The NFL has packed a historic amount of points into its first
It is fairly deep into the NFL season, and some of us, having
failed to rise since Sept. 5, have assumed the shape of our
Barcaloungers. A minor problem. Did you catch the Raiders and the
Bills trading touchdowns last Sunday? Did you see the Saints and
the Steelers matching each other score for score? How about the
Bengals, one big play after another, in a futile, but thrilling,
chase to catch the Colts? Something odd has happened in the NFL:
The Dull Moment has all but disappeared.
Take a look at the numbers. Teams are averaging a combined 45.6
points a game, the highest in 52 years and a figure that's up 5.2
points from a year ago--the third-biggest jump since 1943. If the
Raiders keep up their 40.5-points-a-game pace, they'll have a
648-point year, better than the 1998 Vikings' NFL-record high of
556 points. And this is happening in a season when the Rams,
recently thought to be a state-of-the-art offensive machine, have
started at 0-5.
The scoring is coming in many forms. We're seeing an unusually
high number of kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns (13
through last weekend), defensive scores (28) and long touchdown
throws. The Bills' Drew Bledsoe is on pace to pass for 5,638
yards (the NFL record: Dan Marino's 5,084 yards in 1984); Chiefs
tailback Priest Holmes is on course to score 32 touchdowns (the
NFL record: Marshall Faulk's 26 in 2000); and Seahawks running
back Shaun Alexander set a club record in Week 4 when he scored
three touchdowns in 1:51.
This year even failure is spectacular, with eight blocked field
goals and six blocked punts. The Browns have lost games on a
last-second field goal made possible when a Cleveland player
illegally tore off his helmet in a premature victory celebration
(Week 1); on an overtime field goal kicked after Cleveland
blocked its opponent's first try, which had come on second down
(Week 4); and on a game-ending interception in the end zone
against the Ravens last week, killing a rally in which the Browns
had scored 13 points in the final 7:43 and recovered an onside
kick. (Not that Cleveland deals only in disaster; three weeks
ago, the Browns scored 14 points in the final three minutes
against the Titans to tie the game at 28, then won it with--yawn--a
33-yard field goal in overtime.)
So, what gives? For one thing, we're seeing the ripple effect of
free agency. Because of the league's high turnover, defensive
coordinators are forced to employ basic schemes, which leave
defenses vulnerable to the recent vogue of flashy spread
offenses--and explains why the Bill Belichick-coached Patriots
are averaging 43 passes a game. "You see everything
now--one-back sets, no-back sets, five-wideout packages," says
Panthers coach John Fox. "And that forces you to go more vanilla."
The beautiful thing, though, is that everyone is more or less in
the same ice-cream dish. Because the league has been managed
well, the talent, and the problems, are equitably distributed:
this hasn't been a season of blowouts. Half of the games have
been decided by eight points or fewer. "Things are so close now
that coaches are looking for that extra big play," says Titans
coach Jeff Fisher.
They often get to see it too, though the playmaker may not be
wearing their favorite jersey. On Monday, Sept. 30, against the
Broncos, the Ravens' Chris McAlister returned a short field goal
107 yards, the longest play in NFL history. Last week, Raiders
cornerback Philip Buchanon picked off a Bledsoe pass on Oakland's
19-yard line and carried it in for six of the 49 points his team
would score. Some day, of course, all this scoring may get
terribly boring. Not yet.
Roy Jones tries to move up in class
A Roy Jones fight is strictly a solo act, more performance art
than competition. Whether it's Jones's rather fluid idea of
matchmaking or just his virtuoso abilities, he hasn't suffered
the prospect of danger at the hands of an opponent since...well,
forever (or at least since he beat James Toney, in 1994, the
last time he fought a reputable fighter). And for that matter
his fans haven't enjoyed a thrill in about as long.
To compensate, and justify his overly grand purses from HBO,
Jones, the undisputed light heavyweight champion, has tried to
supersize his events, fast-food-style. For one bout (against
100-1 long shot Eric Lucas) Jones handicapped himself by playing
a basketball game on the afternoon of the fight. More recently he
value-added a lopsided match--against a lightly regarded and
little known foe named Clinton Woods--with a prefight rap
And now, in a move that smacks more of stunt work than of
ambition, Jones plans to jump from the comfort of his weight
division to fight John Ruiz, a rough-and-tumble character who
holds the nearly irrelevant WBA version of the heavyweight title.
