Jerry Tarkanian, blasting UNLV, says he won't go
Most Las Vegas performers know how to make a graceful exit. But it simply isn't in Jerry Tarkanian's nature to take a bow and step quietly offstage. No, Tark the Shark is the kind who has to be dragged away, kicking and screaming. That's why those who have followed his tumultuous 19-year career in the desert should not have been surprised by the news on Sunday night that Tarkanian was rescinding the agreement he made in June to resign as UNLV's basketball coach at the end of the current season.
He did it with a real show-biz flair, making the announcement at the end of a 2½-hour pro-Tark rally in a church in Las Vegas. The crowd of 350, which included most members of the team, clapped hands, sang hymns and booed whenever the name of Robert Maxson, UNLV's president, was mentioned. Many wore T-shirts that said KEEP TARK on the front and FIRE MAXSON on the back. "We got torn up from the inside." Tarkanian told the rally. "We got dismantled from the inside. It's totally unbelievable."
Dismantled? By beating New Mexico State 69-58 Saturday night, what was supposed to be Tarkanian's final team of Runnin' Rebels ran its record to an unexpected 24-2, clinching the Big West Conference title. That should have been a nice going-away gift, as well as one last testament to Tarkanian's coaching ability. But it wasn't enough for him. He had to make yet another grandstand play, not simply to save his job—Maxson later said it couldn't be saved—but apparently to humiliate the UNLV administration.
Tarkanian believes that Maxson sold him out to gain favor with the NCAA, which now has an infractions case pending against UNLV involving 40 alleged rules violations. In recent months the rift between the administration and the basketball office has widened over such matters as a photo in the Las Vegas Review-Journal of three former Rebels in a hot tub with convicted fixer Richard Perry; illicit preseason practices conducted in the guise of classes; and, most recently, a Review-Journal story saying federal authorities were investigating rumors that some members of last season's team had shaved points.
As Tarkanian saw it, the point-shaving story was only the latest in a series of administration leaks designed to embarrass him—a charge Maxson hotly denies. The latest scandal apparently triggered his Sunday announcement. "For me to coach next year is not the important issue," Tarkanian said. "The important issue is to find out what happened."
Not really. The important issue, at least for Tarkanian, seems to be revenge, whatever the price. Even before his about-face, Tarkanian's players voted to file suit to block the NCAA from proceeding with its infractions investigation. As part of the complaint, the players' lawyers will ask for a restraining order that would allow the team to compete in this year's NCAA tournament. (Tarkanian and UNLV had agreed in 1990 to sanctions that would bar the '91-92 team from postseason play and TV appearances so that last season's team could play in the tournament.)
The upshot of Tarkanian's latest maneuvering is that UNLV will be subjected to more embarrassing headlines and, in all likelihood, more dreary lawsuits. Tarkanian can't win this fight. But he can delay the hiring of a new coach and. thus, the beginning of the healing process that should be UNLV's top priority.
—WILLIAM F. REED
The Pool Pol
Swimming is the primary sport of Paul Tsongas
Paul Tsongas has a dirty little secret. It's nothing like the controversies that caused Bill Clinton to sink—and Tsongas to surface—before the Feb. 18 New Hampshire Democratic primary. But America might like to know that Tsongas's specialty is really the breaststroke.
That's right. Despite what you've seen in TV sight bites—i.e., the former senator from Massachusetts swimming a mighty butterfly in a pool—the breaststroke is what carried him to a letter at Dartmouth in 1962 and the stroke he swam as part of a national-record-setting 200-meter Masters coed medley relay team at a meet in Providence last December.
The trouble is, the breast-stroke doesn't look as dynamic as the butterfly, which is an important consideration inasmuch as Tsongas is putting his swimming on display to help dispel concerns about his health. He retired from the U.S. Senate eight years ago after it was discovered that he had lymphatic cancer, but his doctor now says that the cancer has disappeared, thanks to a bone-marrow transplant. As Tsongas points out, "All the reports in the world do not alleviate people's concerns about cancer. The butterfly stroke does."
Other than the different stroke, Tsongas insists that his campaign employs no gimmickry. His swimming is certainly no gimmick. He may not be the "world-class swimmer" that The Boston Globe called him, but he is a fine swimmer indeed. At the same meet in which he helped set that U.S. medley-relay record, Tsongas was part of a team that broke the world Masters coed freestyle mark for 200 meters. Imagine: a world record in the free by a prospective leader of the free world.
