COVER YOUR EYES
The NFL preseason is agonizingly tense--for all the wrong reasons
Jerry Rice darted across the middle, caught a pass from Rich
Gannon and raced into the open field, thrilling a charged-up
crowd at San Francisco's 3Com Park on a lovely Sunday afternoon.
Everyone was cheering--Raiders fans, 49ers fans, pregame honorees
Brandi Chastain and her Bay Area CyberRays teammates--as the
38-year-old Rice enlivened the Battle of the Bay with a 23-yard
reminder of his excellence.
Then Rice, preparing for his first season in Oakland after 16
glorious years in San Francisco, got hit, and the mood in the
stadium turned from Hail Jerry to Hail Mary. One Niners defensive
back, Pierson Prioleau, attacked Rice from the front, while
another, Anthony Parker, smashed him from behind. There it was, a
scary snapshot that summed up the queasy feeling shared by those
who dare to watch preseason football: the greatest wide receiver
in history at the mercy of two guys desperately trying to make a
Rice emerged no worse for wear, but fans who attend these
excruciating exhibitions can't always say the same. Preseason
games not only are the biggest rip-off in sports--NFL teams
typically include them in season-ticket packages, at
regular-season prices--but also are nerve-racking exercises. If
you're a football fan, watching your team play in the preseason
is like buying a new sports car and then letting your 16-year-old
drive it home on the freeway in rush-hour traffic.
August 26, 2001
One big hit or one bad cut in one of these meaningless games, and
a fan's hopes can be shredded. Remember Giants cornerback Jason
Sehorn crumpling to the turf, done for the year, after tearing up
his right knee while experimenting as a kick returner in a 1998
exhibition outing? Or Rams quarterback Trent Green taking a
knockout shot to the knee in '99? It's no wonder that Ravens
coach Brian Billick, already jittery after the training-camp knee
injury that will sideline halfback Jamal Lewis for the season,
endorsed the cancellation of Baltimore's Aug. 13 preseason game
against the Eagles because he believed the turf at Veterans
Stadium was unsafe. Embarrassing as that was to the league, at
least the game provided one of August's more memorable moments,
when HBO's cameras captured Billick complaining of a faulty
headset and telling a stadium official, "I want to have
somebody's ass in my briefcase when I leave here."
A sizable number of NFL junkies embrace these exhibitions as
entertainment, apparently tantalized by the rush of seeing
no-namers scramble for roster spots. The preseason is also,
supposedly, an opportunity for fans to gauge a team's prospects
for success in real games, though that's a dubious proposition.
True, last year's Ravens went 4-0 in exhibition games before
launching their Super Bowl drive, but so did the Chargers, who
finished 1-15. On the flip side, the 1998 Cowboys followed an 0-5
preseason with an NFC East championship.
More bluntly, does anyone remember the unquestioned individual
success story of the 2000 preseason? If you answered Ryan Leaf,
go ahead and treat yourself to a trip to Mexico City--where Rice
and the Raiders take on the Cowboys in another phony war next
Monday. --Michael Silver
Four Especially Deceptive
Jim Harbaugh, 1998 Would-be Ravens savior completed 33 of 47
passes for 320 yards in 4-0 August, then led club to lofty 6-10
Emmitt Smith, 1993 Super Bowl champ Cowboys went 1-3-1 as Smith
held out for entire preseason. In regular season Smith carried
for NFL-best 1,486 yards and won MVP; Dallas repeated on Super
Redskins, 1991 With suspect defense allowing 112 yards rushing
per game, Washington won just once in preseason. Skins then went
14-2 with league's No. 3 D on way to Super Bowl title.
Jerry Glanville, 1990 Man in Black joined Falcons with splash as
they had their first 4-0 preseason; when games counted, went
THE NBDL'S MINNESOTA CONNECTION
The NBA gave itself a nice pat on the back last week when it
announced the hiring of Stephanie Ready as an assistant coach
with the Greenville (S.C.) Groove of its new National Basketball
Development League (NBDL). While the NBA is to be lauded for
making Ready the first woman to coach in a men's pro sports
league, it should be less proud of the man she'll be working for.
