No Tears for Tigers
Anyone out there in college football land feeling sorry for 11-0 Auburn's plight (the Tigers can't play in a bowl game and, in effect, can't compete for the mythical national championship), should remember one thing: The Tigers will be spectators on New Year's Day because people in their program cheated.
The charges made two years ago by former defensive back Eric Ramsey, still the most hated man on campus even though he has graduated, resulted in NCAA sanctions that penalize Auburn with no postseason play in 1993-94 and 1994-95. According to Ramsey, he received illegal payments from Larry Blakeney (an assistant coach in the besmirched regime of Pat Dye) funneled through Auburn alum Don Kirkpatrick, from ex-recruiting coordinator Frank Young, and from another booster, Bill (Corky) Frost.
We feel badly for the Auburn players and coaches who played by the rules. And we can only hope that their TV reception on Jan. 1 is good.
A Giant Risk
Lawrence Taylor's fledgling company, All-Pro Products, has done so well so quickly that there has been talk of LT's retiring at the end of this season and forsaking the final year of his contract with the New York Giants (worth $2.525 million). We wish LT nothing but the best with All-Pro, but our advice is that he shouldn't quit his day job just yet.
True, All-Pro got off to a great start on Nov. 9, when it first went public at $5 a share. The price soared to $11.87 the first day of trading on the NASDAQ market and closed Nov. 26 at $15.50, making it one of the hottest new stock offerings of 1993. But start-ups are as unpredictable as scrambling quarterbacks, and All-Pro could crash as easily as it has risen.
The company currently has only one product, a sports beverage called Metro-Pro. Word around the Giant locker room last season was that Metro-Pro (marketed as "an urban drink for males") had a, well, less than pleasing taste, so it was no surprise when Taylor and his associates changed the formula. Then, too, All-Pro is so small that the company has been operating out of LT's New Jersey home and has a one-person sales staff. It has reported total revenues of only $36,220 since its founding in early 1992 and has accumulated losses of more than $900,000.
The company plans to expand into new businesses soon and has a contract to develop a virtual-reality home entertainment system. But the prospects for that venture are uncertain, given that no one connected with All-Pro has experience in developing that media.
Playing linebacker in the NFL is a tough way to make a living. Counting on a start-up like All-Pro may be even tougher.
When the Texas Rangers signed free-agent first baseman Will Clark to a five-year, $30 million contract on Nov. 22, they gave up trying to re-sign free-agent first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. There's now a debate raging over whether the Rangers signed the right guy.
Palmeiro's 1993 numbers (.295 batting average, 37 home runs, 105 RBIs in 160 games) were far better than Clark's (.283, 14, 73 in 132 games), and Palmeiro has been the more productive player throughout the '90s. But this signing was about winning, not numbers. The Rangers need someone to teach leftfielder Juan Gonzalez that there's more to the game than winning home run titles. They need someone to show catcher Pudge Rodriguez that making the All-Star team and winning Gold Gloves isn't more important than making the playoffs. They need someone to push Jose Canseco, who is rehabilitating after major surgery on his right elbow last summer, into wanting to become a devastating hitter again.
Palmeiro will jump in a teammate's face from time to time, but Clark jumps with the best of them. Though his facial contortions and his histrionics on the field may be overly theatrical, Clark's intensity has helped him win at every level. Down the stretch in 1993, Clark played with a damaged right knee but almost carried (with Barry Bonds's help, of course) the San Francisco Giants to the National League West title.
Palmeiro wanted to stay in Texas, but when his agent, Jim Bronner, raised the price from $32.5 million for five years to almost $40 million for six years, the Rangers went after Clark. Palmeiro blasted the Rangers for signing a "mediocre" player, then inexcusably ripped his former Mississippi State teammate, saying Clark had "no class" and was a "lowlife." Palmeiro later apologized for the personal attack but still maintained that he is a better player. He's right. But it's time for the Rangers to find a leader. His name is Clark, not Palmeiro.
The last part of the PGA calendar has become a series of high-class tractor pulls, a sponsor-driven schlock smorgasbord contested in turquoise sweaters. During a one-week span earlier this month, Greg Norman played in the Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters in Japan, the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in La Quinta, Calif., and his own Franklin Funds Shark Shootout in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He won the first two, pocketing winnings of $252,000 and $400,000, but his team finished sixth in the shoot-out, thus depriving him of a schlock slam.
