HIT THE ROAD, JACQUES
The NCAA's cultural blind spot leaves foreigners holding their
It's far too easy to rip the NCAA for its many hypocrisies, yet
its latest crusade--to bully basketball players who have come to
U.S. colleges from overseas--leaves little choice but to have at
the organization once again. In early July the NCAA asked 52
schools to determine whether certain of their foreign players had
received compensation from club teams back home or suited up
alongside professionals. In the first case, said the NCAA, the
players would have compromised their amateur status and therefore
be ineligible; in the latter, they would have to sit out a
certain number of games based on their club team experience.
Unlike the U.S., where high schools feed players to colleges, the
rest of the world works on the club model. A preadolescent kid
will pay to join a club team, go through its cadet and junior
programs and, should he blossom, advance to a senior team that
usually includes a few paid countrymen and the odd American
mercenary. This progression often takes place before the player
is old enough to kite off to the U.S. to play college ball.
"We're not attempting to exclude foreigners, but they should have
to meet the same standards," says NCAA enforcement vice president
David Price. Yet as California coach Ben Braun points out, to
punish someone for being a product of this system is to punish
him for having played at all. It's as if Sweden were to declare
American physicists ineligible for the Nobel Prize because they
didn't always use the metric system.
Bewilderingly, the crackdown comes just as the lords of college
sports are exploring ways to relax rules on amateurism. Only last
spring the NCAA agreed to let its athletes take part in Operation
Gold, the U.S. Olympic Committee program that funnels cash to
Americans who do well in international competitions like this
summer's World Championship for Young Men. For winning gold
medals there, basketball players such as Duke's Carlos Boozer and
UCLA's Jason Kapono pocketed $5,000 each. The message: We'll take
care of our boys if they beat up on those furriners, but if one
of them so much as played alongside a pro, there'll be hell to
Schools have until Sept. 10 to exonerate their suspect players
or declare them ineligible and leave them to the tender mercies
of the NCAA's reinstatement committee. Odds are that many more
will join USC center and Greek import Kostas Charissis, who,
though he never took a drachma himself, is among the first to be
felled by the current probe. It's likely that when USC meets
UCLA on Jan. 10, the Bruins will start the handsomely
compensated Kapono while Charissis is still serving a 15-game
suspension, essentially for having grown up in Greece. We can
only hope that the NCAA, which is headquartered in the city that
will host the 2002 world basketball championship, won't be
staking out the Indianapolis airport next summer, lobbying for
deportations. --Alexander Wolff
4 Players Who Would Have Been Subject to NCAA Crackdown
ANDREW GAZE, SETON HALL, 1988-89 Dauphin of Aussie hoops spent
five seasons with Melbourne Tigers of Australia's National
Basketball League before starring for 1989 NCAA runners-up.
DORON SHEFFER, CONNECTICUT, 1993-96 Led Galil Elyon to 1993
Israeli club title; named top rookie in Big East the following
ADEMOLA OKULAJA, NORTH CAROLINA, 1995-99 Reserve for German club
power Alba Berlin during victorious Korac Cup season of 1994-95.
HANNO MOTTOLA, UTAH, 1996-2000 Played with Helsinki YMCA of
Finland's top division before helping Utes reach 1998 NCAA final.
THE NFL REFEREE LOCKOUT
Sometime early in the NFL season a bad call from a replacement
official will decide a game, and the league will go rushing back
to the negotiating table to get a deal done with its 119 regular
officials, who were locked out last week after the league and
the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) failed to reach a contract
agreement. Or will it? "Why?" asks one member of the NFL's
influential competition committee. "Every season a few games are
decided by bad calls, and we live with them."
In other words, the league is content to put up with mistakes
rather than settle for a deal it doesn't want. The NFL has
offered to increase officials' salaries (which range from $25,000
for newcomers to $100,000 for top veterans) by 40% this year and
another 100% in 2003; the NFLRA's counterproposal asks for a 400%
increase. The refs contend that the demands on their time have
grown exponentially since their last labor agreement, in 1994,
while the league notes that unlike their counterparts in other
sports, most NFL officials have other full-time jobs. "The
regular officials are moonlighters," says Bucs defensive tackle
Warren Sapp. "They need to join the real world."
Barring an 11th-hour breakthrough--and the NFL clearly isn't
counting on one, since it has guaranteed the replacements $8,000
each for four weeks of games--early-season matchups will be manned
by a collection of Arena-ball, NFL Europe and low-level college
officials. What should you expect from the new guys? For one
thing, they're likely to swallow the whistle as they get used to
the dozens of (mostly minor) rules differences between the
college and pro games. Notably, no flags were thrown in the first
25 minutes of last Thursday's Eagles-Jets preseason game. Also,
the speed of an NFL game is likely to vex the new crews. Last
Friday, Bucs safety John Howell was flagged for unnecessary
roughness on Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, even though both
of Vick's feet were inbounds when Howell shoved Vick. In
addition, the bane of every official, pass interference, is sure
to see many interpretations by the hodgepodge crew. As Riley
Johnson, a replacement ref from Clemson, S.C., says, "We've got a
long way to go." --Peter King
Last week a group of television executives and investors
announced that the Tennis Channel, a 24-hour all-tennis cable
network, will launch next summer. The net's content will be a mix
of early-round matches, personality-driven profiles and
instruction. To fill the remaining airtime, these shows are said
to be under consideration:
THE X-FILES Belgian pro Xavier Malisse uncovers unexplained
phenomena while searching for the woman who abducted his love
life, ex-girlfriend Jennifer Capriati.
