A BLOODY GOOD START
Her face was splotched with blood before her team had scored its
first basket in the first game of this first year of the
American Basketball League (ABL). Can there be any more snide
jokes about watching women play this sport? Not if you saw 5'5"
point guard Jennifer Rizzotti of the New England Blizzard in the
ABL opener. Whacked over the right eye by an elbow from Marta de
Souza Sobral of the Richmond Rage only two minutes into the
first quarter, Rizzotti went to the locker room at the Hartford
Civic Center and asked the team doctor, Paul Tortland, to "slap
a Band-Aid on it." Instead, the doc gave her a shot of
novocaine, sewed the cut shut with seven stitches and covered it
with a bump of white bandage that made Rizzotti look like one of
the marchers in The Spirit of '76.
She was back on the floor in time to spearhead a 24-2 Blizzard
run and, ultimately, a 100-73 victory. "If you know me, there
wasn't any doubt that I was coming back," said Rizzotti, who
scored eight points, had five assists and battled head-to-head
against former Olympian Dawn Staley of the Rage before an
appreciative crowd of 8,676. "Except for being self-conscious
about this thing on my head, no, there wasn't any problem at all."
If there is a problem for the new league, it is the looming
presence of the WNBA, another women's pro league, which will
begin play next summer. The WNBA has the backing of the NBA, the
advantage of being in larger cities and a network TV contract.
"Whether there's room for two leagues, I don't know," admits ABL
cofounder and vice president Gary Cavalli. But he believes that
the timing is right for at least one women's league, given the
surge in interest in women's college basketball and the success
of the gold-medal-winning women's Dream Team. The ABL features
seven U.S. Olympians and has attracted other former college
stars who heretofore had been forced to play overseas. "It's
great to be back where you can hear the language of basketball
on the court and in the stands," says two-time college player of
the year Clarissa Davis Wrightsil, now playing with the Blizzard
after seasons in Italy, Japan and Turkey. "We were all ready to
play tonight, I can say that. Jennifer Rizzotti was doing
cartwheels in the dressing room before the game."
Figures. --Leigh Montville
RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT
After the coaching staff of the Sydney Swans forbade Swans
players from having sex with wives or girlfriends on the eve of
the recent championship game of Australian Rules Football,
played in Melbourne, a local brothel called the Top of the Town
offered the players what a spokesman for the bordello called
"freebies to help them keep their routine." Explained the
spokesman, "If the players are used to having sex before the
game, they will feel neglected. It might affect their
The Swans declined the invitation and then lost to the North
Melbourne Kangaroos 131-88. We have no further comment.
THE SAD SOCCER TOLL CONTINUES
Soccer tragedies have come to be expected--an inevitable
consequence of the sport's intertwining with the politics,
economics and emotions of so many towns, cities and nations. The
83 spectators crushed to death at Mateo Flores Stadium in
Guatemala City on the night of Oct. 16, before a Costa
Rica-Guatemala World Cup qualifying match, were the latest
casualties in a series of stampedes that have left more than 300
soccer fans dead in the last 10 years. The deaths, and injuries
to some 200 others, were caused when hundreds of fans pushed
through a narrow entrance tunnel and spilled into already packed
bleachers. Some spectators were trampled, others mashed against
a chain-link fence around the perimeter of the field. Though
Flores Stadium has only about 45,000 seats, more than 55,000
tickets were sold. Guatemalan soccer officials reportedly
oversold the game by several thousand, and several thousand
other, phony, ducats were hawked by counterfeiters. The
counterfeits were easy to spot, yet Rolando Castro de Leon,
president of Guatemala's national sports agency, which helped
organize the match, defended the ticket takers and guards.
"Maybe at night they couldn't see false tickets," De Leon said.
"I'd like to have seen you trying to control 55,000 incoming
After a similar incident in Sheffield, England, in 1989, in
which 95 died, FIFA, soccer's international governing body, drew
up a list of security measures that host stadiums were expected
to employ for World Cup qualifying matches. But it has been
unable to enforce such standards. Says FIFA secretary general
Sepp Blatter: "It must be the local authority that controls
security." And since that local authority is often missing in
places racked by poverty and political unrest, tragic soccer
incidents have occurred in places like Lima (320 killed in
1964), Tripoli, Libya (20 dead in '87) and Lusaka, Zambia (nine
dead last June). Guatemala certainly fits the profile of a
nation spinning nearly out of control. Sharply divided along
class and racial lines, it is emerging from a 36-year civil war.
