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The WinterOlympics were to be the last competitive challenge for the Austrian skierUlrike Maier. Whether she won a medal or not, Ulli, as she was known in skicircles, planned to retire, marry her fiancè, a policeman named HubertSchweighofer, and settle down in the village of Rauris, near Salzburg, withtheir four-year-old daughter, Melanie.

Sadly, Maier, 26(above), was denied a fitting farewell. Racing at about 70 mph during a WorldCup downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, last Saturday, she caught anedge with her right ski on a patch of ice, swerved out of control and slammedbackward into a one-foot-high timing post, breaking her neck in the terrifyingcrash. Maier never regained consciousness and died in a clinic in Murnau, 15miles from Garmisch, about two hours later. Neither Hubert nor Melanie was atthe race, but he later went to the crash site and broke down.

Maier burst ontothe international scene in 1989 when she was the surprise winner of the Super Gat the world championships in Vail, Colo. And she had an even bigger surprisefor the skiing world: She was three months pregnant. (In the ensuing years sheremained the only mother on the circuit.) Several months after giving birth,she returned to competition but suffered two devastating knee injuries; hercareer seemed to be over.

But at the 1991world championships in Saalbach, Austria, she again surprised everyone bywinning the Super G. Hubert and Melanie greeted her at the finish line, whereshe burst into tears of joy. She remained near the top of her sport over thenext two seasons and had an excellent chance of winning the Super G inLillehammer. SI's medal picks, which were already printed when Maier waskilled, projected her for a silver (page 131).

World Cuporganizers defended their safety measures in Garmisch. But the run was verynarrow at the fatal spot, and the post was set unusually close to the course.Schweighofer promises to fight the Federation Internationale de Ski on itssafety measures. "It won't bring Ulli back, but it may save anotherlife," he says.

Air Apparent?

Arguably theworst hitter in major league baseball history was a fellow named Michael HenryJordan, called Mike. In 1890, his only season in the big leagues, Jordan, aPittsburgh Pirate outfielder, had 12 hits in 125 at bats for an .096 average.The 19th-century MJ is, in fact, the only nonpitcher in baseball history withmore than 100 career at bats not to hit at least .100.

Oddly, MichaelJeffrey Jordan—the one hoping to join the Chicago White Sox at spring trainingnext month—was born almost exactly 100 years after Michael Henry Jordan(Michael Jeffrey: Feb. 17, 1963; Michael Henry: Feb. 7, 1863). It is not knownwhether Michael Henry could go to his left.

Straw Polls

In the 17 yearssince Indiana went undefeated, in 1975-76, NCAA basketball champions have lostan average of six regular-season games per season. One champion, Kansas ('88),was beaten 11 times, while North Carolina State ('83) and Villanova ('85) lost10 games each.

So, what we wantto know is, Why does one loss automatically push a No. 1 team out of the topposition in the weekly polls? This isn't football, in which one defeat—well,except maybe a 31-24 loss at Notre Dame—can often spell doom. Basketball teamslose. Even the best teams from weak conferences lose, five, six, seven times aseason. Yet virtually every time a No. 1 is defeated, down it goes. NorthCarolina (twice), Kentucky, Arkansas, Kansas and UCLA have all occupied the topspot this season, only to be cast aside by a single defeat. Duke is back at No.1 right now, but it's a sure bet that the Blue Devils will lose to a conferenceopponent soon—particularly since they were to play at the Dean Dome Thursdaynight—and take the inevitable tumble.

We're notadvocating some system in which game results, and reality, are meaningless. Youlose two or three in a row, you shouldn't be No. 1. But we're urging voters toexercise some analytic freedom. Did anyone in these United States reallybelieve UCLA was the best team in the country? Yet because the Bruins workedtheir way up the polls and were in the right place (No. 2) at the right time(when No. 1 Kansas lost), they took over the top spot. At least until Cal'sJason Kidd got ahold of them Sunday, anyway.

Central to thisissue is. of course, one's definition of a poll. Is it a snapshot of a givenweek during the season? Or is it a more telling assessment of relativestrength? It has obviously become the former, which we see as a predictable,almost rote, game of checkers. You jump over me, and after you lose I'll jumpback over you. Voters, please tell us which team you think is the best anddon't necessarily let one loss change your mind.

P.S. We likeNorth Carolina.

On the Shelf

The St. LouisStallions may never exist as an NFL team, but Stallion T-shirts will live on.Exactly where is the question.

In October,Sports-print, Inc., a St. Louis sublicensee of the athletic-apparel companyLogo 7, was one of several companies so confident the city would be awarded oneof the NFL's two expansion franchises that it spent $97,000 producing almost20,000 T-shirts and sweatshirts adorned with the Stallions' logo. However, whenCharlotte and Jacksonville came away winners in the expansion derby,Sportsprint found itself losing its shirt. Or shirts. That's because NFLProperties is holding Logo 7 to its original licensing agreement: The shirtscould be sold only if St. Louis got a franchise and had to be destroyed orgiven to charity if it didn't.

