Sports stars can no longer keep feuds in the family
Very little stays behind closed doors anymore. Locker room
feuds, no matter how minor, find their way into print, on the
air or into cyberspace. Trade demands, no matter how quickly
recanted or dismissed, become public knowledge. This isn't to
say that the contretemps between Lakers stars Shaquille O'Neal
and Kobe Bryant are insignificant, just that the media scrutiny
of celebrities of their magnitude amplifies even the whisper of
discontent into a roar.
Friction between famous teammates is nothing new. Magic Johnson
implied last week that he and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar found it
difficult at times to get along when they were the cornerstones
of the 1980s L.A. teams, but it didn't keep them from winning
five championships. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale sometimes sniped
at each other when they were Celtics teammates, but they won
three titles. "Put great players on the same team, and you're
going to get big egos at the same time," says Johnson. "Guys bump
heads. It's always been like that. The difference is, you used to
be able to keep that stuff in the locker room and let it blow
over. Not anymore."
Not to say that the media need to shoulder all the blame. After
all, if you use the press to turn yourself into a mononym, as
these two have done, it's going to stick around for all the less
carefully scripted moments, too--that double-edged-sword thing.
So it's likely that the chill between Bryant and O'Neal--Shaq
thinks Kobe shoots too much, and Kobe refuses to indulge Shaq's
insecurities--isn't a terminal disease for the Lakers but just
another flare-up of a chronic condition. O'Neal's Dec. 28 request
to be traded was made in the heat of the moment, after a 115-78
victory over the Suns in which Bryant outscored him 38-18, and
general manager Mitch Kupchak treated it as such by ignoring it.
Similarly, when Bryant reportedly urged another team to make a
trade offer for him last month, nothing came of that. Neither
player is going to talk himself out of an L.A. uniform, at least
not this season.
The Lakers' best hope is that Bryant and O'Neal will realize how
much they are both diminished by their squabbling. Shaq's
bellyaching about Bryant's domination of the offense and Shaq's
hinting that he gives less than his best on defense when he isn't
getting his shots make him appear unprofessional. Bryant's
refusal to adjust his game to help maintain team harmony makes
him look immature and selfish. Whether coach Phil Jackson likes
it or not, meetings with the antagonists are inevitable--in
private, away from the spotlight. You can be sure we'll hear all
about them. --Phil Taylor
Four Recent Dustups Between NBA Duos
Vernon Maxwell/Gary Payton, Sonics, March 2000
Mad Max tosses weight at Payton as Payton threatens with chair;
Horace Grant plays peacemaker and gets bruised shoulder for his
Tracy Murray/Rod Strickland, Wizards, December 1997
Murray gossips to lady friend that Strickland is gay; Strickland
in turn sucker punches Murray in eye.
Jim Jackson/Jason Kidd, Mavericks, 1995-96
After griping that Jackson hogs ball, Kidd issues ultimatum to
Dallas: him or me. Mavericks ship Kidd to Suns. Reports link
feud to love triangle involving pop diva Toni Braxton.
Tim Hardaway/Latrell Sprewell, Warriors, 1994-96
Sniping between All-Star guards--Sprewell calls Hardaway
"brownnoser"; Hardaway says Spree doesn't hustle--sinks
promising Golden State squad.
A SCION OF THE TIMES
When news broke that the great thoroughbred Affirmed had been
euthanized last Friday at 26, an inimitable scene from the 1978
Belmont Stakes played over and over, like a grainy film, in the
mind's eye. A pair of coppery chestnuts dueling nose-to-nose in
the late afternoon sun: Affirmed on the rail and Alydar,
runner-up to Affirmed in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness,
clinging to him on the outside. As they swept toward the eighth
pole, a roar went up from the crowd when Alydar appeared to
thrust his nose in front. Affirmed looked beaten, but he was only
shifting gears. He battled through the last 220 yards--his right
eye rolling back to watch his rival, like Moby Dick peering back
at Ahab lashed to his side--and won by a head.
Affirmed, the 11th Triple Crown winner, came to flower near the
end of racing's Golden Decade, the 1970s, which had already
witnessed Secretariat's tour de force in the '73 Triple Crown
races, Forego's towering presence as a three-time Horse of the
Year from '74 to '76 and Seattle Slew's dash to the '77 Triple
Crown. Affirmed, however, sealed the greatness of that
generation. He won 14 Grade 1 stakes races and more than $2.3
million. If he lacked Secretariat's brilliance at the classic
distances and Slew's unearthly speed, he had the ability,
temperament and tenacity to run with any field. He was tall and
elegant, but with a hickory constitution and a terrier's courage.