That would be Groove head coach Milton Barnes. From 1991 to '96
he was an assistant at Minnesota, where he figured prominently in
the academic fraud scandal that led to the departure of coach
Clem Haskins and the overhaul of the university's athletic
tutoring program. According to tutoring-office secretary Jan
Gangelhoff, Barnes edited some of the papers that she wrote for
players and advised her on how to make the course work appear
more like something written by an athlete. After academic
counselor Brian Berube alerted a tutor to possible cheating,
Barnes wrote an intimidating memo chastising Berube for pursuing
the matter outside the basketball program and intimating that
Berube was racist for questioning a basketball player's
classwork. "I have lost total respect for you as a man and as a
person who has the best interests of young people at heart,
especially those of color," Barnes wrote.
Barnes says he did nothing improper, and Minnesota's
investigation concluded there wasn't enough evidence to confirm
or disprove the allegations about his involvement in players'
schoolwork. However, Eastern Michigan, where Barnes had modest
success as head coach after leaving Minnesota, refused to renew
his contract in 2000 partly because of his ties to the scandal.
College scandals have rarely given the NBA cause for concern.
Butch Carter, bagman for improper payments to a Cal player in the
mid-1990s, coached the Raptors for three seasons, and Jerry
Tarkanian (UNLV) and John Calipari (UMass) jumped to the pros
from badly tarnished college programs. The NBA is similarly
unfazed by Barnes's past. "It gave us no pause whatsoever," says
Karl Hicks, NBDL senior director of basketball operations. "He
had some great teams at Eastern Michigan, and he did the most
difficult thing for a coach to do--put together back-to-back
20-win seasons [in 1996-97 and 1997-98]. We feel Milton is a
high-potential coach." --George Dohrmann
Golf people love to tag some star-crossed pro as "the best player
never to have won a major." (For the record, it's still Phil
Mickelson after his second-place finish in the PGA [page 40].)
However, who deserves that label if you consider more than
current players? And what about in other sports?
GOLF Lighthorse Harry Cooper won 31 PGA Tour events during the
1920s and '30s but never a major. Among his near misses: a
semifinal loss to Walter Hagen in the '25 PGA Championship and a
playoff loss to Tommy Armour in the '27 U.S. Open.
TENNIS Andrea Jaeger won nine WTA tournaments, from 1980 to '87,
and was ranked as high as No. 2, but she never broke through to
win a Grand Slam event. She reached two finals--at the French in
'82 and Wimbledon in '83--but lost both to Martina Navratilova.
AUTO RACING Michael Andretti has more career starts (284), wins
(41) and poles (32) than any other Indy car driver never to win
the Indianapolis 500. His best finish in 12 tries was second,
behind Rick Mears in 1991.
HORSE RACING The only thoroughbred to finish second in all three
Triple Crown races? Alydar, who yielded to Affirmed in the 1978
Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
BOXING Although Ken Norton briefly held the WBC heavyweight
championship in 1978, he got the belt only after Leon Spinks had
been stripped of it. Norton then lost his first defense, to Larry
Holmes. Despite a 42-7-1 (33 KOs) lifetime record, Norton never
won any other major titles.
On Friday, Summer Catch, starring Freddie Prinze Jr. (right) as a
Cape Cod League pitcher, opens in theaters nationwide. We asked
former big leaguer Mike Pagliarulo, who played third for the
league's Chatham A's in 1980, for his thoughts on the film.
The Cape League is a great place to be seen. When I played, the
studs were guys like Glenn Davis and Ron Darling, but there were
also guys from small schools and even local players--like the guy
Prinze plays--who made their mark. In the film Prinze mows lawns
to earn money, and I can relate. During my summer in Chatham I
cleaned sewers. There were days I'd be so tired I'd just head
home from work and sleep in a hammock in the backyard. I slumped
for the first month of the season, but at least Chatham's sewers
The players in the movie party a lot. We got together pretty
often, but I don't think we were that crazy. We'd go out for a
beer or two, but things were very competitive and we had a game
almost every day. Still, we had fun--just hanging out, grabbing a
clam plate and heading down to the beach. That's what I remember
best: the camaraderie. The movie does a good job of capturing
As for the girls, well, it's summer, and the town is packed with
bikinis. One kid in the film is seduced by a 40-year-old woman.
