A golden age of men's tennis is being overshadowed by a wacky
When the Tennis Channel launches next fall, it would do well to
air a reality-based show from the seriocomic world of the
women's circuit. Last week alone provided a treasure trove of
compelling programming. The Williams sister were sued by a
Florida promoter claiming that Venus and Serena had reneged on a
promise to play in an exhibition titled Battle of the Sexes:
Part II, against likely opponents John and Patrick McEnroe. (The
Williamses say they never agreed to the event.) Meanwhile, Anna
Kournikova, the sport's prima donna nonpareil, suffered a crisis
of confidence after losing five straight matches and abruptly
pulled out of two European events to play a pair of rinky-dink
tournaments--this, as her agents threatened to sue Penthouse for
publishing topless paparazzi photos of a woman alleged to be the
star. (Kournikova says the pictures are not of her.)
To cap off those sudsy events, Jennifer Capriati and U.S.
Federation Cup team captain Billie Jean King got into a heated
and painfully public squabble. After King made it clear that
team rules required practices to be closed to anyone other than
team members, Capriati went ahead and scheduled a practice with
her omnipresent father, Stefano. King booted Capriati off the
squad, and the U.S. team, despite having five of the world's top
seven players, went on to lose to unheralded Austria. Said King
afterward, "I don't know if Jennifer will ever play [Federation
Cup] again. I don't think so as long as I'm captain." As Johnny
Carson used to say, weird, wacky stuff.
Cameras rolling on the men's circuit captured a remarkably
different story. The resurgent Pete Sampras defeated Andre
Agassi in a gripping match at the U.S. Clay Court Championship
in Houston. Then teenage phenom Andy Roddick blitzed Sampras in
a high-powered final. Roddick later described how "honored" he
was to have beaten his former idol. Yet how can mere tennis
compete for our attention when King and the House of Capriati
are locked in a battle royal?
May 5, 2002
Herein lies the problem facing the men's game. With no
overbearing dads, no world-beating siblings raised in Compton,
no sharp-tongued divas and no Anna factor, the ATP is judged as
being more boring than a test pattern. Never mind that the
on-court product has never been better. The players, more
athletic than ever, lace the ball with unprecedented power and
accuracy. Not long ago the Chicken Littles divined that the
men's game would devolve into Toughman Contests in which any
brute with an elephant gun for a serve (read: Mark
Philippoussis) would reign supreme. The opposite came to pass;
laserlike groundstrokes have become the coin of the realm.
Ironically it is the WTA Tour that's ruled by percussive
hitters, whose matches are comedies of unforced errors but whose
raw power can't be answered by lower-ranked players.
Yet so long as the women have a monopoly on melodrama, they will
be prime-time fare while the men are relegated to the infomercial
hours. "I'm not saying we're cool with it, but it seems like
being a good player isn't enough anymore," says Roddick. "I guess
it's our challenge to be more entertaining." Say, any of you guys
eligible bachelors? --L. Jon Wertheim
A FAN SUES
The aftershocks of this year's hockey tragedy are still
reverberating. In March, Brittanie Cecil, 13, died after she was
struck by a puck at a Blue Jackets game (SI, April 1), the first
fan fatality in NHL history. Last week Elizabeth Hahn, 32, of
LaGrange Park, Ill., who suffered a brain injury when she was hit
by a puck at a Blackhawks game in January, sued the team, the NHL
and Chicago's United Center, saying, in effect, that the
defendants shouldn't have let her sit in the stands while a game
was going on.
Hahn was in the eighth row at a Jan. 6 game against the Penguins
when, according to the suit, a puck flew over the protective
glass and crashed into her skull. Bleeding profusely, she was
rushed to a medical center, where neurosurgeons alleviated a
blood clot on her brain. Hahn's right ear lobe was severed by the
puck, necessitating plastic surgery. Hahn, a registered nurse,
missed three months of work and is seeking compensatory damages
to cover medical bills and lost income, as well as unspecified
punitive damages, which, according to Hahn's lawyer, Tim Whiting,
are "based on [the defendants'] willful and wanton behavior, the
fact that they ignored the obvious danger." Lawyers for the
Blackhawks and the NHL refused to comment; a United Center lawyer
could not be reached.