SCRUBS A weekly look at the wacky world of qualifiers.
WEAKEST LINK Richard Williams stars as an abrasive game-show host
who insults all comers, much to the delight of the audience.
THE PRACTICE Tense court drama.
WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? A weekly look at the wacky world of
FAMILY GUY Heartwarming drama about a father (Damir Dokic) and
the subtle ways in which he tries to help the career of his
daughter (Jelena Dokic).
SPIN CITY Roundtable discussion in which big-name stars make
outrageous statements ("Black players have an advantage on
tour!") and then desperately backtrack. Host: Martina Hingis.
FAMILY LAW Venus and Serena Williams star as siblings who take
over the WTA and institute their own eccentric rules on the tour.
BECKER A weekly look at the wacky world of a former Wimbledon
TRAILER OF THE WEEK
Ali (opens Dec. 7)
SYNOPSIS: Will Smith grandly chews the scenery as the Greatest.
TRAILER STYLE: Solemn and soulful, with lots of scenes of 1960s
conflicts (black vs. white, Ali vs. Liston) dissolving into one
another, all set against Sam Cooke's gospel-tinged Bring It on
Home to Me. WHAT THE STUDIO WANTS YOU TO THINK: Raging Bull
meets Malcolm X. WHAT THE STUDIO DOESN'T WANT YOU TO THINK: The
Greatest, by way of Cobb. PREFAB CATCHPHRASE: "What's my name?
What's my name?" BOTTOM LINE: Showy slow-motion boxing scenes
juxtaposed with vintage tableaux of the civil rights movement
put out the clear signal that this is A Serious Film. For the
most part the details look convincing, most notably a buff
Smith, who seems comfortable channeling the champ as fighter and
clown. (A rubber-masked Jon Voight, however, makes for a creepy
Howard Cosell.) Although it teeters on the edge of
self-importance, ultimately the clip is appealing and
provocative--much like Ali himself.
LOOK A whole-body makeover keyed by a 55-pound weight drop.
BREAKDOWN After seeing a picture of himself in a newspaper during
training camp last year, Cowboys owner Jones decided that his 230
pounds were excessive and embarked on a workout and diet regimen
to lower his weight to 175. Eschewing fatty foods and alcohol,
and riding a stationary bike, he lost the pounds in time to
unveil his svelte new look at this year's camp. The burning
question, though, is whether Jones went under the knife to shed
some of the excess baggage--and a few wrinkles. "I'm not going to
give you a straight answer," said Jones. "Never would. Never
will. Don't know many people who would." However, Jones later
cryptically added, "I've lost 55 pounds, and 95 percent of it was
CRITIQUE "The comparisons to Michael Jackson have been many,"
says Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway. "The
doctor who did this has to be in hiding." Jones's crosstown
colleague, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, disagrees with that
assessment. "I think Jerry looks great," he says. "More
important than what he has or has not done, he did what made him
happy, knowing the media would scrutinize it. That takes guts.
As for me, at the rate I'm going, liposuction may not be too far
in the future. I wouldn't try to hide it, though. I'd probably
keep what they sucked out in a bottle in my office to show my
Motorboats with their engines on, from McCovey Cove during
Giants games. The San Francisco Port Commission noted several
near collisions as fans chased home runs hit into the water by
Barry Bonds, and it feared that the pursuit could get even more
treacherous as Bonds approaches 70. Nonmotorized vessels and
motorboats with their engines off are still permitted.
By Florida circuit court judge Kevin Emas, that Christopher
Calkin, the prosecutor who charged naval architect Dubravko
Rajcevic with stalking Martina Hingis, answer questions about his
relationship with Hingis and submit his phone records to the
court. Rajcevic wants his conviction overturned, contending that
Calkin had a conflict of interest because he was romantically
involved with Hingis. Calkin has said he didn't begin dating
Hingis until after Rajcevic was sentenced.
By General Motors vice president Michael Grimaldi, $1 million
for acing the par-3 18th hole at Indianwood Golf & Country Club
in Lake Orion, Mich., during a charity fund-raiser. Because G.M.
policy prohibits employees from keeping prizes they've won while
representing the company, the money will be given to charity.
By the Florida Marlins, applications for media credentials for
the playoffs. Through Monday, Florida was 11 games under .500 and
14 back in the wild-card race.
To be alive, Chicagoan William Hill, 30, who underwent
emergency surgery to repair a deteriorated heart valve that
caused him to have a stroke. Doctors traced the cause to a
bacterial infection that developed after the father of three had
his tongue and lip pierced in an effort to look more like his
idol, Dennis Rodman.