Guys used to talk about experiences like that ("So-and-so's wife
is a real knockout"), but it was mostly talk. The weirdest thing
that happened to me was losing two homers when games were called
due to fog.
Saturday nights in the mid-1980s: Fueled by a speedball of Mello
Yello and Reese's Pieces, I needed only to survive the grindingly
slow last few skits of Saturday Night Live before TV heaven
awaited. Live (on tape) from the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, the
Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (G.L.O.W.) caromed off turnbuckles
and flopped on the canvas for an hour each week, wearing nothing
but skimpy unitards. In truth most of the ladies were gorgeous in
the same way that Sergeant Slaughter was a sergeant. The
wrestling was laughably bad and the plotlines were, in
retrospect, ridiculously offensive: Villainesses like Palestina
("the Syrian terrorist") and Spanish Red ("the hot-blooded
Latin") did battle with heroines such as Americana and Hollywood.
But as a 15-year-old living in an HBO-deprived household, I took
what I could get.
I was hardly alone in my zeal. At the height of its popularity,
in 1986, G.L.O.W. drew an estimated seven million viewers each
week eager to see whether Mountain Fiji could lure Sally the
Farmer's Daughter into the vaunted Fijian Strap. However, like a
Mello Yello high, the show's allure wore off quickly as our
lowbrow loyalties shifted to Morton Downey Jr. and American
Gladiators. Still, 15 years after its short-lived success, there
are traces of an after-G.L.O.W.: On her website, Hollywood
advertises that for $325 an hour, she's available for private
wrestling sessions. --L. Jon Wertheim
--By Cytodyne Technologies of New Jersey, the distribution of
Androdyne, a supplement containing androstenedione, which is
banned by the NFL. The league has said it will prohibit players
from endorsing products by companies that make or distribute
banned substances. Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James and Joe
Jurevicius are among the NFL players who endorse Cytodyne
--The Orioles, of discriminatory hiring practices, by the
Justice Department. Senator Jesse Helms had called for an
investigation after Orioles exec Syd Thrift was quoted in The
Washington Times as suggesting that to foster better relations
with Fidel Castro, owner Peter Angelos would not sign Cuban
defectors, which Angelos denied.
--By the Eagles rock band, refunds to thousands of fans who sat
in certain sections of the upper deck at Denver's new Invesco
Field for an Aug. 11 concert and complained of garbled sound.
The band's audio manager says the stadium was designed to
enhance crowd noise at Broncos games and is ill-suited to
concerts, an assertion that arena management disputes. Eagles
manager Irving Azoff, a 30-year music business veteran, called
the concert "my worst stadium-night experience."
--Red, from Colgate's nickname, the Red Raiders. University
officials say that the appellation originally referred to the
school's uniform color but became associated over the years with
Native Americans and may offend people "in ways that undermine
the institution's values and commitments."
--British employment lawyer Cherie Blair, by Aston Villa
midfielder David Ginola, who's considering suing team manager
John Gregory over Gregory's repeated jokes that Ginola was
overweight. Cherie is the wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
EARL ANTHONY, 1938-2001
Earl Anthony made pocket money as a kid by setting up pins in a
bowling alley. His knack for knocking them down as an adult made
him the first bowler to earn $1 million during his career.
Anthony, who was 63 when he died from head trauma on Aug. 14
after falling down the stairs at a friend's home in New Berlin,
Wis., dominated bowling when bowling dominated Saturday-afternoon
television. He won a PBA career-record 41 tournaments from 1970
to '83, including 10 titles in the majors. "Earl made our
broadcasts," former ABC host Chris Schenkel said last week,
recalling the 36-year stretch that made the Professional Bowlers
Tour one of the longest-running and highest-rated sports series
in television history. "In the early days of golf telecasts, I
would pray that Arnold Palmer would make the cut because he'd
make the ratings go up. Earl had that same appeal."
