Ride Them Cowboys
Bill Parcells is cracking the whip--and a few heads--to make
America's team his team
This is an article from the March 31, 2003 issue
Two weeks ago Bill Parcells was patrolling the Cowboys' Valley
Ranch training facility outside Dallas when he came upon safety
Darren Woodson in the conditioning room. "Woodson," Parcells
snapped at the 12-year veteran, "you've never met anyone like me.
I'm not like Jimmy Johnson or Barry Switzer or those other guys
you've played for."
As if Woodson didn't know. Not quite 100 days into the new
regime, Parcells is well into his in-your-face-mask campaign to
transform America's team into his own. He presides over the
team's voluntary daily workouts--"The definition of voluntary has
changed," Woodson says. "Now it's
voluntary"--and he is a regular on the elliptical trainer and
with free weights. "I'm gonna be the only fat guy around here,"
Parcells tells the players.
Last week, when he spotted a flabby-looking lineman, Parcells
asked him what he weighed. The player gave a number, and Parcells
said, "Let's get on the scale and see." Turned out the player
weighed 20 pounds more than he'd said. "Is it me?" Parcells said.
"Am I having trouble reading that scale?"
Yes, at 61, four years removed from the last time he horsewhipped
a team into contention, Parcells is the same sarcastic,
cantankerous detail-obsessive he has always been. Now when a
Cowboy walks through the players' entrance to the training
facility, he's greeted by a large blue-and-white sign: DUMB
PLAYERS DO DUMB THINGS. SMART PLAYERS VERY SELDOM DO DUMB THINGS.
It's a reminder that Parcells hates dumb players. He also hates
players who nurse aches and injuries, which is why he has
transformed the trainer's room from a sanctuary into a glorified
jail cell, removing the two TVs and lowering the thermostat to
The party is definitely over. Players can no longer saunter into
the locker room with a Big Mac and fries (Parcells's mandate: no
food), and nonplayers can hardly get in at all. The gawking
guests who used to amble through Valley Ranch on any given
off-season Sunday are now shut out of the locker room and
training area by heavy, usually closed double doors. And the
players seem to like the crackdown. "There's a new aura in the
building; you feel it when you walk in," cornerback Pete Hunter
says. "There's a focus and intensity that hasn't been here."
The lack of grumbling may be partly because the new sheriff has
made winners out of losers (Giants, Patriots, Jets) and partly
because the Cowboys are coming off five awful seasons. Parcells's
coaches--he has five holdovers from Dave Campo's staff--don't
even chafe when he tells them that past disciples, such as
defensive guru Bill Belichick, did things better. "He talks about
Belichick all the time," says defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
"You think that doesn't motivate me?"
Parcells's motivation is to remake a team put together by a man
with an ego and a will as oversized as his own, Cowboys owner
Jerry Jones. For example, Parcells loves big, bruising
linebackers--after surveying Dallas's light, quick,
Jones-assembled defense, he groused to Zimmer, "Our linebackers
look like they could all fit in one of those circus Volkswagens."
The lone cloud over what the Cowboys might call Happy Valley
Ranch is the same one that loomed when Parcells was brought in
three months ago (SI, Jan. 13). Can he and Jones coexist? Jones's
obsessiveness--he is the only NFL owner east of Al Davis to make
all of his team's draft-day decisions--and his need for the
spotlight made his coaches miserable. Yet Jones knows this team
needs a radical makeover. He has applauded the changes made by
Parcells and is a fixture at those "voluntary" workouts, often
getting on an elliptical trainer near his coach. "The question I
had about Bill coming in was how much fire he still had in his
boiler," Jones said last week. "That question has disappeared.
He's been very impressive."
Throw in Emmitt Smith's hugs-and-hankies departure last month,
and it appears the unthinkable is here: Under Parcells, Dallas is
leading the league in organizational harmony. Of course, it's
only March. --Peter King
The NHL's absurd attempt to teach its greatest actors a lesson
Like a self-righteous small-town newspaper publishing a list of
johns, the NHL released its first list of divers last week. This
dubious exercise in the politics of shame, which cost each player
a $1,000 fine and a lot of grief from his peers, fingered the
theatrical Matthew Barnaby and the roughneck defenseman Darius
Kasparaitis of the Rangers, excitable Islanders goalie Rick
DiPietro, Mohawked Maple Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe and the
Senators' Shaun Van Allen, who apparently plays two
positions--center and prone. Van Allen is a 35-year-old journeyman
who had been known for his outsized ears, if he were known at
all, but that might change after inclusion on the initial list of
players who had crossed the "embarrassment line," as the NHL
felicitously phrased it. The league has evinced no embarrassment
at expanses of empty seats, two team bankruptcies and TV ratings
that have slipped below the Arena Football League's, but it has
to start somewhere.
