TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT
Despite recent tragedies, says one NFLer, players will still go
SI asked Rams defensive end Grant Wistrom to reflect on the death
last week of Vikings tackle Korey Stringer in training camp and
on the NFL's workout mentality.
Early on the morning of Aug. 1, I was relaxing in my dorm room on
the Western Illinois campus when a teammate knocked on the door
and delivered horrible news: Korey Stringer had died of
complications resulting from heat stroke.
My first thoughts were about his family, and I vowed to put them
in my prayers. Then I went to practice, where the same Midwestern
heat wave that had struck down Korey was waiting for me and my
teammates. In temperatures that would reach the mid-90s, I
proceeded to do what I always do during training camp: sweat up a
storm, push my body to the brink of exhaustion and suck it up
until the last bullhorn sounds.
I didn't think of Korey once during that practice. You can't. You
do, and you lose your concentration. I don't mean to sound
callous, but I can't change my approach. Sure, something like
that can happen to anyone at any time, but most football players
choose not to think about it. We do what we have to do to get
prepared for the season, and practicing in the heat is one of
We play a rough game, and none of us in the NFL got this far by
being cautious with our bodies. One reason I do what I do is that
I'm willing to sacrifice and work when things are hard--whether
I'm hot, hurt or fatigued. I take pride in my ability to plow
through discomfort; that's what makes me a football player. It's
the mentality I adopted while growing up in Webb City, Mo., and
carried with me to Nebraska, where I learned to thrive in August
heat waves and November cold.
Make no mistake, this has been a dreadful summer for football. My
heart goes out to the families of Eraste Autin, the Florida
freshman who died after collapsing from heat stroke on July 25,
and of Rashidi Wheeler, the Northwestern senior who succumbed to
an asthma attack during practice last Friday. Still, I don't
think this was anything more than a calamitous chain of
The days of coaches running practices like boot camps are over.
We take plenty of breaks, and no one gives us a hard time for
pausing to take a drink of water. It's true that when a guy sits
out practice, you tend to give him a little grief. But players
aren't stupid. We've all hit the wall, and when we see that
someone can't go any longer, we know when to lay off.
In the days since the news about Korey broke, hundreds of people
who don't play football have said the same thing to me: "It's hot
out there. Are you guys doing anything differently because of
what happened?" The answer is no. We'll just keep charging
forward, full steam ahead.
A sampling of measures used to cope with heat at NFL training
If a Packer loses seven pounds during practice, he must drink
seven 20-ounce bottles of water or of an electrolyte-boosting
drink before the next practice.
The Broncos have eight trainers and camp aides who ferry water,
sports drinks and iced towels to players.
During practice on hot days, the players in Jaguars camp get a
short break every 50 minutes in an air-conditioned sideline tent.
Twice during each practice the Steelers use a psychrometer to
measure moisture in the air and calculate the heat index, helping
coaches determine how to proceed.
THE NBA'S NEW PARTNER
THE OTHER SHOE DROPS
For basketball fans it's hard not to think of the NBA as a "Nike
league," given the strong link between the two in the decade and
a half since Michael Jordan turned pro. That's why last week's
announcement of a 10-year partnership between the NBA and Reebok
came as a shock. Under the deal, Reebok will, over the next three
years, become the exclusive supplier and marketer of all warmup
gear and game uniforms for the NBA and the WNBA, and it will also
outfit the NBDL, the NBA's new minor league. In addition, Reebok
gets the rights, with limited exceptions, to design and sell NBA
apparel (an estimated $200 million business now shared by some 20
companies) and to develop NBA-brand basketball shoes.
The groundwork for this deal was laid three years ago, when
Reebok began questioning the value of its slew of athlete
endorsement contracts. "It takes heavy spending and marketing to
bring a celebrity to light," says Reebok CEO Paul Fireman. "We
decided to start backing away from having multiple celebrity
While Nike and others would follow suit, none took the strategy
as far as Reebok. It chose to drop such stars as Shaquille
O'Neal, Emmitt Smith and Frank Thomas and retained only a few
high-profile athletes, among them Allen Iverson and Venus
Williams. That move helped Reebok focus on broader initiatives.
Last December it struck an exclusive 10-year deal worth a
reported $250 million to outfit the NFL. Marketing experts
estimate the NBA contract to be worth about $175 million.
Nike and the NBA say they'll continue to work together at the
grassroots and international levels. Plus, as Nike spokesman
Eric Oberman points out, "Nearly 70 percent of the players in
the NBA wear our shoes." Still, the Reebok deal is a coup for a
company that has long played in Nike's shadow. "It's a real
power punch for Reebok," says Nova Lanktree of the Chicago-based
Sports Celebrity Network. "Iverson, one of the league's main
stars, is a Reebok man, and now Reebok will be all over
--Kristin Green Morse
On the Market
Austin Powers would love Wilt Chamberlain's old Los Angeles
abode. The Big Dipper's house, designed in 1971 by Chamberlain
and architect David Rich and nestled atop a hill in Bel Air, is
chock-full of amenities sure to make any bird randy. (No doubt it
was the scene of some of Wilt's 20,000 conquests.) Even better,
it's for sale, and Chamberlain's estate has slashed the asking
price from $7.4 million to $4.375 million. Here's what you get
--A 7,158-square-foot, six-bedroom pyramidal mansion on 2.5 acres
with city-to-sea views.
