Taking Their Hits
Weeding is fundamental for many professional athletes, even
though they're winding up on the blotter pages
The NBA is going to pot. But so are the NFL and Major League
Baseball. Does a week go by nowadays without an athlete getting
busted for marijuana possession? The list of tokin' offenders is
too long to catalog here, but it cuts a wide swath, from Mets
reliever Grant Roberts--who was pictured smoking in a New York
tabloid in September--to Randy Moss, whose run-in with a traffic
cop was compounded when marijuana was found in his Lexus.
Two weeks ago, Trail Blazers' forward Rasheed Wallace and guard
Damon Stoudamire were passengers in Stoudamire's bright yellow
Humvee (a friend of Stoudamire's was driving) as it tore down I-5
in Washington around midnight. When the vehicle was stopped for
speeding, it reeked like Jeff Spicoli's van; police found about a
gram of marijuana in the car. It would have been just another
story of two athletes caught with weed--but for the fact that
earlier this year police, responding to a burglar alarm, found a
pound of marijuana at Stoudamire's home. Stoudamire is facing a
felony charge although a judge ruled in August that the stash had
been illegally seized. (Prosecutors have appealed the ruling.) So
much for scared straight.
Marijuana use among athletes has become so prevalent that
Cavaliers coach John Lucas, a recovering substance abuser, asks
prospects, "How much marijuana do you smoke?" If they say an
amount, he asks, "Can you stop?" If the prospect says he doesn't
smoke pot at all, red flags start flapping and Lucas suspects the
player is lying. "Pot has become the new booze," Lucas says.
"That's just reality."
December 9, 2002
If you have any doubts, consider how contentiously players'
unions fight marijuana testing. The risible program that
baseball's owners and players agreed on names only steroids as a
banned substance. NFL players are tested once a year for
marijuana--in the off-season. In 1999, after a series of busts,
NBA players agreed to add marijuana to the list of banned
substances. But the tests are scheduled in advance for veterans
and, as John Wallace, then of the Knicks, said, "They let us know
about it, so it shouldn't be a problem."
What's behind the pervasive pot use? Weed has gone so mainstream
that politicians (New Mexico governor Gary Johnson; New York
independent gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano) have tethered
campaigns to marijuana legalization. According to a TIME/CNN
poll, 47% of Americans have experimented with pot, up from 31% in
1983. Usually the claim that athletes are "mirroring society" is
a weak alibi for antisocial behavior. But on this issue, it might
have merit. Marijuana, moreover, would seem better suited to
athletes' lifestyles than the accepted (and legal)
intoxicant--alcohol. "A lot of times you just want to chill at
home or in your room, and you don't want a hangover," one NBA
player tells SI. "Guys are sick of going out [to bars] and
getting into trouble."
Or as Mark Stepnoski, the former NFL center who's now president
of the Texas chapter of the National Organization for the Reform
of Marijuana Laws, says, "Guys who drink a lot of beer the night
before a game get hangovers. You don't get a hangover from
Marijuana advocates believe their drug is no threat to the
integrity of sports. They point out that pot is not
performance-enhancing. (It impairs coordination and
concentration.) And the health risks of moderate marijuana use
are a matter for debate. So should we care if athletes tend to
smoke a J after they shoot the J? "The bottom line is that we are
a nation of laws, and smoking marijuana is illegal," says Gary
Wadler, an expert on drug use in sports and a medical adviser to
the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy. "There
is a social cost when leagues and [players'] unions effectively
condone illegal behavior."
Yet there is no economic imperative for leagues to get tough. And
until there is, one assumption seems safe: Where there's smoke,
there's a pro athlete.
--L. Jon Wertheim
Take Me Out to the Gold Game
Variable pricing means fans will pay more for hot tickets
How is a sports franchise like an airline? Two ways, not counting
the bad food. The first is that a seat in either business is
perishable: If it's not sold, the revenue can't be recovered. The
second is that, increasingly, similar seats can cost different
amounts. Variable pricing--commonly used by theater managers and
concert promoters, who often charge less for matinees and more
for paying at the door--has become the hot marketing scheme in
baseball and hockey. If the idea doesn't revolutionize ticket
buying, it will at least make it more complicated. The Mets, for
example, who used to play baseball games, now play Gold, Silver,
Bronze and Value games. The same box seat costs $53 against the
Cardinals on a Sunday afternoon and $38 on a Tuesday night
against the Marlins.
