PERESTROIKA IN SPORTS
Soviet tennis player Natalia Zvereva has made headlines by demanding the right to keep a substantial percentage of her pro winnings (page 24), which have customarily gone to the U.S.S.R.'s government sports establishment. Both her demands and her country's reluctance to give in to them evince an increasingly apparent point: The quest for money has become a driving force in Soviet sports.
The explanation is simple. As part of perestroika—Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's program of economic restructuring—sports federations in the U.S.S.R. are being required to pay more of their own expenses. "We now have perestroika in all spheres, and many regulations are being revised," says Victor Galaev, head of Sovintersport, a two-year-old body responsible for the international marketing of Soviet sports.
To bring in cash, the Soviets have jumped into a dizzying variety of Western professional sports, ranging from harness racing (top Soviet drivers will begin a U.S. tour later this month) to bicycling (Soviet cyclists will ride in Europe this summer) to pro wrestling (several aging Soviet amateurs appeared on a pro card in Tokyo on Monday). In late March, hockey player Sergei Priakin became the first Soviet athlete given permission by his government to play in a North American pro league, and made his debut with the NHL's Calgary Flames. Soviet basketball players may be playing in the NBA as early as next season.
Last week Galaev announced a deal with U.S. boxing promoter Lou Falcigno under which a number of fighters from the Soviet Union will turn pro. Falcigno will reportedly pay Sovintersport a sum in the high six figures for the exclusive right to promote bouts involving Soviet boxers for the next 10 years. The fighters won't necessarily get rich from the deal. As a rule, Soviet athletes who turn pro are paid only a small stipend, while the Soviet sports hierarchy receives the bulk of their earnings. Alexander Zavarov, for example, one of several Soviet soccer players to have joined pro teams in Western Europe in the past year, signed in August with Italy's Turin-based Juventus club for a reported $4.5 million—most of which went or will go to Soviet sports bodies.
Galaev explained the U.S.S.R.'s new policy with an old Russian proverb: "There's always a lot of money in somebody else's pockets." From the athletes' point of view, perestroika hasn't changed that very much.
ZAP, THE WONDER DOG
A living legend passed into the realm of the merely legendary recently when Zap, the mixed-breed husky of Arctic-expedition fame, died in St. Paul at age 13, or 91 in dog years. Zap, who logged more than 14,000 miles on explorer Will Steger's team, gained renown during a fund-raising campaign for Steger's 1986 North Pole expedition. The dog's ruggedly handsome mug—he had one blue eye and one brown, and his ears were chewed up from too many dogfights—appeared on posters, T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers. Zap went on the lecture circuit with Steger, usually upstaging his master, and was in great demand on television talk shows.
As one of two wheel dogs (they're the pair hitched closest to the sled). Zap had to be stronger than others in the pack; it was his job to pull the sled back onto the trail when the glamour-boy lead dogs strayed off course. Zap was named for the seeming electric current that kept him squirming as a puppy, and even as an adult he didn't know when to stop. In 1982 he charged a musk-ox and was soundly trounced. A year later he was nearly killed while attacking a moose cow.
Zap never finished the North Pole expedition he was so instrumental in raising money for. More than halfway into the 500-mile journey, he had one of his frequent scraps with his son Chester, who severely bit his father's right paw. Zap had to be flown home. He then retired and went back on the lecture circuit. To him, that was truly the dog's life.
NO DOUGH, YET
This week's cover subject, 42-year-old Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers (page 16), has been stirring up plenty of excitement in Little League baseball. As part of a promotion. American Express and Best Western International have promised to give Little League $1.25 million if Ryan, who has a record five career no-hitters, pitches his sixth during the 1989 season. Against the Brewers two weeks ago Ryan took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Terry Francona singled off him to spoil it. On Sunday, Ryan came even closer. He held the Blue Jays hitless for 8/3 innings before giving up a triple to Nelson Liriano. Says Francona, himself a former Little Leaguer, "I can tell you that the way Ryan is pitching, Little League will get its money sometime this year."
A MIRACLE PLAY
Shades of Babe Ruth and Johnny Sylvester, the badly injured boy who recovered after the Bambino hit a home run for him:
In October, Brent Doyle, then 18, of Broomfield, Colo., crashed his motorcycle and suffered head injuries that put him in a coma. Doyle is an avid Miami Dolphin fan, so several friends, with the help of Denver TV broadcaster Mike Nolan, arranged to have Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino record a tape of encouragement for him. On the tape Marino says, "Come on. You can snap out of it. All of the Dolphins are behind you 100 percent."
Brent's father, Don, played the tape for his son every day for a month, at which point Brent gradually emerged from his coma. On April 14—dramatically improved—Brent came home and the next day celebrated his 19th birthday.
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING
The coach left the field at halftime, his emotions drained but his hat still in place. Tom Landry was, by his own account, "overwhelmed" by the outpouring of affection he received on Hats Off to Tom Landry day last Saturday in Dallas. He was so worn out that he couldn't make it through one of the day's final events, a late-afternoon flag football game at Texas Stadium between teams of former Cowboys and former Redskins. Landry headed for home with his team leading the George Allen-coached Skins 6-0, thanks to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Tony Hill.
Dallas Mayor Annette Strauss had conceived the tribute to Landry, the Cowboys' coach for 29 years until his unceremonious dismissal by new team owner Jerry Jones on Feb. 25, and Governor Bill Clements proclaimed it a statewide day of honor. A morning parade through downtown Dallas, telecast live on two local stations, featured bands, floats and color guards from the four armed forces. Many of the 50,000 spectators waved Landry pennants or wore cardboard Landry masks; some people had arrived the night before to secure prime viewing spots. "I don't even believe all this is happening," said Landry.
But there was more, including a videotaped message from President Bush, a phone call from Bob Hope and telegrams by the score. One, from NFL referees, read, "Finally there will be some peace and quiet on the field. [No more of] all that ranting and raving and throwing that hat in the air." By the time the day ended, Landry had received countless plaques and trophies, a golf cart, lifetime passes on two airlines (Braniff announced plans to name one of its planes after him) and the keys to a flight simulator, on the off chance that, as an airplane buff—he was a World War II combat pilot—he might want to learn how to fly a 747. He was also appointed an admiral in the Texas Navy, and the possibility remains that Texas Stadium and/or the Dallas-Fort Worth airport will be named after him.
As for the flag football game, Staubach more or less took over as coach after Landry left and led the Cowboys to a 22-0 victory. "I think this is important because it was Coach Landry's last game in Texas Stadium." said former Cowboy safety Cliff Harris afterward. "We had to make sure we won it."
Landry's flag football lineup included (from left) Walt Garrison, Staubach and Jean Fugett.
THEY SAID IT
•Gregg Lukenbill, Sacramento Kings part owner, after offering a two-year contract extension to Jerry Reynolds, whose record as the Kings' coach is 49-93: "He's committed to us, and we're committed to him. We probably all ought to be committed."
•Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd, Red Sox pitcher, on not being told about a bomb threat against the plane that took the team from spring training to Baltimore: "They keep me pretty much in the dark about everything. If it had blown up, I wouldn't have known anything about it."