Enough, already! John McEnroe's mighty mouth threatens to devour
Imagine if you'd approached John McEnroe toward the end of his
playing career and told him that a decade hence he'd have an
outsized presence in tennis. He would likely have responded: You
cannot be serious! Surely McEnroe would be too busy with his art
gallery, his band and his family. Surely the game's biggest
iconoclast would ditch the tennis establishment as soon as
Yet during the U.S. Open the past two weeks, it was impossible to
tune in to the tournament and not encounter McEnroe's overexposed
mug. Before the event he appeared on Letterman; during it he
provided some 80 hours of commentary for USA and CBS. He shilled
for Heineken and Lincoln. Until his opponent, Boris Becker,
pulled out with a foot injury, McEnroe was to have competed in a
$100,000 stadium court exhibition match after Saturday's
prime-time women's final. Close line calls were even replayed on
the Acuvue Mac Cam.
Perhaps McEnroe's ubiquity would be easier to take if he weren't
marinating in hubris. Among his favorite themes: At age 42 he
could still hold his own on the tour in doubles. Time and again
he reminded us that he'd been asked to partner with defending
U.S. Open doubles champion Max Mirnyi, 24, at Flushing Meadow
this year. (Asked about the invitation last week, Mirnyi said
with a laugh, "I didn't think we'd win; I just wanted to play
alongside a legend.") McEnroe has also used his bully pulpit to
incessantly promote his candidacy for the nonexistent position of
Commissioner of Tennis. Please. This is a man who lobbied for
years to be the U.S Davis Cup captain. When he finally got the
job, he alienated the top American players, trashed opposing
athletes and coaches and blew off meetings and press conferences.
During a disastrous 5-0 loss to Spain last summer, McEnroe showed
up at a captain's breakfast in a bathrobe. After barely a year he
quit in semidisgrace--then said he'd like to be named to a Davis
Cup doubles spot.
September 16, 2001
McEnroe also regularly bashes the men's game for its lack of
compelling personalities. He may have a point, but he's part of
the problem. So long as he refuses to cede the spotlight, he will
upstage every player and render even the most colorful of them Al
Gore-bland. As one veteran pro puts it: "We want to move forward
and out of the Borg-McEnroe-Connors era, but John won't let it
In fairness, McEnroe does have genuine passion for the game, and
his willingness to take on the sport's sacred cows is admirable.
His candor and hilarious random ruminations as an analyst make
even the most lopsided matches worth watching. During one of the
countless matches he called last week, McEnroe referred to
himself as an "old soldier." No one is asking that he fade away
entirely, but we sure wish he came in smaller doses. --L. Jon
Five Old McFoes: What They're Up to Now
BJORN BORG At bjornborg.net, offers eponymous line of
leisurewear, handbags and perfumes, plus manifesto against
underpopulation ("Drop your pants or drop dead").
JIMMY CONNORS Broke pro hiatus in July to play World Team
Tennis; lives in California with wife Patti, who owns and runs a
gourmet food company, Patti's Pickledilly Pickles.
IVAN LENDL Robotic Czech plays regularly on celebrity golf tour
on which he has one win. With business partners, building golf
complex near his home in Goshen, Conn.
ILIE NASTASE Failed in 1996 campaign for mayor of Bucharest and
in '99 bid for presidency of International Tennis Federation;
developing huge tennis academy in Bucharest.
MATS WILANDER Coolheaded coach of Russian star Marat Safin; has
instituted $100 fine for each racket Safin intentionally breaks.
Sports and Religion
A WIN OR A PRAYER?
Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green's decision to sit out L.A.'s Sept.
26 game against the Giants--a matchup that could have an impact on
the Dodgers' postseason hopes--to observe Yom Kippur isn't the
first time sports has run up against faith:
Eric Liddell. In a decision immortalized in Chariots of Fire, the
British sprinter, a devout Presbyterian, opted not to compete in
the 100 meters at the 1924 Olympics because qualifying heats were
to be held on a Sunday. Instead, Liddell ran the 200, earning the
bronze, and the 400, which he won in Olympic record time.
