THE MADNESS OF KING MIKE
Boxing's dark master takes us on a tour of sport's lunatic fringe
We don't know what to do with Mike Tyson. For every person who
wants to ban him from boxing, there's another willing to shell
out pay-per-view dollars to see him fight. The reaction is
ritual: A world grows smug when he's slapped for a temper tantrum
and is exiled from Nevada, as he was last week, and then wonders
mightily where his bout with Lennox Lewis will be held, if not
Las Vegas. After 10 years of this--proper revulsion followed by a
powerball clamor--we have to wonder exactly who is bipolar here.
Tyson's appeal, generated at first by an earnest malevolence,
hasn't been damaged as he has devolved into an unhinged and oddly
juvenile monster. He rapes, he bites, he delivers increasingly
frightening monologues. The regression of personality, the loss
of self-control, is becoming a reverse Alzheimer's: He now crawls
on the floor like an infant and bites the leg of his playmate and
then rants and cries.
Yet this ongoing breakdown gives us little pause. Poor Nevada,
backed into a corner by its past sanctions of Tyson, couldn't
have licensed him for the Lewis fight, even had it wanted to.
Tyson's latest behavior was far too reminiscent of the
ear-chomping that cost him his tag in the first place. Few other
states or countries feel obliged to adopt similar restrictions.
In fact, the bidding has already begun. The man from the
California Athletic Commission was saying just the other night
what the local spending generated by an event like this--$100
million, minimum--would mean to out-of-work chambermaids.
Aren't we dainty, to encourage the fight on grounds of economic
impact. The bout has absolutely no athletic importance. Tyson,
once the most prominent boxer of this generation, has long since
squandered his significance in a decadelong debacle of
disappointing escapades and defeats. In any case, he's 35 and of
suspect resolve. Lewis, himself 36, participates only for the
plunder suddenly available to him at retirement. (He has already
had his tetanus shot.)
No, it's not about the chambermaids. As with every other Tyson
event, in which he becomes our proxy for perversity, we only want
to see where his madness can take us, to explore (secondhand, of
course) man's psychotic underside. Will this fight be made? Of
course. This is the reality programming of the new millennium,
psychological pornography, in which our thrills grow more and
more sleazy. And all it costs is $49.95. --Richard Hoffer
Possible Lewis-Tyson Venues
PROS Tyson is big draw in Europe, as is Lewis, a Brit. CONS Time
difference would pose challenge for U.S. broadcast.
PROS Several venues available; site fee would be comparable to
$12 million MGM Grand had offered in Vegas. CONS Tyson has no
license in New Jersey, which could well follow Nevada's lead and
deny him one.
PROS Mohegan Sun resort operates under tribal gaming commission
and doesn't need state approval. CONS Small venue (10,000
seats); may be too low-profile.
PROS Boxer-turned-promoter Tommy Hearns has sent in
application to state board for license to promote fight in
Motown. CONS Tyson has run afoul of Michigan boxing commission
before; he refused to submit urine sample before October 2000
bout against Andrew Golota.
PROS Staples Center has already expressed interest; major
celeb turnout and media attention guaranteed. Last week Tyson's
lawyers started looking into getting a California license. CONS
Site fee far less than casino could offer.
DICK LANE, 1928-2002
He came up in an era when cornerbacks were still called defensive
halfbacks. He played a style of football that was born of poverty
and desperation. Years later Night Train Lane's technique would
acquire the catchy name bump and run, but when he came into the
NFL, in 1952, his approach was as elemental as the game itself.
Lock on a receiver, rough him up down the field, try to knock him
off his pattern, and if he still caught the ball, take his head
Lane, who died last week of a heart attack at age 73, was the
most feared corner in the game. A big guy at 6'2" and more than
200 pounds, he was known for the Night Train Necktie, a neck-high
tackle that the league eventually banned. "I've never seen a
defensive back hit like him," Packers Hall of Famer Herb Adderley
once said. "I mean, take them down, whether it be Jim Brown or
If Lane had been only a roughneck, though, he wouldn't have put
together a 14-year career, which he spent with the Rams, the
Chicago Cardinals and the Lions, or ended up in the Hall of Fame.
