The Incredible Bulk
As America faces an epidemic of obesity, many professional
athletes are up against the same health risks as the average
With apologies to February's Fat Tuesday, our nation's real Fat
Day just passed. As we watched Tampa Bay Tubby Warren Sapp get
the best of Rotund Raider Frank Middleton on Sunday, millions of
us challenged our digestive systems with beer and chips and
chicken wings topped with--I actually saw a recipe for this crime
against nature--"Cheez Whiz sauce."
The earthy, and girthy, Sapp-Middleton jabberathon that preceded
the game--"It's like getting two fat boys in the ring, and
whoever wins gets to eat," Middleton said--illuminated that rare
but conspicuous sports figure: the Capable Corpulent. Sapp and
especially Middleton are bigger than even NFL linemen need to be,
but they thrive gleefully at their weights (303 and 360
respectively). The Yankees' All-Star pitcher David Wells has
produced a 16-season multimillion-dollar career while carrying
some serious baggage above his beltline. Charles Barkley, the
self-proclaimed Round Mound of Rebound during his spectacular
playing days, has built his regular TNT weigh-ins into an ongoing
comedy routine. (It's infinitely more fun when he gets bad news
than good from the scale.) And as White Sox general manager Ken
Williams said last month after acquiring 5'11", 240-pound pitcher
Bartolo Colon, who went 20--8 for the Expos and Indians last
year, "Am I going to worry about five pounds here or five pounds
Maybe Williams should worry. Colon and company notwithstanding,
athletes often pay a price when they get too heavy. Last month
Jennifer Capriati came to the Australian Open with what one
reporter called a "plum-pudding" stomach and was knocked out in
the first round. The Nets took one look at pudgy point guard
Chris Childs in the preseason, suspended him and sent him to the
Duke Diet and Fitness Center. As for Mets first baseman Mo
Vaughn, who looked like a whole right side of the infield last
season, management has decided it wants to see less of him. Get
fitter in the off-season, Mets owner Fred Wilpon told Vaughn in
October, or face the possibility that your contract will be
voided for violating the standard requirement that he stay in
"first-class physical condition."
February 3, 2003
Vaughn, who had difficulty bending for ground balls last year and
led the majors in errors by a first baseman (18), and Childs,
who's only played five games this year due to poor conditioning
and injury, are already the subject of bar-stool ridicule. They
follow in the tradition of former heavyweight champ Buster
Douglas, former NBA players Oliver Miller and John (Hot Plate)
Williams, and others who have eaten themselves out of sports.
But nobody should be laughing at these guys. Obesity is about as
funny as cancer. A recent report in the Journal of the American
Medical Association said that nearly one third of Americans are
either overweight or obese. We have more heart disease, more
weight-related diabetes, more of certain cancers and other
diseases in part because we eat too much and get too fat.
Our larger-than-life athletes might be more vulnerable than
anyone. A recent HBO Real Sports chronicled the severe health
problems of NFL linemen who played at massive weights. Korey
Stringer's size (336 pounds) may have contributed to his death on
a sauna-hot Minnesota practice field in the summer of 2001. A New
England Journal of Medicine report showed that, primarily because
of their large size, NFL football players are five times more
likely than other men their age to suffer from sleep apnea, which
can lead to heart disease and stroke.
A more compelling Super Bowl story than Sapp-Middleton was that
of Raiders offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy, who has battled
depression and an eating disorder that repeatedly landed him in
weight-loss clinics. Kennedy, who once called himself a "food
addict" has spent years slimming down from a high of 415 pounds
to the 335 he played at on Sunday.
The message in all this is that weight issues leave no corner of
the population spared. When putting limits on their careers and
their lives by eating poorly or simply too much, athletes are
just like the rest of us. --Jack McCallum
Nudes of the Week
The naked truth about Nike's pitchman, and other bare-all ad
The most memorable ad of the NFL postseason didn't even air
during the Super Bowl. But Nike's spot for the Shox NZ running
shoe has created a big buzz since it debuted during the
conference championship games on Jan. 19. The ad--in which a
streaker clad only in a long scarf and a pair of Shox darts
across the field during an English soccer game, dodging
bobbies--prompted calls and emails to Nike asking whether the
incident was real, or whether the streaker had been superimposed
on stock footage.