A Higher Calling
Hoops are no longer a habit for Shelly Pennefather
After graduating from Villanova in 1987, Shelly Pennefather, a six-foot All-America forward, went to Japan for four years to play women's pro basketball for the Nippon Express. Then last June, Pennefather gave up her $200,000-a-year salary and committed herself to a somewhat different organization, one that requires prayer, poverty, fasting, seclusion, almost-total silence and abstinence from, among other things, candy bars, cheesecake, three-pointers and posting up in the paint. Pennefather joined a Roman Catholic order of cloistered nuns called the Poor Clares, in Alexandria, Va.
To Pennefather's family and friends her decision to enter the religious life didn't come as a surprise. Even though she was recruited by some 200 colleges, the only offers Pennefather seriously considered were from three Catholic schools. During her recent off-seasons, she worked as a volunteer at Mother Teresa's mission in Norristown, Pa.
But Pennefather didn't join just any religious group. Founded in 1212, the Poor Clares are considered the most conservative of all cloistered orders. Contact with Pennefather is so limited that her parents, who live in nearby Manassas, can visit her only three times this year. Even during these visits Pennefather is shielded behind a screen. However, once a week Pennefather's parents get a glimpse of their daughter. "We go to mass at the small chapel that the public is allowed into," says her father, Bill. "We like to see her every week, just to make sure she didn't jump the wall."
When Pennefather sent a letter to some of her friends at Christmastime, she poked fun at her new life "behind locked doors." Describing her first meal as a Poor Clare, she wrote: "I was given a wheat biscuit, a couple of nuts, three slices of cheese and a grapefruit. 'Appetizers,' I thought. I kept waiting for the main meal. Well, it's six months later, and I'm still waiting."
As for recreation, Pennefather wrote: "We don't play any basketball...but every now and then, we do get together for a little game of stickball. The first time we did this, the novice mistress came out, and we gave her a brief practice session with our makeshift bat, and after a couple of attempts, she got her first hit in 35 years! We all congratulated her, and I told her that this was normal, because all great athletes go through slumps."
He Is an Einstein
Joe Theismann's quote tests the theory of relativity
In our Feb. 10 issue, SCORE-CARD contained the following THEY SAID IT from Joe Theismann, the former Washington Redskins quarterback who now is a broadcaster for ESPN: "The word genius isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
It didn't take an Einstein to figure out that Theismann meant Albert, not Norman, right? Well, a couple of readers have pointed out to us that we may have wrongly judged Theismann. One of them is Al Losiewicz, who was vice-principal of South River (N.J.) High when Theismann was a student there. Wrote Losiewicz, "I am certain that Joe referred to his friend and schoolmate Norman Einstein. Norman was a very bright student who graduated at the top of his class."
In the interest of fairness, we asked Theismann whom he had meant. "Obviously, you've found out that my comment was not as absurd as it might have seemed," he said. "I found the guy I went to high school with, Norman Einstein, to be very intelligent."
We couldn't leave it at that, so we tracked down Norman Einstein—Dr. Norman Einstein, to be exact. He is an emergency-room physician at Catawba Memorial Hospital in Hickory, N.C. After graduating as valedictorian in '65, Einstein attended Rutgers, where he majored in physics, of course. "My professors used to tease me a lot," says Einstein, who went on to med school at Tufts.
After reading Theismann's quote, Norman sent him a letter in which he wrote, "Albert Einstein was of course a genius. Norman Einstein is a middle-aged physician and a frustrated weekend athlete who can rarely par a golf hole and never serves a tennis ball faster than 50 mph."
The doctor needn't be so modest. After all, everything's relative. As an athlete, Albert Einstein was no Norman Einstein.
ROBERT BECK (TARKANIAN)
Tarkanian now wants to get out of his agreement to resign as coach.
MATTHEW BROWN/AP (TSONGAS)
The butterfly has helped Tsongas stay ahead of the competition.
ED MAHAN (PENNEFATHER)
Pennefather had her name up in lights as an All-America back in '86.
MANNY MILLAN (SI COVER)
[Thumb Up]To 74-year-old Hall of Fame golfer Patty Berg, who wrote a letter to LPGA pro Heather Farr every day for months during Fan's recent treatment for cancer.
[Thumb Up]To Boston College, for donating 40 tickets to a youth basketball league organized by the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association in Lowell, Mass. The league is helping to curb gang violence in Lowell's Asian community.
[Thumb Down]To N.C. State, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, Western Carolina, UNC Charlotte and Winston-Salem state, all of which failed to graduate any of the basketball players who enrolled in 1986. Only 22% of the basketball players who entered the state's universities in '86 have graduated.