He had speed, phenomenal leaping ability and great hands.
Ironically, when he broke in with the Rams, they switched him
from receiver to defense because they thought he had trouble
holding on to the ball. He made 14 interceptions in his rookie
year (in only 12 games), still the NFL single-season record.
I used to see him from time to time at Hall of Fame gatherings,
always smiling, always friendly. "Until he got sick [with
diabetes] a few years ago, he'd always be back here for the Hall
of Fame weekend," says John Bankert, the Hall's executive
director. "He'd always ask me the same thing, 'Is there anything
I can do to help?' One of the last times I saw him, he said, 'You
know, sometimes I feel that I'm not worthy of being here.'"
No one was worthier than Night Train Lane. --Paul Zimmerman
Sport? Not a Sport?
THIS WEEK: SWIMSUIT MODELING
SPORT "You have to train, eat well and be mentally prepared. It
looks glamorous, but it's difficult."
--Stacy Austin, coordinator of the Pacemates, the Pacers' dance
NOT A SPORT "You don't judge it, and there's no winner. Well,
when they're walking down the runway, they're all winners."
--Jim Kelly, Hall of Fame quarterback
SPORT "Much of sports today is entertainment. Under that
definition, modeling a swimsuit is a sport."
--Tom Welch, former head of the Salt Lake City Olympic bid committee
SPORT "It's a competition to see who's the best looking."
--Tommy Moe, former downhill skier
NOT A SPORT "But what some guys do with the swimsuit issue could
be considered a sport."
--Brent Barry, Sonics guard
SPORT "You have to exercise and stay in shape to look good in a
bathing suit. Sounds like a sport to me."
--Cordell Henry, Marquette guard
NOT A SPORT "If swimsuit modeling is a sport, then bird-watching
is a contact sport."
--Kim Graham, Louisville guard
SPORT "It's swimming. That's a sport."
--Charles Oakley, Bulls forward
SPORT "It's physically demanding, and if you model it right,
there's the potential to be tackled."
--Raja Bell, 76ers guard
SPORT "Those are beautiful women, and if beautiful women want it
to be a sport, that's fine with me."
--Richard Seymour, Patriots tackle
NOT A SPORT "A model has a body that looks good. An athlete has a
body that does good."
--Gea Johnson, Olympic bobsledder
SPORT "The girls are sporty and they're hot, so I guess it's a
--Teemu Selanne, Sharks right wing
NOT A SPORT "But I'd call it very positive entertainment."
--Brad Miller, Bulls center
Rollerball, which opens on Friday, foresees a future in which
fans are obsessed with an ultraviolent bloodsport that's a cross
of in-line skating, polo and motocross. Here are some other
sci-fi looks into the sporting future:
The Sixth Day (2000) TIME FRAME As the film puts it, "Sooner than
you think." SPORTS PREDICTION The sports world's marquee player
is Johnny Phoenix, the XFL's first $300 million quarterback.
Also, Major League Baseball is embroiled in a four-year players'
strike. PROBABILITY OF HAPPENING Only in Vince McMahon's dreams.
Total Recall (1990) TIME FRAME Sometime in the 21st century.
SPORTS PREDICTION The Toronto Blue Jays face off against the
Tokyo Samurais in the World Series. PROBABILITY OF HAPPENING
Pretty good, if last year's Ichiro fever was any indication.
Back to the Future Part II (1989) TIME FRAME 2015 SPORTS
PREDICTION The Cubs sweep Miami in the World Series. PROBABILITY
OF HAPPENING Highly unlikely. Never mind an AL team in Miami--the
Cubbies in the World Series?
The Running Man (1987) TIME FRAME 2017 SPORTS PREDICTION The
highest-rated TV program is a brutal reality show in which
contestants fight bloodthirsty pro wrestler types. PROBABILITY OF
HAPPENING All it would take is one network exec to say, "What if
we crossed Fear Factor, The Chamber and BattleBots?"
Death Race 2000 (1975) TIME FRAME 2000 SPORTS PREDICTION Drivers
race cross-country and score points by killing pedestrians.