Here's the deal. The spot, conceived by Nike's ad agency
Wieden+Kennedy, was filmed in December during a four-day shoot in
a Southeast London soccer stadium (Millwall's home pitch). Actors
played all roles: the players, the refs and the 300 fans--who
were digitally reproduced to give the appearance of a larger
crowd--and of course the streaker. Mark Bowden, 32, distinguished
himself during filming, as he told the New York Post, by
"screaming with pain" in the cold. Nike went with the streaker
idea to show that "this shoe is lighter and more breathable than
other models," says spokeswoman Beth Hegde.
The ad has drawn some complaints from the American Family
Association--but it may be part of a trend. By coincidence,
dimension, a Spanish clothing company, has a mirror-image spot in
which a "streaker" is wearing clothes, while the players, refs,
fans and bobbies are in the buff. The clothed one is Mark
Roberts, 38, a real-life British streaker who bared his baubles
during last year's Champions League soccer final.
This spate of commercial nakedness traces to 2001 when Yard
Fitness, a training center in Hermosa Beach, Calif., produced a
spot with a trash-talking playground hoopster whom opponents are
reluctant to guard because he's wearing only a headband, glasses
and hightops. The ad (tagline: Feel Comfortable in Your Own Skin)
won awards and "caused quite a disturbance," says Troll Subin,
Yard's president. "Some people thought we were crazy." The Yard
spot has survived on e-mailed MPEGs, and the Nike ad seems
destined for a long life. As one of the spot's English announcers
says (in scripted commentary), "Oh, dear, that's an image
[that's] going to stay with me a very long time." --Pete
41 Percentage increase in fatal car crashes on Super Bowl Sunday
as compared to a typical Sunday.
18,500 Tons of chips and popcorn eaten in the U.S. on Super Bowl
20 Percentage increase in U.S. sales of antacid on the Monday
after the Super Bowl.
15 Of the 106 players on this year's Super Bowl rosters who
attended college in Florida, more than any other state.
$170,000 Amount offered by Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf
to any Pakistani who achieves the No. 1 world ranking in squash.
46 Age of Martina Navratilova who last Saturday won the
Australian Open's mixed doubles title, with 29-year-old Leander
Paes, to become the oldest Grand Slam champion ever.
2 NCAA women's hoops coaches who've won 800 games--Texas's Jody
Conradt and Tennessee's Pat Summitt--both of whom passed the
milestone last month.
43 Years between downhill victories by U.S. skiers at the
Hahnenkamm course in Kitzbuhel, Austria, the Super Bowl of
downhills, where California's Daron Rahlves won last Saturday.
FOR THE RECORD
RECOVERED After Oilers coach Craig MacTavish tore his tongue out
during a Jan. 20 game, Flames mascot Harvey the Hound. Harvey,
who had incensed MacTavish by taunting the Oilers in the third
period of a 4--3 Calgary win, received lavish medical attention;
he was waited on by two female nurses (right) and his tongue was
reattached in a surgery that was aired on the Saddledome
JumboTron before the Flames' Jan. 23 game against the Coyotes.
Harvey then entered to the tune of Who Let the Dogs Out as the
fans roared and chanted his name.
REVEALED In a poll conducted by SI at last week's Phoenix Open,
that an overwhelming majority of PGA golfers don't want women on
their tour. Of the 75 golfers asked the question "Should women be
allowed to play PGA Tour events?" 51 said, "No." Ten gave an
unqualified yes; 10 said yes if the women played from men's tees;
two said yes if men are allowed on the women's tour; and two did
not answer. Last week the world's top female golfer, Annika
Sorenstam, said she wanted to play in a men's tournament, and
Mike Norman, director of the PGA's B.C. Open, which is to be held
July 14--20 in Endicott, N.Y., said he would offer her an
exemption to play there. Club pro Suzy Whaley qualified for the
Greater Hartford Open by winning Connecticut's PGA Section
Championship last year and plans to play in that men's event July
NAMED By the NFL as the Walter Payton Man of the Year, Eagles
cornerback Troy Vincent. The award honors both a player's
on-field success and his service to the community. Vincent (SI,
Oct. 28) works with numerous national charities and has
established a foundation to educate disadvantaged children.
