CHARGES AMONG CHARGERS
The San Diego Chargers of the early 1980s were a talented but troubled team—their late owner, Gene Klein, once told SI that "a lot of" his players used cocaine—and last week more startling allegations surfaced about the Chargers of that era and about the city in which they played.
Since last October a San Diego County grand jury has been investigating alleged misconduct in the city's police department. On July 16 The San Diego Union reported that former Charger running back Chuck Muncie had testified to the grand jury that former quarterback Dan Fouts was shot in 1983—and that San Diego police covered up the incident to protect Fouts's and the Chargers' reputations.
Six former Chargers have told SI that the San Diego police department, which since the early '80s assigned the same two officers to the team as security agents, "protected" the players by regularly ignoring or concealing criminal activity ranging from drug use to traffic violations. Muncie, who served 15 months in prison for drug offenses before being released to a halfway house on May 1, had his sentence reduced by nine months in exchange for his testimony. During interviews with SI while in prison, Muncie said that he was with a woman in one room of a Del Mar, Calif., condominium and that Fouts and another woman were sharing a different room when "I absolutely heard the shooting. I think it was an irate husband of the girl [Fouts was with]."
Muncie told SI that the righthanded Fouts was wounded in the right shoulder, and that they immediately called Dick Lewis, one of the officers assigned to the Chargers. According to Muncie, when Lewis arrived at the condo, he "interviewed the girls and then said, 'Let's get out of here.' Dick said, 'We don't want nothing said about this.' "
In August 1989, Lewis and George Varela, the other cop assigned to the team, left the police force to work for the Chargers. Last week both denied to The Union that the shooting ever happened. Neither could be reached last week by SI regarding the other allegations of protecting the Chargers.
Fouts, who played 15 NFL seasons before retiring in 1988, missed five straight games in '83, beginning with San Diego's Oct. 23 meeting with the Denver Broncos. At the time Charger officials said he had reinjured his problem right shoulder the previous week against the New England Patriots. (The injury was attributed to a hit Fouts took from linebacker Andre Tippett in the third quarter, but the quarterback completed the game.) "I've never been shot," Fouts told SI in July 1988. "I heard that story myself. It's laughable to me. Because of some guys on the team and because of our relationship with the police department, we got some special attention." Fouts again denied the story in The Union last week.
Muncie first told SI in April 1989 that Fouts's wound was treated in the home of Paul Woodward, the Chargers' team physician at the time. An employee in Woodward's eight-doctor office reports hearing that Fouts had a wound described as "a grazing." Woodward denies ever having treated Fouts for a gunshot wound.
Rumors of a shooting have long persisted among Charger players. "I did hear it," former tight end Kellen Winslow told SI in 1988. "[But] Fouts was like the CIA. You don't question them. Or more like it, Fouts was J. Edgar Fouts."
"There were few people who would question anything I did," Fouts told SI in the 1988 interview. "I guess they thought I would come down on them."
Uncovering the truth in this matter has been made more difficult by Muncie's curious behavior. When interviewed by SI in the summer of 1988, he said that he had no knowledge of the alleged shooting. The following April, Muncie described the incident in detail. Then, last October, he testified to the grand jury about it. Finally, last week he denied to San Diego television reporters that he had given the testimony. Nevertheless, San Diego deputy district attorney Bonnie Dumanis told a judge that, in her opinion, Muncie's testimony before the grand jury "had been truthful."
A new grand jury was convened on July 1, and its investigation of the police, the Chargers and the charges will continue.
PREPARING FOR THE WORST
Nevada-Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian was "outraged" last week when the NCAA banned his national champion Runnin' Rebels from postseason play in 1990-91. The NCAA's sanction is for recruiting violations Tarkanian committed in the mid-1970s; the delay in assessing it resulted from a suit Tarkanian brought against the NCAA that was not resolved until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the NCAA's favor in December. But while Tarkanian may have been outraged by the ban, he could not have been surprised.
