THE NBA'S ANTICLIMAX
Having drawn even with the Chicago Bulls on Sunday (page 42),
the Utah Jazz have given themselves, improbably, a chance to win
the NBA Finals. But to accomplish that the Jazz will have to
overcome not only the NBA's most intimidating team but also a
discouraging trend that dates to 1985. That year NBA officials
abandoned the Finals' usual 2-2-1-1-1 format of home-and-road
games for a 2-3-2 setup. Only three teams without the home court
advantage have won the championship since then. (In '85 the Los
Angeles Lakers edged the Boston Celtics, in '93 the Bulls
tripped the Phoenix Suns, and in '95 the Houston Rockets swept
the Orlando Magic.) By contrast, in the 12 years before the
format change, seven teams without the home court edge took the
The league made the switch in part because the frequent
finalists, the Lakers and the Celtics, forced some 7,800 miles
of coast-to-coast travel in six days on the teams and the media.
But while the current format has reduced wear and tear, it may
also have tipped the competitive balance too far in favor of the
team with the better regular-season record. "The 2-3-2 format
puts a lot of pressure on the [lower-seeded] team if that team
doesn't win one of its first two games on the road," says Jazz
guard Howard Eisley. "Because then you've got to come back and
win all three at home to have a realistic chance. That's tough
to do in this league." In fact, no team hosting the middle three
games has ever won them all.
The NHL has continued to use the 2-2-1-1-1 format for the Stanley
Cup final, and in 1994 the New York Rangers waged a memorable
seven-game battle against the Vancouver Canucks despite the
2,400 miles separating the teams. The NBA should return to the
2-2-1-1-1, which it uses in every other series. That format
rewards a team for its regular-season performance with a
reasonable home court edge. Besides, there hasn't been a
coast-to-coast matchup in the NBA Finals in 10 seasons.
LOSING THEIR SHIRTS
One of amateur sport's more enduring and endearing traditions,
that of a defeated crew team surrendering its waterlogged racing
jerseys to the oarsmen in the winning boat, has been scuttled by
the NCAA. The practice, say the bureaucrats in Overland Park,
Kans., constitutes gambling and thus has no place in collegiate
athletics. "Where do you draw the line?" asks Steve Mallonee, a
director of membership services for the NCAA. "If shirts are
O.K., is a steak dinner O.K.? Is cash O.K.? The rules say there
can be no offering or accepting of a tangible item. And a shirt
is a tangible item."
It is also a symbol--of respect, camaraderie and continuity in
this oldest of all college sports. "Our rowers don't go to the
start of a race thinking about shirts," says Bob Ernst, coach of
the University of Washington's national-champion heavyweight
crew. "But if your boat gets to the line first, we'll hand them
over. It's only right."
Clayton Chapman, director of the Intercollegiate Rowing
Association regatta, says his group will present the NCAA rules
committee this summer with a written plea for an exemption,
arguing that the handing over of shirts does not constitute "a
bet for a material item."
"How could anyone seriously rule against this?" says Chapman.
"It actually brings [opposing] crews together. This is what
athletics is all about."
The Indy Racing League's latest snafu--a scoring fiasco that
prompted A.J. Foyt's return to fistic action last Saturday night
at Texas Motor Speedway--accomplished something, at least, for
the inept racing circuit. The IRL says it wants to reconnect to
its racing roots. Mission accomplished at the True Value 500K.
On many a bygone Saturday night, after the checkered flag had
been waved at some grass-roots track, there would be a
set-to--amid a mess of pencil-and-paper scoring errors--often
over who really won. On many such occasions young A.J. was at or
near the epicenter.
Fast-forward to Fort Worth on Saturday. The electronic scoring
system, which automatically counts the laps of the cars as they
pass the start/finish line, went haywire, unbeknownst to
officials. It first appeared that Billy Boat, driving a car
owned by Foyt, had won. Then Indy 500 champion Arie Luyendyk
charged into the victory circle, proclaiming himself the winner.
Foyt, 62, cuffed Luyendyk in the head and then shoved the
Dutchman to the ground. Luyendyk later scored a moral knockout:
After an all-night review of the race, officials proclaimed him
the winner. Luyendyk had actually driven two laps more than
required to win the race, but the system had missed them.
Red-faced officials then issued their second straight postrace
apology for a bungled finish. The first had followed the May 27
Indy 500 (SCORECARD, June 9). Protests and reviews of the Texas
debacle were expected to continue into this week.
For the IRL, it seems, these are the good old days.
PUT IT ON HIS TAB
Tiger Woods probably gets his meals gratis at the All Star Cafe,
the chain of theme restaurants in which he is a celebrity owner.