"Ruiz is a big guy, and my life is on the line," Jones told
reporters after he signed a precontract agreement for the fight
last week. True, Jones is upping the ante, at least compared to
singing for his supper, but the 40-pound difference (Jones, who
usually fights at about 173 pounds, plans to go into this fight
at 190; Ruiz expects to weigh in at about 230) shouldn't present
Jones with much difficulty. When Jones has finished escaping the
comparatively clumsy Ruiz for 12 rounds, the fight will rank as a
classic gag, not a historic moment.
As organizers set about making this match (there is the matter of
securing a date and site to provide Jones with his $10 million
asking price, and Ruiz with his $5 million), there will be much
talk of how Jones is placing himself in jumbo jeopardy, how few
fighters have been successful in this foolishness (the move from
light heavyweight to heavyweight has been a career trap for
many), and how hard Ruiz bangs (he did deck Evander Holyfield).
Maybe by the time the fight is made and we've heard this drumbeat
long enough, Jones will actually come off as reckless, perhaps
But that's not the Roy we know. From here, he will seem very,
very shrewd. --Richard Hoffer
$8,100 Amount spent on tiger care for the months of May and June
2002, according to the accounts-payable ledger at Mike Tyson
38,639,142 Total attendance for minor league baseball's 176 teams
this year, the third highest in history, after 1949 and 2001.
251 Regular-season games since Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko
scored a goal, an NHL record.
$1.2 billion Estimated cost to build the new 90,000-seat Wembley
Stadium, which would make the London facility, due for completion
in 2006, the most expensive stadium ever constructed.
$750 Price of a courtside seat at the MCI Center for a Wizards
$325 Price of a courtside seat at a Wizards game last season.
$87,343,231 Amount of the Jets' payroll, highest in the NFL.
$2.7 million Amount owed to former Mets manager Bobby Valentine
for the final year of his contract.
$325,000 Opening bid on eBay for the 1974 A's World Series
trophy, put up for sale by Nancy King, a cousin of late A's owner
Charles O. Finley.
Lech Walesa's sharp wit and blue-collar sensibilities helped him
rise from a shipyard electrician in Gdansk, Poland, to a beloved
union leader (in 1983 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his
efforts on behalf of workers) to the Polish presidency. Now,
seven years after losing a bid for re-election, he's using his
people skills as the host of a fishing show set to debut on
Polish public TV this month. An ardent angler--"I like to catch
perch because they fight valiantly when being dragged," he
says--the former Solidarity leader will work for no pay. "I
haven't any place to make a revolution, so I may take some other
topic," says Walesa. "They will show something about fish, about
ecology. Maybe in bad weather we shall talk while awaiting these
fish, about the past, about the present, about the European
Union. You know, what do you think about when fish don't take?"
Walesa, 58, was a force in Eastern Europe's move toward
free-market economies, and though his latest run for the
presidency failed in 2000, insiders think he'll hook viewers.
"This is a guy who took down the Berlin Wall," says Christopher
Hill, the U.S. ambassador to Poland. "I don't think he's going to
have any problem."
FOR THE RECORD
At Gallagher's Steak House in Manhattan, a Babe Ruth Look-Alike
Contest, by truck mechanic Willis Gardner, 65, of Oberlin, Ohio.
Gardner, who took home a camcorder and $1,000 worth of clothes,
says, "When I got there the other guys threw up their arms--they
knew they had no chance." Gardner realized he resembled Ruth
during a 1992 visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame, where, he
says, "it got all over town that the Babe was back." He has
since appeared at numerous charity events.
A quarter million dollars, by the Knicks, forward Latrell
Sprewell, for failing to tell the team that he had broken a bone
in his right (shooting) hand two weeks before training camp.
Sprewell denied reports that he had injured the hand during a
fight on his yacht and said that he had in fact slipped on the
boat. The Knicks also told Sprewell, who is out for at least six
weeks, to stay away from the team until he can make a "positive
By the Sandusky Group, which owns Phoenix radio station
KUPD-FM, disc jockey Beau Duran, for his prank call to the widow
of Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile at her Phoenix hotel room last
Thursday. The deejay told Flynn Kile, on the air, that she
"looked hot" and asked if she had a date for the
Cardinals-Diamondbacks playoff game that night. Kile hung up. "If
we could get our hands on [the people involved], we would deal
with them physically," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. The
Diamondbacks and the radio station apologized, and a few days
before Monday's firing the station said that the prank "was not
intended to be hurtful or malicious in any way."
