The BCS or a playoff? The debate's hotter than ever this year
Go ahead, pile on. Everyone else is. The Bowl Championship
Series makes for an even fatter target now that Nebraska, which
got its butt kicked by Colorado on Nov. 23, will get a shot at
the national title against Miami in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 3.
Is the BCS flawed? Hell yes. So is Ellen Barkin, but she gets
the job done for me. Conceived by the commissioners of the power
conferences--a distinctly unsympathetic collection of suits--it
relies on polls and the computer formulas of a bunch of guys
with pocket protectors. It makes for hurt feelings, but it beats
the alternative, a postseason tournament.
Colorado and Oregon fans, take a Valium. If you win the Fiesta,
and the Cornhuskers knock off Miami, the AP voters will make you
No. 1 in their final poll, regardless of the BCS. We'll have a
split title, a bar-stool argument for the decades. The sun will
still rise on Jan. 4.
To all you other teams marinating in bitterness over your
failure to be selected for the national championship game
(Illinois), or for any BCS bowl at all (BYU), there's a way to
avoid such disappointment. Win all your games. To my
hoops-addled colleague and everyone else agitating for a
playoff--January Madness?--face it: We'll get a postseason
tournament over the dead bodies of the university presidents,
who aren't about to extend the season any further.
Critics also carp that giving the national title game to one
bowl detracts from the other major bowls. That beats the heck
out of devaluing the entire regular season, which is what would
happen if you instituted a playoff. Hey, we lost a couple of
games, but don't sweat it--that just means we'll get a lower seed.
There's a name for people who don't mind a meaningless regular
season. They're called hockey fans. --Austin Murphy
A football champion should be a team that has won football
games, not computer games or accident-of-birth games or
smoke-filled-room games. The Bowl Championship Series simply
gives a pass into the finals to two teams with which it has a
business relationship. Before their blowout loss to Hawaii last
Saturday, when Brigham Young was still unbeaten, the Cougars
were told they weren't even good enough to qualify for an
eight-team playoff, in part because some blazer-wrapped bowl
"scout" had lugged his cooler to Provo and said so.
A playoff would diminish the regular season? Tell that to Auburn
and Alabama, Florida and Florida State, Michigan and Ohio State.
College presidents will never sign off on a few extra postseason
games? If we know one thing about the rulers of college sports,
it's that they'll consider anything that makes money. BYU plays
a schedule stuffed with goose down? Yes, through little fault of
its own, while BCS powers lard up their nonconference schedules
with North Texas, Louisiana-Monroe, Troy State--anyone but the
The NCAA basketball tournament bewitches the public every March
because it forces 64 teams to play one game after another for
the highest of stakes. No one gainsays the legitimacy of a
champion that has won six games in a row. We tune in because, in
a distinctly American way, the event braids excellence with
opportunity: The best team wins, but the little guy gets a shot
So let that BCS mainframe live to crunch another day, but have
it spit out seedings for an NCAA football tournament. Otherwise,
only Notre Dame and the elite of six conferences will ever get
to compete for a title that the lords of the game have the gall
to call "national." --Alexander Wolff
PETER BLAKE, 1948-2001
Peter Blake wasn't one to suffer fools. And if Blake, a 6'4" New
Zealander with 600,000 miles of ocean racing behind him, ever
felt fear, he never showed it. So for those who knew him, it was
no surprise to hear that this larger-than-life sailor had
confronted six pirate punks who boarded his 119-foot yacht,
Seamaster, on the night of Dec. 5 as it lay anchored off Macapa,
Brazil, near the delta of the Amazon River, rather than submit
to their demands for money. The surprise was that in the ensuing
firefight it was the 53-year-old Blake, rather than any of his
assailants, who was killed. (Brazilian police arrested the six
suspects. Charges are pending.)
A national hero in New Zealand, Blake wasn't accustomed to
failure. He was the most accomplished sailor of his time. A
charismatic leader whose fairness, work ethic and sense of humor
engendered fierce loyalty in his crews, he won all the major
ocean races. Blake was the only man to complete the first five
Whitbread Round-the-World races, and he dominated that event in
1989-90, when he skippered Steinlager 2 to line, handicap and
overall honors on each of the race's six legs. In '94 Blake and
Robin Knox-Johnston broke the nonstop round-the-world sailing
record by four days in a 92-foot catamaran, completing the
27,000-mile circumnavigation in 74 days, 22 hours and 17 minutes.