Proving willful disregard is the key to Hahn's case, and Whiting
hopes to do that in part by pointing out that the NHL has
discussed installing protective nets behind the goal--a fact he
learned through coverage of Brittanie's death in SI and
elsewhere. Whiting also learned from press reports that when a
fan is hit by a puck, witnesses file an "incident report" with
the arena. He hopes to obtain those reports and use them as
evidence. Hahn's suit alleges that because the defendants "know
that fans are getting hurt all the time and know that the corners
behind the goals [where Hahn was sitting] are particularly
dangerous," they were willfully negligent in not providing better
If Hahn wins her suit, the NHL could be deluged with similar
actions. As for the Cecil case, Brittanie's parents won't say if
they'll file a wrongful-death suit, but the team and the NHL are
bracing for one. As a Columbus lawyer close to the case said,
"You know it's coming."
At bats between hits for Double A Bowie (Md.) Baysox catcher Tom
McGee, who broke his hitless streak with a single against the
Altoona (Pa.) Curve on April 21.
Shutouts, through Sunday's games, in the first round of the NHL
playoffs, six fewer than the record for an entire playoff season.
Field goals in 21 attempts for the Shanghai Sharks' 7'6" center
Yao Ming in Game 1 of the Chinese Basketball League finals; Yao,
21, is a potential No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft.
People on the waiting list for Patriots season tickets, 40,000
more than were on the list at this time last year.
Spectators who came to see the World Cup trophy carried around on
an elephant's back at a stadium in Calcutta, India, last Friday.
Time to Ozzy-cize!
To stay fit for 100 shows a year, Ozzy Osbourne, 53, hired
personal trainer Pete Steinfeld, who also trained Madonna. Here,
Steinfeld dissects the workout you've seen on MTV's The
AIR-ARM CROSSOVERS "This exercise, with no resistance, results in
really nicely shaped shoulders. His tattoos draw your attention
there, so you want that area to look good."
LOWER LUMBAR STRETCH "A limber back helps Ozzy have less pain
when he's jumping around on stage. This gives him a good stretch
right through his gluteus muscle."
CROSS-LATERAL STRETCH "We've done a lot of work to make Ozzy
taller and stronger, but this exercise is just designed to relax
him, align his body and make him feel good."
This year's edition of Superstars, which airs on CBS on May 4-5,
isn't much different from the 26 editions that preceded it. A
dozen big-name athletes will hurl themselves over obstacle
courses, deadlift weights and kayak through the choppy waters of
Jamaica's Montego Bay in pursuit of a $45,000 first prize. None
of that is what has insurance giant Blue Cross and Blue Shield
This year's Superstars is sponsored by Met-Rx, a
sports-nutrition company that makes several products containing
creatine and ephedrine. Creatine has been linked to liver and
kidney dysfunction, and ephedrine is worse: according to the
FDA, since 1993, 17 people have died and hundreds have been made
seriously ill by supplements containing ephedrine. "These
products have serious potential health risks," says Iris
Shaffer, of BCBS's Healthy Competition Foundation. "And this
event sends a message to young people that to be the best, you
need to take a pill or powder."
IMG, which produces the show, sees no such message. "This is
much ado about nothing," says IMG senior vice president Robert
Horowitz. "Met-Rx is a longstanding sponsor." True, but Met-Rx
has never been a Superstars title sponsor, which means visible
ad time and logo placement. Adding to the stickiness is an
athlete list that includes Olympians Jim Shea and Apolo Anton
Ohno and NFL stars Jeff Garcia and Tony Gonzalez. The NFL and
the IOC forbid the use of ephedrine; the NFL also bans creatine.