The bodies of Stanford football players by the Rapid
Thermal Exchange (below), a machine developed by two biologists
at the school. During games, overheated players place their hands
on a cool, stainless steel plate in an airtight compartment,
increasing blood flow to the palms, which causes body temperature
to quickly drop by several degrees. "I thought it was
hocus-pocus," says Stanford quarterback Kyle Matter, "but I tried
it when my legs were cramping, and it brought my legs back." A
modified model of the machine, which is also being used by the
San Francisco 49ers, is expected to begin selling commercially in
January for about $3,000.
As N.C. 3, route 136 in North Carolina's Iredell and
Cabarrus counties to honor NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, who
lived and worked in the area. Earnhardt, who died in a wreck at
Daytona International Speedway last year, drove a number 3
Augusta National's exclusionary practices, by LPGA Hall
of Famer Nancy Lopez, who said the club's policy prohibiting
female members was "not a man-woman issue" but a matter of
"tradition." Lopez also said, however, that she would accept a
membership invitation from the club if it were extended.
After three seasons of football games at Vigilante
Stadium, in Helena, Mont., inaccurate first down markers. The
chains spanned 10 yards, 6 inches and were used at home games for
the city's two high schools, as well as Carroll College of the
NAIA, which played home games at the stadium through 1999. The
error was discovered last month during a game between Helena
Capital High and Missoula's Hellgate High when Hellgate advanced
the ball from the 20- to the 30-yard line, but a measurement
showed it was short of a first down.
The Ice Queen
By Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the ceremonial first
puck at Sunday's NHL preseason game between the Canucks and the
Sharks in Vancouver's GM Place. Wearing a two-piece suit of
burgundy silk brocade, black gloves and black pumps, the queen
gingerly walked down a red carpet to center ice accompanied by
hockey royalty Wayne Gretzky; Canucks defenseman Ed Jovanovski;
Cassie Campbell, captain of the gold-medal-winning Canadian
women's hockey team; and 77-year-old Hall of Famer Howie Meeker.
The queen, 76, dropped the puck between Canucks captain Markus
Naslund and Sharks center Mike Ricci, who had tucked his
shoulder-length black hair into his jersey and inserted his false
front teeth out of respect. Her Majesty then watched the first
period attentively from her royal box (a gussied-up luxury suite)
and appeared pleased when Jovanovski scored the game's first goal
at 2:39 of the opening period. Gretzky fielded several hockey
queries from the queen ("She was curious as to why penalties were
being called," he said) before she departed at the first
intermission to a standing ovation.
There were no brawls during the queen's visit--"It was probably
the most cleanly played first period we've ever seen," said
Canucks coach Marc Crawford--though players denied rumors that the
NHL had forbidden fisticuffs in deference to Her Majesty. In all,
the queen's visit, which came during her 12-day tour of Canada,
aroused high hopes in Vancouver, where British Columbia premier
Gordon Campbell said, "I have no doubt that Your Majesty will
inspire our Canucks to win their first-ever Stanley Cup." The
Canucks did look inspired in their 3-2 win, but so did the
Sharks' Ricci, who scored both San Jose goals. "Maybe I'll fly
her in before every game," Ricci said. --Pete McEntegart
THE WEEK IN TELEVISION
SATURDAY 10/12--ABC NOON--No. 9 Florida State at No. 1 Miami
The big payback? Last season Miami ended FSU's 54-game home
unbeaten streak with a 49-27 win at Doak Campbell Stadium. This
year the Hurricanes are the ones streaking, with a nation's-best
27 in a row.
SATURDAY 10/12--CBS 3:30 PM--No. 10 Tennessee at No. 6 Georgia
If the undefeated Bulldogs (5-0) can beat the Volunteers--as they
have in their last two meetings--they'll be off to their best
start since opening 11-0 in 1982.
SATURDAY 10/12--FOX 4 PM and 7:30 PM--Baseball playoffs: NLCS,
Game 3, and ALCS, Game 4
Contract the Twins? Not just yet, Mr. Selig. The Twins and Angels
meet in Anaheim in prime time; the surging Cardinals are the
sentimental favorites in the early game.