Point Given's retirement nips a racing renaissance in the bud
The racing career of the most captivating 3-year-old since the
glory days of Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed versus
Alydar ended last week because of a strained tendon in his left
front leg. Although Point Given missed the Triple Crown by
running fifth in this year's Kentucky Derby, the towering
chestnut largely atoned for that failure by winning all four of
his subsequent starts: the Preakness, the Belmont, the Haskell
Invitational and, six days before his sudden retirement, the
Travers. "This horse was on the edge of greatness," said his
trainer, Bob Baffert, last Friday. "I feel cheated that we didn't
get to see his best."
Point Given's premature trip to the stud farm was especially
untimely because he'd emerged as a 3-year-old superstar, the kind
of draw racing most covets--and desperately needs. TV ratings for
the Triple Crown rose considerably this spring thanks to the
series' switch from ABC to NBC, which used the races as lead-ins
for its NBA playoff telecasts. Point Given's romp parlayed that
added exposure into attendance records when he ran. He helped
attract 73,857 to the Belmont Stakes, the biggest crowd ever for
a Belmont in which the Triple Crown was not on the line. Monmouth
Park officials so badly wanted Point Given in the Haskell that
they boosted the purse by $500,000, to $1.5 million; they were
rewarded when a throng of 47,127 showed up, breaking a
39-year-old track mark. At Saratoga three weeks later 60,486 fans
turned out to see Point Given run in the Travers, a record for
that race. "It's like when I was a kid and you got to see Mantle
play centerfield," says Robert Kulina, the general manager at
Monmouth. "You need superhorses to draw new fans."
Two years ago Charismatic, the long-shot winner of the 1999 Derby
and Preakness, was on the verge of the most unlikely thoroughbred
success story since Seabiscuit, only to shatter his left front
leg in the homestretch of the Belmont. The injury to Point Given
is a similarly painful setback. "Superstars such as Point Given
bring out the casual fans," says Barry Schwartz, chairman of the
New York Racing Association. "There's no question it's a big
blow." --Mark Beech
Here's good news for Little League man-child Danny Almonte: He's
old enough to see the PG-13 rated baseball flick Hardball when
it hits theaters on Sept. 14. Then again, he might not want to.
The movie portrays the improbable success story of an urban
Little League team that overcomes various obstacles, including
the discovery that one of its stars is too old, a product of a
doctored birth certificate. "It was eerie to see this playing
out in real life," says director Brian Robbins. "Talk about life
imitating art imitating sport." Robbins notes that though the
parallels were coincidental, he had a vested interest in the
Almonte story. "We're not trying to capitalize on the situation,
but I think Hardball can help reinforce the idea that adults are
often too zealous about a game that's supposed to be
David Justice's messy personal life has spilled onto the playing
field--literally. A process server, looking to deliver a
subpoena to Justice in his $5 million palimony case with
ex-fiancee Nicole Foster, jumped out of the stands at Anaheim's
Edison Field during the eighth inning of the Aug. 26
Angels-Yankees game and ran up to Justice to hand him the
subpoena. The startled DH avoided the man, whom guards grabbed
and threw out of the stadium. Afterward Justice said the process
server "looked like he was on drugs. He was crazy as hell."
Justice also says that as far as he's concerned, he has yet to
Revolution Studios will produce a feature film starring
skateboarder Tony Hawk (above). The as-yet-untitled movie will
be a comedy that will showcase Hawk's skills. "There's going to
be lots of action and a real plot, not just some cheesy West
Side Story-meets-skateboarding deal," says Hawk, 33. "It's about
a guy in his 30s trying to figure out what to do with his life.
He decides to have one last-blast road trip in which he hits all
the mythical skating spots." The film marks one of Hollywood's
first attempts to crack the extreme sports market. "But it's not
going to be a skate exploitation film," says Hawk, who plans to
take acting lessons before shooting begins. "Skating's been
stereotyped as punks and attitude, which isn't what we're about.
This is going to be about loving the sport."
Record and ERA of the Red Sox' bullpen, through Monday, in games
started by Pedro Martinez.
Record and ERA of the Boston pen in all other games.
U.S. soccer fans who, as part of the grassroots Project Mayhem,
dedicated to harassing U.S. soccer opponents, showed up to
heckle the Honduran team as it arrived at Dulles Airport for
last Saturday's World Cup qualifier; the Mayhem makers were
promptly jeered out of the airport by some 800 Honduran
supporters who were on hand to welcome their squad.
Anna Kournikova calendars sold in the first three days of the
U.S. Open, which the injured tennis vixen is sitting out.
U.S. Open calendars, featuring various players, that were sold
over that span.
Danny Almonte memorabilia has begun cropping up on eBay; one ball
signed by the discredited Little Leaguer was going for $355 as of
world." PAGE 30
Ravens owner, on the NFL's use of replacement refs: "We're
prepared. Now, if we lose our beer vendors, then you've got a