"Our message to athletes is, 'Don't use supplements,'" says USOC
spokesman Mike Moran. "But I don't think appearing in this event
Blue Cross and Blue Shield thinks endorsement is implied, and it
asked CBS to air public-service announcements to tell viewers of
the supplements' risks. While CBS executives have reviewed the
issue, they don't plan to air the PSAs during the event.
After a battle with cancer, Jay Chiat, 70, the legendary ad man
credited with turning the Super Bowl into television's premier
commercial showcase. Chiat created the famous 1984 ad for the
Apple Macintosh, which aired during halftime of that year's Super
Bowl between the Raiders and the Redskins and motivated other ad
makers to work up special spots for the big game. (Inspired by
the George Orwell novel, 1984, which was directed by Ridley
Scott, depicted a woman hurling a hammer through a televised
image of a Big Brother-like figure.) That same year his agency,
Chiat/Day, won international acclaim for the I Love L.A. campaign
it engineered for Nike at the Summer Olympics. In 1989 Chiat's
agency created the Energizer Bunny, a campaign that is still
To stop flying off his private backyard helipad in Carmel, Ind.,
Colts owner Jim Irsay, who says he was "touched" by neighbors'
complaints of noise pollution. Irsay, 42, who had been tussling
with the community over his use of the helipad, said he reached
his decision while listening to John Lennon's song Imagine. "He
sang about people living in harmony, and that's the way it should
be," Irsay said.
In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams. The
athletes visited the White House, where they met President Bush
at a ceremony on the South Lawn. Later the teams attended a
dinner with former Senate majority leader and presidential
hopeful Bob Dole, who began a speech to them with "I got the
silver in '96."
As UCLA's athletic director, Dan Guerrero, a former Bruins
second baseman and the grandson of Mexican immigrants, who was
the first member of his family to graduate from college.
Guerrero is UCLA's first minority AD.
How accurate is The Rookie?
The movie version of former Devil Rays pitcher's Jim Morris's
life doesn't quite bat 1.000, but it connects more than not. In
the film Morris, played by Dennis Quaid, is drafted by the
Brewers in 1983. His fastball tops out in the mid-80s, he
undergoes arm surgery and he quits before making the majors. Ten
years later, after the high school team he's coaching wins its
district title, Morris attends an open tryout for the Devil Rays
(to which he brings his three young children). There, his
fastball hits 98 mph. He's signed by the team and eventually
gets called up to the big leagues. In his first game in the
majors, he strikes out Rangers shortstop Royce Clayton on three
Aside from a minor detail--Morris needed four pitches to whiff
Clayton--the rest is true. The film did take other liberties:
Morris never clocked himself by throwing a ball past a traffic
radar gun. The minor leaguer who was called up along with Morris
wasn't an African-American named Brooks; it was infielder Steve
Cox, who is white. Also, Morris didn't give his first big league
ball to his father but to his son.
As far as what the film didn't show, Morris retired in March
2001 after two seasons with Tampa Bay. (In 21 games he had an
ERA of 4.80 and no decisions.) When he quit he was suffering
from tendinitis and a bout of homesickness. "I missed my kids
terribly," he says. "I was 37, and I already had done as much as
I could or wanted to do."
