Don Aronow, who designed and raced some of the world's fastest ocean powerboats, sat in his Mercedes at an intersection in northeast Miami on Tuesday afternoon of last week. A blue Lincoln pulled alongside, and gunmen fired several shots through an open window. Aronow, 59, died 45 minutes later.
Friends grieved for a dashing man who was killed only months before he was to resume a notable racing career in which he had won two world power-boating titles. "He lived life to the fullest," eulogized Dr. Robert Magoon, himself a powerboat champion. "Don died as he would have wished, with his boots on and front-page headlines."
Law enforcement authorities haven't ruled out robbery or even mistaken identity as reasons for the killing. But a drug connection is suspected. Billy Yout, a spokesman for the Miami office of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, called the shooting "a typical hit," probably orchestrated by "Colombian drug traffickers."
The link between drugs and power-boating is not new. For more than a decade South American dealers have used powerboats to bring their goods into the U.S. Last month three-time world powerboating champion George Morales pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to smuggle 1,200 to 1,500 kilograms of cocaine into Florida. He faces a possible sentence of 20 years in jail.
There's no evidence Aronow was involved in smuggling. His boats, notably the Cigarette and the Blue Thunder, have been used by drug runners but also by authorities fighting the drug trade. Thus when Aronow sold 13 Blue Thunders to the U.S. Customs Service last year, he was able to joke that he did so to help agents "catch smugglers using boats my other companies have made."
"I'm not married," says Patti Jay, the promotions director of radio station Q103-FM in Denver, "but if I were getting married, I sure wouldn't do it in front of 17,000 people at a basketball game." Jay was therefore amazed when she received more than 100 entries for the station's third annual Nuggets Nuptials contest; there were no more than 50 entries each of the previous two years. This year's lucky winners, drawn at random, are Lorie Limbach and Don Brandsma, who will tie the knot at half-time of the Nuggets-Indiana Pacers game on Valentine's Day. "It's a wild time," says Jay. "When the judge asks, 'Does anyone know of a reason why these two shouldn't be married?' some guys always start yelling, 'Yes! Yes! Don't do it!' "
What the ceremony might lack in stateliness it makes up for in Wheel of Fortune-caliber prizes. Besides the free service, Limbach and Brandsma will receive wedding bands, flowers, a night's stay in the honeymoon suite of a local hotel and a week on the beach in Acapulco. Last but not least, they get good seats for the game and 100 extra tickets for their guests.
END OF A LONG RUN
It drew scant notice in American newspapers, but runner Marita Koch of East Germany announced her retirement last week because of an injured Achilles tendon, thus ending one of the most distinguished careers in the history of track and field. Koch, a 29-year-old medical student from Wismar, was at once shy, winsome and indomitable. She was named Track & Field News woman athlete of the year four times between 1978 and '85; she set indoor or outdoor world records on 31 occasions at distances ranging from 50 to 400 meters. Koch, a taut 5'7¼" and 141 pounds, was the first woman to run the 200 in less than 22 seconds (her world mark of 21.71 still stands, although it has been equaled by compatriot Heike Drechsler) and established a world record in the 400 (47.60) that may not be approached for years. Sadly, the 1984 Olympic boycott cost Koch a chance to defend her 1980 Olympic 400 title—and deprived the American public of its best opportunity to see and admire her graceful talent firsthand.
THAT SINKING FEELING
Until a month ago there were plans to build a basketball court on the parking lot at Flatlander Park in Lakeland, Ga. Then suddenly there was no parking lot; the land in Flatlander was no longer flat. It had fallen into a sinkhole, a phenomenon that occurs when subsurfaces, often limestone-based, dry out during intense heat and the overlying material collapses into the void. This particular sinkhole left an 80-foot-in-diameter, 30-foot-deep asphalt crater. Lakeland officials have decided not to fill it in. "The bulldozers have already sloped it back and combined it with an adjacent pond," says public utilities director Mack Mathis. "Now there's a fishpond for the kids to use."
The hoopster's bane is the angler's gain.
TEAMS IN TRANSITION
Two of the most successful teams in sports have broken up. Team Becker has undergone a coaching change—You can't fire the player, right?—and Team Navratilova has experienced one of its periodic overhauls.
