Cruel and Unusual
A horrific death calls attention to the ugly world of dogfights
Chinaman's next roll was into Doc, a highly respected wrecker. If
he could hang with Doc for even 10 minutes, Chinaman would be
worth a bet. Doc came out hard and slammed Chinaman into the
corner and tried to trade with Chinaman. Big mistake! Chinaman
hit the gut and killed the Doctor in his own living room in 17
minutes! It was clear Chinaman was something special.
--Sporting Dog Journal, an underground newsletter
Last week the nation watched in horror as the case of Diane
Whipple unfolded. Whipple, 33, the women's lacrosse coach at St.
Mary's College and a two-time All-America at Penn State, died on
Jan. 26 after being attacked by neighbors' dogs in the hallway
outside her San Francisco apartment. The animals allegedly were
products of a breeding and training program designed to provide
fighting dogs and guard dogs for a methamphetamine manufacturer.
The lurid details of the case shed light on the shadowy world of
dogfighting, a brutal but lucrative industry that, fueled by
gambling and drug dollars, has flourished recently. "It's growing
exponentially," says Jeff Dorson, executive director of the New
Orleans-based League in Support of Animals, who has investigated
dogfighting for the last 12 years. "It's a defined subculture
with its own language, publications and standards."
The Humane Society estimates that upward of 40,000 people
nationwide participate in dogfighting as breeders, owners,
handlers or betting spectators, and that contract matches,
gambling and stud fees account for tens of millions of dollars in
revenue annually. "The people involved are adept at going
undercover," says Stephan Otto, a lawyer in the anticruelty
division of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. "A bust is difficult
because the places and times rotate, and you have to be well
inside the group to get the right information."
Although the pit bull terrier continues to dominate the field,
animals that are crossbred for maximum size and hostility--like
the two English mastiff-Presa Canario hybrids responsible for
Whipple's death--can be even more dangerous to humans. "Every
breeder is trying to get an edge," says Jean Donaldson of the San
Francisco SPCA. "The Presa supplies fighting stock, and the
mastiff provides cheap muscle and jaw strength. These dogs are
bred to be assassins."
Among those assassins, no attribute is prized more than gameness,
a willingness to fight past normal limits of pain. The standard
measure of a dog's pit-readiness is the so-called game test, in
which a young dog fights an older, match-experienced opponent to
the point of exhaustion and then must confront a fresh dog. Pups
who pass the game test graduate to an intensive prematch regimen
that includes cardiovascular training and the killing of smaller
Dogfighting thrives not only because of the obsessive devotion of
breeders and handlers, but also because of the fans it draws.
While conducting dog fights is a felony in 45 states, spectating
is an equivalent crime in only 13. "It's neighborhood
entertainment," says Dorson. "People pull lawn chairs up to the
pit and watch on a Friday night." --Daniel G. Habib
Four Dangerous Dogs
Breeds responsible for the most fatal attacks on humans in the
U.S. from 1979 to '98, according to the American Veterinary
Pit bull (66 deaths) Product of 19th-century terrier-bulldog
crosses; nearly all American progeny come from fighting stock
Rottweiler (39 deaths) Has surpassed pit bull as deadliest dog--33
victims from 1991 to '98
German shepherd (17 deaths) Not predisposed to violence but size,
musculature, jaw strength are dangerous combo
Husky (15 deaths) Compact and quick; hazardous if wrongly trained
PARDONED HOOPS STAR
FREE AT LAST
A few hours before he left office Bill Clinton signed 176 grants
of clemency. While the nation has focused on the higher-profile
pardons, such as the one for fugitive billionaire financier Marc
Rich, one beneficiary has quietly restarted his life and, maybe,
his basketball career. Derrick Curry, 31, isn't a household name,
but for 8 1/2 years he has been a big-house legend, perhaps the
nation's best player behind prison walls.
In the fall of 1990 Curry was in his first year at Prince
George's Community College in Largo, Md. A mesmerizing 6-foot
shooting guard who had starred at Northwestern High in
Hyattsville, Md., he caught the attention of Georgetown coach
John Thompson, who told Curry there could be a spot for him on
the Hoyas' roster the following autumn. But Curry's hoop dream
was shattered on Oct. 17 of that year when police uncovered a
rock of crack cocaine weighing a little more than a pound in a
car he had been driving. Curry claimed he had been duped by a
friend into transporting the drug. A federal jury didn't buy the
story: Curry, who had never before been arrested, was found
guilty of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and given a
mandatory sentence of 19 years and seven months in prison, with
no chance of parole. "The judge apologized to me," says Curry.
"He said he wished he'd had discretion."
Curry's father, Arthur, a Ph.D. in education, testified to
Congress about the unfairness of mandatory sentencing. His son's
tale was told in several magazine articles and in Pickup Artists,
a book I wrote with Chad Millman. Arthur passed these accounts to
lawmakers and eventually persuaded several Maryland politicians
to sign a letter urging Clinton to set his son free. "I've prayed
for this day," says Arthur, a professor at Bowie (Md.) State
University. "I wasn't sure, but I just felt it was going to
Nate Peake, the agent for Rockets guard Steve Francis, has
already contacted Derrick about trying out for the CBA, the ABA
or a team overseas. Curry, who says he's in the best shape of his
life, is pondering his options--which are suddenly far more
numerous. "I feel I was robbed of my basketball career," he says,
"but at least now I'm free." --Lars Anderson
Sport? Not a Sport?