Dodgeball is hot. Not only is there a feature film about the
gym-class standard in the works (Scorecard, Feb. 25), but also a
TV series based on the game could air this summer. Zoo
Productions is shopping a 13-episode series called Ultimate
Dodgeball to networks. Zoo head Barry Poznick came up with the
idea after staging a celebrity dodgeball tournament at a
pediatric AIDS benefit in March. Poznick was impressed by how
competitive the stars--including David Arquette, Amanda Peet and
Matthew Perry--became during the games. "Brendan Fraser got really
worked up after losing three times in a row," says Poznick. "I
was like, 'Dude, you make millions of dollars a movie. Forget
about it.'" Poznick says several prominent athletes have already
volunteered to appear, noting, "For many it was their first
competitive sport."... For the 61st anniversary of Lou Gehrig's
death, Major League Baseball is teaming with Project ALS to stage
a unique promotion. Before the start of big league games on June
1, a celeb will take the field and recite Gehrig's famed farewell
address. James Gandolfini, Luke Perry, Billy Baldwin and Julianna
Margulies are among those who'll give the speech. The stars are
involved because of Project ALS cofounder Jenifer Estess, a
theater producer who learned she had Lou Gehrig's disease five
years ago.... Scoring the winning goal in a title game is one
thing; beating out Russell Crowe for a role is another. Ally
McCoist, a 22-year veteran of the Scottish Premier League, has
done both. McCoist stars in A Shot at Glory (opening on May 3), a
drama about a second-tier Scottish team that is faced with being
moved out of town by its American owner (Michael Keaton), until
the coach (Robert Duvall) recruits a marquee player (McCoist) to
change its fortunes. Soccer buff Duvall, who is also a producer
on the film, first talked to Crowe about the part of the player,
but decided against him because, says Duvall, "you need someone
who can kick a soccer ball." That's why Duvall turned to McCoist.
Says Duvall, "He's the only person who could play this role."
WAHOO McDANIEL, 1938-2002
A Life of Plenty
Wahoo McDaniel was never one to take the passive approach. While
driving to a golf course near his home in Charlotte last July,
the former AFL player and pro wrestling cult figure got into a
traffic altercation with another driver. Photographer Greg
Foster, who was to shoot McDaniel for an SI feature (SI, July
2-July 9, 2001) that day, was also on the scene. Next thing you
know, recalls Foster, "the other driver comes at me with an ax
handle." At the time McDaniel was in dire need of a kidney
transplant. "It was a scary moment," recalls Foster, "but Wahoo
knocked the guy onto the pavement. It was an impressive act given
his health at the time."
McDaniel, who died on April 18 at the age of 63 of complications
from renal failure and diabetes, had always been an impressive
act. A two-way football star for Oklahoma in the 1950s, McDaniel
played nine years in the AFL, then later made his name as a pro
wrestler. Pleased to play up his Native American heritage, Chief
Wahoo spent 30 years in the ring, wrestling the likes of Ric
Flair, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura.
In recent years McDaniel lived in Charlotte with his now
14-year-old son, Zac. But as McDaniel's health deteriorated this
winter, Zac moved to Tallahassee to live with his mother.
McDaniel went to Houston to stay with his 38-year-old daughter,
Nikki Rowe. "My father knew it was close to the end, but he
continued to play golf and even went hog hunting with my
husband," says Rowe. McDaniel was sitting in the sunshine on
April 8 when he told his daughter, "My mind is going." She took
him to a hospital, where he lapsed into a coma. Ten days later,
"The phone hasn't stopped ringing since then," says Rowe. "Ric
Flair. Sputnik Monroe. Tiger Conway, and a bunch of other
wrestlers I didn't recognize because they identified themselves
with their real names."
On Saturday a crowd of 200 gathered to remember McDaniel at a
church in Midland, Texas, where McDaniel grew up and starred as a
high school athlete. High school football teammate Tommy (Flat
Top) Johnson said that McDaniel experienced "a life that a great
number of men in this room fantasize living." Zac spoke at the
service as well. "He was the only father I knew who would allow
his kid to shoot a pellet gun inside the house," Zac said. "Y'all
remember my dad." --Mike Shropshire
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
A U.S. table tennis team player, Barney Reed Jr., has been
suspended after testing positive for steroids.
"He was the only father who'd let a kid shoot a pellet gun
inside the house"
They Said It
Mets manager, on whether New York pitcher Shawn Estes, who lost
a no-hitter in the seventh inning on Friday, had been jinxed by
a fifth-inning allusion to the feat on the Shea Stadium
JumboTron: "I don't believe in superstitions. They're bad luck."