This time, football's silver-and-black sheep is setting himself
up for a fall
Since mid-March, the NFL's rebel has been sitting in a tiny Los
Angeles courtroom, decked out in black jacket and silver tie,
relishing his role as a troublemaker. Raiders owner Al Davis has
always been a fighter, but as he takes the stand this week in his
$1 billion lawsuit against the NFL, it's increasingly apparent
he's in a fight he has little chance of winning.
Davis says the league unfairly thwarted a 1995 deal he was
pursuing for a stadium in Los Angeles, forcing him to move the
Raiders from L.A. back to Oakland. Further, he contends that he
still holds territorial rights to the L.A. market because he left
unwillingly. That's a crucial issue, given that the NFL badly
wants a team in L.A. and that Davis has often said he wants to
return the Raiders to Southern California.
For its part, the NFL says that it retains the rights to Los
Angeles and that it did everything it could to facilitate the
stadium deal. League lawyers assert that after Oakland offered
the Raiders $53.9 million in '95, simple greed drove Davis north.
Davis's past legal conflicts with the NFL hang heavy over this
case. In 1983 he won $49.2 million in damages after arguing that
the league had violated antitrust laws when it tried to stop his
'82 move from Oakland to L.A. Even worse in his fellow owners'
eyes, in '86 Davis testified against the NFL in the USFL's
antitrust suit. Giants owner Wellington Mara has referred to his
rogue acts as "atrocities."
Even if the other owners weren't against him, Davis would face an
uphill battle. He must convince the court that he owns something,
the L.A. market, he never paid for and that the NFL interfered
with a stadium deal he abandoned. The league also has
considerable financial strength at its disposal. To cover the
legal costs of the case, each owner--including Davis--is paying
1/32 of the bill, not a hardship considering the league's vast
Adding to the intrigue, Davis is involved in two other seemingly
fruitless lawsuits. He's battling to get out of his lease at
Oakland's Network Associates Coliseum, claiming the stadium
authority reneged on guarantees that home games would be
sellouts. (Even with the Raiders' playoff run last year, full
houses have been rare.) He's also suing the NFL over damage he
claims it has done to him by allowing other teams to incorporate
black into their uniforms and by approving a Buccaneers logo that
resembles the Raiders'. Legal experts give Davis little hope of
prevailing in either case.
Where does all this leave the mercurial Davis? He has always
been a maverick, ready to brandish his rebellious image to stoke
his team's us-against-the-world attitude. However, his latest
crusades will earn him only animosity from the league, from the
city of Oakland and from Raiders fans who will most likely see
little reason to trust him again. Though he may take solace in
the Silver and Black's return to glory, in the courtroom Davis
needs to do a better job of picking his fights. --Jeffri
Chadiha and Lester Munson
A Man for All Seasons: Four Faces of Al Davis
On his first day as AFL commissioner in 1966, Davis instructs
staffer writing press release about him to insert words dynamic
During 1987 game at Minnesota, Davis has Raiders official inform
coach Tom Flores, "Mr. Davis wants a new quarterback." Flores
claims not to have received message but replaces Rusty Hilger
with Marc Wilson.
After former big league slugger Tony Conigliaro suffers heart
attack and lapses into near coma in 1982, Davis visits him
Suspecting Raiders of pregame espionage, Chargers coach Harland
Svare screams at Oakland Coliseum locker-room light fixture,
"Damn you, Al Davis, I know you're up there!" Davis later says,
"It wasn't in the light."
WILLIE STARGELL, 1940-2001
POPS KNEW BEST
Members of the formidable Pirates teams of the 1970s remember
Hall of Fame slugger Willie Stargell, who died on Monday of a
stroke at age 61.
Phil Garner, second baseman: "He had an unbelievable fire to
play, but his emotions never got out of control. One time we were
in St. Louis, and Darold Knowles came into a tie game and struck
Willie out on a changeup. Willie came back to the dugout and
said, 'I'll hit that changeup later.' Sure enough, ninth inning,
Knowles throws him a change, and Willie hits it into the upper
tier. And he comes back to the dugout very calmly and puts his
helmet and bat away and takes a seat."
Tim Foli, shortstop: "If I'd broken into the big leagues with
Willie, I'd have been a better player. He wanted you to respect
the game and be proud of having a major league uniform on. His
personality was infectious. You couldn't be miserable around him.
He wouldn't let you."
Richie Hebner, third baseman: "He was always a teacher. For the
past couple of years, during spring training, Willie gave a
speech to all the Pirates' minor league kids. It was impressive.