He won all six photo finishes in his career, five of which were
Affirmed never got the bouquets he deserved. Indeed, the more
regally bred Alydar, a product of the finest racing blood at the
storied Calumet Farm, was always the more popular of the duo. But
Affirmed made an indelible mark on the sport, and in his own
unforgettable way--from the eighth pole to the wire in the Belmont
Stakes--he crowned his decade as the richest and most competitive
in the history of horse racing. --William Nack
Q Does Gatorade pay NFL players or the TV networks for those
dousings of coaches after a big win?
A Given the amount of air time devoted to this tired ritual,
you'd think someone was cashing in. Blame the lack of tension in
a 41-0 blowout, but toward the end of Sunday's Giants-Vikings
NFC title game Fox flooded its broadcast with Gatorade. To wit:
Two shots of guys dipping cups into Gatorade coolers, a
flashback to a sports-drink-sodden Giants coach Bill Parcells in
1987 (when the practice came into vogue), a live shot and two
replays of New York coach Jim Fassel being doused, a replay of
Fassel and defensive coordinator John Fox getting drenched with
water from Gatorade coolers and, interspersed with a commercial
break, replays of three other assistants getting similar
treatment. One replay featured a John Madden telestrator diagram
on a coach's back.
You can't buy better product placement, but Gatorade spokeswoman
Jill Kinney says the company neither compensates players nor
prearranges the dunkings with the TV networks: "It's pure, and it
happens on its own. Spontaneity is what gives it its
Of course, it's no accident that Gatorade is the liquid of choice
for celebratory shampoos. It pays big bucks to be on NFL
sidelines, having agreed in June 1998 to a $130 million deal to
remain the league's official sports drink through 2004. In other
words, the forecast for the foreseeable future: more showers.
The Temptations of Tampa
Unlike Miami or New Orleans, Tampa, this year's Super Bowl host
city, doesn't bring to mind raw hedonism. But don't be fooled:
Its underbelly is just as seamy, and potential troubles abound
for the wayward Giant or Raven. Here's our guide to area
attractions for high-profile visitors.
Busch Gardens, family theme park boasting 2,700 animals in
WildLife on Easy Street, 40-acre sanctuary for 23 endangered
species, including lions, leopards, cougars and other feline
University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, featuring
exhibit of Australian Aboriginal bark paintings.
2001 Florida RV Supershow, with 120 manufacturer displays and
entertainment by Blaze the Balloon-Blowing Goat.
The NFL Experience, interactive park that includes Internet
exhibit, video game pavilion and football skills competition for
budding Tiki Barbers.
Mons Venus, strip club boasting 300 au naturel dancers.
Street life on Kennedy Boulevard, site of Darryl Strawberry's
1999 arrest for cocaine possession and soliciting sex from an
Hyde Park Hemp, alternative clothing store that specializes in
unusual applications of imported flora.
Auto-Extras, high-end shop from which luxury cars of Dwight
Gooden, Shaquille O'Neal and Warren Sapp were stolen last year.
Lake Como nudist resort, alternative-lifestyle park that on Super
Saturday will host a flag football game and party action at the
Butt Hutt tiki bar.
A week in the life of Wilson the volleyball, Hollywood's latest
MONDAY I'm a star! Ever since my movie Cast Away opened, life has
been bally high! Sure, other sports figures have crossed over to
the movies, but did Johnny Weissmuller ever get an award from the
Broadcast Film Critics Association for Best Inanimate Object? Now
my phone's ringing off the hook.
TUESDAY The ATP people want me for their new balls please ad
campaign. They're going to drop those no-name tennis players.
Good idea. After all, who's bigger, me or Jan-Michael Gambill?
WEDNESDAY Offers, offers. Dustin Hoffman says I'm a natural for
Sphere 2. Matt Damon says a remake of Rounders, with me as the
star, can't miss. Meanwhile, Miramax is beginning production on A
Midsummer Night's Dream with a hockey Puck. Damn rip-offs!
THURSDAY Playboy wants me to do a pictorial with Gabby Reece.
(She's going to spike me over a net.) Can I do it? Can I bare my
air hole for the world to see?
FRIDAY Disaster! Sporting Goods Illustrated has a report about my
substance abuse problems back when I was a college ball. Foot
pumps, needles--the whole story. Now no one will return my calls!
SATURDAY John Feinstein wants to ghostwrite my memoirs. He says
it's the quickest way to rehab my image. Working title: Ball
SUNDAY My agent says there's an opening for a coach, at Ball
State. I should forget these Tinseltown phonies and just get
back to my roots. After all, in sports, everyone, no matter how
inflated his ego, gets a second chance.
