NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced last week that he will recommend to the NFL's owners that the 1993 Super Bowl be played in a city other than Tempe, Ariz., which had been scheduled to host the game. That's in keeping with the NFL's preelection stance regarding Proposition 302, the referendum that would have made Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a holiday in Arizona, as it is in 47 other states. Prop 302 was defeated. Also affected by the vote was the Fiesta Bowl, whose officials considered moving the game to another site before deciding, on Sunday, to tough it out in Tempe.
The situation had its ironies. First, the two cities that stand to suffer most are Phoenix and Tempe. Both observe the holiday already, and both voted in favor of the referendum. What's more, the NFL may have done some damage to its own cause by making Arizonans feel that they were being pressured by the league's preelection threats to move the game if the holiday was nixed.
While it's commendable for the NFL to throw its considerable weight behind causes as worthy as this one, it's easy to look cynically on Tagliabue's action. Until last year, when Art Shell became the head coach of the Los Angeles Raiders, the NFL had not had a black head coach since 1925. It still doesn't have a black general manager or majority owner. That's a sorry record, especially considering that almost 60% of the league's players are black. If the NFL truly wants to honor King, it might begin its campaign a bit closer to home.
Also on Election Day:
•A proposal to build a 45,000-seat, $153 million stadium for the San Francisco Giants in Santa Clara, 40 miles south of San Francisco, was defeated. Voters in five Santa Clara County cities narrowly rejected a proposed 1% utility tax that would have funded the building of the stadium. It was the second time in a year that Bay Area voters rejected a proposal that would have paid for a new ballpark. Last year, just three weeks after the earthquake, San Franciscans turned down, also by a narrow margin, a measure to build a new facility to replace cold and windy Candlestick Park, largely because there were reminders all over San Francisco that there are more important uses for tax dollars.
In the latest vote, the timing again proved unfortunate, with voters in the Bay Area, as across the country, in no mood to approve new taxes. The Giants have said they will play one more season in Candlestick, after which they could move out of state if there's no northern California alternative. To keep the team, San Francisco mayor Art Agnos has hinted he will seek private financing for a downtown stadium.
•By an almost 2-to-1 margin, Californians gave a big no to Big Green, the state's omnibus environmental package (SCORECARD, Nov. 5). The environmental movement took it on the chin elsewhere, too, as voters around the country rejected a wide variety of measures aimed at protecting natural resources. A $1.97 billion environmental-projects bond issue was defeated in New York, as were measures to mandate recycling in Oregon, to protect streams in Missouri and to regulate land use in Washington. "This was the autumn of voter discontent," said Al Meyerhoff, one of the authors of Big Green. "We were caught in a wave of voter negativism."
THE BODY POLITIC
Other election news: The new mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minn. (pop. 50,000), is Jesse (the Body) Ventura, a former pro wrestler. Ventura, 39, who campaigned door-to-door in a T-shirt and jeans, received 63% of the vote against 18-year incumbent Jim Krautkremer.
ILLINOIS AND MISSOURI FAIL
It wasn't an ax that fell on the Illinois and Missouri basketball programs last week, but more of a blunt instrument—one that left both schools wobbly but still standing.
After lengthy investigations into alleged recruiting violations by the schools, the NCAA placed both on probation—Illinois for three years, Missouri for two—banned both from postseason play this year and imposed heavy restrictions on their recruiting and granting of scholarships for the next two years. The penalties were more than slaps on the wrist, but considering the seriousness of the NCAA's findings, both schools were fortunate to get off with the penalties they received.
NCAA investigators didn't uncover enough evidence to substantiate the most serious charge against the Illini: that assistant coach Jimmy Collins offered recruit Deon Thomas $80,000 and a Chevrolet Blazer to sign with Illinois. But they did find, among other violations, that three Illini players purchased cars, without "meaningful credit information," at an auto dealership owned by an Illinois booster; that Illini coaches arranged for recruits to get tickets to the 1989 NCAA basketball tournament; and that there was a "lack of institutional control" of the program. The main findings against Missouri were that it had awarded a scholarship to an academically ineligible recruit, P.J. Mays, and that assistant coach Bob Sundvold had arranged for the university to buy Mays a plane ticket.
