Environmentalists are growing increasingly concerned about the influence that White House chief of staff John Sununu is said to be exerting on President Bush on issues like global warming and clean air. "Sununu is becoming the James Watt of the Bush Administration, and that's a serious problem for the environment," says Daniel Becker of the Sierra Club.
Bush's environmental record as president has been fairly good. He has listened in earnest to the ideas of Environmental Protection Agency administrator William Reilly, a former head of both the World Wildlife Fund and the Conservation Foundation, and wants the EPA to be elevated to cabinet level. Bush is vastly more sensitive to environmental concerns than was his predecessor, Ronald Reagan.
Unfortunately, Sununu, who has no special environmental expertise, has prevailed upon Bush to move slowly on environmental issues, insiders say. In recent weeks Sununu has reportedly triumphed over Reilly by persuading Bush to soften both a presidential speech on global warming and an agreement on wetlands protection. Sununu seems wary of the environmental movement and its efforts to impose pollution controls—some of them costly—on U.S. businesses.
Bush's tepid response to global warming has been a particular disappointment. Staking out a position reminiscent of Reagan's foot-dragging stance on acid rain, Bush keeps saying that more research is needed. Specifically, he wants more solid proof that the buildup of carbon dioxide and other pollutant gases in the atmosphere really is, as many scientists suggest, causing the earth to warm up dangerously. Two weeks ago some 700 scientists, including 49 Nobel Prize winners, sent a letter to the President urging the U.S. to at least take a stand in favor of limiting carbon-dioxide emissions. The scientists wrote that while "more research on global warming is necessary, uncertainty is no excuse for complacency."
Sununu seems to be pushing Bush toward environmental complacency. The President would be better served by again tuning in to his environmental expert, Reilly.
THE, UH, THRILL IS GONE
One of the top trotters at the Meadowlands of late has been a 5-year-old gelding named No Sex Please.
WOOD BE SOLUTION?
Figuring that baseball's owners and players will be sitting around for quite a spell yet talking about a new contract, Bobby Owen, noted Tennessee whittler and author of Bobby Owen's Guide to Whittling, last week sent a whittling knife, an inch-thick chunk of cedar and a copy of his book to Players Association executive director Don Fehr, chief management negotiator Chuck O'Connor and commissioner Fay Vincent. Owen's book includes this bit of whittler's wisdom: "Remember that this old world has never operated to the complete satisfaction of any one individual or group and probably never will, so just do what you can to set things straight and don't be too disappointed if you don't get everything settled to your entire satisfaction."
We wouldn't have gotten past the entry form for the fourth annual Iditabike race, held last weekend in Alaska. The form asked competitors to assume the risk of frostbite, hypothermia, collisions with wildlife, and other adversities that might cause "serious physical and/or mental trauma, even death." It also required all competitors to leave a $50 evacuation deposit that would be refunded to them if they didn't have to be airlifted from the course.
Nevertheless, 58 entrants showed up in Anchorage last Saturday ready to race one another over a 200-mile stretch of the Iditarod dogsled course on mountain bicycles. Yes, bicycles. In the Iditabike, competitors ride bikes through the snow—some of it packed down, some of it not—for 24 hours or more, usually in subzero weather.
The event has had many bizarre moments. Last year a lunar eclipse plunged the race into darkness; one competitor rode on with a tiny flashlight between her teeth. Other riders have suffered temporary mental breakdowns from the combination of cold, snow and fatigue. "Their minds start going crazy," says race organizer Dan Bull. "They suddenly think, My god, what am I doing in the middle of nowhere on a damned bike?"
That's what the entire field was thinking last weekend. It snowed so heavily that by noon Sunday only six of the riders had made it as far as the Big Su checkpoint, 52 miles into the course. And those riders had walked their bikes for about 50 of the 52 miles.
The six weary leaders talked matters over and decided that to go any farther would be madness. Organizers agreed to call the event over, and declared Dave Ford of Girdwood, Alaska, the winner. Ford's time of 25:01 for 52 miles was just slightly faster than the record for the full 200-mile course. At least one competitor went home joking that she had raced in the first-ever Iditapush.
She hasn't appeared on any Valentine cards yet, but she's ideally suited for it. Heart, a 2-year-old thoroughbred filly from Douglas, N.Dak., was born with a rare heart-shaped marking (above) on her forehead. "I've never seen [a heart] as perfect as that," says Jockey Club registrar Buddy Bishop, who has viewed countless thoroughbred markings.
Last year, Heart was photographed with North Dakota Governor George Sinner, who dubbed her a Centennial Princess for the state. Does she have heart out on the racetrack? No one knows. Heart probably won't run her maiden race until next year, when she turns three.
CALL HIM TO CANTON
Former Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown says he's considering withdrawing from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to which he was elected in 1971, because he believes the hall's 30-member board of selectors is racist. He complains that the board, an entrenched group of sports journalists, some of them chosen by the hall, has kept out deserving black stars like John Mackey.