The crackdown began on March 1, more than three quarters of the
way through the season--one more example of a league that often
seems to be making things up as it goes along. The initiative had
been announced six days earlier in a memo that Colin Campbell,
director of hockey operations, sent to general managers. In a
Miss Grundyish tone, Campbell requested the memo be posted in
dressing rooms, that players be shown an accompanying videotape
on diving and that each player receive a copy of the note. (Their
parents did not, however, have to sign it.) The NHL already has a
two-minute penalty to control Louganis-like behavior, but the
fine and list are independent of refereeing. If officials
reviewing game tape see anything they view as egregious diving, a
judgment that falls into the gray area of intent, they are free
to humiliate. There's something so 1984-ish about it. The NHL can
be stodgy, but this is the first time it is a full 19 years
behind the play.
Van Allen allegedly embellished a fall on March 13 against the
Rangers, but he only learned he had been named to the list a week
later when reporters told him. He sputtered, insisted on his
innocence and was irked that the NHL vice cops had not called him
first. "I guess from Toronto they zoom in the cameras to see how
hard the contact was," Van Allen said, not unreasonably.
If the league sees diving as epidemic, the logical cure would be
more diligence in enforcing its obstruction rules so that players
wouldn't be tempted to dive to get calls. We'd mention that
standards for calling obstruction have grown ridiculously lax,
but we would not want to embarrass the NHL. --Michael Farber
24 Consecutive Division III men's swimming and diving
championships won by Kenyon College, the longest NCAA
championship streak in any sport.
3 Wins by the Penguins in the 22 games since they traded winger
Alexei Kovalev to the Rangers in a salary-dumping deal.
0 Games in which the Raptors have dressed their entire 12-man
18,454 Tournament-record crowd that saw LeBron James score 25
points and lead St. Vincent-St. Mary to a 40-36 win over
Kettering Alter--the school's third Ohio Division II high school
basketball championship in four years.
212,000 Fans who attended the two-day open house at Cincinnati's
brand-new Great American Ballpark last weekend.
$100 million Minimum purse that Roy Jones Jr. says he would need
to get into the ring with Mike Tyson.
100 Percent of players on the Suffolk County (N.Y.) Community
College's men's and women's hoops teams--both of which won
Division III junior college national championships--who come from
13 Years since the team with the worst record has won the NBA
FOR THE RECORD
SCRAWLED On the ball that Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal shot to
score his 20,000th NBA point Thursday in Sacramento, SHAQ IS AN
A--HOLE. Lakers officials noticed the declarative shortly after
the game when they got the ball from referee Danny Crawford. The
Kings have asked the Lakers to return the ball and plan to
compare the handwriting with that of employees who work at
courtside. In addition to referring to the Kings as the Queens,
O'Neal recently derided the inclusion of Kings point guard Mike
Bibby on the 2004 Olympic team.
CANCELED Because of security concerns, last Sunday's Washington,
D.C. Marathon. The organizers, H20 Entertainment Group, decided
to cancel the race after receiving more than 1,200 anxious
e-mails and phone calls from runners. H20 is not planning to
refund the $65-$95 entry fees, and D.C. mayor Tony Williams has
spoken out against the group on the runners' behalf. About 500 of
the 6,801 entrants ran an unofficial marathon through D.C. on
Sunday, sticking close to the regular course. Last October
several smaller races in the D.C. area were canceled because of
the sniper attacks.
REATTACHED To former Watford striker George Reilly, his right
ear, which was bitten off by a fan of a rival English soccer
team. In 1984 Reilly scored Watford's goal in a 1-0 win over
Plymouth Argyle in the prestigious FA Cup. Last Monday, Reilly,
who works as a bricklayer, was attacked at a work site near his
home in Corby. An unidentified man knocked Reilly down, chewed
off his right ear, then whispered "Plymouth" and fled. Reilly
needed 50 stitches to repair the damage and eight stitches near
his eye. "I looked like the Elephant Man," he said. "People have
strong loyalties, but this is unbelievable."
RECRUITED By U.S. Basketball Academy president Bruce O'Neil, a
head coach for Kuwait's national hoops team. O'Neil says the job
pays $60,000 a year, plus luxury housing, but "we're having
trouble finding interested candidates." After all of the dozen
coaches he reached declined the offer (including ex-Kuwaiti coach
Jim Calvin, who fled that country during the first Gulf War),
O'Neil and Kuwaiti officials postponed the search.
DIED Of unknown causes, Sammy Packard, 83, the last surviving
founder of NASCAR. On Dec. 14, 1947, Packard was one of 35
racers, mechanics and promoters whom Bill France Sr. called to a
summit in the Ebony Bar atop Daytona Beach's Streamline Hotel to
lay the groundwork for the organization. Packard, a Providence
native, was racing in Daytona, where he was a mechanic at
France's gas station. "People didn't like a Yankee winning their
races," he said last month. "They threw bottles and rocks at me.
So Bill started telling people I was from Atlanta. Once everyone
believed I was from Atlanta, they liked me."
Brooks Kieschnick, 30, is trying to make the Brewers as an
outfielder and a pitcher. How's he doing? SI's Kieschometer tells
"He was flat with his pitches but not with his bat," said manager
Ned Yost. As Milwaukee's final cut nears (Opening Day rosters are
due on Sunday), Kieschnick's stock as a reliever sank as he
allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings, raising his ERA to 4.77. He
has given up 10 hits and seven walks in 11 1/3 innings.