Into an Oakland seafood restaurant, a blimp emblazoned with the
logo of the fledgling XFL. The dirigible was attempting to moor
at Oakland International Airport when a gust caused a mechanical
failure, forcing the two-man crew to jump to the ground. It then
drifted aimlessly for about 20 minutes before coming down on the
roof of the Oyster Reef. The pilot was slightly injured.
Southern Cal senior basketball guard Jeff Trepagnier, to
longtime girlfriend Malika Edmonson. Because Malika's mother,
Barbara, is a volunteer USC track coach, the NCAA deemed that
Trepagnier had received an improper benefit when Malika's father,
Warren, co-signed a loan with which Trepagnier leased a $46,000
Cadillac SUV. Trepagnier then inquired whether he would retain
his eligibility if he married Malika, and when the NCAA said
yes--family members are permitted to co-sign loans--the two were
wed in Las Vegas. Said Jeff, "We were going to get married this
Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona, 40, by Italian tax
police, upon his arrival in Rome to appear on television.
Authorities told Maradona, who played six seasons in Italy's
Serie A, that he owes nearly $25 million in back taxes and
interest. "I told them I didn't bring the money with me," said
Maradona, who was released after signing some paperwork.
By the Jockey Club's registry, a slew of thoroughbred names
inspired by the presidential election. Among the okayed monikers
are All Four Chads, Chad, Chadsanddimples, Count The Chads,
Dangling Chad, Don't Countess Out, Florida Recount, No More
Chads, Palm Beach Ballot, Tooclosetocall and Win for Chad.
Old NFL stars never die, they just get roped into embarrassing
made-for-TV sporting spectacles. As part of its Toughman World
Championship Series boxing competition, cable network FX
recruited 20 former players to participate in the first Tough
Bowl. Among the bouts, which took place on Jan. 5 and will air on
FX on Jan. 26 and 28, 1) Bears legend Refrigerator Perry mixes it
up with Bengals fullback Pete Johnson; 2) Giants Hall of Famer
Lawrence Taylor dukes it out with Cincinnati fullback Ickey
Woods; 3) Giants linebacker Gary Reasons pounds Bengals defensive
end Ross Browner; 4) Bucs tailback James Wilder clashes with
Chiefs fullback Christian Okoye.
They may command millions of dollars per movie and have
entourages as large as Boy Scout troops, but what many Hollywood
celebs really want is to know that they've got game. That's why
one of the hottest star gatherings these days is the NBA
Entertainment League, a little-known recreational hoops league
for the Hollywood crowd sanctioned by the NBA. Among the players:
Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg and Dean Cain. On
Sunday night the league wrapped up its third season with a
championship game at the Staples Center. Singer Brian McKnight,
who jetted back from New York City after performing at halftime
of the Giants-Vikings game, scored 27 points to lead his Trail
Blazers to a 65-60 win over comedian Bill Bellamy's Sonics....
Talk about mixed doubles: Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and the
Williams sisters will guest-star on the Feb. 11 episode of The
Simpsons. On the show Homer and gang enter a tennis tournament
and eventually meet up and play with the four stars. "The
Williams sisters are my favorite athletes," says coexecutive
producer Ian Maxtone-Graham, who wrote the episode. "This was my
way to meet them." Maxtone-Graham also directed Venus and Serena
when they recorded their dialogue, and he observed firsthand
their competitive nature: "Anytime celebrities come on the show,
we make them sign a stack of scripts so we can sell them when
we're all out of work. They were signing a huge stack, and at
some point it became a race. These are the best tennis players
in the world, and all they were interested in was beating each
other at signing scripts." ...
Spotted at an Atlanta-area sports bar last month: John Rocker,
acting as a celebrity judge for a breast-reduction contest
sponsored by a local morning radio show. Rocker and three other
judges voted on which overendowed contestant was most worthy of
receiving a free breast-reduction operation. And what did you do
during your holidays?
Seat license fees the Burris family, which owns a sports bar in
Shawano, Wis., must pay to retain the rights to its 331 Packers
season tickets in the remodeled Lambeau Field.
Height added to the left-centerfield fence at Houston's Enron
Field in an attempt to cut down on the 266 homers hit during
the park's inaugural season.
Centers (Shaquille O'Neal and Rasheed Wallace) among the top 50
scorers in the NBA as of Sunday.
1 to 92
Ratio of toilets and urinals to male fans in the Eagles' planned
new stadium; it's 1 to 319 at the Vet.
Speed that former world's fastest man Donovan Bailey was doing in
his late-model Mercedes when he was stopped and ticketed on a
highway just west of Toronto.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
On the Super Bowl's international feed, the virtual first-down
line will carry logos of corporate sponsors FedEx, General Motors
of Canada and Mexico's Banca Serfin.
the new season of Survivor on its Super Bowl broadcast: "Do you
think Richard Hatch kicking off would be too much?"