Never mind thatthousands of St. Louisans want to buy the shirts, which are gathering dust in awarehouse. "We don't want consumers purchasing merchandise that is notaffiliated with an NFL team," says NFL Properties president John Flood.Although NFL Properties would make $10,000 to $20,000 in royalty fees if theshirts were sold, this is not an outfit with a cash-flow problem—Propertiesenjoyed $3 billion in sales last year.

Sportsprintpresident Ralph Rockamann is still hoping to sell the shirts, recoup hisexpenses and give the profits to victims of last summer's flood. Good luck,Ralph—the NFL isn't about to budge on its hard line.

On the otherhand, the folks at Sportsprint might want to buy a T-shirt that bootleggers areselling around St. Louis. On the shirt is a picture of a horse kicking the NFLlogo.

Ticket Tales

SI footballwriter Peter King uncovered this story during a midweek Super Bowl interviewwith Cowboy coach Jimmy Johnson.

When the Cowboysreceived their Super Bowl tickets at their training facility in Dallas on theMonday before the game, defensive lineman Chad Hennings turned away from theenvelope that contained his allotment of 13 tickets for only a few moments.When he turned back, all of them were gone—and the only people around him wereteammates.

Tackle MarkTuinei told coach Jimmy Johnson (above) about the theft when the Cowboysarrived in Atlanta that night, and Johnson knew he had to clear up the matterquickly. How could his players look one another in the eye? Wouldn't eachplayer wonder who among them could not be trusted?

Here's howJohnson addressed his team that night in a meeting at their hotel, with Cowboysecurity chief Ben Nix standing by: "We've got a little bit of a problem.Evidently, someone accidentally picked up Chad Hennings's tickets. Let me justsay this: If those tickets end up back in Chad's hands in the next 12 hours, itwill be a dead issue. I don't want to know who accidentally took them, andthere will be no repercussions—as long as he gets the tickets back. But if Chaddoesn't get those tickets, Ben Nix, our league security officer, will takeover."

Johnson turned toNix. "Ben," he said, "if those tickets don't turn up, I want you todo everything possible to find out who took them. And let me say to theindividual responsible right here, right now: When I find out, I will fine youto the maximum. In all probability I will cut you from the team. On top of thatI will make sure the word gets around the league, and you will never play inthis league again.

"As I said, Iknow it was an accident. If he gets the tickets back in his hands, we're allfine. But if he doesn't get those tickets back, come hell or high water,believe me, we'll find out who took them. And I don't think you're going tolike what I'll do."

At 6 a.m. onTuesday, when Johnson appeared early for the team breakfast, Nix handed him thetickets. Apparently, a player gave them to a bellman, with instructions to givethem to Nix.

What, Johnson wasasked later, was the moral of the story? "Somebody probably had a weakmoment and needed to be reminded that we are a team," he said. "And Ithink the guys respect the fact that I can do some damage if they don't do whatI say."

Wild Rice
Rice High in New York City is the nation's No. 1-rankcd high school basketballteam, according to USA Today, and it quite possibly holds the top position incolorful names too. Among the Raider players are Angel Ponce de Leon, SouvenirCallwood and a candidate for the All-Name Hall of Fame, Scientific Mapp. Alas,the public has yet to discover Ponce de Leon, cherish Souvenir or treasure Mappbecause the name everybody is talking about is Felipe Lopez, their teammate andthe top-rated high school player in the country.

Hammer Time

There are noofficial results to report, but the Lilly Hammer Winter Games opened—andclosed—last Saturday. Competition was held in biathlon (contestants onsnowshoes threw snowballs at targets), cross-country skiing (with three peopleon each pair of skis) and sled racing, and every one of the 40 athletes whotook part received a medal. Before the competition a torchbearer lighted theflame from an eldhaus, a traditional Norwegian bread oven, while thecompetitors recited an oath pledging to "amuse ourselves and eachother."

Lilly Hammer isthe 49-year-old owner of the Ulvik Fjord Inn, a small bed-and-breakfast in thesummer resort town of Ulvik, which is about 125 miles west of Lillehammer, siteof the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding Winter Olympics. Lillehammer is oftenmispronounced as "Lillyhammer" (it should be LILL-uh-ham-mer), a gaffemade by International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch in1988 when he announced Lillehammer as the site for the '94 Winter Olympics,which begin on Feb. 12. "He got the name of the town wrong, but he said myname perfectly," says Hammer, "so I had no choice. I had to host theOlympics." She chose Jan. 29 for the date of the Games because it is alsothe birthday of her husband, Odd, who, oddly enough, is from Lillehammer.

Hammer estimatedthe Games set her back "a few kroner, " which would be about 40 cents.That is somewhat less than the cost of the Lillehammer Games, which has beenput at about $1 billion.

[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us

According to state officials in Minnesota, athleticshoes that contain blinking lights in their soles, a current fad amongschoolchildren, might pose an environmental threat when thrown away, becausethey contain mercury, a toxic chemical.

They Said It

Charles Barkley
On Tonya Harding's calling herself the Charles Barkley of figure skating:"I was going to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realizedthat I have no character."