People carry arms in teeming city streets where outward
aggression, ranging from a near total absence of civility to
frequent gunplay, is part of daily life. Guatemalans are so
impoverished that, after the soccer deaths, coffin vendors stood
outside the municipal morgue shouting out prices.
Predictably last week's victims, mainly peasants, were crushed
in the stadium's cheapest section. "This game is so much
involved in society," says FIFA's Blatter. "We have to have the
courage to identify our responsibility to avoid these tragedies."
Jack Tatum's helmet-on-helmet hit that rendered New England
Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley a paraplegic in 1978, along
with the subsequent and ongoing feud resulting from that
horrific incident, remains one of the saddest chapters in NFL
history. The two men were scheduled to meet--for the first time
since the collision--in Stingley's Chicago apartment on Tuesday
for a segment that was to be taped by Fox Sports for its pregame
NFL broadcast this Sunday. Stingley had hoped to use the
exposure to promote the Darryl Stingley Foundation, which aids
But Stingley canceled when he learned that Tatum's push for a
meeting coincided with the publication of Final Confessions of
NFL Assassin Jack Tatum, the third rehash of Tatum's
cheap-shotting career with the Oakland Raiders. "I was crushed,"
Stingley told The Boston Globe. "Here I was trying to find all
the good that would come out of this, and now it's just another
For Tatum, who is flogging his latest Assassin book, the flap
over the television appearance is a positive. He was scheduled
to appear on HBO's Inside the NFL on Thursday to again push for
a meeting with Stingley...as well as to push the book. Tatum
says he has tried to arrange previous reconciliatory meetings
with Stingley, an assertion that Stingley denies. But at any
rate, the timing of this meeting, combined with the fact that,
according to a Fox spokesman, Tatum's representative did not
mention the book when arranging the meeting, made this recent
"reconciliation" attempt egregious.
Egregious is also a good word to describe some of the prose in
Final Confessions. In a passage mocking Deion Sanders and what
Tatum perceives as the Dallas Cowboys star's nonphysical style,
Tatum writes, "If Deion was playing in my position on Aug. 12,
1978, Darryl Stingley wouldn't be confined to a wheelchair. I
was paid to hit, and the harder, the better." The better? Not
A KICK AND A MISS
Seventeen-year-old Tracy Austin isn't just your normal
student-body president, straight-A student, accomplished
pianist, soccer player, track and field athlete and placekicker
on the varsity football team. Tracy, a senior at Palmetto High
in Williamston, S.C., also happens to be the state's reigning
Junior Miss, an honor given for both academics and talent (she
played Beethoven's Fur Elise at the pageant). "When I'm on the
field, it's the same kind of excitement as when I'm at a
pageant," she says. "I think football makes me more nervous.
With kicking, it comes down to me, and I don't want to let
She hasn't. Tracy, who's 5'6" and 125 pounds, has made all but
three of her extra points in the past three years, including 16
of 17 this season. That's not bad for someone who had no
interest in football until she tried out for the Palmetto High
Mustangs as a sophomore, at the request of the coach, who had
seen her kicking field goals for fun during a break at a track
practice. "I'd only been to two high school games," Tracy says,
"and I went to one of them because I wanted to see a boy I had a
crush on." But placekicking came naturally to Tracy, a club
soccer player for 10 years.
Tracy, who is also a hurdler and middle distance runner on the
girls' track and field team--it seems the only sport this Tracy
Austin doesn't play is tennis--admits she feels pressure with a
game on the line. But she still is more comfortable on the
football field than on the pageant stage. "I wear cleats every
day," says Tracy, "while heels are a rare occasion."
HE SHALL RETURN
Mark Twain's celebrated remark about quitting smoking--"It's
easy; I've done it a thousand times"--pretty much captures Larry
Holmes's attitude toward hanging up the gloves. Holmes, the
former heavyweight champion (1978 to '85) who's now a
46-year-old grandfather, announced his most recent retirement,
his eighth by our count, on Father's Day (Scorecard, June 3),
right after an eighth-round knockout of Anthony Willis in Bay
St. Louis, Miss. Now, in a shocking development, Holmes has
decided to return to the ring. The Easton Assassin plans to
challenge Brian Nielsen of Denmark for the International Boxing
Organization belt on Jan. 24 in Copenhagen.