THEY SAID IT
Sandy Alderson, Athletics vice-president, when asked to comment on the incident in which slugger Jose Canseco rammed his wife's BMW with his Porsche in Miami: "I'm not a defense lawyer, a marriage counselor or an auto mechanic, so I don't know what I can add."
Tom Kendall, a driver in last week's 'Toyota Grand Prix of Miami, when asked whom he was worried about in the race: "I'm going to keep one eye peeled for Jose Canseco."
San Diego's Chicken is being put on waivers. The Padres are looking for a new mascot this year, and they plan to hold auditions next week. There's no guarantee, though, that the Chicken's successor will come out of these tryouts. After all, the Padres have spent 23 years looking for a third baseman.
NORMAN CHAD: A Pay-Per-Viewpoint
Pay-per-view bothers viewers. I embrace it vigorously. With proper money management and fiscal responsibility, discriminating sports-minded investors will find pay-per-view to be as sound a financial investment as any U.S. government-backed security—and much more lucrative.
Take, for instance, the Feb. 28 Clash of the Legends, a one-on-one basketball exhibition between Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It will cost me nothing. Why? I don't want to see it, so I won't pay for it. Thus I will save myself $19.95. Then take the Feb. 29 World Championship Wrestling SuperBrawl II. I don't want to see it, so I won't pay for it, cither. Thus I will save myself $24.95.
Just like that, I'm up 45 bucks in two days, tax-free and with no sales charge. What a wonderful bargain!
Everything used to be see-for-free on TV. Now more and more is pay-per-view. People grumble about the impending reality. But pay-per-view simply represents an American tradition—freedom of choice. Granted, not everyone gets that choice, because you must have I) access to cable and 2) access to money. But that is a price Americans have chosen to pay in order to have a market economy.
For example, whether Jerry Buss decides he wants all Los Angeles Laker games to be on free TV or wants to charge $9.95 for some TV games or wants no Laker games to be available on TV is his call. It should be—it's his business, after all.
This notion that American sports fans somehow have a constitutional right to watch for free, say, the baseball playoffs or NFL games is absurd. I've checked the Bill of Rights. It doesn't guarantee against "unreasonable search and seizure of the Super Bowl."
(Actually, Congress, home of pay-per-vote, will most likely threaten legislative reprisals against baseball and the NFL if more of their games move off free TV. Congressmen love this issue. To them, it's like shooting fish in a pork barrel. Speaking in favor of preserving games on free TV is as politically safe as defending motherhood.)
For all the recent hullabaloo over pay-per-view, the concept is nothing new. The original pay-per-view, I believe, is the airport TV—20 minutes for a quarter—found in waiting areas. Heck, I remember how delighted I was once at LaGuardia Airport to discover that I could watch both Benson and Bosom Buddies for under a buck. What I don't like is the big lettering on the back of those sets that says TV. What else could they be, microwave ovens? I guess they assume that if you desperately seek to watch television in an airport, you must have the IQ of a baggage carousel.
Pay-per-view simply follows the same premise as all other businesses: If you want something, you pay for it; if you don't want it, you don't pay. For Nikes, it's pay-per-shoe. For Michelobs, it's pay-per-brew. For a cheap date, it's pay-per-moo goo gai pan. (Sorry, my word processor wrote that, not me.)
This is America, after all—you pay as you go. Speaking of which, I've noticed that some of you are browsing through SPORTS ILLUSTRATED at newsstands without buying it. You're taking money out of my pocket, pal. Hell, the magazine is only $2.95.
Pay-per-view, in fact, can be quite user-friendly. If you weren't happy with the NFL game being broadcast into your area, wouldn't it be nice if for a small fee you could call up an entirely different pro football game? You will actually be able to do that within a few years. So pay-per-view will expand your viewing choices—you'll decide what game or movie or concert you'll buy. And included among those many choices will be the choice to say no.
Hence, one of the blessings in disguise of pay-per-view might be a reduction in America's total viewing time. In light of the known evils of excessive television watching, maybe our ever-vigilant United States Congress should offer tax credits or straight cash for every hour those of us decide not to watch certain schlock sporting events, like the Clash of the Legends or SuperBrawl II. We could call the idea pay-per-miss.
Replay: 10 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
The U.S. bobsled team may have had second thoughts about putting Herschel Walker in a four-man sled, but we had no reluctance about putting the Georgia sophomore on our March 1, 1982, cover. (He obviously wasn't dressed for Albertville.) Walker didn't turn pro that year, and he ended up with the '82 Heisman. SCORECARD reported that at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, a horse named Drop Your Drawers showed.