THIS WEEK: EXTREME SNOWMOBILING
SPORT "If all the other X-Games sports are sports, then yes. It
takes some skills to drive one of those things." --Tom Crean,
Marquette basketball coach
SPORT "I play in the heart of NASCAR country, and if automobile
racing is a sport, then so is snowmobiling." --Micheal Rucker,
Panthers defensive end
NOT A SPORT "You're letting the machine do all the work. Of
course, I don't consider racing cars a sport, either." --Raegan
Tomasek, former U.S. gymnastics team member
NOT A SPORT "It doesn't involve a ball." --Bobby Lutz, UNC
Charlotte basketball coach
SPORT "If you're competing against somebody else or a record,
it's a sport." --Elton Brand, Bulls forward
NOT A SPORT "If it's on snow, it ain't a sport." --Duane Causwell,
SPORT "Whatever you want to call a sport is a sport." --John
Gabriel, Magic general manager
NOT A SPORT "What athletic ability does it involve, other than
holding on for dear life?" --Michael Barkann, Comcast SportsNet
Tiger Woods's Hackysack II
SYNOPSIS The jaunty music, the gravity-defying ball, the virtuoso
club control...they're all back in Nike's sequel to 1999's
much-buzzed-about "Hackysack" spot. This time Woods ups the ante
by using two wedges to bounce a ball 39 times--between his legs,
off the butt of a club, off his right knee, even off the bill of
his cap--before banging it 150 yards one-handed.
BACKGROUND As in the original, no camera tricks were used to film
the jaw-dropping juggling act, but whereas the first spot took
only four takes, the complex stunts in the new ad required a lot
more. "It took a couple of hours," says Jim Riswold, creative
director of Nike's ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy. "Tiger's wrists
would get sore, and we'd stop." Director Joe Pytka says Woods
came up with all the tricks. "How do you direct Tiger Woods?"
says Pytka. "I'm not going to tell him to do stuff like that. So
my job's simple. I just say, 'Action, cut, do it again.'"
BOTTOM LINE The outtakes won't be wasted. An ad showing bloopers
and other unused footage--including a scene in which Tiger bounces
the ball way up in the air, spins and resumes juggling--will air
later this year. Says Riswold, "All this stuff proves he plays a
game of which we have no idea."
These days old memories don't die, they just turn up on eBay. So
it was that I rediscovered the Bronc Burnett books. A kind of
Hardy Boys for young sports fans, author Wilfred McCormick's
27-volume series kicked off in 1948 with The Three-Two Pitch and
follows Burnett, a fireballing righthander from Sonora, N.Mex.,
as he leads his high school and American Legion teams on athletic
exploits far and wide. Each installment of the Burnett series
offers a morality play about sports and life--coping with
criticism, for instance, or learning humility in the face of
Was America ever so innocent, baseball ever so pure? Archetypes
people Bronc's world: his loyal sidekick, catcher Fat Crompton;
Cap'n Al, the gruff but lovable coach--"solid as a granite
boulder"--who imparts the wisdom of his eight years in the big
leagues; the insufferable Fibate Jones, team scorekeeper and
resident gadfly. This is a world in which baseball-hungry
townsfolk build the high school stands by hand; in which sheriff
Pole Drinkwater works behind the plate, immune to the "yip-yaps"
heckling him; in which the good guys are lanky, broad-shouldered,
nimble-footed, and the villains sport names like Slug Langenegger
and Sluice Derrick.
I outgrew Bronc Burnett in the mid-1970s, and maybe baseball did
too: In many ways today's game is unrecognizable compared with
the one the Sonora crew played. Which got me wondering: Can
Bronc's hokey wholesomeness play in the new millennium? I'll find
out in a few years, when I pass The Three-Two Pitch, Legion
Tourney and Fielder's Choice on to my son. The toughest job may
be convincing him that Bronc Burnett's world is fiction, but not
science fiction. --M.M.
Fighting bulls, as a source of Spanish culinary delicacies.
Carcasses of the 11,000 bulls killed annually in the ring
normally are sold to butchers--the tail and testicles are
particularly prized--but new European Union regulations intended
to stop the spread of mad cow disease will ban the sale of
untested beef from animals more than 30 months old.
New Mexico basketball broadcaster Mike Roberts, more than 40
miles from his snowbound house outside Mountainair, N.Mex., to
Albuquerque to call the Lobos' Jan. 29 game against Wyoming.
Roberts was in danger of missing only his second broadcast in 35
years until KOB-TV sent its traffic chopper to pick him up.
By the Kings, a billboard alongside the highway that
free-agent-to-be Chris Webber takes home from ARCO Arena,
reading CHRIS--JOE WILL MOW YOUR LAWN IF YOU STAY. GAVIN. The
team is owned by Joe and Gavin Maloof.
