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Original Issue


Presidential Timber

In a year in which the nation will be selecting a Chief Executive, two major sports will soon be trying to fill presidential vacancies.

The NHL Board of Governors recently announced that a committee of owners would look into the process of finding a successor to league president John Ziegler and report its findings at the board's next meeting, on June 21-22. In other words, Ziegler's 15-year tenure atop the NHL is about to end. There has been growing dissatisfaction with his performance, particularly with his inability to market and promote hockey, his disappearing acts at playoff time and his condescending manner in dealing with the media. So the search is on for a successor who can revitalize the sagging league and lead it into the 21st century, and at the same time take charge of the board, as Ziegler failed to do. The fear in hockey circles is that the owners will choose another puppet—and not a visionary like the NBA's David Stern. At stake is the future of the NHL.

Meanwhile, at the Black Coaches Association convention in Atlanta last week, National League president Bill While closed the door on any possibility that he might serve another term after his current one expires on March 31, 1993. "My goal is to make sure when I leave that a black man succeeds me," White said. "He'll be able to do more than I've done. He'll be able to say more than I've said." White also burned a few bridges with a sweeping statement that sadly may have indicted many people he had no intention of impugning when he said, "I deal with people now that I know are racists and bigots."

White also revealed a distrust of the media in his comments in Atlanta. "My problem is I won't talk to the press," he said. "Frank Robinson came up and told me, 'You ought to get out there more and be more visible.'...I won't talk to the press because I won't allow them to set the agenda. I was part of the press for 18 years [as a broadcaster for the New York Yankees], and I know what their agenda is."

During his speech White claimed that he had done an "excellent" job behind the scenes. While that may be true, working backstage is not enough. White did make a salient point that because of the lack of black scouts in baseball, inner-city talent often goes undiscovered. Had he publicly lobbied for more black scouts when he first took office three years ago, White might already have made a difference in that area.

When the NHL and the National League owners decide on replacements for Ziegler and White, they might want to keep in mind that dealing with the media is not just a courtesy but a necessity if they want their sports well represented to the public. League presidents and commissioners can neither shoot nor ignore the messengers.

Southern Exposure

It really wasn't much of a surprise last week when a year-old, 150-pound black bear wandered into Paramus, N.J., 12 miles west of midtown Manhattan. In recent years, as the bear population has increased in the wooded hills of northwestern New Jersey, an occasional bruin has ventured into suburbia. What was truly a surprise last week was the urban foray taken by a year-old, 500-pound female moose. According to wildlife experts, she is the first moose to be reported seen in southern New York State since before the American Revolution.

First spotted three weeks ago trotting down a street in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., 140 miles north of New York City, the moose probably came from Vermont. What put this moose on the loose? "Most likely she was looking for new territory after she was tossed out of the social structure when her mother was about to give birth to a calf," says James W. Glidden, a biologist with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. In any event she began leading department biologists, who were anxious to tranquilize her and release her in the Adirondacks, on a wild moose chase down the Hudson Valley.

The itinerant Alces americana twice swam across the Hudson River. Near Poughkeepsie she took a dip in a lake, ventured into a garage sale and ambled through the grounds of an IBM plant. She clambered over a four-foot fence flanking Interstate 84, whereupon police stopped traffic so she could make it safely across the highway.

The moose continued south into Westchester County, until she suddenly changed direction and swam north across the New Croton Reservoir and dropped in on a state park in York-town. Unfortunately, last Friday night the moose was struck by a car near Shrub Oak, a village 30 miles north of Manhattan. The moose hobbled off into the woods, and since the biologists found only a small amount of blood at the scene, they assume she was only slightly hurt. The game of cat and moose goes on.

Sign of the Times
Here's an injury for the 1990s. San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn fractured the tip of the middle finger on his right hand on May 26. This occurred when he slammed the door of his Porsche on his finger while he was on his way to the bank.

Cut It Out
Over the last few weeks of NBA and NHL playoff broadcasts, we have heard this phrase several zillion times: "He would have gotten that call during the regular season." No, he probably wouldn't have gotten that call during the regular season. So announcers, please stop saying that.

Going for the Gold

"How have we allowed the Olympic Games, the epitome of openness, democracy and free debate, to be turned on their moral head?" British journalists Vyv Simson and Andrew Jennings ask in their recently published book, The Lords of the Rings, an account of corruption in the Olympic movement. The book criticizes the International Olympic Committee as a whole and IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch in particular for paying lip service to the ideals of fair play while commercializing the Olympics in order to increase profits.

In one section of the book Simson and Jennings report that Samaranch, the man who will preside over the Barcelona Olympics, was a supporter of General Francisco Franco during Franco's repressive 36-year reign in Spain. Samaranch is portrayed as a political opportunist who was willing to side with the Francoists in order to advance his career in the Spanish government. Last week Samaranch and the IOC filed a libel complaint in Lausanne, Switzerland, the home base of the IOC, against the authors. The IOC refuses to comment on the specifics of the complaint. It is now up to a magistrate to decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

It is unclear why Samaranch is so offended by the book that he filed a complaint that can only serve to further publicize it. The report of Samaranch's Francoist past was not a revelation, at least not in Spain. Virtually all successful Spanish businessmen of Samaranch's generation were Franco sympathizers—if they hadn't been, they would not have been successful. Much of the rest of the book's criticism of Samaranch centers on his burning ambition and his use of family wealth to insinuate himself into positions of power. Of course, if these were crimes that could be tried in a court, few members of the IOC would be found innocent.

Much of The Lords of the Rings is naive. For instance, Simson and Jennings criticize the IOC for arranging photo opportunities. They are aghast not because the photo op is part of modern politics, but because to them it marks the IOC as a political organization. The book also details the much-publicized allegation that gifts and perks have been given to IOC members by cities bidding for the Games in hope of influencing the members' votes. Readers learn that IOC members stay in luxury hotels and live pampered lives.

The book's theme is that the Olympics are about big money. If Samaranch ascended to the presidency of the IOC partly through back-room deals and favors, it would hardly be surprising. Such information is only disillusioning to those who cling to the illusion that the Olympics are, or ever were, the epitome of "openness, democracy and free debate."



Successors must be found for White (left) and Ziegler.



[See caption above.]



The moose has led biologists through much of the Northeast.

















The new book criticizes Samaranch and the IOC.


Judgment Calls

[Thumb Up]To the Pittsburgh Pirates, for their wonderfully evocative turnback-the-clock game with the "New York" Giants on Sunday. Both teams wore period uniforms from 1939 that will be auctioned off for charity.

[Thumb Down]To the NFL, for not collecting a total of $17,500 in fines it imposed mi New England Patriots Zeke Mowatt and Robert Perryman in November 1990. The players had allegedly sexually harassed then Boston Herald sports reporter Lisa Olson. The league says it can't collect fines for off-the-field incidents without risking lawsuits from the players involved.

They Said It

Junior Ortiz, Cleveland Indians catcher, after going 0 for 3 while playing with his left contact lens in his right eye and his right lens in his left eye: "When the pitcher threw a fastball low and outside, it looked like a fastball high and inside."

Buck (Tombstone) Smith, after being accused of padding his welterweight record (110-2-1, 81 knockouts) with a bum-of-the-month schedule: "But I'm not fighting one bum a month. I'm fighting three or four."