PROBABILITY OF HAPPENING Bad days on the freeways excepted, we
luckily steered clear of this cheery futurama. --Tom Russo
No Mistake Mania
Ever since mid-September, when President Bush urged the world to
"make no mistake" that the U.S. would rid the globe of
evildoers, the phrase has been turning up everywhere--and not
only on MAKE NO MISTAKE BUMPER STICKERS. Coaches in many sports
have taken to the expression. Here's a sampling of recent usages
and ensuing events:
The Grizzlies' Sidney Lowe, after Memphis upset the Lakers
114-108 on Dec. 21: "It's a big win. Make no mistake about it."
FOLLOW-UP The Grizzlies lose two subsequent games to Los Angeles
by a combined score of 220-166.
South Carolina's Lou Holtz on running back Derek Watson before
the Gamecocks played Ohio State in the Outback Bowl: "Make no
mistake about it, Derek is a big-game guy. I'm glad to have him."
FOLLOW-UP Watson gets 64 total yards in 31-28 win over the
Buckeyes; on Jan. 14, Holtz kicks Watson off the team after
Watson is charged with possession of marijuana. (He has pleaded
The Packers' Mike Sherman, before a Jan. 20 playoff game against
the Rams: "Make no mistake, we'll practice this week and go up to
win a football game." FOLLOW-UP Rams 45, Packers 17.
U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks, on his team's prospects:
"Make no mistake, we're going into this thing to win it, and we
will be very disappointed if we don't. FOLLOW-UP Tune in next
The NFL, by Patriots receiver Terry Glenn over the four-game
suspension the league gave him in September for missing a drug
test. Glenn, who was also suspended from the playoffs by Pats
coach Bill Belichick for skipping team meetings, says he was
discriminated against because he suffers from chronic depression,
which is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. He seeks
unspecified damages for what the suit describes as "lost
employment, pain, suffering, humiliation and embarrassment."
And doused with gasoline, George Oguta, the headmaster of the
Nyabohanse boys' boarding school in Kenya, by students who were
angry that he had forbidden them to watch the African Nations Cup
soccer tournament on TV. The students were about to set Oguta on
fire when he was saved by police; the near immolation ended two
days of rioting that was led by a nine-year-old.
In a three-year agreement, the NFL and the FC Barcelona soccer
club. The deal, the first of its kind for the NFL, calls for the
league to promote FC Barcelona in the U.S. and for the team to
promote the NFL in Spain.
With stealing $19 worth of groceries from a market in Norcross,
Ga., four-time Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Olga Korbut, who
competed in the 1972 and '76 Games. Korbut, who was jailed and
released on bond, said she left her wallet in her car and had
intended to return to pay for her booty, which reportedly
included chocolate syrup, figs and tea.
Under pressure from the school, Georgia Tech defensive
coordinator, Rick Smith after admitting he'd never played
football or baseball at Florida State, as the 2001 Kentucky
media guide says. Smith was hired last month by new Tech coach
Chan Gailey, the successor to George O'Leary, who'd taken a job
at Notre Dame but resigned after falsities were found on his
Artists at Play
Athletes won't be the only ones in the spotlight in Salt Lake
City. The Olympics are becoming a showcase for designers. Here is
some of the cutting-edge work that will be on display during the
THE OLYMPIC CAULDRON
Created by WET Design, the Universal City, Calif., firm that
dreamed up the $28 million fountain at Las Vegas's Bellagio
hotel, the 130-foot-tall cauldron is made up of 736 blue-green
glass panels topped by a 12-foot- high glass prism bowl. After
the Olympic flame is lit, water will cascade down the inside of
the bowl to cool the glass. "The theme of these Games is 'light
the fire within,' so the entire chalice is transparent," says
Mark Fuller, head of WET. "We wanted to capture Utah's mountain
colors with the blues and greens, and the desert colors with the
orange of the flame."
While designing uniforms for the Canadian, Japanese, Spanish and
Swiss teams, Eiko Ishioka, an Oscar-winning production and
costume designer, learned that many athletes wanted somewhere to
go in the moments before their events to gather their thoughts.