But if not, he better bring cash. The credit card Tiger
endorses, American Express, is not welcome there.
St. Paul Saints manager Marty Scott was frank when he informed
pitcher Ila Borders late last month that she had made his
Northern League team. "I told her that on the basis of physical
ability it would be easy to let her go," says Scott. "But I said
that because of her work ethic and the way she played the game I
was keeping her."
Borders, 22, the first woman to play regular-season pro
baseball, impressed Scott with her fielding, sound mechanics and
willingness to hit fungoes in practice. The lefthanded reliever
out of Whittier, Calif., can also pitch--though the widely-shown
news clips of her May 31 debut left many doubting that. She hit
a batter, balked, made a wild throw to first and surrendered
three runs without getting an out against the Sioux Falls
Canaries. But the next day Borders, who relies on her ability to
change speeds, struck out the side against the Canaries in the
eighth. She followed that with another solid outing on June 3,
giving up a run in two innings against Sioux City.
Crowds--home and away--have roared for and adored Borders. She's
fitting in well on the club, bantering on the team bus, where
players like to inquire whether she has an extra copy of Vogue.
Some of the treatment from other squads has been less accepting:
One Northern League manager referred to her as "that thing."
"She doesn't deserve that," says Scott. "She's an aggressive
ballplayer who can help the team. For us there's no special
treatment. If she gets the job done she stays with the club. If
not, she's gone. Just like any other player."
IS NOTHING SACRED?
Besieged by protests from a coalition of local residents
concerned about noise and overcrowding, the Association of
Volleyball Professionals (AVP) has moved this week's 38th annual
Manhattan Beach (Calif.) Open just down the coast to the
adjoining community of Hermosa Beach. Some folks in the sport
are taking it pretty hard.
"If the people of London or the people of Augusta, Ga., are
influenced this way by some little group with a similar
mentality, I guess we'll have to hold Wimbledon tennis or the
Masters golf tournament someplace else next time," AVP chief
executive officer Jerry Solomon fumed to the Los Angeles Times.
He was, of course, indulging in hyperbole. No one would
seriously equate a bunch of suburban English grass courts or a
few acres of scrubby Georgia pine woods with the hallowed sands
of Manhattan Beach.
The news interrupted television programming in Japan on Monday.
After a one-hour meeting with Central League president Hiromori
Kawashima, Mike DiMuro, 29, the first U.S. umpire to work in
Japanese baseball (SCORECARD, May 12), had decided to resign.
DiMuro's decision spoke volumes about the limited authority umps
have in Japan relative to the U.S. His firm style had earned
DiMuro the respect of his peers but also the wrath of managers
and players not accustomed to being stood up to. That anger
boiled over on June 5, when DiMuro, whose wide strike zone had
irked many players used to a strict interpretation of the rules,
ejected Chunichi Dragons slugger Yasuaki Taiho for complaining
about a called third strike. Taiho responded by charging DiMuro
and shoving him in the chest. Dragons coaches and players then
spilled out of the dugout and swarmed around the 6'2" umpire.
While they didn't strike DiMuro, he was visibly shaken by the mob.
A source in the Central League office says that when Taiho was
merely reprimanded for the blow and no assurance was provided
that stiffer measures would be taken against future acts of
intimidation, major league baseball officials urged DiMuro to
return to the U.S. Says DiMuro, "I hope that if anything comes
out of this, it is that no physical assaults on [Japanese]
umpires will be tolerated, and they will be able to do their
Shortly after getting married in June 1994, Tennessee assistant
women's volleyball coach Ginger Hineline told her boss, head
coach Julie Herman, that she wanted to start a family right
away. According to Hineline, Herman's response was to discourage
her from getting pregnant. "I asked, 'Does this mean it might
come down to [not] having a baby or losing my job?'" recalls
Hineline. "She said, 'It might.'"
Turns out it did. In January 1995, just as Hineline was entering
the fourth month of her pregnancy, Tennessee fired her. In a
U.S. district court in Knoxville on June 4, a seven-member jury
deliberated 2 1/2 hours on Hineline's suit against the
University of Tennessee before awarding her a $150,000 judgment.
In being fired, Hineline says the university had alleged that
she was not a people person, that she had been rude to a
secretary, that she had talked in an inappropriate manner to
Knoxville's police chief after her car was towed and that she
was inexperienced (the Tennessee job was Hineline's first as a
coach). Joan Cronan, the Tennessee women's athletic director,
denies any of that was said. She insists Hineline was let go
because of the team's poor performance--and nothing more.