Brown shouldn't pull out, or shouldn't be allowed to. But he makes a good point in raising the question of race—just 32 of 155 Hall of Famers are black—and he's particularly on target in labeling Mackey's absence from Canton an injustice. Mackey, a five-time Pro Bowler for the Colts and Chargers in the 1960s and early '70s, defined the tight end position. After Bears coach Mike Ditka, also a superb tight end, was elected to the hall in '88, Ditka said, "I don't understand how I got in before John Mackey."
One suspects that in the hall voting, Mackey's union activity may have worked against him as much as his color did. Mackey was president of the NFL Players Association in his playing days, and his name was on an NFLPA lawsuit that challenged the league's restrictions on player movement between teams. If anything, those off-the-field contributions make Mackey even more of a historic figure in the sport. It's a pity that the hall's board doesn't see it that way.
BY THE BOOK
Octavio Meyran, the referee accused of giving Buster Douglas a long count in the Douglas-Tyson fight, appears in the WBC referee training manual and videotape. In both, he demonstrates proper refereeing techniques, including how to count out a downed fighter.
The Association of Tennis Professionals needs to put a lid on appearance payments. Two weeks ago at a tournament in San Francisco, the first U.S. stop on the new ATP tour, Brad Gilbert and Andre Agassi, the event's No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, were paid a total of $205,000 just to show up. No other players got any appearance money. Agassi, whose share of the appearance pot was reported to have been at least $150,000, earned only $32,400 for winning the tournament.
Gilbert, the world's fourth-ranked player, got his fee even though he lost in straight sets in the first round to 128th-ranked Gary Muller. That scarcely qualifies as an appearance. Poor Todd Witsken, meanwhile, who made it to the finals, earned just $19,090, the second-place purse.
Appearance fees diminish the incentive to win. That's why they were barred under rules of the old Grand Prix tour. But many tournament directors ignored that ban. They needed to dole out appearance money to attract big-name players to their events, so they paid the fees under the table.
The ATP has brought appearance fees out into the open. It is allowing 54 of the 78 events on its tour—the 54 that aren't designated as championship series events and thus aren't guaranteed top-name players—to pay appearance fees. ATP chief executive officer Hamilton Jordan argues that marquee players deserve financial guarantees because they draw fans to tournaments.
That may be so, but do they deserve so much? At the San Francisco tournament, there was nearly as much appearance money paid out as prize money ($250,000). In the case of Gilbert, it was money largely wasted.
SIGN 'EM UP
Feb. 14 was national signing day for college football recruits. As in years past, Allen Wallace, copublisher of SuperPrep magazine, has put together a list of the schools that fared best and worst. His Top 10:
1) Notre Dame. The fourth consecutive national recruiting championship for the team with its own TV network. The new recruits leave the Irish without weakness at any position.
2) Florida State. Just slightly behind the Irish. Signed the country's finest quarterback prospect, Chris Weinke of St. Paul, and stole two of the top three prospects in Texas.
3) Michigan. In the first year A.B. (after Bo), new coach Gary Moeller got all he could have wanted. Running back Ricky Powers of Akron is an especially good catch.
4) Texas A&M. Coach R.C. Slocum corralled a class with a heavy Texas flavor. The Aggies emphasized offensive firepower—best personified by top-notch running back Greg Hill of Dallas—and left the other schools in the Southwest Conference far behind.
5) Georgia. Raided Alabama and Tennessee for key prospects. Landed a terrific offensive backfield, and may sign highly touted wide receiver Andre Hastings of Morrow, Ga. (page 40).
6) Ohio State. Kept SuperPrep Player of the Year Robert Smith, a running back from Euclid, Ohio, from migrating to Southern Cal. Also got the nation's best defensive back, Larry Kennedy of Sarasota, Fla.
7) UCLA. Amazing that the Bruins could do this well coming off a 3-7-1 season. Snared a passel of superb defensive backs.
8) USC. Landed the country's top offensive-line class. Might have been higher but lost two fabulous wideouts at the 11th hour.
9) North Carolina. Surprise of the year. Despite two straight 1-10 seasons, coach Mack Brown signed most of the top in-state talent and some plums from Illinois and Oklahoma.
10) Nebraska. Got California's best quarterback, Todd Gragnano of Fountain Valley, and promising runner Calvin Jones of Omaha.
Wallace ranked national champion Miami only 11th but noted that while the Hurricanes "found themselves in second place with some major kids, this is a fantastic defensive class, with the offensive tools they'll need to score points through the air." He chose Oklahoma 12th, Syracuse 13th, Alabama 14th and Stanford 15th.
Wallace's losers of the year:
1) Boston College. Pitt, Michigan, Syracuse and Miami all beat the Eagles for key New England recruits.
2) LSU. Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska swept through Cajun country and took out the best talent.
3) Texas. Got some blue-chippers, especially at quarterback, but overall the Longhorns were whipped by Texas A&M and by Arkansas, which did well despite a late coaching change.
For racing fans, here's a show of Heart.
WALTER IOOSS JR.
Have Hall of Fame voters blackballed Mackey (88) for his union work?
THEY SAID IT
•Rick Pitino, Kentucky basketball coach, when asked about one of his team's defensive alignments: "That's our mother-in-law set—constant nagging and harassment."