Hank Greenberg. As his Tigers battled the Yankees for the 1934
pennant, Greenberg consulted a rabbi to decide whether he should
play on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He was cleared to play on
the former, the celebratory Jewish New Year, but not the latter,
the somber Day of Atonement. Greenberg hit two homers in a 2-1
win over the Red Sox on Rosh Hashanah and then didn't play on Yom
Kippur nine days later. The Tigers won the pennant by seven
Sandy Koufax. After earning pitching's version of the Triple
Crown in 1965 (26 wins, 2.04 ERA, 382 strikeouts), the Dodgers
ace declined to pitch in Game 1 of the World Series against the
Twins because it fell on Yom Kippur; replacement Don Drysdale was
shelled for seven runs in 22/3 innings. Koufax lost Game 2 but
rebounded to throw complete-game shutouts in Games 5 and 7 and
win the Series MVP award.
Dan Thomas. The prized Brewers outfield prospect joined the
Worldwide Church of God before the 1977 season and declared that
he'd observe his church's Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown
Saturday). Dubbed the Sundown Kid, Thomas quickly dropped through
the farm system due to poor play and conflicts with managers. By
season's end the sun had set on his pro career.
Edwin Correa. A Rangers righthander and Seventh-Day Adventist,
Correa negotiated with the team not to pitch on Friday nights or
Saturday afternoons during the 1987 season. The arrangement was
honored until June 27, when, at the team's urging, he reluctantly
took the mound and won the first game of a Saturday doubleheader
in Minnesota. In his next start, on July 5, Correa blew out his
shoulder. He never pitched again.
Jazz officials must have shuddered when Karl Malone announced
he'll drive a monster truck on the U.S. Hot Rod Association's
Monster Jam Circuit. The Mailman, though, is apparently within
his rights. "I have one stipulation in my contract with the
Jazz," said Malone, an avid hunter, "and that's not shooting off
a horse." Other odd contract riders:
--When soccer player Spencer Prior moved from English club
Manchester City to Cardiff City in June, he was contractually
obliged to eat sheep's brain and testicles. Cardiff City's
Lebanese-born owner, Sam Hammam, believes the Middle Eastern
delicacies helped his players win promotion to the second
division the previous season.
--In 1999, injured Red Wings defenseman Uwe Krupp's rehab regimen
included weekends spent dogsled racing, a practice the team
contends violated his contract. Detroit is refusing to pay Krupp
$8.2 million in salary from the past two seasons. Krupp says his
deal does not ban dogsledding.
--When first baseman Will Clark played for the Giants, he could
not participate in 54 specific activities, including wood
chopping, ice boating and spelunking. Roger Clemens wasn't
allowed to play jai alai when he pitched for the Red Sox.
--Though Major League Soccer contracts forbid skydiving (as well
as riding mopeds and hang gliding), Columbus Crew striker Brian
McBride took a plunge on a whim in 1997. He was fined $500.
--Then, of course, there's Michael Jordan, who famously had a
"love of the game" clause written into his Bulls contract,
stating that MJ could play hoops anytime and anywhere he wished.
Wonder if he'll have the same deal with the Wizards?
Whoa for Five
Who says Keanu Reeves has limited range? In his new film,
Hardball (above, left), opening Friday, Reeves plays a baseball
coach, his latest athletic role. A review of his career stats:
Hardball Role Conor O'Neill, down-on-his-luck gambler forced to
coach urban Little League team. Display of athletic prowess
Scrambles up fire escape to outrun bookie's thugs. Career failing
Keeps placing big bets on post-Jordan Bulls. Sports line "What do
I know about coaching baseball?"
The Replacements Role Shane Falco (middle), ex-Ohio State
quarterback turned replacement player. Display of athletic
prowess Throws perfect spiral in first pro practice. Career
failing Choked in Sugar Bowl. Sports line "Pain heals. Chicks dig
scars. Glory lasts forever."
Point Break Role Johnny Utah, ex- Ohio State quarterback turned
FBI agent. Display of athletic prowess Spins football on
fingertip. Career failing Suffered a knee injury in Rose Bowl.
Sports line "In high school I played football because my old man
expected me to."
