"Shall I compare thee to a Wuerffel play?/Thou cans't be as
lovely or as temp'rate...." To judge from the results of a
recent study at the University of Florida, that's how
Shakespeare's famous love sonnet might have begun had the Bard
been a Gator fan.
Charles Hillman, a Florida graduate student in sports
psychology, measured the emotional and physiological responses
of 50 men and women to a variety of photographic images that
included erotic subjects and Gator sporting events. The results,
when it came to the emotional responses, confirm what visitors
to the Swamp have suspected all along. As a university press
release proudly put it, "For die-hard Gator fans, seeing their
favorite team in action is better than sex."
The 50 volunteers were categorized by fan level--low, moderate
or high--and then hooked up to instruments measuring heart rate
and brain activity. They were asked to view a series of slides
while using a joystick to rate their reactions on two scales,
one ranging from very unpleasant to very pleasant, the other
from calm to excited. The slides included images of Florida and
non-Florida sports events, photos of people in "amorous
situations," scenes of violence, and "neutral" pictures of
household objects and the like.
All three categories of fans reacted more or less the same to
the non-Gator photos, but when Hillman flashed up images of Ike
Hilliard snagging a pass in the end zone or Danny Wuerffel
giving thanks after throwing a touchdown, the rabid Gator fans
"showed significantly higher physiological reactions." Hillman
also used what scientists call a startle probe--a sudden
noise--to test how completely absorbed in the Florida photos the
Gator fans were. In deeply engaged subjects, a startle probe
will cause less brain wave activity than it normally would.
The probe barely sidetracked devout Florida boosters. "You could
say that there were fewer brain resources available," said Bruce
Cuthbert, a professor of clinical and health psychology at
Florida, "when the Gator pictures were on the screen."
That would come as no surprise to fans of, say, Florida
State--where, by the way, Hillman is conducting a second study.
A PIVOTAL MOMENT
Kentucky's fabled basketball coach, Adolph Rupp, may have waited
until 1969 to sign his first African-American player, but in the
ensuing 27 years the racial composition of the Wildcats' teams
had so changed--under coach Rick Pitino, Kentucky started five
black players in winning the 1996 NCAA title--that it was
surprising to see race arise as an issue last week. With Pitino
having left the Wildcats for the Boston Celtics (page 54),
Kentucky hired Tubby Smith, an African-American, away from
Georgia to replace him. Although the hiring of a black coach
wouldn't create a stir at other major colleges, this is
Kentucky, and the notion of an African-American filling Rupp's
hallowed position seemed to revive old debates.
The concerns were raised in the pages of the Lexington
Herald-Leader last Friday. Wrote Don Edwards, a white columnist,
"Before Rick Pitino, the very idea [of a black coach at
Kentucky] would have generated...private debate ('Are we really
ready for that?') in a town with two Confederate statues on the
courthouse lawn. After Pitino, it's different. The whole sense
of possibility is different. Pitino changed Kentucky more than
Kentucky changed Pitino."
Robert Campbell, a black editorial writer, offered a vote of
confidence in the tolerance of Wildcats fans, writing, "I
believe Kentucky is ready," then undercut it with a
parenthetical "regardless of whether most Kentuckians themselves
And Merlene Davis, a black columnist, doubted whether Lexington
will welcome its groundbreaking coach. She addressed Smith in an
open letter, "I want to urge you to stay where you are....
Kentucky fans aren't ready for a black head coach. Kentucky fans
aren't ready for anybody to coach basketball but Rick Pitino...I
sincerely fear for your safety and the safety of your family if
you agree to become head coach."
At the press conference to announce his hiring on Monday, Smith
seemed proud--and unthreatened--by his place in Kentucky
history. "It's certainly an honor to be the first black head
coach here," he said, "but it's more important to be competent."
NICER GUYS FINISH FIRST
Hockey writers have selected Washington Capitals center Adam
Oates as a finalist for the NHL's Lady Byng trophy, which goes
to a star player who exhibits "gentlemanly conduct." In fact
Oates, who is up against co-finalists Paul Kariya and Teemu
Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks, has been the runner-up to a
different Byng winner each of the past four seasons. Yup, year
in and year out, that Adam Oates sure is the second-nicest guy
in the NHL.