SMOKED By welterweight Ricardo Mayorga, Vernon Forrest and a
celebratory cigarette. The 29-year-old Nicaraguan unified his
title by dropping the heavily favored and previously undefeated
Forrest (now 35--1) with a right hand to the temple in the third
round. Ref Marty Denkin declared the bout over by technical
knockout. Mayorga (25-3-1), who had quit smoking six weeks before
the fight, lit up in the ring moments later. Said the strenuously
macho Mayorga, "In my country women give birth to men."
DIED Of heart failure, Edward (the Sheik) Farhat, 78, whose
violent, underhanded ring persona made him one of pro wrestling's
most famous heels. Claiming he was born of a wealthy Middle
Eastern family, he paraded through arenas from 1950 into the '70s
decked out in robes and a Bedouin headdress and screaming in what
was supposed to be Arabic. His tactics included stabbing rivals
with jagged pieces of wood. "He just scared the living hell out
of people," says former wrestler Tom Prichard. "He lived his
gimmick." The 6-foot, 247-pound Farhat was born in Lansing,
Mich., one of 10 children of Lebanese parents. After leaving the
ring he coached many wrestlers, including WWE star Rob Van Dam.
CRAIG KELLY 1966--2003
Death of a Free Rider
DIED In an avalanche that killed seven people near Revelstoke,
B.C., Craig Kelly, 36, who perhaps more than anyone else was
responsible for transforming snowboarding from a fringe diversion
into a mainstream sport. On Jan. 20, Kelly and 20 others were
trekking in the Selkirk mountain range to ski and snowboard on
the Durrand Glacier, when a wall of snow 100 feet wide
overwhelmed them. Kelly was swept more than 300 feet down the
mountain and buried. "We've lost a legend, a rider who set the
standard for everyone," says John Stouffer, editorial director of
Transworld Snowboarding Business magazine. "He made the sport
significant and legitimate."
Because his influence extended to almost every level of the
snowboarding culture, from riding styles to marketing, Kelly is
often compared with Michael Jordan and is known as the godfather
of his sport. A former BMX rider from Mount Vernon, Wash., Kelly
began snowboarding in 1981 and within a few years other riders
were copying his unique knees-together stance. He dominated the
world circuit in the late '80s, winning four freestyle world
championships and signing a lucrative endorsement deal with
Burton Snowboards. "He's the rider who put professionalism into
team riding," says Burton founder Jake Burton. After retiring
from competition a decade ago, Kelly, who's survived by his
girlfriend, Savina Findlay, and their infant daughter, Olivia,
became a backcountry guide in Nelson, B.C. There he was a pioneer
of free riding--in which snowboarders journey into the wilderness
searching for virgin powder. Backcountry trekking is now one of
North America's favorite forms of outdoor tourism. "If you pick
up a snowboarding magazine, you'll see 90 percent of it devoted
to free riding," says Burton. "Craig was restless, but he always
seemed a step ahead."
THE WEEK IN TELEVISION
JANUARY 31--FEBRUARY 6
SATURDAY 2/1 > ESPN2 7 PM > No. 2 Connecticut at No. 1 Duke
The UConn women hoopsters are defending national champs and have
won 57 straight, yet they're looking up at Duke (19--0) and its
defensive dervish, Alana Beard.
SUNDAY 2/2 > ABC 5:30 PM > Pro Bowl
There's no blitzing and not much hitting, but there'll likely be
some dazzling offense (the game has averaged 68.3 points the past
three years) in the Honolulu sunshine.
SUNDAY 2/2 > ESPN CLASSIC 9 PM > The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
You'll swear Dr. J's enormous Afro swallowed Pittsburgh in this
1979 camp classic about a hard-luck hoops team. Jonathan Winters
and Meadowlark Lemon also star.
WEDNESDAY 2/5 > ESPN2 7:30 PM > Nets at 76ers
An update on the trade that hurt both teams. Nets center Dikembe
Mutombo, nursing torn ligaments in his right wrist, will be on
the bench to watch Keith Van Horn and his Sixers teammates,
losers of 12 of 17 at week's end.
WEDNESDAY 2/5 > ESPN 9 PM > North Carolina at Duke
Tar Heels coach Matt Doherty, who's trying to disprove a report
that he doesn't get along with some of his players, won't find
many friends among the Cameron Crazies.