In 1995 Blake headed New Zealand's America's Cup team, and his
Black Magic syndicate routed all challengers in the waters off
San Diego, sailing to a 42-1 record during the campaign.
Knighted a month after the win, Blake led New Zealand's defense
of the Cup in 2000 in Auckland. Again, it was no contest. Black
Magic drubbed Italy's Prada 5-0, the first successful defense
mounted by a non-American team.
Blake relinquished control of the Black Magic syndicate last
year and retired from competitive sailing. Aboard Seamaster he
planned, as his website, blakexpeditions.com, said, "to
undertake voyages to those parts of the world that are key to
the planet's ecosystem." When he was killed, Peter--who is
survived by his wife, Pippa, and their two teenage children--was
in the first year of a five-year odyssey to study the waters of
the earth and raise awareness of changes that were affecting
them. It was this latest and most noble of his voyages that cost
him his life. --E.M. Swift
Air of Vulnerability
Used to be that NBA players wouldn't dare risk getting on
Michael Jordan's bad side, for fear of provoking one of those
55-point outbursts. These days, though, guys are a little less
hesitant to speak their minds regarding His Airness.
RAY ALLEN, BUCKS GUARD Quote "It gets a little tedious watching
Michael Jordan highlights because a lot of good basketball is
being played throughout the league." Head-to-head, Nov. 14
Jordan 31 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists Allen 22 points, 4
rebounds, 9 assists Result Bucks 107, Wizards 98
AL HARRINGTON, PACERS FORWARD Quote "I won't be in awe of him.
I'll go after him." Head-to-head, Nov. 22 Jordan 21 points, 5
rebounds, 6 assists Harrington 7 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists
Result Pacers 110, Wizards 103
RICKY DAVIS, CAVALIERS GUARD (left) Quote "I will [dunk on
Jordan] if I get the chance." Head-to-head, Nov. 27 Jordan 18
points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists Davis 18 points, 3 rebounds, 1
assist, 1 dunk on Jordan Result Cavaliers 94, Wizards 75
EDDIE GRIFFIN, ROCKETS FORWARD Quote "What I'd really like is to
block one [Jordan] shot." Head-to-head, Dec. 6 Jordan 18 points,
6 rebounds, 7 assists Griffin 2 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists, 0
blocks Result Wizards 85, Rockets 82
MICHAEL FINLEY, MAVERICKS GUARD Quote "I just want him to have
two bad games a year--that's against us." Head-to-head, Dec. 8
Jordan 21 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists Finley 32 points, 5
rebounds, 3 assists Result Wizards 102, Mavericks 95
Word for Word
Last Thursday baseball commissioner Bud Selig appeared before
Congress to defend baseball's antitrust exemption, which is
under fire now that baseball has announced plans to contract.
Selig received an icy reception from Minnesota governor Jesse
Ventura (right), who was on hand because the Twins are likely to
be shut down. Some excerpts from The Body's testimony:
Commissioner Selig has said that the Twins cannot be competitive
without a new stadium and should be eliminated. I cannot
understand how eliminating the Twins will help the Diamondbacks
draw more fans or resist the temptation to pay their players
more than they can afford. Last season the Twins fielded a
competitive team that finished second in their division and drew
1.8 million fans. The Twins' average attendance was better than
[that of] the White Sox--a competitive team with a new stadium
built in 1991.
Baseball wants [us] to build a park at public expense. Then
they'll come back in five or eight years and say, This isn't
good enough either. If we build a library with public funds, we
don't charge people to get in. If the public builds a stadium,
the owner charges the public to get into their own stadium.