TV TEES IT UP
After 12 days of negotiations in New York City, the PGA Tour
struck deals last week assigning the television rights to its
tournaments from 1999 through 2002. The Tour also struck it
rich, reaping $200 million annually in rights fees from ABC,
CBS, NBC and cable networks ESPN, USA and the Golf Channel.
Although the terms of those agreements show that the Tour is
small potatoes compared with the three major sporting
attractions in the U.S.--the NFL ($1.1 billion a year in TV
money), Major League Baseball ($340 million) and the NBA ($275
million plus a share of advertising revenue)--it will receive
nearly twice as much per annum than it's getting under its
current contracts. Most of that money will go to the players.
Commissioner Tim Finchem predicts that by the year 2000 the
average Tour purse will also almost double, to more than $3
Part of that windfall is attributable to Tiger Woods, who has
helped lift ratings; the '97 Masters was the most-watched golf
tournament in history. "Had Tiger stayed at Stanford, we still
would have come out well," Finchem said in announcing the new
deals. "But having a player who moves the needle on the ratings
like he does certainly helped."
Last spring Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost was walking out of
the Memorial Stadium locker room in Lincoln when he bumped into
Bob Devaney. Looking frail and sallow, Devaney greeted Frost by
name and told him to keep working on his passing touch. A few
minutes later Frost turned to a companion and gushed, "Can you
believe that Bob Devaney actually knows my name! Unbelievable."
Frost was far from the only one in Lincoln who stood in awe of
Devaney. Clad in his scarlet fedora and blazer, flashing his
Irish wit, Devaney, who died of cardiac arrest last Friday at
the age of 82, won back-to-back national championships in 1970
and '71 and is the person most responsible for building the Big
Red football program into a powerhouse. He had a record of
101-20-2 at Nebraska from '62 to '72, and from '67 to '93 served
as the Cornhuskers' athletic director. "He's the only mentor I
ever had," said his successor as coach, Tom Osborne, on Sunday,
his voice cracking. "My philosophical approach to football is
his. He's the one who brought the hard-nosed style to Nebraska,
and it's the same style we play today."
It is a style that reflected Devaney's toughness; he boxed
during his days at Alma (Mich.) College, using the moniker Duke
Devaney. In his first year at Lincoln, Devaney drove the
Cornhuskers to a 9-2 record, their best in 23 seasons. In 1969
he was bold enough to adopt a relatively new formation, the I,
and then he rounded up the huge linemen his version of the I
required to open holes for star backs like Jeff Kinney, Jerry
Tagge and Johnny Rodgers. While he was known for running a tight
sideline during games, Devaney rarely called the plays. A young
assistant named Tom Osborne did that from the press box.
LITTLE GIRL BIG
When Mirjana Lucic was four years old she sneaked into the
family car so she could tag along to the local tennis club,
where her nine-year-old sister, Anna, was taking lessons. "I was
sad because all I had to do was play in front of the house and
my sister was down there with a lot of kids having fun," says
Mirjana, recalling her upbringing near the coastal town of Split
in southern Croatia. "My father thought I was too young for
After that the father, Marinko, let Mirjana come along to the
club, where she happily fetched balls and water for Anna and the
other players. Soon Mirjana announced that she wanted to play,
too. When an instructor asked her how old she was--and warned
that the club didn't allow players under five--"I smiled," says
Mirjana, "and put up six fingers."
She may have needed a little stealth and guile to get started,
but hard work is what brought Lucic her breakthrough tennis
achievement. On May 4 she became the youngest non-U.S.-born
female singles champion in history when, at 15 years, two
months, she won the Croatian Bol Ladies Open in her native land.
