Hmmm, What to Do?
Athletes entered in an event this week in Topeka, Kans., have been warned by organizers that because of the floods in the Midwest, those traveling on Interstate 70 "may be subject to great delays crossing the Mississippi River." The event, to be held on Topeka's Shawnee Lake: the American Rowing Championships.
Above It All
Are the folks who run international sport answerable to anybody other than themselves? In last week's news:
•A federal judge in Columbus, Ohio, reaffirmed a $27.3 million award to U.S. 400-meter star Butch Reynolds in his lawsuit against the IAAF, track and field's world governing body. But IAAF president Primo Nebiolo reiterated his view that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over his organization. The court had found that the IAAF denied Reynolds due process in banning him for alleged use of anabolic steroids. Asked if the award to Reynolds would be paid, Nebiolo said, "Never, never—he can live 200 years."
•Anita DeFrantz, an American who's a member of the International Olympic Committee, and LeRoy Walker, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, testified at a Senate Commerce Commitee hearing against resolutions expected to be adopted this week by Congress that urge the IOC to reject Beijing as the site of the 2000 Summer Olympics because of China's shameful human-rights record. DeFrantz and Walker warned that the IOC, miffed at what it perceived as political interference by Congress, could select Beijing out of spite.
Nebiolo ought to realize that if the IAAF does business in the U.S., it is subject to U.S. laws. And if DeFrantz and Walker are worried that congressional resolutions might be perceived as undue meddling, they ought to use their influence to change that perception rather than surrender to it. Congress should have the right—as should any political body in the world, or any individual—to express its views without the IOC's feeling the need to retaliate.
U.S. airlines are suffering a severe profit squeeze, but that hasn't stopped them from shelling out big bucks to affix their names to sports facilities. The United Center, now under construction, will replace Chicago Stadium as home of the Bulls and the Blackhawks, and the Capital Centre in Landover, Md., where the Washington Bullets and Capitals play, will become the USAir Arena on Aug. 1. Also, there has been talk that American Airlines might lend its name to the Texas Rangers' new park, which is being built in Arlington. And don't forget Salt Lake City's Delta Center, home of the Utah Jazz, and Phoenix's America West Arena, home of the Suns.
The airlines say the expense of putting their names on arenas—the Landover deal will cost USAir $1 million a year—is money well spent. "Every time the Jazz play at the Delta Center, it's exposure for us," says Clay McConnell, a Delta spokesman. But Julius Maldutis, a Salomon Brothers analyst who specializes in the airline industry, questions the wisdom of the tieins. "Airlines tend to be copycats, whether it makes sense or not," he says.
The deaths of Union City and Prairie Bayou in this year's Preakness and Belmont, respectively, have prompted calls for the overhaul of the Triple Crown. Responding to criticism by animal rights groups and others, officials have discussed shortening the races—for example, cutting the Belmont from 1½ to 1¼ miles—and scheduling the events over eight weeks instead of five. Another suggestion: reducing the weight horses carry from 126 to 121 pounds for colts and from 121 to 116 pounds for fillies.
But SI's racing writer, William Nack, deems such measures precipitate. Nack writes: "Until the Union City and Prairie Bayou mishaps, there had not been a fatality in Triple Crown races since Black Hills went down in the 1959 Belmont. There were indications that Union City was unsound and shouldn't have run; if officials are bent on reform, they might subject the horses to more rigorous prerace physical exams. Apparently Prairie Bayou was injured simply because he took a bad step, as horses will do.
"Run at three different distances at three different tracks over a compressed period of time, the Triple Crown is racing's ultimate test of speed and stamina. The sport should not be stampeded into tampering with it."
Malik Jackson, a star strong safety on the Rutgers football team, is free on $25,000 bond after being charged with robbery and aggravated assault. The victim, a 21-year-old man, was beaten and robbed by a group of thugs in New Brunswick, N.J., where Rutgers is located. Jackson, who has pleaded innocent, was implicated after a witness told police the assailants were muscular and of college age. The cops got out the Rutgers football team's media guide, and the witness identified Jackson from his picture.
Relief pitchers don't enter games without warming up in the bullpen. Big league teams don't normally employ morons as pitching coaches, nor do they "trade" players to the New York Yankees for $25 million. Above all, the Chicago Cubs never win the World Series.
If it's verisimilitude you're after, the baseball movie Rookie of the Year is not for you. But if you're up for a sweet-natured fantasy, it's just the ticket. Directed by Daniel Stern, Rookie of the Year is about a clumsy 12-year-old boy, winningly played by Thomas Ian Nicholas, who by dint of a medical miracle becomes an ace closer for the Cubs. It's also about a boy and his friends, a boy and his single mom, and a boy and some bigger boys of summer. The relationship between Henry Rowen-gartner and his hero, Chet (Rocket) Steadman (a convincing Gary Busey), is especially effective. Stern doubles as the Cubs' idiotic pitching coach, giving a performance that even Jerry Lewis might find over the top.
As with most baseball movies, Rookie of the Year has the climactic big game. While that action will have the kids cheering, there is a wonderful little epilogue that will leave grown-ups smiling. As is often the case in baseball, Rookie of the Year is a pleasant surprise.
1993 MEDIA GUIDE
Alex Rodriguez (right), the top choice in baseball's 1993 draft, is locked in a contract dispute with the Seattle Mariners. As this look at the No. 1's in baseball and the NBA over the past decade suggests, Rodriguez may not be as good a bet for pro stardom as Chris Webber (left), who was taken first overall in the NBA's '93 draft by the Orlando Magic and then traded to the Golden State Warriors.
Out of Date
The San Diego Padres' 1993 media guide is a collector's item. The cover (right) bears photos of Gary Sheffield, who was traded to the Florida Marlins on June 24, and Fred McGriff, who was unloaded to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday (page 57) as part of a relentless Padre fire sale. Ironically, for years the Padres were careful not to picture players on the guide's cover, lest those players be traded during the season, but the club's p.r. department figured that Sheffield and McGriff, the '92 National League batting champion and home run leader, respectively, were safe.
A Walk for Runners
Who is that film star leaving her footprint on Hollywood Boulevard (left)? Actually, it's three-time world cross-country champion Lynn Jennings, and the wet cement is part of a new Walkway of the Running Stars in front of Boston's Eliot Lounge that was dedicated last week to replace the original, which the city's Department of Public Works mistakenly jackhammered into oblivion.
They Wrote It
•Jim Mullen in Entertainment Weekly, on the relationship between Barbra Streisand and Andre Agassi: "A May-December romance is one thing. B.C.-A.D. is another."
They Said It
•Tim McCarver, CBS baseball announcer, sweltering in Philadelphia's 102° heat, recalling a bracing moment in last year's National League playoffs: "Where's Deion when you need him?"