Neither of Tarkanian's top recruits for the coming season, California schoolboy stars Ed O'Bannon and Shon Tarver, signed a national letter of intent, which would have bound them to UNLV. Instead, both "nonsigned," as the new term goes, by verbally agreeing to attend Vegas but remaining technically free to attend any school they choose in the fall. (Actually, no player has to sign a letter of intent, but most college coaches ask recruits to sign such a letter to ensure that they will honor their commitment.)
"Coach Tarkanian suggested to me during a home visit that I just sign the [nonbinding] scholarship papers [and not the letter of intent]," said O'Bannon last spring. "Even if they go on probation, I feel I'd stay, but I'm not sure."
As of Monday, both O'Bannon and Tarver planned to remain Rebels.
On Oct. 25, 1988, Alfred Alchediak placed a $140 trifecta wager at Tampa Greyhound Track. He picked K's Broadway to win, Ari Cannon to place and Oshkosh Zest to show, and the three dogs crossed the finish line in exactly that order. But because Oshkosh Zest tripped and took a flying tumble just short of the finish—he crossed the line airborne, upside down and tail first—the judges disqualified him.
Alchediak, 70, has been fighting the decision ever since. He points to the greyhound rule book, which states that in determining the order of finish a race judge "shall consider only the relative position of the tips of the muzzles" of the dogs as they cross the line. Oshkosh's muzzle did cross the line in third place.
Because Alchediak failed to lodge an objection in writing with the race judge within 48 hours, as is required by Florida law, Hillsborough County court judge Don Castor threw out the case. My Little Pony remained the official third-place finisher, and the track was allowed to keep the $1,304 in trifecta winnings Alchediak would have taken home if Oshkosh Zest had not been disqualified. Nearly two years after the race, the dogged Alchediak says he may appeal.
In one of the more arduous fund-raising efforts in recent memory, 37-year-old classical music buff and ultramarathon cyclist Mike Secrest has helped raise some $200,000 for the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra by making the fastest bicycle crossing of the U.S. Secrest, who says he had Beethoven and Mozart playing in his mind much of the way, pedaled 2,916 miles, from Huntington Beach, Calif., to Atlantic City, in seven days, 23 hours and 16 minutes—nearly 10 hours faster than the old mark, set last year by Paul Solon. "My goal was the eight-day barrier," says Secrest, who was accompanied by a seven-member support team and two officials of the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association. "To me, that was like the four-minute mile."
Secrest was slowed somewhat by 100° weather in the Southwest and by bouts with asthma. He subsisted on a high-calorie, high-carbohydrate nutritional drink for most of his trek and slept a total of only 12 hours. "I used to drive a truck long-distance," he says. "Fortunately, I'm just one of those people who can go through the night." Secrest quit his trucking job eight years ago to pursue ultramarathon cycling full-time, a move that has brought him little money but great exhilaration. Says Secrest, "I think Franz Schubert put it best when he said, 'I'd rather lead a life of uncertainty and poverty than one of drudgery.' "
Bravo to Nike for its terrific new series of TV advertisements encouraging kids to stay in school and shun drugs. The most powerful spot features NBA star David Robinson in a variation on the Mister Robinson's Neighborhood ads he does for Nike. "Today's word is garbage," says Robinson in the spot. "What's garbage? Garbage is anyone who's into drugs. If you're into drugs, don't get into my shoes. Mr. Robinson doesn't like garbage in his shoes."
When SI ran its May 14 cover story on the obsession many inner-city children have with high-priced, superstar-endorsed basketball shoes—kids have mugged and even killed each other to get them; gangs and drug dealers wear certain brands as a sort of trademark—most shoe companies insisted the situation was beyond their control. Nike deserves credit for at least trying to address it. Will other shoe companies dare follow suit?
A grand jury reportedly heard that Fouts was shot.
THEY SAID IT
•George Will, author and pundit, on football: "It combines the two worst things about American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings."
•Brandy Johnson, gymnast, on shopping for shoes for her size-3 feet: "It's hard to find heels that don't have Mickey Mouse on them."
•Lee Smith, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, on the pressure brought by his reported $7.8 million contract: "I was born under pressure. My mom wanted a girl."