That appeal might seem hard to fathom today. With his nerdy hair
and Poindexter glasses, Anthony would go over only in a
hip-to-be-square sense. Nonetheless, even as bowling has all but
disappeared from the airwaves, it has come back in vogue in other
ways of late. Bowling shoes and bags have become fashion items,
the sport is featured in the new Comedy Central series Let's Bowl
and NBC's comedy Ed, and political scientist Robert Putnam,
author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American
Community, implicitly urges us to restore our fraying sense of
social cohesiveness by returning to beer leagues at the local
bowl-o-rama. In the meantime a trio of Microsoft millionaires
recently bought the PBA tour and is trying to make the sport cool
again. They have paid down the tour's debt, raised its purses,
granted stock options to the bowlers and raided Nike for
marketing executives who are trying to reinvent pro bowling with
more engaging personalities and a brisker format.
It's hard to imagine Anthony on this newfangled PBA tour. Square
Earl liked to say, "You can't ever be too slow to the line."
Taciturn, indistractibly focused, a junkballer who was always
recalibrating speed and spin, he'd be the analog oddball at
Digital City Lanes. The poky style that made Anthony an immortal
only underscores how bowling's golden age belonged to another era
entirely--and how daunting a task the PBA tour's new proprietors
face. --Alexander Wolff
If you've ever watched Alonzo Mourning in action and thought,
Gee, now where I can get myself a 'do like Zo's? you're in luck.
The Heat center and his longtime barber, Peter Bethel, have just
opened Cutz, a Miami hair salon. Three years ago, when Bethel,
who has also trimmed the locks of P.J. Brown, Brian Grant, Tim
Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn, mentioned to Mourning (below) that
he wanted to open his own shop, Mourning volunteered to be his
partner. According to Bethel, Mourning was deeply involved in
setting up the salon, doing everything from picking out the
old-style barbershop chairs to coming up with the name of the
place. "Yes, Alonzo still gets his haircuts from me," says
Bethel, "and, yes, he still pays for them." ...
A hairy encounter: Two weeks ago Chris Evert and her husband,
Andy Mill, walked into their vacation home in Aspen, Colo., and
discovered an intruder. "There was garbage all over the
hallway," recalls Evert. "Then I heard rustling in the kitchen,
so I told Andy, 'You'd better take care of this.'" What Mill
found in the kitchen was a black bear, which had apparently
gained entrance to the house through a door left open by one of
the couple's kids. Mill scared off the ursine visitor by letting
out a shrill whistle. "God love him," says Evert of her husband.
"He has the loudest whistle in Aspen."...
At least one person isn't happy with HBO's reality show Hard
Knocks: Training Camp with the Baltimore Ravens. Tim Hasselbeck,
Baltimore's fourth-string quarterback, has been ducking HBO's
omnipresent TV crews. You'd think Hasselbeck would have picked
up some tips on how to deal with the cameras from his fiancee,
reality show vet Elisabeth Filarski, one of the stars of
Survivor II. "It's pretty ironic," says Hasselbeck's father,
Don, a former NFL tight end. "I just hope Tim doesn't get voted
off the Baltimore island."
Bases stolen by Davey Lopes when his club was ahead by seven or
more runs; as Brewers skipper, Lopes was furious recently when
Padre Rickey Henderson swiped second with San Diego leading
Place of 2000 NCAA Ice Hockey Rules and Interpretations on
Amazon.com's sales list, ninth worst.
Amount former Oilers owner Peter Pocklington's five Stanley Cup
rings went for at auction on lelands.com.
Amount Troy State, in its first year of Division I-A football,
will receive for playing games at Maryland, Miami, Mississippi
State and Nebraska.
Consecutive games from July 17 through last Friday in which
Mariners outfielder Mike Cameron struck out.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
U.S. Open officials refused to renew Queens businessman Steven
Levkoff's $110,000 luxury suite at Arthur Ashe Stadium in part
because Levkoff failed to order the obligatory $24,000 worth of
food from the tennis center's caterer during the two-week
tournament last year.
"It's hard to imagine Earl Anthony on this newfangled PBA tour."
They Said It
Three-hundred-pound Jets guard, on his new diet: "I still like
my sweets, but I have cut back. For instance, I might not eat a
whole pie. I might eat only half."