THURSDAY 2/6 > ESPN 8 PM > Avalanche at Red Wings
Round 2 of the NHL's best rivalry; Detroit won 4--2 in Colorado
>> DON'T MISS
SUNDAY 2/2 > ABC 2:30 PM
NHL All-Star Game, East vs. West
The league has thankfully ditched its World versus North America
format after five years, and fans in Sunrise, Fla., will root for
an Eastern Conference team with first-time stars such as 6'9"
Senators defenseman Zdeno Chara and Thrashers sophomore Dany
Heatley, the NHL's best young player.
Super Bowl ABCs
ABC should have done a better job handling the news of Raiders
center Barret Robbins on Super Bowl Sunday. The network waited
eight minutes into its pregame show, as host Chris Berman
bantered with his three cohosts, before cutting to Melissa Stark
with "breaking news" that the All-Pro center had been dismissed
from the team. By then, the information had been public knowledge
for nearly an hour. Such significant news--the only real news at
the time--needed to be addressed immediately. ABC did rally to
broaden the story, especially in addressing the potential
X's-and-O's impact of the change in centers. Some other
highlights and lowlights from ABC's nine hours of coverage:
BEST USE OF JOHN LYNCH'S MIKE Just before halftime the wired Bucs
safety was heard telling a coach, "Every play they've run, we ran
WORST SUCK-UP Robin Roberts floundered in the role of celebrity
interviewer during the pregame show, telling Celine Dion "You're
a good person" and "You're so wonderful" in a span of 40 seconds.
BEST TEENAGER Sportscaster Grant Paulsen, 14, entertained with
his earnest yet informed style; we love the way he called players
and cohosts "Mister."
TOP CAMEO Alias's Jennifer Garner was self-effacing (she
mock-bragged about being a water girl in high school) and funny
(on Raiders back Charlie Garner: "Most people don't know he's
actually my brother").
BEST MADDENISM When Al Michaels pointed out the no-fly zone above
Qualcomm Stadium, Madden, who famously travels by bus because he
hates flying, quipped: "That's the way it should be. They finally
got it right. People shouldn't be up in those things."
BEST PREGNANT PAUSE The live interview with Sherice Brown, wife
of Raiders receiver Tim and 36 weeks pregnant. On a split screen,
Tim urged his wife to "hang in there 24 more hours." --Pete
Stars with Sticks
The NHL's All-Star Game will be played this Sunday at the
Office Depot Center in Sunrise, Fla., and 10 players will make
their all-star debuts. Which active NHL player never selected
for an All-Star Game has the most career points?
a. Claude Lemieux c. Steve Thomas
b. Cliff Ronning d. Scott Young
This year's All-Star Game marks the return to the East versus
West format the NHL used before going to North America versus
the World in '98. Earlier, from 1947 to '68, the game pitted
the previous season's Stanley Cup champ against a team of
All-Stars from the league's five other teams. Who were the
first reigning champs to beat the All-Stars?
This Week's Matchup Pair the team with the first player to
represent it in an NHL All-Star Game.
1. Denis Dupere a. Capitals
2. Randy Manery b. Flames
3. Ken Schinkel c. Penguins
4. Doug Wilson d. Sharks
Call to Order
Defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh is the only Panthers player hometown
fans can root for in this season's All-Star Game. Rank these
teams in order of the number of stars each sent to the game
when it last played host.
a. Avalanche, 2001 c. Flyers, 1992
b. Canucks, 1998 d. Rangers, 1994
STELLAR SNUB: C. In 19 seasons with four clubs, current Blackhawk
forward Steve Thomas has 892 points (398 goals, 494 assists) and
no All-Star appearances.
EXPERIMENT OVER: The Red Wings won the 1950 All-Star Game 7--1.
In the three previous games the All-Stars beat the champion Maple
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP: 1.a; 2.b; 3.c; 4.d
CALL TO ORDER: Avalanche (five: Ray Bourque, Peter Forsberg,
Milan Hejduk, Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic); Rangers (four: Adam
Graves, Brian Leetch, Mark Messier, Mike Richter); Canucks (two:
Pavel Bure, Mark Messier); Flyers (one: Rod Brind'Amour)
"Is the streaker real or superimposed on stock footage?" --NUDES
OF THE WEEK, PAGE 22