The Metrodome is younger than my [22-year-old] son. My high
school, Minneapolis Roosevelt, is 80 years old. We are still
using it. I'll build you a new stadium after we replace my high
The owners are not losing the money they claim. If they were,
they wouldn't be paying the salaries they're paying. It's
asinine. These people did not get the wealth they have by being
Every person in Minnesota who's my age or younger has had a team
to root for his entire life. And that's going to end because 30
owners and one commissioner don't have to play by the same rules
as everyone else?
Superman vs. Muhammad Ali
Long before Howard Stern, Muhammad Ali was the original King of
All Media. The subject of feature films, hit singles, TV
specials and trading cards, Ali was ubiquitous in the
pop-cultural landscape of the 1970s--his likeness even appeared
on a brand of shoe polish. For my money, though, the thing that
truly immortalized the champ was a comic book: Superman vs.
Published as a special oversized edition by DC Comics in 1978,
this logic-defying yarn occasioned one of the comic industry's
first so-called event issues. To a nine-year-old weaned on tales
of Caped Crusaders and Men of Steel, the appearance of the
Greatest in the medium of cosmically endowed heroes cemented his
larger-than-life status. I memorized every detail of the issue,
down to the wraparound cover that featured Superman going
toe-to-toe with Ali while numerous '70s celebs (Sonny Bono,
Jimmy Carter, Raquel Welch, etc.) watched from ringside.
The story was classic comic-book hyperbole. An alien race
demands that Earth come up with a champion to represent humanity
in a blood match that'll determine the fate of the planet.
Superman and Ali both want to be the hero, so they square off.
For the record, Ali wins handily--once Superman's powers are
nullified by the effects of red sunlight. Naturally, the two
heroes band together in the end to save the day.
Shortly before the comic's release, Ali lost his crown to Leon
Spinks. Not that it mattered to me. After all, how serious could
that setback be for a fighter who could whup Superman? --Tom Russo
Four seats behind the dugout for any 2002 Twins game, in an
auction to support Minnesota's Children's Theatre Company. The
tickets were donated by Dorsey & Whitney, the Minneapolis law
firm representing Major League Baseball in its effort to
eliminate the Twins through contraction. There were no takers.
By the Canadian group Democracy Watch, a review of a ruling by
the country's ethics counselor that Prime Minister Jean
Chretien's round of golf with Tiger Woods in the Bell Canadian
Open Pro-Am didn't constitute an improper gift from Bell Canada,
the event's sponsor. Democracy Watch contends the round was
worth at least $13,000.
A "windscreen" attached to the chain-link fence behind the
Wrigley Field bleachers, obscuring the view of the field from
the rooftops on Waveland and Sheffield avenues. Tribune Company,
the Cubs' owner, wants to expand bleacher seating, a move
opposed by owners of the buildings, who charge membership fees
to watch games from their roofs. Team exec Mark McGuire told the
Chicago Tribune he thinks people might find the windscreen "an
aesthetic improvement to the ballpark."
By the California Horse Racing Board, advertising on jockey
uniforms and owners' silks. The largest permissible ad will be
32 square inches on the jockey's thigh or chest.
With joy, sports fans, over news that a U.S.-Belgian research
team had discovered why exposure to light causes beer to become
skunky, and that British and U.S. scientists had identified how
a certain enzyme makes fat accumulate around the abdomen. The
findings offer hope that couch potatoes may some day enjoy fresh
malt beverages without developing a beer gut.
The Tattoo Artist
Tom Renshaw, 39, co-owner of the tattoo parlor Electric
Superstition in Berkley, Mich., has decorated the bodies of
dozens of athletes.
How long have you been doing this?
Ten years. I have a degree in criminal justice, and I was
designing security programs for hotels. I took my wife at the
time to get a tattoo, and within a few weeks I changed
occupations. I wanted to get out of the whole suit-and-tie thing.
What's your specialty?
Portraiture and photo-realism. I have no professional art
background, but even as a child I could draw and copy photos.
How did you start working with athletes?
Dennis Rodman, who was with the Pistons at the time, was the
first one I worked on. I did a portrait of his daughter on him.
After that, David Wells, who was pitching here in Detroit, came
to me. I've put about five portraits on him. I've done both his
sons and his grandmother, and I think we've done his mother
twice. I've met a number of baseball players through Dave. I've
tattooed [A's pitcher] Billy Koch and [Dodgers outfielder] Gary
Sheffield. I did an armband on him at his home in Florida. I did
a wildlife scene on [former NHL defenseman] Al Iafrate.