Kieschnick did go 1 for 2, lifting his batting average to .400.
Can he win a spot? Tune in for next week's gripping final
Taking a Stand
FLED Their home country, Zimbabwe national team cricketers Henry
Olonga, the team's first black player, and Andy Flower, its top
batsman. Since Feb. 11, when the two wore black armbands in a
first-round match at the World Cup in South Africa to protest
what the players called "the death of democracy" in Zimbabwe
under president Robert Mugabe, Olonga has received several
anonymous threatening emails. "They say, 'Watch out if you try to
come back to Zimbabwe,'" he told London's Sunday Mail. "There has
been talk of treason charges, which carry the death penalty."
After alleged members of Mugabe's secret police were spotted in
the stands during Zimbabwe's loss to Sri Lanka last Friday,
Olonga took refuge at a friend's house in South Africa. While in
hiding he is trying to obtain political asylum in England, where
Flower, who has a home in Essex, has already gone with his family.
Zimbabwe's sole ruler since 1980, Mugabe (right) has been accused
by Amnesty International of various human rights abuses. His
government has been widely charged with relying on violent
intimidation tactics, including murder, and many observers
believe his reelection last year was rigged. Mugabe's practices
have been heavily criticized by the U.S. and England, whose
national cricket team refused to play a World Cup match against
Zimbabwe out of fear for its safety. "Andy and I respect England
hugely for what they did," said Olonga, who is weighing an offer
to join the Essex pro team on which Flower plays.
The World Cup concluded without violence on Sunday as Australia
beat India in the finals. That same day Zimbabwe's Harare Daily
News praised Olonga and Flower for "boldly daring to publicly
condemn what had to be condemned, you have been a powerful
inspiration to many. Go well, men of moral courage." --Kelley
THE WEEK IN TELEVISION
MARCH 28--APRIL 3
SATURDAY 3/29 > CBS 1 PM > NCAA Division II Tournament Final
If you like playing the chalk, go with third-ranked Kentucky
Wesleyan (29-3), which has been in the title game in each of the
past five years, winning in 1999 and 2001.
SATURDAY 3/29 > ABC 8 PM > World Figure Skating Championships,
Ladies Free Skate
With defending champ Irina Slutskaya not competing because of her
mother's kidney illness, a star-spangled sweep is a strong
possibility. Sarah Hughes, Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen vie for
SUNDAY 3/30 > TRAVEL CHANNEL 7 PM > The World Poker Tour
Poker night goes prime time from Las Vegas in the first of 13
tournaments to be filmed in casinos--and in front of live
audiences--around the world.
TUESDAY 4/1 > PBS 10 PM > CHIEFS
A riveting documentary on Wyoming Indian High's hoops team, a
perennial state title-winner made up of Native Americans.
Filmmakers spent two years on the Wind River Indian reservation
chronicling the play on the court and the grinding poverty off it.
THURSDAY 4/3 > TNT 9:30 PM > Lakers at Mavericks
Dallas is looking for a little redemption and self-respect. On
Dec. 6 the Mavs suffered what guard Nick Van Exel called a
"flat-out choke" by blowing a 28-point halftime lead as L.A.
staged the second-biggest fourth-quarter comeback ever.
>> DON'T MISS
SUNDAY 3/30 > ESPN 8 PM
Rangers at Angels
Just when you'd recovered from ThunderStix and Rally Monkeys ...
with Major League Baseball having canceled its A's-Mariners series
in Japan, the season opener is A-Rod's boys in Anaheim against the
World Series champs ... and those damn monkeys.
ESPN needs to upgrade its coverage of the NCAA women's hoops
tournament to include a real-time scoreboard of other live games,
as CBS does for the men. Two games last Saturday, Old Dominion
versus Boston College (ESPN) and Georgia Tech versus Virginia
Tech (ESPN2), featured winning shots within minutes of each
another, but a viewer needed two TVs (or a fast clicker) to get
in-progress updates from both games. Though ESPN did go to studio
highlights on each channel, the scoreboard's absence deprived
fans of breaking news.
Talk about getting into the game. Chuck Machock, the color
commentator on University of Cincinnati radio 700 WLWAM, was
ejected from press row during Gonzaga's first-round win over
Cincinnati. Machock, 65, had berated referee Mike Kitts for
tossing Bearcats coach Bob Huggins. Kitts said Machock--a former
coach who was once on Huggins's staff at Cincinnati--used
profanity. Machock denies that, but regardless, he flushed any
claim of professionalism when he took off his headphones during a
live broadcast to take on a ref. The station and Cincinnati
athletic director Bob Goin haven't yet disciplined Machock. They
CBS's Billy Packer and ESPN's Dick Vitale have long differed on
subjects such as how the NCAA doles out tournament bids, whether
players should be paid and, most recently, LeBron James. So why
not pit the two in a Bill Clinton-Bob Dole style debate? Packer
says he'd do it if the discussion lasts at least 30 minutes "so
we could tackle subjects in depth." But Vitale won't bite. "I'm
not interested in battling people," he tells SI. "I'm not running
for office. I have fun doing the game, and that's all I want to
list of divers." --SHAME GAME, PAGE 21