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Scorecard

Oct. 08, 2001
Oct. 08, 2001

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Oct. 8, 2001

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STATE OF TURMOIL
Afghanistan has had an oddly central position in sports history

This is an article from the Oct. 8, 2001 issue Original Layout

For a country that has never won an Olympic medal and is the
only nation banned from the Games, Afghanistan had a telling
effect on two Olympics. Because of the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan in 1979, President Carter ordered the U.S. boycott
of the Moscow Games in 1980 unless the U.S.S.R. withdrew its
troops. Four years later the Soviets took obvious revenge by
boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics.

The boycotts dramatically changed the history of several sports.
A number of American athletes, then at the peak of their
careers, would almost surely have been gold medalists in Moscow:
notably, hurdlers Edwin Moses and Renaldo Nehemiah and swimmers
Rowdy Gaines, Craig Beardsley, Tracy Caulkins and Mary T.
Meagher. Ever heard of Stanley Floyd? He was the reigning
World's Fastest Human and would have been the favorite in the
100 meters. The boycott pretty much erased him from history.
Bill Rodgers and Tony Sandoval would have been threats in the
marathon, something the U.S. hasn't had since Greg LeMond had an
excellent chance of winning cycling's road race.

Athletes were among the few Americans who paid a significant
price for Carter's unsuccessful attempt to pressure the Soviets
to leave Afghanistan. American wheat farmers and a few
technology businesses were the only others substantively
damaged. Furthermore, the President couldn't get many U.S allies
to join the boycott because the argument that sports should not
intrude on politics generally carried the day. Even the British
allowed their athletes to compete, and Sebastian Coe won the
1,500 and Allan Wells the 100. Most U.S. Olympians opposed
Carter's decision, but the public rallied behind the President,
and he pressured the USOC board to back him up, by about a
two-to-one vote.

Of course, in 1984 some American athletes benefited when the
U.S.S.R. and other satellite countries boycotted the L.A. Games.
Many American medals in boxing, wrestling and women's track and
swimming would have gone to competitors from Communist nations,
had those athletes participated. The Soviet Union's Natalya
Yurchenko became the Stanley Floyd of '84. She would have been a
favorite in the women's all-around gymnastics competition that
Mary Lou Retton won to become America's Sweetheart.

As for Afghanistan, not even the IOC--which loves to include
athletically hopeless countries so it can boast a larger
membership than the United Nations--will permit it to
participate in the Games. The IOC doesn't recognize the Taliban
officials who replaced the Afghans' certified Olympic
representatives. Moreover, the fundamentalist Taliban government
doesn't allow women to compete in sports, which clashes directly
with the IOC charter. The Taliban also forbids men from
competing in shorts and without beards, which conflicts with
rules in such sports as boxing and wrestling. A year ago, when a
visiting Pakistani soccer team dared to show up to play in
shorts, a low-level Taliban official ordered the players' heads
shaved.

Fans in Afghanistan are not permitted to cheer or clap at
matches and may only express approval by shouting, "Allahu
Akbar" (God is great). But there's not even much opportunity for
that. Afghanistan's largest stadium, in Kabul, is now rarely
used for soccer. Instead it hosts public executions.
--Frank Deford

SPORTS MEMORABILIA
GOING, GOING...SOLD!

When comic book impresario Todd McFarlane paid $3 million for
Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball after the 1998 season,
memorabilia cognoscenti around the country let out a collective
gasp. "There was a sense that this was an out-of-whack price for
a single baseball, regardless of how spectacular it was," says
T.S. O'Connell of Sports Collectors Digest. Adds Lou Costanzo of
the sports memorabilia auction house Real Legends, "I expected
$1 million. But with new items, people often bid with their
heart and not their head."

Last week, as Barry Bonds was poised to surpass McGwire's mark,
McFarlane was the one holding his breath. "I'm getting a lot of
ribbing," said McFarlane, who owns seven McGwire 1998 home run
balls, "but if having my balls neutered brings joy to this
country now, then I'm ready to do my patriotic duty."

Experts don't expect Bonds's record ball to fetch anywhere near
$3 million. "I'd be interested to see if his goes for over a
million," says Costanzo. "Maris's record stood for 37 years.
McGwire's will have stood for only three. People will hesitate
to pay a lot because they're afraid the record will be broken
again soon."