Predictably, representatives of both programs called the NCAA punishment too harsh. Collins said of the penalties assessed to the Illini, "I don't know if it was because we were too honest [in cooperating with the NCAA]." Illinois's athletic department has now been sanctioned three times in the last six years (the previous two actions were against the football program). "Too honest" is a description it need not worry about for a while.
In the wake of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson's suspension for testing positive for anabolic steroids at the 1988 Summer Olympics, there was hope that track and field athletes would learn from his sorry example. And perhaps some did.
Yet last week, barely a month after Johnson regained his eligibility, the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), track and field's governing body, announced that two of the U.S.'s biggest stars, Randy Barnes and Butch Reynolds, the world-record holders in the shot put and the 400-meter run, respectively, had tested positive for steroids. The IAAF said that Barnes's urine sample, taken at a meet in Malmo, Sweden, on Aug. 7, contained methyltestosterone, and that Reynolds's sample, taken five days later at a meet in Monte Carlo, had nandrolone in it. Both athletes were suspended for two years, which would keep them out of the 1992 Summer Olympics. Barnes and Reynolds maintain their innocence—as did Johnson—and have appealed the suspensions.
STRAWBERRY GOES HOME
On Nov. 7, only two days after this year's baseball free agents were permitted to negotiate with any team that might care to sign them, outfielder Darryl Strawberry became a former New York Met by signing a five-year, $20.25 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Two sources said that Strawberry received a higher offer from another team but chose to return to L.A., where he was born, still lives and has always wanted to play.
Strawberry said the Mets, for whom he has played during his entire eight-year career, didn't want him back. They did, but not badly enough to offer more than $15.5 million over four years. "They never made an offer close to market value," said Eric Goldschmidt, Strawberry's agent. After losing perhaps the best non-pitcher in his club's history, Mets general manager Frank Cashen said, "You can't replace him in kind, but in a two-year frame, we'll be better than ever."
How will Cashen compensate for Strawberry's absence from the New York lineup? The Mets will go with speed, hence their pursuit of free-agent outfielder Vince Coleman. He can steal bases—that's all—and will cost around $9 million for three years.
Some say the Mets erred by not signing Strawberry to a multiyear deal before last season. Joe McIlvaine, who was the Mets' vice-president for baseball operations until becoming the San Diego Padres' general manager six weeks ago, said, "Darryl was in [alcohol] rehab. When a guy's in rehab, it's a big gamble to open the vault."
In any case, the Mets gambled and lost. "But no one is bigger than the team," said McIlvaine. "You have to remember that with Darryl." One of Strawberry's former teammates, infielder Tim Teufel, said, "His leaving might be beneficial to us." Teufel blasted Strawberry for missing seven games the last two weeks of the season because of a back injury, which Strawberry refused to have treated. "He was thinking totally of himself," Teufel said. "We still had a chance to win the division, but Darryl wouldn't play. You're going to give a guy $20 million who wouldn't go out there in those games? I don't blame the Mets for taking a stand."
And no one can blame the Dodgers for trying to strengthen themselves. Strawberry has the numbers: Only nine players in history have hit 200 career homers in fewer at bats. He's 28, he's coming off one of his best seasons (.277, 37 homers, 108 RBIs), and he joins Eddie Murray and Kal Daniels in a middle of the order that's as good as any in the National League. The only problem is that Strawberry, a below-average rightfielder, will have to play centerfield. Only the Denver Nuggets will have a defense worse than the Dodgers'. But if Strawberry hits 40 homers, and L.A. wins the National League West, who will care?
ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN
Los Angeles plucked Strawberry.
THEY SAID IT
•Larry Doughty, Pirate general manager, after hunting with three of his players, Sid Bream, John Smiley and Bob Walk: "Ballplayers and deer hunters are alike. They both want the big bucks."