--A "playroom" with mirrored walls, a circular pink velvet
wraparound sofa and pink lame pillows. (Alas, the wall-to-wall
waterbed is gone.)
--A 20-foot-long foyer leading to a chrome-and-glass central
staircase with rope railings.
--A three-level, triangular master bedroom culminating in a love
nest at the peak; the mirrored ceiling over the bed retracts to
reveal a view of the sky.
--A sunken, ancient Roman-motif bathtub covered in 18-karat
gold-leaf tile at the foot of the master bed.
--A moatlike pool from which frolickers can swim into the living
--A bathroom papered floor to ceiling with photos of a scantily
clad woman; light switches are strategically located.
Sox for Sale
In the 10 months since it was announced that the Red Sox were for
sale (bids must be in by Aug. 15), interested buyers have courted
celebrities to join their efforts. Here's a look at the pros and
cons of some of those big names.
Tom Werner, TV producer (The Cosby Show and Roseanne) and former
Padres exec PRO Current squeeze Katie Couric could light up
Fenway with her smile CON Could be tempted to hire underworked
Roseanne to sing national anthem
Jack Welch, retiring CEO of General Electric PRO Free toasters
for everyone CON Too many toasted Pop Tarts for Rich (El Guapo)
Garces can't be good
George Mitchell, former U.S. Senator from Maine PRO Negotiated
peace treaty in Northern Ireland CON Might find it harder to
smooth relations between general manager Dan Duquette and skipper
Ken Burns, filmmaker PRO Knows team's futile history CON
Three-hour ball games stretch to 19; new radio team: Shelby Foote
and Doris Kearns Goodwin
Stephen King, author PRO Would scare away the curse of
you-know-who CON Would scare away everyone else, too
When I was 10, I would pull the stirrups of my Little League
uniform high, triple-knot the laces on my rubber spikes and, if
I was pitching that day, slather Vaseline on the underside of
the bill of my cap. That was in the late 1970s, after Me and the
Spitter by Gaylord Perry (below) came out, and in the early
stages of the spitball's last golden age. (I use the term
spitball the way most people do, as a catchall that includes
greaseballs, jellyballs, scuffballs and all the other enhanced
pitches that were outlawed in 1920.)
My Vaseline balls never darted the way Perry's did, but my
naughtiness added to my swagger on the mound. In the big leagues,
ball-doctoring lent the game a sense of mischief. After Hank
Aaron homered off Perry in the 1972 All-Star Game, Aaron
described the pitch as a "spitball, down and in." According to
lore, suspicious umps inspecting Don Sutton would find notes on
him with messages like "Not here" and "You're getting warmer." In
'87 Joe Niekro won a spot in America's heart when, during a
search by an ump, he emptied his pockets with a flourish that
sent an emery board flying.
There are still rare transgressions--in 1999 Detroit's Brian
Moehler got caught with a swatch of sandpaper stuck to his
thumb--but the spitball culture has faded. Baseball was sweeter in
the days when, legend has it, a coach went out to talk to a
struggling pitcher and had this conversation:
"Son, are you cheating?" the coach asked.
"No way," the offended pitcher said.
"Well," the coach told the pitcher, "it's about time you
start." --Kostya Kennedy
Caddie Miles Byrne, by golfer Ian Woosnam. Two weeks after he
failed to notice that Woosnam had too many clubs in his bag
during the British Open, Byrne overslept and failed to turn up
for Woosie's 7:15 a.m. tee time in Sunday's final round of the
Scandinavian Masters. Local caddie Tommy Strand filled in.
By a Gainesville, Fla., jury, that Anheuser-Busch pay the
family of Roger Maris $50 million for improperly revoking its
beer distributorship in 1997. Anheuser-Busch argued that the
family didn't run the distributorship properly and said it would
appeal the ruling. The Marises say they'll appeal, too,
contending that the jury intended a larger award.
By the Environmental Protection Agency, that General Electric
clean up PCBs in the Hudson River, at an estimated cost of $490
million. The toxins were brought to public attention by SI's
Robert H. Boyle in "Poison Roams Our Coastal Seas," in the Oct.
26, 1970, issue.
The embarrassment of testifying in the Gold Club trial, Broncos
running back Terrell Davis and Falcons running back Jamal
Anderson. The two were subpoenaed but not called to the stand
before strip club owner Steve Kaplan and other defendants charged
as part of a criminal conspiracy that included prostitution
entered into plea bargains.
The NFL's Cardinals' new stadium. The team last week agreed to
spend about $12 million on 12 acres adjacent to the planned
site, with the intention of shifting the 73,000-seat venue 3/10
of a mile to the southeast. The FAA had warned that the stadium
as conceived might pose a danger to planes using Phoenix's Sky
Harbor International Airport.