For some teams the increased revenue is critical. Since Mario
Lemieux's return to the ice in December 2000, the Penguins have
drawn 90% of capacity, but their Mellon Arena holds just 16,958,
making profitability difficult. Last year the team began charging
$5 more for weekend and holiday games, generating an extra $1
million. This season the surcharge applies also to weekday games
against the Avalanche, Capitals and Flyers. Says team president
Tom Rooney, "We wouldn't have broken even last year without
The first team to sell "premium games" was the 1998 Rockies,
who've been joined by the Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Indians and
Mets. (In the NHL the Canucks, Lightning, Penguins and Senators
use variable pricing.) "So far we haven't heard any negative
feedback," says Rooney. Still, the NBA and NFL are cool to the
idea, and Rick Burton, executive director of Oregon's Warsaw
Sports Marketing Center, warns, "Variable pricing can diminish
value. Fans become more discriminating when they're told this
game is more important than that game."
Yet Rooney's convinced. "When we proposed this at the NHL
marketing meeting last year, I saw a lot of raised eyebrows," he
says. "This year, when we told them we made a million dollars, I
saw a lot of scratching pencils." --Mark Beech
1 African-American NFL general manager now that Ozzie Newsome has
been promoted to the position by the Ravens.
3 First-quarter points scored by the Nuggets against the Spurs
last Friday, the fewest first-quarter points in NBA history.
37--1 Career record of senior Ken Dorsey as the Miami Hurricane's
85.2 Career field goal percentage for Colts kicker Mike
Vanderjagt, the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history.
66 Years since the International Olympic Committee dropped polo
from the Games, the last time it cut a sport.
40 Touchdown passes for Grambling quarterback Bruce Eugene,
breaking the single-season school record held by his coach, Doug
5--20 Chargers' record in December since 1996.
13 Age of Taiwan's Lo Shih-kai, who last week at the Hong Kong
Open became the youngest player to start a European PGA tour
62 Career shutouts for the Maple Leafs' Ed Belfour, most among
active NHL goaltenders.
Her name, like her speed off the blocks, seemed to augur a bright
future. In 1996, shortly before she became America's top
500-meter high school runner, Promise Mose was an SI FACE IN THE
CROWD for her achievements on the John F. Kennedy High track team
in Richmond. Later she set school indoor records in the 60 and
400 at San Diego State, from which she graduated last May with a
degree in psychology. But Mose is no longer running free. Last
week she pleaded guilty in a San Diego court to voluntary
manslaughter in the June 15 fatal stabbing of her live-in
boyfriend, Allen Hardy. Mose, 23, has been in jail since the
incident and had faced life in prison before the plea; now she
could get up to three years at her Jan. 15 sentencing. Mose told
police that she accidentally plunged a kitchen knife into the
chest of Hardy, 27, after he pushed her several times during a
dispute. Mose's lawyer, Cynthia Bolden, told The San Diego
Union-Tribune that Mose "had no intention of killing him" and
called her "for all intents and purposes, a battered woman." Said
Kennedy High assistant principal Brenda Ellsworth, who coached
Mose, "She was surprisingly upbeat when I talked to her in
October. She's trying to make the best of a bad situation."
FOR THE RECORD
Declared By Wizards guard Michael Jordan, that following this
season he will retire from the NBA for the third time and resume
his role as part owner of the team. Jordan, 39, who quit the
Chicago Bulls for two years in the early 1990s to attempt a pro
baseball career, retired for the second time on Jan. 13, 1999,
and said he was "99.9 percent" sure he would not return. He came
back to play for Washington on Sept. 25, 2001, and now says there
is "zero chance" he will continue beyond this year. "After this
there will be no want," he says. Jordan, who won five MVPs, six
championships and 10 scoring titles with the Bulls, is averaging
16.4 points per game, 40th in the league. The Wizards, who were
traditionally at the bottom of the NBA in attendance, have sold
out all 50 home games they've played since Jordan's return.
Died Of lung cancer, former North Dakota University hockey goalie
and real estate magnate Ralph L. Engelstad, 72, who in 1998
donated more than $100 million to his alma mater. The gift went
primarily to a hockey arena that opened last year on the Grand
Forks campus and bears Engelstad's name. Many in the area
objected because Engelstad collected Nazi memorabilia; he later
threatened to stop construction of the arena if the school went
ahead with plans to change its nickname from Fighting Sioux (SI,
Oct. 8, 2001), which some saw as offensive. The state's board of
education stepped in and ruled that the nickname would stand.
Brawled Guests at the Willie McGinest Celebrity Ball, a charity
fund-raiser hosted by the Patriots linebacker in Revere, Mass.