The most objectionable of golf's trash-sport events is the Skins Game, a two-day, 18-hole event in which the rich get richer and the poor...well, the poor just don't get invited. Last weekend's Skins brought together Paul Azinger, Fred Couples, Arnold Palmer and Payne Stewart, who have collectively cashed more than $3.3 million in prize money this year, never mind endorsements. During the two days at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif., Stewart earned $280,000 and Couples $260,000, while Azinger and Arnie came up empty.
This being America, each of these gentlemen is entitled to make whatever he can. But let's remember that real skins games match players who are down to their last C-notes, with the wife waiting back at the Red Roof Inn, station wagon loaded. Fake skins games match millionaires playing with other people's money.
There was no real drama at Bighorn, only a contrived theatricality. Yes, the winners do give some of their earnings to charity, but, basically, the skins purse is found money, another exercise for the accountants on Monday morning. For the "losers," there was no risk, therefore no true loss.
Why doesn't the PGA open this thing up to a real-life Rocky? This year's field would have been much more attractive with a guy like, say, Lance Ten Broeck (his name alone should earn him a chance), who is near the bottom of the Tour season money list at about $88,000, some $1.4 million behind Azinger. Or if you want a senior, why not a Lee Elder, who played in 25 events yet cashed only $75,761, instead of a Palmer, whose legend and bankroll are secure. Then it would really mean something when Vin Sculley said, as he did after Palmer narrowly missed an eight-foot birdie putt worth $60,000, "Golf is a cruel game."
Where there's a Will (right), there's no Rafael.
RONALD C. MODRA
[See caption above.]
America's Most Wanted
Casual American soccer fans (Cynical Europeans would suggest that there is no other kind) are aware that the World Cup is coming to the United States in June 1994 and know that the U.S. has virtually no chance of winning it all. But against which teams, they wonder, does the red, white and blue have any chance?
Upsets are always possible-witness the U.S.'s historic 1-0 win over England in the 1950 Cup. The U.S. will likely be an underdog in any match it plays, but the following teams would seem to afford the best opportunity for victory.
In the course of her career, Cuban middle-distance star Ana Quirot (above, 192) has won an Olympic bronze medal and four Pan-Am Games gold medals and run the third-fastest women's 800 meters in history, 1:54.44. Yet, those performances pale beside the 2:05.22 she ran last Saturday to place second in the 800 at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Ponce, Puerto Rico (see related story, page 24).
It was Quirot's first race since she suffered near-fatal burns when a stove exploded at her home in Havana last January. She was seven months pregnant at the time, and her child, born prematurely, died soon after. Despite her injuries Quirot resumed training within weeks of the accident, jogging the hospital stairs, all the while insisting she would be back.
She proved it in Ponce, completing a recovery that her doctor termed "incredible." Still, Quirot suggested she was not satisfied and is determined to compete in the 1995 Pan-Am Games and the 1996 Olympics. Who would bet against her?
This Week's Sign
That the Apocalypse
Is upon Us
In a week when Congress passed the Brady Bill, a football coach at Libertyville (Ill.) High School, Dale Christensen, horrified students when he staged his own mock shooting with blanks and fake blood in the school cafeteria in an attempt to motivate his team for a state playoff game.
They said it
•Paul Thompson, president of Weber State College, on the possibility that his school may drop football because of financial problems: "There are more important things on this campus than football. The library is one of them."
Odds Against U.S.
First Cup appearance. An early elimination is a "feta accompli."
Another newcomer from Asia, where soccer is still developing. It's unlikely, though, that summer heat will bother the Saudis.
First Cup appearance since 1950. U.S. tied the tin men 0-0 earlier this year.
Has never won a Cup game in three previous appearances. Very quick style, but U.S. could intimidate this team.
A tough, talented team, but perhaps its youth will hurt. They're called the Green Eagles-does anyone know why?
Inconsistent team that upset France to qualify. It has a 0-10-6 record in five previous Cup appearances.
The team has talent but lacks aggressiveness. It had a tough time for the first 20 minutes of its qualifying game against Estonia.