A Victory for Fear
A game is called because of the threat of violence
It was supposed to be the biggest interscholastic game of the year in Los Angeles: 7-0 Banning High versus 5-1 Dorsey High, a pair of powers that have dominated the city's football standings for years. Instead, it turned into a sad commentary on how violence has affected high school sports in southwestern L.A.
Despite promises from Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates that he would deploy 500 officers and use "antiterrorist tactics" to protect Dorsey's Jackie Robinson Stadium, parents of Banning players refused to allow their sons to play the game last Friday night. They feared violence from the gangs whose various territories surround the stadium and from the Dorsey fans and players who started a melee last year after host Banning beat Dorsey 21-20.
According to Banning assistant principal Charles Didinger, "The parents said, 'What's to say they won't attack us again, and this time we'd be down on their turf?' No matter what we said, what the police said, what anyone said, the parents refused to let their kids go. We could not field a team."
Last month, two students at the Dorsey High-Crenshaw High game at Robinson Stadium were accidentally struck by bullets fired by rival gang members. Banning parents who met with school board members on Oct. 28 wanted their school's game with Dorsey played at a neutral site. But Dorsey and district officials balked. "Of course we feel [the school] is safe," said Dorsey assistant principal Willard Love. "I wouldn't be here and our parents wouldn't let their children be here if we thought it wasn't. The police and the district said they would provide the extra protection."
Gates held a press conference on Thursday calling on the Banning parents not to "give in to terrorists." Said Gates, "We kept international terrorists from striking the Olympics in 1984. Surely urban terrorists should not stop two very fine teams from playing."
The concerns of the Banning parents are very real and quite understandable—who would want to put their children in danger? On the other hand, it is lamentable that they felt it necessary to give in to their fears. A clean, well-played game without incident would have sent the positive message that the high schools involved belong to their students, not to gangs and thugs.
Liz McColgan makes marathoning look easy
Most runners finish their first marathon with new respect for the distance. Not so Liz McColgan, who debuted at the distance in Sunday's New York City Marathon. With her hair tied straight up as if it were a tiny wheat sheaf, she promptly turned marathon wisdom on its head by mowing down a strong field to win in 2:27:23. "It was hard to contain myself," she said afterward. "It's hard to run holding yourself back."
McColgan, who is from Dundee, Scotland, came to the race with impressive credentials at shorter distances, including a win in the 10,000 meters at the World Track and Field Championships in Tokyo on Aug. 30. Though McColgan had never run a marathon before Sunday, she did the smart thing: She contained herself as long as she could, shadowing experienced co-favorites Lisa Ondieki of Australia, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, and Joan Samuelson of the U.S., the 1984 Olympic champion.
At 22 miles, McColgan and Ondieki were unexpectedly caught by Olga Markova of the Soviet Union. McColgan waited no more, rising on her toes and driving the four miles to the finish. "I just got stronger and stronger," she said.
McColgan's time broke Sylvia Ruegger's record for a women's marathon debut by 3:14. Markova finished second, in 2:28:18, and Ondieki third. Samuelson faded in the closing miles and ended up sixth. (Salvador García of Mexico won the men's division, in 2:09:28.)
Those of her rivals who were irked by McColgan's confidence before the race will not be pleased with her comments after it. "A very enjoyable experience," she said. "Now I've done one, I'm very much looking forward to doing my next. That will be my chance to chase a fast time."
The time she no doubt has in mind is 2:20, which for eight years has been for women what the four-minute mile once was for men. Samuelson and Ingrid Kristiansen were once considered the mostly likely women to succeed, but Samuelson is now 34 and Kristiansen 35. McColgan is only 27.
The mother of an 11-month-old girl and the wife of British steeplechaser Peter McColgan, she insists she will not be swayed from her plan of running the 10,000 meters and not the marathon in next summer's Olympics in Barcelona. But she may find that the lure of the marathon is irresistible. "The longer I go," she says, "the better I feel."
Kirby and friends brave a blizzard to play some pool
Travel was deemed "inadvisable" as the worst blizzard in Minnesota history socked the Twin Cities with 28 inches of snow last weekend. And still they came: eight major league baseball players, brandishing cue sticks like stilettos, to the exhibit hall of the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis for Saturday's first Kirby Puckett 8-Ball Invitational.
Well, perhaps stiletto isn't quite the right word. "Minnesota Fats has nothing to worry about with this group," said Toronto Blue Jay rightfielder Joe Carter as Los Angeles Dodger first baseman Eddie Murray, at a nearby table, ate popcorn from a bag he had sequestered in a corner pocket.
Slow Eddie and the rest came because Minnesota Squats, the 5'8" centerfielder for the world champion Twins, asked them to come. Squats, who only seven days earlier was winning Game 6 of the World Series all by himself, prefers pool to more traditional off-season pursuits. "Everybody has a golf tournament," said Puckett. "I don't play golf. I don't even know how to play golf. As a matter of fact, I hate golf."
Thus Puckett, who lost both of his parents to heart disease, birthed the refreshing idea for this pro-am pocket billiards tournament, which would raise $65,000 for the Minneapolis-based Children's Heart Fund.
Carter, Murray, Bobby Bonilla of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Harold Reynolds of the Seattle Mariners and Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles—plus Twins Chili Davis and Chuck Knoblauch—endured canceled flights and long layovers to get to the Twin Towns for the day.
