell first
appeared courtside in early November, wearing point guard Steve
Nash's number 13 jersey. She returned for the Nov. 25 game
against the Nuggets and was later spotted with Nash in a
restaurant. Nash says the two are friends and have plans to see
each other again....
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer is reportedly close to a deal with
ABC to turn the film Remember the Titans into a weekly series.
No word on casting....
In addition to producing the Super Bowl XXXV halftime show for
CBS, MTV will create much of the pregame programming. Already
scheduled: a special edition of TRL, the music channel's most
popular show, rechristened for the event with the ungainly title
of CBS Sports Presents: MTV's TRL @ The Super Bowl.
BURN [n.] Playing time, usually in basketball (e.g., "I've got to
get some burn tonight"). Origin unknown, though Syracuse senior
guard Allen Griffin, who grew up in Brooklyn, notes that the term
has been used for some time on New York City's playground courts.
Percent of Spain's fighting bulls that are drugged before
entering the ring to make them less dangerous, according to
scientists at Salamanca University.
Top sale price from Nov. 9 to Nov. 18 on eBay for Saints
quarterback Aaron Brooks's rookie card.
Top sale price for Brooks's rookie card since Nov. 19, when
Brooks replaced the injured Jeff Blake as New Orleans's No. 1
Tons of dog food donated by defunct e-tailer Pets.com to mushers
in Alaska, where the collapse of the salmon run on the Yukon
River has depleted the traditional food supply for sled dogs.
Length, in hours, of CBS's pregame programming for Super Bowl
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
For $195, visitors to the official website of Maple Leafs
enforcer Tie Domi can buy a three-picture sequence showing Domi
knocking out the Rangers' Ulf Samuelsson with a sucker punch
that earned Domi an eight-game suspension in 1995.
On the steroid suspension of Don MacLean, a 6'10", 235-pound
Heat forward who played with Barkley in Rockets camp in '99: "I
saw him naked. He's not on steroids."