We Got Who?
Trade mix-ups are rare, but they happen
In the July 26 trade between the White Sox and the Dodgers,
Chicago G.M. Ken Williams thought he had dealt pitcher James
Baldwin for 23-year-old Class A pitcher Jonathan Berry, among
others. But because of a miscommunication between the teams'
front offices, Williams had actually accepted 32-year-old Triple
A outfielder Jeff Barry. Williams, who said the Sox would honor
the deal, can at least take solace in knowing he's not the only
exec to get the wrong man (and we're not talking Sam Bowie over
--In the 1977 baseball free-agent draft, the Giants thought they
were using their eighth-round pick on infielder Bill Stein, who
had hit .259 with 13 homers for the Mariners the year before.
However, when a Giants staffer called the player's agent after
the draft, he learned that the Bill Stein they'd drafted was a
minor league pitcher. That Stein went on to win five games
during a four-year, three-team major league career. The
infielder Stein, on the other hand, lasted eight more seasons as
a utility man.
--In 1982 the Buccaneers were eyeing Bethune-Cookman tackle
Booker Reese in the first round of the NFL draft, but before
they had made their final decision, an equipment manager who was
Tampa Bay's rep at the draft handed in a card with the name of
Penn State guard Sean Farrell. Still wanting Reese, the Bucs
quickly traded their first choice in '83 to move up and get
their man in the second round. Farrell started 59 games for the
Bucs over the next five years; Reese started seven and produced
one sack in two seasons before being traded for a 12th-round pick.
--In baseball's 1998 amateur draft, the Cardinals wanted to use
their 11th-round pick to select Rene Vega, a lefty who was 11-1
for New York Dominican College in the Bronx. Alas, Ohio
Dominican College in Columbus had its own lefty Vega, Joel, who
was 3-5. St. Louis mistakenly picked Joel, who was elated; Rene
was taken by the Mets in the 31st round. Said Cardinals scouting
director Ed Creech, "When I write my book, I hope I can write
that [Joel] made it, and everything turned out." Sorry, Ed.
While Rene Vega is hardly tearing it up--he was 1-5 with a 3.64
ERA for the Double A Binghamton (N.Y.) Mets through Sunday--Joel
turned down St. Louis's puny contract offer and returned to Ohio
Dominican. He has yet to be heard from in pro ball.
Golfer John Daly had a wild weekend in Las Vegas recently--but
not of the kind for which he's infamous. On his way to last
week's International tournament in Colorado, Daly and girlfriend
Sherrie Miller (below, with Daly) stopped in Vegas. At the end
of a whirlwind three days, Daly was not only $630,000 richer
thanks to a little gambling luck, but also married. He and
Sherrie, 25, a car saleswoman whom John recently met in Memphis,
were hitched on July 29 in the Chapel at Bally's. "She made me
sign a prenup, because she has all the money," joked Daly. So
what about that $630,000? Said Daly, "I paid a lot of stuff
off."... Actor Dennis Quaid might want to watch his step around
new girlfriend Shanna Moakler. You might recall the nasty split
Moakler had with her fiance, Oscar De La Hoya, last fall. She
changed all the locks in their house and slapped De La Hoya with
a $62.5 million palimony suit, claiming that she and their
two-year-old daughter, Atiana Cecilia, were used "as props to
promote his public image as a good husband and father." De La
Hoya's lawyer has called the allegations "totally false."...
Allen Iverson's musical tastes aren't limited to rap. At his
wedding to Tawanna Turner last Friday in Voorhees, N.J., Iverson
escorted his mother to her seat to the Jackson 5's I'll Be
There. After exchanging vows, he and Tawanna walked back up the
aisle to Ease on Down the Road from The Wiz. The reception was
decidedly more hip-hop. Half the 9,000-square-foot ballroom was
curtained off to create a nightclub atmosphere, with records
spun by DJ Kool.
Consecutive Red Sox Family Days on which outfielder Carl Everett
has been ejected: last year for head-butting an umpire and this
year for throwing his bat between an ump's legs after a called
Competitors, of the 2,600 who took part in last week's
Francophonie Games in Quebec, who applied for political asylum in
Amount a group of former CBA team owners paid for rights to the
name Continental Basketball Association in U.S. bankruptcy court.
Home runs hit by White Sox DH Jose Canseco after he visited a
children's cancer center and promised the kids that he'd knock
one out that night.
0 for 5
Orioles outfielder Melvin Mora's performance in his first game
after his wife, Gisel, gave birth to quintuplets.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Tony Ayala Jr., who served 16 years for rape and faces trial on
charges of burglary with intent to commit sexual assault, beat
Santos Cardona in a bout while wearing an electronic monitoring
device on his left ankle.
New Hall of Famer, just before cutting his tearful induction
speech short: "I want to thank all the friends and family who
made this long trip up here to listen to me speak and hear this