Intriguingly, if 70 dingers becomes a common total, McGwire's
number 70 might be more valuable than Bonds's record ball.
"McGwire's will go down in value," says Costanzo, "but it will
always be synonymous with a great moment in sports history."
Adds McFarlane, "People who are saying, 'Ahh, your ball will be
worth five bucks,' are looking at things too simplistically.
That Maris beat Babe Ruth's record in 1961 didn't diminish what
Ruth did."

For McFarlane there may be only one strategy. "He really has to
buy the Bonds ball," says Costanzo. "If you hold both of them,
you control the market." McFarlane says he may bid but won't go
as high as he did in 1998. Maybe he's saving something for next
year, when Sammy Sosa belts his 75th. --Albert Chen

Now and Then

Things sure have changed in the 6 1/2 years since Michael Jordan
returned for the first time--not to mention in the 17 years
since he entered the NBA. Here's a snapshot of some sports
benchmarks in November 1984 (Jordan's debut), March '95
(comeback No. 1) and now.

November 1984

Cal Ripken's streak 442 games

Dennis Rodman's hair color Black

Sports babe of the moment Katarina Witt

Tiger Woods's big win Optimist International
of the year junior title (at age 8)

Larry Brown's job Kansas' coach

Largest athlete Steve Young, USFL L.A.
Express, $36 million, 43 years

Allen Iverson's status Third-grader at Aberdeen
Elementary in Hampton, Va.

Big sports innovation The Wave

March 1995

[Cal Ripken's streak] 2,009

[Dennis Rodman's hair color] Red

[Sports babe of the moment] Gabrielle Reece

[Tiger Woods's big win Second straight U.S. Amateur
of the year]

[Larry Brown's job] Pacers' coach

[Largest athlete] Larry Johnson, Hornets,
$84 million, 12 years

[Allen Iverson's status] Freshman guard for Georgetown;
cleared of 1993 maiming by mob
conviction in July

[Big sports innovation] Asian-born major leaguers
(Hideo Nomo's rookie year)

October 2001

[Cal Ripken's streak] 2,632 (ended in 1998)

[Dennis Rodman's hair color] Blond

[Sports babe of the moment] Anna Kournikova

[Tiger Woods's big win The Masters (his second)
of the year]

[Larry Brown's job] 76ers' coach

[Largest athlete] Alex Rodriguez, Rangers,
$252 million, 10 years

[Allen Iverson's status] Reigning NBA MVP and
scoring leader

[Big sports innovation] American flags on uniforms

burning Question

Q
Is that Powerade commercial in which Michael Vick throws a
football 100-plus yards for real?

A
The footage looks genuine enough: Vick takes a snap in practice,
sets and uncorks a titanic spiral that flies over the end zone
and lands high in the stands. A recent USA Today story even
pointed to the ad as evidence of Vick's phenomenal arm strength.
Powerade won't say whether the video had been altered, noting
that the campaign's purpose is to make people wonder if such
athletic feats are possible. The truth seems to be revealed in a
second commercial, in which a graphic accompanying Vick's pass
hints that it travels 170 yards--clearly impossible.

So how far can a man throw a football? "Anything over 50 yards
is rare in a game," says Broncos offensive coordinator and
quarterbacks coach Gary Kubiak, "but I did see film of Vick
throwing a ball 75 yards. Not many can do that." While at Kansas
State a few years back, Michael Bishop reportedly heaved a ball
93 yards in practice, and football vets still talk about a
100-yard throw that Bears quarterback Rudy Bukich supposedly
chucked during practice in the '60s. "I wouldn't be surprised by
that," says John McMullen, manager of the Lexington (Ky.) Clinic
Sports Medicine Center. "With perfect mechanics and sufficient
arm strength, I think someone could throw a ball 100 or 110
yards."

good Sports
Renaldo Snipes

At 10 p.m. last Saturday in a 5,000-square-foot tent where World
Trade Center relief workers take their breaks, Stella Lin was
giving orders. "Get me garbage bags now," the 4'9", 100-pound
Lin shouted. "Yes, ma'am," replied an athletic 6'3", 240-pound
fellow volunteer with a smile. Lin didn't know that the guy she
was barking directions at was former heavyweight contender
Renaldo Snipes, a fearsome puncher who stood toe-to-toe with
Larry Holmes and had a 39-7-1 record from 1978 to '93. Since the
Sept. 11 attacks, Snipes, 45, has worked 10- to 24-hour shifts
almost every day, scrubbing pots, peeling wet socks off
firefighters' feet and serving burgers and brisket at the
40-foot barbecue grill. "I'm nothing special," says Snipes.
"We're here under one flag, like a family."