Parenthood Role Tod (right), slacker drag racer. Display of
athletic prowess Demonstrates WWF rassling techniques on
brother-in-law. Career failing Crashes brother's car in first
race. Sports line After being pulled from wreckage on track,
asks, "Did I win?"
Youngblood Role Heaver, French-Canadian minor league hockey
goalie. Display of athletic prowess Balances roll of stick tape
on his head. Career failing Can't stop any of Rob Lowe's shots in
practice. Sports line No intelligible quotes.
By the Dodgers, a Giants request that the two teams dress in
1951-style uniforms at PacBell Park on Sept. 16 to commemorate
the 50th anniversary of Bobby Thomson's Shot Heard 'Round the
World. The Giants plan to wear the retro unis and celebrate
their famous playoff victory without Los Angeles's participation.
A settlement between four pro football coaches--Buddy Ryan, his
sons Rex and Rob (assistants for the Ravens and the Patriots,
respectively), and former Dallas assistant Ernie Zampese--and a
trio of Texas high school coaches who'd sold the pro coaches'
playbooks on sportsplaybooks.com. The three agreed to pay each
of the plaintiffs $3,000 and refrain from future sales.
By the U.S. Justice Department, whether the ticket policy for
the Sept. 1 World Cup qualifier between the U.S. and Honduras at
RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., violated federal civil rights
laws. Honduran fans, including ambassador Hugo Noe Pino,
complained that they were denied good seats for the game because
they were rooting for the visiting team. U.S. soccer officials
said they wanted to restrict Honduran fans to the upper deck to
create a pro-U.S. atmosphere but denied that the policy
discriminated on the basis of national origin.
The Reds, with huge pants to fill after hefty first baseman
Calvin Pickering was claimed by the Red Sox on waivers.
Cincinnati got Pickering in a trade with the Orioles on Aug. 30
but lacked trousers big enough to fit the 295-pounder and had to
buy a pair of size-50 softball pants at a sporting-goods store.
His specially ordered gray road pants arrived last Friday, the
day Boston made its waiver claim.
The NFL's "This is what it's all about" campaign
SYNOPSIS A series of syrupy spots highlighting the softer side of
pro football. In one ad a teenage boy stays home to watch a game
with his grandmother rather than cruise for chicks with his
buddies. In another a Titans fan gets ready for a game while
Lionel Richie croons "I'm easy like Sunday morning" in the
BACKGROUND After dropping its long-running "Feel the Power" ads,
the NFL turned to ad agency Young & Rubicam for a new approach.
"The league wasn't connecting to casual fans," says Y&R chief
creative officer Jim Ferguson. "The NFL already has the hard-core
fans in its pocket. All it has to do is put the game on TV, and
it's got them hooked. But the untapped market is those casual
fans, who enjoy the social aspects of football more than the game
itself." Indeed, in 90 seconds of the new ads, only six seconds
are of game footage. Says John Collins, the league's senior VP
for marketing, "The underappreciated power of the NFL is its
ability to bring people together."
BOTTOM LINE Reaching out to new fans makes sense, given that the
NFL's ratings have dropped in five of the past six years. Still,
the kinder, gentler spots might be met with criticism from
die-hard fans. After all, Lionel Richie?
Ah, parting is such sweet sorrow. But if you're a future Hall of
Famer, it can also be rather lucrative. Take Cal Ripken Jr. and
Tony Gwynn, who in their final visits as players to major league
parks have been racking up the going-away gifts. Here's a
rundown of some of the loot they've received from opposing
clubs, along with estimates of the gifts' value. (Most teams
have also contributed to Ripken's and Gwynn's charities.)