The players paired off at five tables with civilians who had paid $500 for their chance to play Puckett billiards. For more than five hours, ballplayers and commoners engaged in nonstop 8-ball matches, in which players were awarded one point for each ball sunk and eight points for each game won. "It's an endurance test," noted Ripken, baseball's most durable player, who finished with 224 points, best among the players.
As for the man who has endured the most of late—World Series win on Sunday, parade on Tuesday, White House visit on Thursday, pool on Saturday—he was given the greatest reward. "Nothing you can do about the weather," said Puckett. "The way I see it, it just goes to show I have some really good friends."
Connie Hawkins deserves to be in the Hall of Fame
The basketball world has a chance to undo an injustice this month. The Honors Committee of the Basketball Hall of Fame is considering the induction of Connie Hawkins, a man of remarkable talent who danced, for the most part, in the shadows. He played seven NBA seasons in the 1970s with the Suns, Lakers and Hawks, averaging 16.5 points and eight rebounds, non-Hall of Fame numbers, to be sure. But Hawkins was 27 before he got his chance to play in the big time, having already spent eight of his most showstopping years with the Harlem Globetrotters and in the old American Basketball League and ABA. And before that he stamped his imprint on the game on the playgrounds and schoolyards of Brooklyn, where everybody—even the pros who happened by for a game—knew you had to beat the Hawk to keep the court.
"He was the first guy on that Dr. J-Michael Jordan level," says Doug Moe, who played against Hawkins in the ABA and coached in that league and the NBA for 18 years. "Long strides. Hold it in one hand. Wheel it around. Nobody could match him for that."
Hawkins's life changed forever one summer night in 1960 when he met with another New York City basketball legend, Jack Molinas, who was then under investigation as the fixer behind the college basketball scandals of the late '50s. Less than a year later, while Hawkins was a freshman at the University of Iowa, he was called back to New York to provide information for the investigation. Amid a confusing maze of questions before a grand jury, Hawkins somehow incriminated himself, even though he hadn't played a single varsity game at Iowa (freshmen were not eligible then) and even though the principals in the scandal, including Molinas, said Hawkins had absolutely no knowledge of fixed games.
Because of his "tainted" record, the NBA banned Hawkins. Commissioner Walter Kennedy finally lifted the ban in 1969 after settling a lawsuit that Hawkins had filed against the league.
Though Hawkins was chosen to play in four NBA All-Star Games, he never lit up that league as he had the playgrounds and the ABA. "He was in a class by himself," says Roger Brown, who also was tarred in the Molinas case and became an ABA star—as well as a businessman in Indianapolis. "There are guys in the Hall right now who can't carry his sneakers."
Amphibians now have a new way to get to Albertville
For a country that considers the legs of amphibians something to be eaten, France certainly shows a touching concern for toads.
After the French government proposed building a $207 million, 22-mile highway to connect the Alpine town of Montmèlion to Albertville, the hub of the 1992 Winter Olympics, ecologists pointed out that the road would cut off a colony of rare toads from its breeding pond. So an underpass, called a crapauduc (a toad duct), was constructed through which the toads could commute. The underpass was designed to be two toad-widths wide to avoid toad jams caused by toads who refused to hop over their fellow commuters—apparently they never heard of leapfrogging.
Such tunnels are built for the benefit not only of amphibians, but of humans, too. If there were no tunnel, toads would waddle across the road and be squished under the tires of speeding vehicles. The resulting mess might actually be dangerous for drivers. Some cars could skid off the highway and end up in a ditch. Toad or be towed.
Toad tunnels are not unique to France. There are at least 150 in Germany and a dozen in Great Britain. In fact, two years ago, an International Toad Tunnel Conference was held in West Germany at which the ins and outs of toad-tunnel construction were discussed.
Considering all of this fuss, toad tunnels might not seem worth all the trouble. But the benefit is obvious: Fewer toads will croak.
To Dick Vitale, whose magazine, Dick Vitale's Basketball, predicts that Northern Iowa will finish seventh in the Missouri Valley Conference and fourth in the Mid-Continent Conference. The Panthers play only in the MVC.
THEY SAID IT
Jerry Reynolds, Sacramento Kings player personnel director, on player agents: "If God had an agent, the world wouldn't be built yet. It'd only be about Thursday."
Larry Nelson, PGA golfer, while playing in a recent Tour event at Walt Disney World: "I want to win here, stand on the 18th green and say, 'I'm going to the World Series.' "
In an avant-garde TV ad for Nike shoes starring tennis player Andre Agassi, noted chef Julia Child makes a brief appearance: in a clip from one of her TV shows, she is shown preparing an artichoke. Child, 79, is donating her royalties to the American Institute of Wine and Food, but she wants to make it clear that she is not endorsing Nikes. "I wear New Balance," she says.
Replay: 20 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Gus Johnson of the Bullets and Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks elbowed for room on the cover of our Oct. 25, 1971, issue. In a story about Chicago Black Hawk star Bobby Hull and his 2½-year-old son, we speculated about the boy's future in the NHL. We had the right family, but the son we featured was Bart (now a running back for the Ottawa Rough Riders of the CFL), not seven-year-old Brett (now a star with the St. Louis Blues).