She is also the first player to win in her pro debut. "I was
very impressed with her presence," said Amanda Coetzer, the
world's 10th-ranked player, who lost to Lucic in a semifinal at
Bol. "The crowd was unbelievable, and she coped with the
Always big for her age--she's now a muscular 5'10"--Mirjana has
easily overpowered opponents. She won the '96 U.S. Open and the
1997 Australian junior titles, as well as some matches for
Croatia in this year's Federation Cup, before her historic win
at Bol. "She hits the ball big off the ground and with her
height has an advantage on the serve," says Chanda Rubin, who
has teamed with Lucic in doubles. "Those are the two main
ingredients to being a top player. She's had a great start. I'm
curious to see how well she does from here."
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY VICTOR JUHASZ [Drawing of University of Florida student with alligator head looking past picture of woman in bikini at picture of football player]
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND The hiring of Smith revived issues of race in Kentucky. [Tubby Smith]
COLOR PHOTO: BILL JOHNSON [Catfish]
COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN Lucic, a 15-year-old from Croatia, became the first player to win in her pro debut. [Mirjana Lucic playing tennis]
Playoff games appeared in by NBA Hall of Famer Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar, a record in any U.S. sport.
Playoff games appeared in by New York Rangers center Mark
Messier as of Sunday.
Percentage of his $825 million fortune, most of which he left to
charity, that late Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke
willed to his four ex-wives.
Hours of national TV coverage planned for the Indy 500.
Caution flags in Saturday's Winston 500, the first time in 137
starts that a Winston Cup race has finished without a caution.
Tickets per minute sold by the Carolina Panthers in the two
hours after they made their last 70,000 tickets available for
the 1997 season.
Countries in which major league baseball telecasts are available.
Minnesota Twins front-office workers who went to Fargo, N.Dak.,
on May 6 to assist flood victims.
Semitrailers filled with household goods that the workers
THE MONEY MAKERS
Michael Jordan may be the highest-paid athlete on earth,
counting salary, bonuses and endorsements, but when it comes to
pure prize money, 16-year-old tennis player Martina Hingis
takes, well, the prize. She has pocketed more in purses this
year than any other two-legged athlete. (Thoroughbred Sing Spiel
galloped off with $2.4 million in the Dubai Cup alone.) Here are
the top 10 human money winners in sports, through the first 19
weeks of 1997.
Athlete 1997 winnings Biggest payday
1. Martina Hingis (WTA) $1,225,395 Won Australian Open,
2. Steve Elkington (PGA) $1,171,993 Won Players
3. Jeff Gordon (NASCAR) $1,050,894 Won Daytona 500,
4. Tiger Woods (PGA) $966,350 Won Masters, $486,000
5. Dale Jarrett (NASCAR) $918,449 Runner-up, Interstate
Batteries 500, $232,800
6. Mark O'Meara (PGA) $900,343 Won Pebble Beach
National Pro-Am, $342,000
7. Brad Faxon (PGA) $818,420 Won Freeport-McDermott
8. Thomas Muster (ATP) $776,984 Won Lipton
9. Terry Labonte (NASCAR) $775,164 Runner-up, Daytona 500,
10. Jesper Parnevik (PGA) $771,730 Runner-up, Phoenix
IN THE SWIM
Down around Greenville, Miss., Ken Cazalas was known as "the
father of the catfish races." Cazalas, the longtime editor of
the Delta Democrat Times who died two years ago, started the
city's annual catfish derby in 1985 as a charity event. This
year's edition, held last Saturday and renamed the Ken Cazalas
Memorial Grand Prix, drew 200 bewhiskered racers and featured 35
fin-twitching heats in a 10-foot tank divided into racing lanes
and set on the courthouse lawn. Top dog among the cats was
Delta's Super Powered Cat (below).
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
The zoning rights for a $525 million football stadium in San
Francisco have been jeopardized because the birthday party of a
political consultant who supports the stadium featured dancers
from a local strip club, a performance artist who urinated on a
satanic priest and decorations that included inflatable plastic
THEY SAID IT
Cleveland Indians outfielder, on why he eats Vick's VapoRub: "My
grandmother told me it was good for colds. It sure blows out