He said, 'Don't think you're here as a number or just another
player. Everyone's goal should be to wear a Pittsburgh Pirates
uniform.' You could hear a pin drop."
Dave Parker, rightfielder: "He was my baseball father. That's why
I called him Pops. I have a picture of Willie and me embracing
after we won the '79 World Series, and the look on our faces is
touching. In '78 I told the Pirates that the only way I would
re-sign was if they brought Pops back too. That picture means so
much to me because it shows how we felt, like father and son."
Bill Robinson, leftfielder: "Willie wasn't one to brag, but every
time we'd go to Philadelphia, he'd point to a star on a seat way,
way, way up in the rightfield stands and say, 'I hit Jim Bunning
up there.' He was always pulling for you. Other guys would ask
him, 'Should I take a pitch?' and Willie would say, 'Hit like you
Word for Word
Last week Croatian-born naval architect Dubravko Rajcevic, 46,
was convicted in a Miami-Dade County court of stalking Martina
Hingis. Below, Rajcevic reads (in italic) and explains (in roman)
a fax he sent to Hingis after she lost in the finals of the
Indian Wells tournament in 2000. The questions are from
Rajcevic's lawyer, Frank Abrams.
Rajcevic: Dear Martina, spring is part of the year, for me the
best one. Flowers, grass, trees, sunshine, hearts with deep love.
Everything is in the new mood, mood of growing, growing and
growing. That is meant to be literally, Shakespeare. Talking
about flourish season above with symbolism of life awakening.
Last Saturday was just in past, part of when only 10 minutes was
missed for full Indiana Wells brightness of sunny sky. That
means, only 10 minutes has missed for full.
Abrams: Mr. Rajcevic, that's not Shakespeare, that's Rajcevic.
Rajcevic: Rajcevic [is] Shakespeare in 21st century! Because
Shakespeare didn't have tennis.... But way was almost
perfect...head on my love. That means, head on, head on my love.
That is not threaten. If somebody said to me in this room, that
is threaten, I am going straightaway in the jail back. And you
put how many years I need to be in jail, if somebody explain to
me that "head on my love" is threaten word?
Abrams: Mr. Rajcevic, Mr. Rajcevic.
Rajcevic: Just one minute. Beautiful sky, music of waves,
enjoyable temperature and freshness of air and final the most
important words,me with you, will give to you additional
inspiration for finding this 10 minutes for full triumph in Key
Biscayne. I love you. Best regards, Dubravko.
Slam or not? That's the big question after Tiger Woods's Masters
victory. Overlooked in all the to-and-fro is one athlete who has
a unique perspective on the question. In June 1984 Martina
Navratilova won the French Open, giving her all four of tennis's
major titles at the same time. Like Woods's sweep, Navratilova's
didn't come within a calendar year: The '84 French capped a run
that began in '83 at Wimbledon and continued through that year's
U.S. and Australian Opens. "They can debate it all they want, but
Tiger's got all four at the same time, and I had all four at the
same time," says Navratilova, 44, who lives in Aspen and has
returned to the tour part time as a doubles player. "That ain't
The International Tennis Federation, which had put up a $1
million Slam award, presented Navratilova with a check for the
bonus after her victory at Roland Garros. (She extended her
streak to six majors, not losing until the semifinals of the
Australian Open in December 1984, when she was going for the
traditional Slam.) Over time, however, Navratilova's feat faded
from memory. Tennis record books count only six Grand Slams: Don
Budge's (1938), Maureen Connolly's ('53), Rod Laver's ('62 and
'69), Margaret Smith Court's ('70) and Steffi Graf's ('88). Says
Navratilova, "Maybe it's a Slam with an asterisk. They call
Tiger's the Tiger Slam. Maybe I had a Martina Slam."
Why do so many NHL players still play with wooden sticks?
Though high-tech models in aluminum, titanium and graphite-Kevlar
composites are lighter and provide more power, nearly half of all
NHL players still play with wooden sticks. One reason is that
hockey players are notoriously finicky about their gear, and
those accustomed to wooden shafts don't want to mess with the
precise puck control they have with a stick they're used to.
"I've used wood since I was a kid," says Flyers center Keith
Primeau (left). "Switching would be like someone who's used wood
bats all his life suddenly using an aluminum bat."
Of course, hockey players are also a superstitious lot. After
scoring 33 goals in 1999-2000, winger Teemu Selanne, now with the
Sharks, switched from wood to graphite in training camp and went
more than three months without a multigoal game. After going back
to wood, he scored three goals in two games in early January, the
start of a binge that continued through the end of the regular
season. "I tried graphite, and it didn't work," says Selanne. "I
didn't have a lot of confidence in it, and everything's about
A class-action suit against Art Modell brought by Browns fans,
who claimed Modell violated Ohio's consumer protection laws and
breached his contract with them by moving his team to Baltimore
in 1995. More than 11,300 former season-ticket holders will
receive $50 for each ticket they held; they'll have the choice of
taking cash or donating their proceeds to charity.