On Sept. 11, Snipes was two blocks from the World Trade Center,
in the sixth-floor office of telecom company GCOMNET, for which
he's on the board. The next day his best friend, Salvation Army
minister Travis Locke, asked him if he'd volunteer. Snipes was
at the relief tent an hour later. "You'd be a chump not to
help," he says. He drew on friends from his boxing days to
solicit aid, persuading hotels to provide rooms and food, and a
sporting goods chain to donate apparel. "I believe the point of
my boxing career was preparation for my small role in this
disaster," he says. "It gave me the strength to work when I'm
needed and the contacts to make life more comfortable for the
rescue workers." --Rick Lipsey

Blotter

Warned
--Colleges, by the NCAA, that putting U.S. flags on team
uniforms might offend some players. "Institutions desiring to
place flags on uniforms should consider the nationalities of all
of their student-athletes before doing so," read a note the NCAA
had posted on its website.

Established
--By Japan's Naoko Takahashi in Berlin on Sunday, the women's
record in the marathon. Her time, 2:19:46, would have been
sufficient to earn a spot in the U.S. men's 2000 Olympic trials.

Launched
--The Adriatic League, featuring 12 basketball teams from the
former Yugoslavia--four from Croatia, four from Slovenia, three
from Bosnia and one from Montenegro. Serbian clubs Partizan and
Red Star are also expected to join. Organizers hope the league
will strengthen basketball in the region that produced Vlade
Divac, Toni Kukoc and Drazen Petrovic.

Secured
--By the Downtown Athletic Club, meeting space for Dec. 8 in a
Manhattan hotel, in the event that this year's Heisman Trophy
ceremony has to be moved. Inspectors are checking whether the
club's building, located near the World Trade Center, is
structurally sound following the terrorist attacks in New York
City.

Withdrawn
--The Bears' permission to sell naming rights to Soldier Field,
which might have netted the team $300 million. After Sept. 11,
Chicago mayor Richard Daley insisted the rights arrangement be
stricken from the city's stadium renovation deal with the Bears.

Discovered
--By researchers in London, that Viagra may aid the breathing of
mountain climbers at high altitude. The drug blocks the action
of an enzyme that hampers not only sexual ability but also the
function of the lungs in low-oxygen environments.

Let's Make A Deal

After the NFL postponed its Week 2 slate, pushing the playoffs
back a week, the league began negotiating with the National Auto
Dealers Association (NADA) over which outfit would stage its
biggest event on Feb. 3 in New Orleans: NADA's annual convention
or the Super Bowl. Here's how the car dealers stack up against
the football folks.

NADA vs. NFL

Formed

[NADA] In 1917, when a group of car dealers banded together in
hopes of influencing government auto policy

[NFL] In 1920, when Ohio League football owners met in Ralph
Hay's Canton Hupmobile dealership

Franchises

[NADA] 40,000
[NFL] 32

Revenue

[NADA] $647 billion (2000 sales)
[NFL] $3.4 billion (1999)

Patriarch

[NADA] Frank McCarthy, chief executive for 33 years
[NFL] George Halas, who ran the Bears for 64 years

Acronym means

[NADA] "Nothing" in Spanish

[NFL] "No Fun League" to critics

Past New Orleans woes

[NADA] In 1977 auto dealers' hotel goes condo, forcing them to
scramble to find 300 rooms for national convention

[NFL] In 1986 TV newsman says Jim McMahon called city's women
"sluts," forcing station to issue retraction

Prescient prediction

[NADA] NADA's 1942 warning that war may eliminate U.S. cars from
Japan forever

[NFL] Joe Namath's 1969 guarantee of Jets' Super Bowl win over
Colts

Hardbodies displayed in

[NADA] Show room
[NFL] Locker room

Pesky problems

[NADA] Emissions controls, mileage restrictions
[NFL] Salary cap, murder charges

Stereotype

[NADA] Smarmy glad-hander (top left)
[NFL] Steroid-pumped oaf

Symbol of overindulgence

[NADA] Lincoln Navigator
[NFL] Tony Siragusa (top right)