After Boris Becker lost to unseeded Wally Masur in last month's Australian Open—and was fined $2,000 for a series of outbursts that included spitting at an umpire—his coach and mentor, Günther Bosch, announced that he was leaving the team. Bosch, who was the only coach Becker ever had, said he didn't think the 19-year-old player prepared well enough for major tournaments. Becker ruled out a reconciliation with Bosch and said British track coach Frank Dick would come aboard as his physical conditioner. Becker's manager, Ion Tiriac, remains on the team.
Team Navratilova has a much longer history of such upheavals. In 1981 Martina Navratilova hired Renee Richards as her coach. At about the same time, basketball star Nancy Lieberman signed on as trainer. In September of '82 trainer/dietician Robert Haas also came aboard. "This isn't a team," said Navratilova at the time, "it's an entourage." After Navratilova was upset at the '83 French Open, Richards was replaced by former touring pro Mike Estep. Late in '83 Lieberman departed, and soon thereafter Haas was history.
During Estep's tenure, Entourage Navratilova won 10 Grand Slam singles championships. But early last month Estep quit. "I gave Martina several months to find another team," said Estep in a recent interview with the Fort Worth Star Telegram. "The thrill of the job was starting to wane a little bit." Navratilova has hired former Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade as her "strategy coach" and "emotional supporter," and Randy Crawford, a Fort Worth teaching pro, as her hitting partner. Tn its first tournament, the Australian Open, the new team lost in the finals to Hana Mandlikova, snapping Navratilova's 58-match winning streak.
And you thought Martina and Boris were primarily singles players.
DENNY McLAIN, SCRIBE
When we last took note of former Cy Young Award winner Denny McLain, in May 1985, the ex-Tiger pitcher had ballooned to well over 200 pounds, declared bankruptcy and just been convicted on racketeering, extortion, conspiracy and drug-trafficking charges. McLain, who has an appeal pending, is now serving a 23-year sentence in federal prison in Talladega, Ala.
He is also writing a column for Sports Fans' Journal, a monthly magazine published in Detroit. McLain has not lost his sense of humor, as is evident from his recent piece on the upcoming Hagler-Leonard fight.
"I keep asking myself if I would step into the ring for 11 or 12 million dollars," McLain wrote. "Folks, I'd step in the ring and fight Rocky Marciano, Attila the Hun and Mickey What's-His-Name [portly ex-teammate Mickey Lolich] for that kind of money. Although I presume that with Mickey What's-His-Name and myself in the ring, it would look more like two sumo wrestlers."
McLain predicted an easy victory for Marvelous Marvin and concluded, "Leonard is absolutely crazy to fight Hagler unless he's as broke as I am."
ENJOYING A LITTLE ICED TEE
In addition to such classic cold-weather activities as curling matches, broom-hockey games, snow-sculpture building, dogsled races and the Musher's Ball, the just-concluded Winterfest in Newport, Vt., offered a most unusual winter pastime: golf. Because no less than three feet of snow have fallen on Newport, a town of 5,000 that abuts the Canadian border, acclimation was the key to scoring well on the billowy links. Optic-orange balls were in favor, the sand wedge proved a most useful club and boots were preferred over spikes. The smart golfers wore ski gloves instead of golf gloves and, yes, winter rules were in effect. Though all the fairways were white, the ice of the greens was actually dyed green. This year's tournament, which had a field of 170, was won by Brian Haley, who shot a 24 on the nine-hole layout. Haley is considered a scratch snow-golfer because, believe it or not, his score was three under par.
SAM Q. WEISSMAN
Dr. Perry Fitch, a retired dentist, discovered the greens on the Newport links were a mite slick.
THEY SAID IT
•Wayne Chapman, Kentucky Wesleyan basketball coach, comparing his shooting in the old ABA with that of his son, Rex, the freshman star at Kentucky: "I was a shooter. He's a maker."
•Rick Sund, Dallas Mavericks director of player personnel, after watching a halftime show in which a man juggled chain saws: "You have a turnover there, and you've got trouble."