For the second time in four years McGinest's Thanksgiving
jam--which raises money for Ronald McDonald House--ended in
violence, as about 40 police officers stormed Club Skyline at
Wonderland Greyhound Park to break up a fight involving 300
people. Police said the trouble stemmed from tension over long
Hired By the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, to improve
its wagering, communication and security systems in the wake of
the Breeders' Cup Pick-Six scandal, Giuliani Partners, the
consulting firm headed by former New York City mayor Rudolph
Giuliani. In addition to looking at Pick-Four and Pick-Six
betting procedures, Giuliani's firm--which is being paid more
than $1 million--will supervise an evaluation of racing's
nationwide network of wagering sites, which process more than $14
billion a year.
Arrested On charges he stole a blank check and then received
$3,500 after the check was cashed by a friend, Adrian McPherson,
19, Florida State's former starting quarterback. According to
police, McPherson, a sophomore who has been suspended
indefinitely from the football team, took the check from R&R
Truck and Auto Accessories in Tallahassee and gave it to Melvin
Capers Jr., a former football teammate at Southeast High in
Bradenton, Fla. Capers was charged with passing the check at a
bank. McPherson, who spent about an hour in jail before posting
$1,500 bail, denies he forged or received any money from the
check. He and Capers, who also disputes the charges, await a
Announced That 6'5" Lennox Lewis will defend his heavyweight
title against Ukraine's 6'8" Vitali Klitschko, 31, in February or
March in the U.S. Lewis, 37, hopes to make the fight part of a
package that will include a rematch with Mike Tyson and a bout
with Klitschko's brother Wladimir, 26. Last month Vitali (32--1,
31 KOs) knocked out Larry Donald in Germany to win the WBA
International title (above right). Lewis had been weighing
retirement since KO'ing Tyson in June, but his manager Adrian
Ogun said Lewis "is still hungry." Last year Lewis (40-2-1, 31
KOs) said he would like to eat one Klitschko for breakfast and
the other for lunch.
Postponed By the IOC until after the 2004 Games, a decision on
whether to drop baseball, softball and modern pentathlon from the
Olympics. In August the IOC's program commission recommended the
expulsion of those sports, citing high venue costs, lack of
worldwide appeal and, in baseball's case, the absence of major
league stars. The delay will most likely keep baseball in the
Olympics through 2008, but the IOC's message is clear: Without
top professionals in the Games, baseball may not make it to 2012.
"Major League Baseball so far is part of the problem, not part of
the solution," says Israeli IOC member Alex Gilady, who's also a
vice president at NBC, which owns broadcast rights to the Games
through 2008. "If the Olympics is important to them, they can
It was only four Summer Olympics ago that professionals were
essentially barred from the Games. But since the addition of NBA
players in 1992, and the revenue their participation created,
highly paid pros aren't just tolerated they're demanded. MLB's
participation would create a U.S. dream team and also enable
major leaguers from other countries to play for their home
nations, just as NBA and NHL players have done. Baseball, though,
is wary of disrupting the summer game for the Summer Games. "I do
not ever see us shutting down the league solely to participate in
the Olympics," says Sandy Alderson, MLB's VP of baseball
operations. "That doesn't mean having major league players in a
five-or six-day tournament is not possible."
Alderson lists several factors that could make Olympic
participation manageable, including using a rotation of players
during the Games, scheduling a tournament held in concert with
the All-Star break and an Olympics that doesn't require extensive
travel. (New York and Toronto are possible hosts for 2012.) "It
could happen," Alderson says. "The medal round is two
days." --Brian Cazeneuve
THE WEEK IN TELEVISION
FRIDAY 12/6 > ESPN 10:30 PM > MAVERICKS AT LAKERS
Forget the Mavs' 98--72 blowout of the Shaq-less Lakers on Nov.
19. Tonight we'll see how good Dallas (15--1 at press time)
SATURDAY 12/7 > CBS NOON, FOOTBALL > ARMY (1--10) VS. NAVY
So what if both teams stink? Seven of the last 10 games in the
Nation's Rivalry have been decided by four points or less.
SATURDAY 12/7 > ABC 1 PM, FOOTBALL > NO. 18 VIRGINIA TECH AT NO.
The last time Miami lost a conference game was three years ago
against these Hokies. A Hurricanes win here, and they're off to
Tempe to defend the national title.
SATURDAY 12/7 > ESPN 2 PM, BASKETBALL > KENTUCKY (2--1) AT NORTH
The Wildcats have won the last two meetings, but a threepeat will
be tough, thanks to the sudden emergence of the Heels' fab
freshmen: forwards Rashad McCants and Sean May, and guard Raymond
SUNDAY 12/8 > FOX 4:30 PM > SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S SPORTSMAN OF THE
YEAR SHOW 2002
We can't tell you who the winner is, but we'll give you a hint:
Celebrity boxer Tonya Harding and French figure skating judge
Marie-Reine Le Gougne are not among the finalists.