A's Collection of Silver Oaks Cellars cabernet
sauvignon from California's Alexander Valley $425
ANGELS An original drawing of Ripken with Mickey Mouse $1,000
BRAVES Plaque commemorating Cal's 6-for-6
night against the Braves in 1999 $300 to $500
DEVIL RAYS One-year supply of stone crab claws $700
Commemorative oil painting $12,000
MARINERS One-year supply of Dungeness crabs $1,800 to $2,100
Jersey signed by current Mariners $2,000
MARLINS Three framed photos of Ripken and his father $300
RANGERS Jersey signed by Texas players $500
Pair of Lucchese ostrich cowboy boots $600
ROYALS Portrait of Ripken breaking Japan's Sachio
Kinugasa's world record for consecutive games played $1,000
WHITE SOX Wooden chair from old Comiskey Park $400 to $700
Dirt from old Comiskey PRICELESS
TOTAL VALUE $21,025 to $21,825
ASTROS Framed Texas flag $500
Handmade sterling-silver belt buckle $500
BRAVES Commemorative plaque $500
BREWERS Harley Davidson leather jacket $500
CARDINALS Pencil drawing of Gwynn signed by St. Louis
players as well as by Lou Brock and Stan Musial $1,500 to $2,000
MARLINS Bat signed by Florida players $400 to $500
PHILLIES Miniature Liberty Bell $500
Oil portrait $5,000
PIRATES Oil painting of Gwynn's game-winning
hit in 1994 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh $1,000
TOTAL VALUE $10,400 to $11,000
Ichiro fever continues unabated in Japan, where every move
Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki makes is reported and
dissected (page 112). Not even the recent allegation of an
extramarital affair between Suzuki and a 20-year-old Japanese
college student in San Francisco has dampened his popularity.
Last month the weekly Japanese tabloid Friday published what it
said was the transcript of a sexually explicit phone
conversation between Suzuki and a woman identified only as M.
The paper also quotes the woman's roommate as saying Suzuki and
M met at least twice. In December, Friday reported that Suzuki,
while a bachelor, had had a five-year affair with a married
woman and that he'd paid the woman's husband $100,000 to keep
quiet about the relationship. After that story Suzuki held a
press conference in which he fessed up to his "thoughtless act"
but said the relationship was over....
Lions receiver Herman Moore has fallen off the (high speed)
wagon. After two subpar seasons Moore (above), a car freak who's
owned a Ferrari Testarossa, a Lamborghini Diablo, four Jaguars
and two Porsches, swore off his hot wheels habit. Then, after
learning in the off-season that he'd be featured in Detroit
coach Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense, Moore broke down
and bought himself a treat: a Ferrari 360 Modena. "I looked at
red, black and silver," says Moore of his $200,000 toy. "But the
fly yellow stood out. Even sitting idle, it looks like it's
going fast." So how fast does Moore go in the car? "I'm not
saying. But if I put that kind of money in a car, it's not going
to sit around as a collectible."...
Among the stars who turned out at the U.S. Open in support of
Venus and Serena Williams were comedian Jamie Foxx, filmmaker
Spike Lee and actress/singer Brandy. The sisters took the glitzy
guests in stride, but Serena did get star-struck by one. When
told rapper Jay-Z had come to watch her, she broke down in a fit
of giggles: "Really? Really? Really? Oh my God. Oh my God.
That's a total shocker. Oh my. You know that's good. I don't
know what to say." Clearly.
Basketball players on the court for Bosnia and Herzegovina at
the end of its 101-77 loss to Greece during the European
championship tournament, after referees ejected every player on
both benches for brawling and three of the remaining five
Bosnian players fouled out in the final 90 seconds.
Hits by White Sox shortstop Royce Clayton in Chicago's Sept. 4
doubleheader against the Tigers, equaling his total output for
May, when he went 5 for 48.
Winning time of Kenya's Paul Bitok in the 5,000 meters at the
Goodwill Games; it was nearly three minutes off the world mark,
14 seconds slower than the winning time in the women's 5,000 at
the Games and 41 seconds off the junior girls' world mark.
Steve Smiths to have played major league baseball, the only
sport among the big four that has yet to field a Steve Smith.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
During its game with visiting Wofford, Clemson ordered its
marching band and cheerleaders to remain silent during breaks in
the action so that TV commercials could be played on the Memorial
Stadium video screen.
Casual fans enjoy football's social aspect more than the game.
They Said It
Swedish golfer, on how Sergio Garcia (right) occupied himself
during a three-day visit to Parnevik's house: "He took care of
the kids for a while, and he was chasing the nannies around
pretty much the rest of the time."