SUNDAY 10/13--ESPN 8:30 PM--Dolphins at Broncos
Since Oct. 27, 1968--seven years before current Broncos
quarterback Brian Griese was born--Denver has gone 0-6-1 against
Miami in the regular season.
THURSDAY 10/17--ESPN2 8 PM--Canadiens at Red Wings
No Hasek? No Bowman? No Yzerman? No problem. The defending Cup
champs still have enough Stars on Ice (Curtis Joseph, Brett Hull,
Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan) to make Tara Lipinski jealous.
SATURDAY 10/12--ABC 3:30 PM
No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas at Dallas
Apparently, Oklahoma didn't get the message about not messing
with Texas. The Sooners have outscored the Longhorns 77-17 in
their last two meetings. This year's winner gets the inside track
to the Fiesta Bowl.
--Radio on TV
--Think of it as a baseball version of Hoop Dreams. HBO has
expressed interest in buying the rights to Change Up, a 45-minute
documentary that will remind many of that classic basketball
film. While researching the Dodgers' Dominican Republic baseball
academy earlier this year, filmmakers from Hollywood's Angry
Young Ranch production company stumbled upon Alex Sosa, 18, and
Pepey Rodriguez, 16, pitchers who had dropped out of high school
to pursue careers in baseball. The movie, shot primarily in Santo
Domingo, follows the two teens--both of whom throw better than 90
mph--through the ups and downs of their auditions for scouts, and
it culminates in the players' signing with big league clubs. Much
like Hoop Dreams, the film portrays the heavy burden placed on
boys whose families are counting on them to strike it rich. It's
a compelling piece.
--Here's something that should become a regular feature on college
broadcasts: During its coverage of the Georgia-Alabama game last
Saturday, CBS showed replays of touchdowns scored by both teams
accompanied by the call from the school's radio play-by-play
men--in this case, the venerable Eli Gold (Alabama) and Larry
Munson (Georgia). A national audience got a taste of the
exuberance that local fans get every week; this is the kind of
detail that lends perspective and energizes a broadcast.
--Adding to the ignominy of last week's 11:06 p.m. ET start for
Game 1 of the Arizona-St. Louis Division Series: The ABC Family
Channel mistakenly switched away with two outs in the ninth
inning and briefly aired part of an episode of Growing Pains
before returning just in time for the final out. --R.D.
It's a Small World
Think the term World Series is a misnomer because the teams
involved represent only North American cities and states? Think
again. Players from all over the globe have left their mark on
the Fall Classic. Who among the following is not one of the four
foreign-born players who've won a Series MVP?
a. Pedro Guerrero c. Jose Rijo
b. Tony Perez d. Mariano Rivera
There have been 89 complete-game shutouts in World Series play.
Only one was thrown by a pitcher born outside the U.S. Can you
This Week's Matchup
Each of the players below was the first of his nationality to
appear in a World Series game. Pair the man with his country.
1. Ed Armbrister a. Bahamas
2. Chili Davis b. Cuba
3. Dolf Luque c. Jamaica
4. Luis Olmo d. Puerto Rico
Call to Order
Put these nations in the order--from earliest to most
recent--that they were represented in the Series by a native
a. Australia c. France
b. England d. Poland
IT'S A SMALL WORLD: b. Tony Perez of Cuba never won a World
Series MVP. Guerrero, from the Dominican Republic, was co-MVP for
the Dodgers in 1981; Rijo, also Dominican, won for the Reds in
'90, and Rivera, a Panamanian, won with the Yankees in '99.
Cuba's Livan Hernandez (with the Marlins in '97) is the other
foreign-born MVP winner.
LONE STRANGER: A native of Marianao, Cuba, the Red Sox' Luis
Tiant allowed just five hits in shutting out the Reds 6-0 in Game
1 of the 1975 Series.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP: 1. a; 2. c; 3. b; 4. d
CALL TO ORDER: England (Harry Smith in 1903 with the Pirates);
Poland (Moe Drabowsky in '66 with the Orioles); France (Bruce
Bochy in '84 with the Padres); Australia (Graeme Lloyd in '96
with the Yankees)
royal box." --THE ICE QUEEN, PAGE 32