The lacrosse season of St. Paul's School of Brooklandville,
Md., considered the nation's best high school squad. School
investigators found that team members had watched a video of a
16-year-old junior varsity player having sex with a 15-year-old
girl, a tape the jayvee player had made and shown to others
without the girl's knowledge.
The candidacy of Un Yong Kim of South Korea for IOC president.
Despite being issued a "most serious warning" by the IOC for
irregularities related to the Salt Lake bid scandal, he is
considered one of the top three candidates among the five seeking
to replace Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Sixers conditioning coach John Croce, brother of team president
Pat Croce, after being caught on camera taking cash from Allen
Iverson's pants pocket in the 76ers' locker room during an away
game. No charges were pressed.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which reported that Lirpa Sloof,
30, a visitor from Norway, caught the first home run ball at the
Pirates' new PNC Park, a shot by the Mets' Mike Piazza in a March
31 exhibition. The paper got the info from the game notes
distributed by the Pirates on April Fools' Day and didn't realize
what Lirpa and Sloof spell backward.
Stars and Cars
At the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, Calif., last
week, Hollywood celebs got a chance to trade paint with the
racing world's finest: 1) Enjoying the hands-on experience were
(left to right) former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, actress Piper
Perabo (Coyote Ugly), comedian David Alan Grier, actor
Christopher McDonald (Family Law) and Tae Bo's Billy Blanks; 2)
personalized cars, a step up from vanity plates; 3) William
Shatner beams up; 4) Kelly, Olympic swimmer Dara Torres and
Blanks kick-start the race; 5) NASCAR's Robert Huffman and Kelly
demonstrate the importance of safety belts; 6) a couple of
drivers: CART's Christian Fittipaldi and actress Minnie.
Good bargains are tough to come by in real estate, which is why
we call your attention to this hot listing: a 56,000-square-foot
mansion in Farmington, Conn., with 18 bedrooms and 38 baths,
listed in '98 for $22 million but now going for a rock-bottom $5
million. The seller? Mike Tyson, who bought the estate for $2.7
million in '96 thinking he'd be fighting a lot on the East Coast.
(He has since decided to spend most of his time in Las Vegas and
Phoenix.) Among the other amenities: a 20-foot waterfall, a pond,
a gym, an indoor pool, a guest house, a glass elevator, a
basketball court and the crowning touch--a 3,500-square-foot
nightclub with a two-tier dance floor, a wall of 20 TV screens, a
DJ station and a smoke machine....
He's made rap albums and feature films. Now Shaquille O'Neal is
making his sitcom debut, on the April 22 episode of the WB's For
Your Love. Shaq will play himself and will be seen dating model
Kimora Lee Simmons. Also venturing onto the small screen will be
boxer Laila Ali, who will appear on an episode of the syndicated
series Sheena. Ali will play Malika, a childhood friend of
Sheena's (Gena Lee Nolin) who must protect her village by
fighting a boxer from the outside world. The episode's title:
"Rumble in the Jungle."...
Bill Murray is preparing a series for Comedy Central's fall
schedule, tentatively titled The Sweet Spot and described as
"The Golf Channel meets Caddyshack." Bill (above) and brothers
Brian Doyle, Joel and John will play on top courses around the
country while goofing with one another and with other players.
The Murrays are also opening a Caddyshack-themed eatery in
Florida this year, the first in a planned franchise. So they've
got that going for them, which is nice.
Years since the major league team with the game's highest-paid
player on its Opening Day roster made the playoffs; the 1986 Mets
won their division with top earner Gary Carter.
Estimated TV viewers in China for countryman Wang Zhizhi's debut
with the Mavericks last Thursday.
Horses, of the 40 starters, who finished Britain's rain-plagued
Grand National, which was won by 33-1 long shot Red Marauder.
Amount Sears is paying the owners of the apartment building at
3631 N. Sheffield Avenue in Chicago this year to put the
company's name on a rooftop sign overlooking Wrigley Field.
The Rockets' record against teams in the NBA's Central this
season, only the second time in league history that a team has
swept an entire division.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
In the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in Martinsville, Va.,
rookie Jon Wood's Ford was sponsored by Virginia Democratic
gubernatorial candidate Mark Warner.
Pacers center, 39, on Indiana's woes: "If I'm starting, you know