How many tattoos do you do a day?
One or two. They're very elaborate. Portraits can take many
hours. Once I did a full Jimi Hendrix portrait that took me 15
hours. We did that straight, with only one or two breaks.
What kind of reactions do you get to your work?
My tattooing is very personal. Generally it's something that
relates to the client's life. For Dwight Gooden, I put a
portrait of his father on him, and it meant a lot to him. People
even cry when it's done. It's a very emotional thing.
Have you done sports-related tattoos?
I'm working on a couple of hockey pieces. One is of the Red
Wings' Production Line with Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted
Lindsay. The other is for a gentleman from Oklahoma City who's
also getting a hockey tattoo done on his back. It'll have a
Bobby Orr portrait as a centerpiece, plus Bobby Hull, Gump
Worsley and a number of other figures. I'm also talking to a
client about doing a piece featuring baseball Hall of Famers.
Do athletes act differently from other customers?
Athletes are very respectful because I'm advanced in my field.
They give me the same respect someone would give them. It's not
a very painful process, but some get kind of queasy. But
generally they're not any different from other people.
It's the "wedding of the year," at least according to the
feverish Scottish press. Edinburgh native and CART driver Dario
Franchitti was scheduled to marry actress Ashley Judd at Skibo
Castle in the Scottish Highlands on Dec. 12. The couple shelled
out a reported $2 million for the celebration at the remote
site, which hosted Madonna's wedding to director Guy Ritchie
last year. Among the 36 expected guests: Sandra Bullock, Michael
Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeff Gordon and Gwyneth
Paltrow. In keeping with tradition, the couple will dine on
haggis the night before the nuptials and spend the evening in
Large-livin' David Wells is looming less large these days.
According to a friend of the free-agent pitcher, Wells has
dropped 20 pounds in the past few weeks because of a new workout
regimen and fewer nights out. Wells (left) flew into New York
two weeks ago in his private jet to appear in a Saturday Night
Live skit with David Cone (right). After the show Wells headed
to Noel Ashman's Veruka, a SoHo nightclub, where he joined Jason
Sehorn, Jayson Williams and a slew of models. Wells, who spent
much of the evening trying to remove the makeup he'd put on for
the SNL bit, surprised his pals by drinking only water and
leaving relatively early so he'd be ready for a morning workout
the next day....
CBS is considering a celebrity edition of Big Brother that would
include a number of sports stars, according to a source close to
the network. In the regular version of the reality series 12
people are locked in a house for 82 days as their every move is
recorded. Each week one person is voted out; the last one
standing wins half a million dollars. The celeb version would
last seven days; Charles Barkley's name has come up as a
possible contestant. Some housemate choices we'd like to
suggest: Bill Lee, Mike Tyson, Shaquille O'Neal, Tonya Harding
and, just for kicks, Dorothy Hamill.
Respective ages of UMass-Boston hockey leftwinger Dana Marek and
his son, Steve, a rightwinger for Babson; they became the first
pair of father-and-son hockey opponents in NCAA history, in
Babson's 5-1 win.
Amount English Premier League soccer team Sunderland paid
Glasgow Rangers for the rights to U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna,
the highest transfer fee ever for an American player.
Free throws the Timberwolves have attempted per game this
season; the low for a season is 20.6, set by the 1972-73 Bucks.
NBA-record defensive rebounds through Sunday for Karl Malone;
the stat has been kept since 1973.
Estimated defensive rebounds by Wilt Chamberlain (1959-60 to
1972-73), assuming they accounted for 76% of his total, as they
have for Malone.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
The website funideas.com offers a flask disguised as a pair of
binoculars, allowing users to sneak their favorite beverage into
"the golf course, sporting events, opera and church."
in." PAGE 46
Billionaire Mavericks owner, whose business success Shaquille
O'Neal attributed to good fortune: "Yeah, everything I've done
is luck. But Shaq being seven-foot-two, 300 pounds--that was