In response Ishioka, working with designers from @radical.media
and athletic-wear manufacturer Descente, created the cocoon, a
portable "concentration coat," as she describes it. Made of the
same lightweight material that ski jumpers wear, the cocoon zips
up to block out all outside stimuli and features interior pockets
to hold portable music players. "Space is hard to come by at the
Olympics," says Ishioka. "This affords athletes the solitude they
need." Alpine skiers for Canada, Spain and Switzerland will use
the cocoon in Salt Lake City.
THE OLYMPIC MEDALS
For the first time in 18 years, Olympians will have noncircular
medals presented to them on the podium. Designed by Brent Watts,
founder of Salt Lake City's Axiom Design, the medals are in the
shape of river rocks found in the streams of Utah. Though Watt
notes the IOC is more accepting of unconventional concepts for
the Winter Games than for the Summer Olympics, "we received some
resistance to the irregular design," he says. "But we felt
strongly they should be symbolic of the American West." Each
medal's front shows an athlete emerging from a wall of fire,
while the back portrays Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. Says
Watts, "There's tremendous pressure when you're creating
something that represents the height of an athlete's success."
Some people know their studs. The annual media handicapping
championship, sponsored by the Daily Racing Form and the National
Thoroughbred Racing Association, is typically contested by savvy
racing journalists and veteran bettors. Last month four
five-member teams competed at Las Vegas's MGM Grand for the
$10,000 first prize (which went to charity). The winners: Team
Penthouse, led by December 2001 Pet of the Month Cheyenne Silver
(below left) and September 1999 Pet Alexa Lauren (right). The
models, who were invited as a publicity stunt, had no betting
experience but nonetheless beat a field of noted horseplayers
that included Daily Racing Form chairman and publisher Steven
Crist. "When the other players first saw me, this blonde girl
with big boobs, they were like, 'Are you going to pick the
horseys all by yourself?'" recalls Lauren, 27, who won $175.60 in
the 30-race event, the fifth-highest individual total. "Then we
won, and they were asking me seriously how I did it." The extent
of the Pets' preparation was to read The Female Fan Guide to
Thoroughbred Racing on the plane ride to the contest. "I didn't
know much about the event," says Silver, 23, "but anything to do
with horses is fun for me."...Rossignol is producing a Dave
Mathews Band snowboard. The $375 board is the creation of Stefan
Lessard, the group's bassist and an avid snowboarder. "If I
wasn't able to play music," says Lessard, "I would try to compete
as a pro snowboarder." Rossignol hopes the unusual cross-cultural
venture will appeal to boarders and music followers. "Our fans
appreciate things that represent our individuality," says
Lessard....Director Michael Mann, who directed Ali, will make a
biopic on the life of legendary Italian sports car mogul Enzo
Ferrari. The filmwill be based on Brock Yates's 1991 book, Enzo
Ferrari: the Man, the Cars, the Races, the Machine. Mann will
partner with producer Sydney Pollack, who directed 1977's Bobby
Quarter share of Florida's state lottery jackpot won by Peter
Doubleday, a cousin of Mets' owner Nelson Doubleday; Peter, 51,
plans to keep his job as a horse-show announcer at the Palm Beach
Years that Montreal's McGill University has been playing
organized hockey, making its team the world's oldest; in its
first game, on Jan. 31, 1877, McGill beat a pickup squad 2-1.
Retail price of Air Jordan XVII sneakers, which will arrive in
stores this week packed in metallic briefcases rather than
5, 2, 21
Years of probation, years banned from bowl games and scholarships
revoked, respectively, for Alabama's football team, which was
punished by the NCAA for numerous recruiting infractions; in 1995
Alabama got two years' probation for violating various other NCAA
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
The Western Hockey League's Kelowna Rockets have assigned
bodyguards to protect their mascot, Rocky Raccoon, because he was
assaulted by two fans during a game against the Kamloops Blazers.
They Said It
Legendary 62-year-old golfer, on his current play: "If I grew
tomatoes, they'd come up sliced."