MONDAY 12/9 > GOLF CHANNEL 3:30 PM > PGA TOUR Q SCHOOL FINAL
No, the big names aren't playing, but this may be golf's most
dramatic day, as 171 players compete for spots on next year's PGA
>> DON'T MISS
TUESDAY 12/11 > PBS 9 PM
Rocks with Wings
The story of a girls' high school basketball team from Shiprock,
N.Mex., a poor Navajo community. This powerful two-hour show,
which won HBO's Documentary Award, covers more than a decade in
Shiprock and focuses on the often tense relationship between the
Navajo players and their exacting African-American coach, Jerry
George on Our Mind
Scorn for Horn
Phyllis George's much hyped Thanksgiving Day guest shot on Fox
before the Redskins-Cowboys game proved to be a big turkey.
Instead of providing insight into her experience as the first
woman to hold a regular NFL studio job (she teamed on CBS's
pregame The NFL Today with Brent Musburger, Irv Cross and Jimmy
"The Greek" Snyder from 1975 to '85), George did one long
infomercial for herself. She spent most of the segment hawking
her new self-help book and handing out copies to the fawning
hosts, Terry Bradshaw, James Brown, Jimmy Johnson and Howie Long.
How bad is ESPN's month-old Around the Horn? The daily
gabfest--in which host Max Kellerman presides over a panel of
four sportswriters who attempt to outargue each other--is nearly
impossible to watch, and most other critics agree. Last week the
Los Angeles Times, whose writers regularly appear on the show,
called Horn "30 minutes of hell, orchestrated by a blathering
self-important loudmouth...." Still, the network remains solidly
behind Horn, which airs immediately before Pardon the
Interruption. Mark Shapiro, ESPN executive vice president, says
that ratings are up about 64% from a year ago (when the time slot
was held by Unscripted with Chris Connelly), and adds, "We will
monitor and tweak the show as it evolves."
The Tennis Channel--which expects to debut next month--has made a
smart hire in Fox Sports's Chris Myers, who'll host the half-hour
interview program Center Court with Chris Myers. As the host of
ESPN's daily show Up Close from 1995 to '98, Myers earned his
bona fides as an interviewer: His testy posttrial talk with O.J.
Simpson was a TV segment to remember. --R.D.
Longtime 49er and current Raider Jerry Rice entered Monday's game against the Jets having been held without a reception only twice in
his career, both times in his rookie year of 1985. The first was
Sept. 29 against the Saints; the second was Dec. 1, when Rice's
80-yard touchdown reception was nullified by a penalty. Against what team did Rice last fail to make a catch?
a. Falcons c. Rams
b. Raiders d. Redskins
Third's a Charm
Few remember that Rice was the first overall pick in the 1985 USFL
draft by the Birmingham Stallions. In that year's NFL draft, Rice
was taken 16th by San Francisco and was the third receiver selected.
Who were the two wideouts drafted before him?
This Week's Matchup Pair the career receiving record held by Rice
with the man who previously held it.
1. Most 100-yard games a. Steve Largent
2. Most receptions b. James Lofton
3. Most touchdowns c. Don Maynard
4. Most yards d. Art Monk
Call to Order
Put these receivers in order of the most receptions they had in a
season as Rice's teammate.
a. Tim Brown c. Terrell Owens
b. Dwight Clark d. John Taylor
CATCHING ON: d. On Dec. 1, 1985, the 49ers beat the Redskins
35--8 at RFK Stadium, and Rice went catchless. The following week
he had 10 receptions for 241 yards against the Los Angeles Rams
to begin his 252-game streak.
THIRD'S A CHARM: The Jets took Wisconsin's Al Toon with the 10th
pick; the Bengals chose Eddie Brown of Miami at No. 13. The two,
both of whom retired in the early 1990s, combined for 880
catches, 12,739 yards and 72 touchdowns--all stats that Rice
(1,437 catches, 21,342 yards, 191 TDs) has surpassed.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP: 1. c; 2. d; 3. a; 4. b
CALL TO ORDER: Owens (97 catches in 2000); Brown (91 in '01);
Taylor (64 in '91); Clark (61 in '86)
Who Needs Scalpers?
Variable pricing plans differ from club to club, but all are
based on the law of supply and demand. The Cubs charge more
depending on day of the week and time of year; the Penguins and
Mets also factor in their opponents.
vs. Flyers, Weekend $65
vs. Thrashers, Weekday $55
Weekends, July $25
Weekdays, April $10
vs. Yankees, Weekend $27
vs. Brewers, Weekday $19
"The team began charging $5 more for weekend and holiday games,
generating an extra $1 million." -TAKE ME OUT TO THE GOLD GAME,