Two airline tickets for a mid-February trip to the Bahamas,
plus hotel accommodations and $500, by Nets guard Stephon Marbury
to a fan in a drawing before last Wednesday's New Jersey-Detroit
game. Marbury gave up his planned trip to the Bahamas when he was
named an Eastern Conference All-Star.
Out of Business
MVP.com and UltimateBid.com. The former, a sports-apparel
e-tailer, had the financial backing of John Elway, Wayne Gretzky
and Michael Jordan; the latter auctioned "fan experiences" such
as a round of golf with Tiger Woods and a day at spring training
with Derek Jeter.
A U.S. businessman purchased a hunk of Canada's patrimony out of
the bargain bin last week. George Gillett Jr. spent $184 million
(all figures U.S.) to buy the 21,273-seat Molson Centre and 80.1%
of its legendary tenant, the Canadiens. Considering that Molson
Inc. spent $190 million to build the arena, which opened five
years ago, Gillett walked away with a $6 million discount on the
building and got the Canadiens, winners of a record 24 Stanley
Cups, for free.
Understandably, there was some panic in Canada over the sale to
an American, but after the paranoia subsided--thanks to guarantees
written into the sale prohibiting Gillett from moving the
Canadiens--the citizenry took the view that what matters isn't the
country of a man's passport but the color of his money (which in
Canada is red, blue, green, brown and sort of violet). If
Canadian-born Peter Jennings can read Americans their evening
news and Quebecoise chanteuse Celine Dion can give birth to
little Rene-Charles in Florida, there's no good reason that
Gillett, 62, a ski-resort developer from Vail, Colo., who failed
in a bid to buy the Avalanche and kicked the tires of the
Panthers, shouldn't grab the Canadiens.
The real question is why no Canadian businessman or company was
interested in hockey's best brand name. Molson searched for a
Canadian buyer but failed, undoubtedly for the very reasons the
brewery wanted to dump the Canadiens and their arena. Montreal,
like the other five Canadian NHL teams, pays most of its
expenses, including player payroll, in U.S. dollars and receives
most of its revenue in Canadian currency, at the moment worth
about 66 cents on the dollar. Because of that imbalance and the
annual $7.5 million tax bill on the Molson Centre--knocked down to
$4.6 million by the city, a key component of the sale--owning the
team made little economic sense. For Gillett, on the other hand,
the Habs represented a good value and a prime turnaround
property. Still, when a storied franchise with the NHL's
second-highest attendance, 135 leased luxury suites and decent TV
contracts can be bought for a song, the tune sounds a lot like
Woe, Canada. --Michael Farber
Teamwork is everything: It's a lesson former major league
outfielder Elliott Maddox (below) learned well. That's why he's
calling no fewer than 40 ex-big leaguers to testify on his behalf
in his upcoming trial for workers' compensation fraud. In 1998
and '99, while employed as a counselor for the Florida Department
of Children & Families, Maddox collected $36,000 in workers' comp
because of bad knees. But according to the state, during the time
Maddox claimed he could barely walk, he was conducting baseball
camps in Coral Springs. Maddox plans to call to the stand old
friends like Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Sparky Lyle, Graig
Nettles, Willie Randolph and Mickey Rivers, all of whom are
likely to testify about Maddox's character as well as his knee
Jason Sehorn and his fiancee, Angie Harmon, are house hunting in
the tony Dallas neighborhood of Highland Park. Harmon graduated
from Highland Park High....
Meg Ryan was at the Jose Celaya-Mauricio Rodriguez fight in Las
Vegas on Jan. 20, shadowing Celaya's manager, Jackie Kallen, in
preparation for a biopic on Kallen, one of the first successful
female boxing managers. The film, Against the Ropes, has been in
development at Paramount since 1998; Sandra Bullock was
originally slated to star....
Carl Lewis, who moved from Houston to L.A. last year to
pursue acting, is finding the transition to Hollywood success
tough. "It's hard for people to see past Carl Lewis, the
athlete," says Lewis. The key difference between acting and
competing, says Lewis, is that "in sports, the goal is never to
let them see you sweat. In acting, you want them to see you
sweat." To publicize his perspiring story, on March 1 Lewis will
launch carllewis.com, at which casting directors can see scenes
of him acting.
Days in jail that Mitchell Gluckman, 49, of Northridge, Calif.,
was sentenced to for threatening to kill his son's Little League
manager because his boy played only three innings.
Hopefuls who turned out on the first two days of open auditions
to sing the national anthem at Devil Rays home games this year.
Years since the Clippers had a player in the All-Star Game,
currently the longest drought in the NBA.
Pounds Florida State basketball coach Steve Robinson has lost
this season because of stress.
Value, according to Joyce Julius & Associates, of the airtime
Nike received on the Super Bowl broadcast, based on the 28
minutes its logo appeared (on shoes, uniforms, etc.), and the
$2.3 million cost of a 30-second ad.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Mark Chmura said now that he has been acquitted of sexual assault
and child enticement, he's going to Disney World.
free." PAGE 24
Asked after the Australian Open what she knows about the host
country: "Australia was started as a penal colony in the
beginning. They went on to become patriotic Australians, got
their own accent, moved away from the British, and here we are."