Irresistible come-on

[NADA] That new car smell
[NFL] That old Monday Night Football theme

Denver bigwig

[NADA] John Elway, owner of 17 Colorado dealerships
[NFL] John Elway, owner of two Super Bowl rings

Exciting innovation

[NADA] No-haggle policy
[NFL] No-huddle offense

Useless number

[NADA] Sticker price
[NFL] Passer rating

Biggest rip-off

[NADA] Rustproofing
[NFL] Seat licenses

Toughest sell

[NADA] Edsel
[NFL] Cardinals

the Beat

With the Dodgers all but out of the playoff race, Gary Sheffield
can turn his attention to something really important: selling
his house. Sheffield has had his 11,000-square-foot mansion in
St. Petersburg on the market since last year but has been unable
to find a buyer. (Not surprising, since the asking price of $4.3
million makes it one of St. Pete's costliest homes.) So on Oct.
23, Sheffield will put the place on the auction block. The
lakefront, six-bedroom, 4 1/2-bath house features a theater, a
game room, a gym with massage area and sauna, a bar, a tennis
and a basketball court, a pool, a man-made beach and a guest
house, all on 2.8 acres. Oh, and in case you're hoping to get a
sneak peek at the crib by posing as an aspiring owner, potential
bidders have to pony up a refundable $50,000 just to register
for the auction.... Despite the Sept. 11 attacks, Andre Agassi's
sixth annual Grand Slam for Children benefit went on as
scheduled last Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Agassi
had considered canceling the charity concert and auction but
says, "The greatest contribution we can make as citizens is to
not let the fear of terrorism deter us from the things we
value." Performers included Elton John, Don Henley, Ray Romano
and Dennis Miller. Among the items auctioned: dinner with Robin
Williams, and a performance by Kenny G. Before the auction
Agassi, who donated a tennis lesson to be given by him and
Steffi Graf, spoke of how his gift took on a momentum of its
own: "First I offered to give a tennis lesson, then it was with
Stef, and then it was with Stef in high-heeled shoes." ...Last
week CBS announced the cast for Survivor Africa, the third
installment of the popular reality series. Among the 16
castaways who were stranded in Kenya was Ethan Zohn, a
professional soccer player who spent a season in goal for the
Highlanders Football Club in Zimbabwe's top division. Zohn,
who's also had stints with the United Soccer League's Cape Cod
Crusaders and Hawaii Tsunami, is an assistant coach for
Fairleigh Dickinson's men's and women's teams. What did he bring
as his one allotted luxury item? A Hacky Sack.

COLOR PHOTO: JERRY COOKE TWIST OF FATE If not for Afghanistan, Retton might never have become America's sweetheart.COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO (MCGWIRE) Would Bonds's record ball fetch more than Mac's?COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLANCOLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO (VICK)COLOR PHOTO: RACHEL COBB (SNIPES)COLOR PHOTO: STEPHANIE PILICK/AFPCOLOR PHOTO: TOM ZIMBEROFF (SALESMAN)COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER (SIRAGUSA)COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER (THOMPSON)COLOR PHOTO: KEVIN MAZUR/WIREIMAGE.COM

Go Figure

52%
Barry Bonds's homers as a percentage of his RBIs (69/132)
through Monday; if the figure stays above 50% he'll be the first
home run champ in either league whose total was more than half
his RBI count.

2
Offspring of Heisman Trophy winners in the secondary for Santa
Margarita Catholic High of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.: 1973
winner John Cappelletti's son Thomas, a strong safety, and '79
winner Charles White's son Ashton, a free safety.

113-1-1
Combined football record since 1997 of De La Salle High of
Concord, Calif., and Long Beach Poly, who play each other on
Saturday.

$1,200
Cost to Kent State to print new fall sports calendars for the
Golden Flashes after a student noticed that a photo in the
original calendar inadvertently revealed a female soccer
player's private parts.

"Boxing was just preparation for my role in this disaster."
PAGE 32
They Said It
JOHN THOMPSON
Former Georgetown coach, on the return of Michael Jordan: "All
that stuff about him jumping from the foul line is over. His
game is going to be on the floor now. We're going to start
calling him Floor Jordan."