One year and a couple of retirements ago, Holmes said, "If I'm
fighting next year, you can say, 'Larry, I've come to the
conclusion you're nuts.'" Well, Larry, we've come to the
conclusion....Ah, never mind.
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Battle-scarred Rizzotti showed that the fledgling ABL won't lack for grit and hustle. [Jennifer Rizzotti wearing bandage on forehead in game]
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID ARKY/TREE COMMUNICATIONS [Chess pieces]
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERTO MARTINEZ/AFP In Guatemala City, a stampede at a World Cup soccer qualifying match killed 83 fans and injured 200 others. [Spectators and rescue workers looking at row of bodies on the ground]
FOUR COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: ILLUSTRATIONS: JEFF WONG; [Drawing of George Steinbrenner as witch; drawing of Wayne Gretzky as princess; drawing of Mike Tyson as Frankenstein; drawing of Shawn Bradley as skeleton]
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: AP [Logo for Sydney 2000 Olympic Games]
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Life's one big kick for Austin, who's a star student, pianist and PAT specialist. [Tracy Austin place kicking]
Bonus, in dollars, Florida football coach Steve Spurrier will
receive from new five-year, $5 million contract in any year that
the Gators win the national title.
Bonus, in dollars, if 80% of his players graduate within six
Games for which Alessandro Veronese of the Italian amateur
soccer team Battaglia was suspended after kissing a female
referee who had ejected him, an act judged "unusually intimate"
Age of legendary bowler Earl Anthony, who ended a five-year
winless streak last week in the Naples (Fla.) Senior Open.
Consecutive seasons in which NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd has at
least one victory, after winning Sunday's AC-Delco 400.
Moves needed by former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky to beat
world champ Garry Kasparov in one of 25 matches Kasparov played
simultaneously; two others beat him, and five played him to a
Halloween is almost here, which got us thinking about costumes
we'd like to see on some sports personalities.
George Steinbrenner stirs the Yankee pot.
Don't check Princess Gretzky into the boards!
Frankly, Mike Tyson is a monster with the gloves on.
Make no bones about it: Skeletal Nets center Shawn Bradley's
game is a little thin.
It's a good thing Sydney, Australia, has four years to prepare
for the Summer Olympics in 2000. In the past seven months two
men have resigned as chairman of the Sydney Organizing Committee
for the Olympic Games (SOCOG)--a third, Michael Knight, 44, took
over last month--and two members of the committee have quit for
personal reasons. In addition four others have been replaced for
political reasons. When the Australian Federal Labor government
was defeated in national elections in March, the incoming
Liberals replaced the two Federal Labor members of SOCOG with
their own nominees. Similarly, when the New South Wales State
Liberal government was defeated in state elections in March
1995, the incoming Socialist Labor party (of which Knight is a
member) replaced the two State Liberal members with their
Knight is government minister (a member of the government
responsible for the operation of a certain area such as
education or health) of New South Wales, the state overseeing
the 2000 Games. His appointment is an indication that
organizers are serious about getting the government involved in
the day-to-day operations of the Games. SOCOG representatives
who were at the 1996 Games became convinced that Atlanta's
reliance on private enterprise was a major reason for the
transportation snafus, security lapses and other blunders that
plagued those Olympics.
But government means politics, and politics means bickering,
backbiting, hidden agendas and an ever-changing cast of
characters. In fact, with another state election in New South
Wales set for March 1999, Knight himself could be ousted at the
SOCOG representatives were pretty smug about the logistical
nightmares experienced by their counterparts at the Atlanta
Games. But right now Sydney doesn't exactly have its own Olympic
house in order, either.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
Arby's Beef-of-the-Game advertising spot on Pittsburgh Penguins
telecasts features a replay of the most action-packed fight
during that evening's game.
THEY SAID IT
U.S. State Department spokesman and Boston Red Sox fan, opening
a recent foreign-policy briefing: "This is an official statement
by the United States Department of State: Anybody but the New