Three months before Hineline was fired, however, Cronan had
written a congratulatory note praising her for how well she had
fared despite her lack of experience. Herman also made some
curious remarks during a video recording of Hineline's wedding,
including, "We don't want any surprises come February.... It
would be hard to have a baby in the office." There were no
indications of bad performance in Hineline's record. "You
shouldn't be discriminated against based on pregnancy," says
Hineline, whose daughter, Paige, turned two on June 15. "In
college coaching they can terminate you at will, but they can't
fire you because you've decided to have a baby."
Tennessee is one of only six universities in the nation with a
separate department for women's athletics. It's hard to think of
a setback more embarrassing than Hineline's suit for a school
that has been at the forefront of gender equity in college sports.
During his 25 years as basketball coach at Louisiana State, Dale
Brown was never averse to packing his bags and hunting down an
indomitable big man, whether it was Shaquille O'Neal in San
Antonio, Geert Hammink in the Netherlands or Stanley Roberts in
the suburbs of Columbia, S.C. Recently Brown, long one of
college basketball's most unpredictable characters, set his
sights on an even larger and more elusive prospect: Bigfoot.
"He exists," says Brown, 61, of the fabled, hirsute eight-footer
said to roam the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. "It really
makes sense that he does. British Columbia is 75 percent
uninhabited, and there have been more than a few sightings."
Brown, who retired after last season, went into the Rocky
Mountains for a week on his own (the "expert Indian guide" he
planned to travel with died shortly before the trip), toting
various maps to pick up Bigfoot's trail. After getting advice
from Rene Dahinden and John Green, two of the world's most
renowned Sasquatch trackers, Brown covered many of the dirt
roads by car but also spent hours combing the dense forest on
foot. Fearful of a nighttime encounter with the beast--"I didn't
have a gun with me"--he slept at a hotel.
"I wound up seeing nothing but a lot of wilderness," says Brown,
who reports no evidence of Sasquatch. "It was beautiful scenery,
so quiet and peaceful--perfect. I don't go on these things to
find something so much as for the experience itself. Life should
be an adventure."
With Brown, that's not just an empty slogan. The man who has
traveled the entire Mississippi River in a speedboat, who has
climbed the ruins of the Tower of Babel, who has "gone into the
Amazon with two Indians and a machete," next plans on flying to
Mount Cudi in Turkey with archaeologist Charles DuBois Willis,
head of the Ancient World Foundation, on a trek to find Noah's
"There's a beautiful world out there," Brown says. "I plan on
seeing it all."
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN The '85 Boston-L.A. final, won by the Lakers in six, was the first played under the 2-3-2 format. [Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others in game]
COLOR PHOTO: CARD COURTESY OF UPPER DECK [Jeff Gordon trading card]
COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN HILL The NCAA wants to sink a venerable tradition in which victorious oarsmen claim jerseys from the losing crew. [Harvard rowing team]
COLOR PHOTO: TED KIRK RINGIN' One of the 247 NFL title rings given out by the Packers last week might eventually end up in the collection of Bill Gallup, an Omaha lawyer who has a trove of 30 such treasures. Here's a sampling. One Husker earned this bauble in '71, when Nebraska football won the national championship. [Champtionship ring]
COLOR PHOTO: TED KIRK [See caption above] In 1973, A's ace Vida Blue gave his left arm to help put this Series ring on his finger. [Champtionship ring]
COLOR PHOTO: TED KIRK [See caption above] The jewel of the diamond in '41 was MVP Joltin' Joe of the Yankees. [Champtionship ring]
COLOR PHOTO: TED KIRK [See caption above] When a U.S. boxer hung up his gloves after the 1972 Olympics, he slipped on this band of gold. [Champtionship ring]
COLOR PHOTO: BRUCE KLUCKHOHN After a hair-raising start, the pioneering Borders has begun to deliver. [Ila Borders pitching]
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: JEFF WONG Though he combed the Pacific Northwest to no avail, the peripatetic Brown still believes in the existence of Bigfoot. [Drawing of Dale Brown and Bigfoot]
Average annual salary, in dollars, earned by Boston Celtics
guard Greg Minor under the five-year contract he signed before
Monthly support payment, in dollars, that Minor was giving the
single mother of his three children, until a judge last week
increased the figure to $30,000.
Months that Arizona Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter has held
his job--longer than the coaches of Phoenix's three other major
Pounds that former Mission: Impossible TV star Peter Lupus will
attempt to lift in 30 minutes on his 65th birthday in an effort
to set a Guinness book world record.
Goals scored by Iran in its shutout of Maldives during World Cup
qualifying, a record for a Cup match.
Different Jeff Gordon trading cards issued during his auto
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
A pair of slightly worn first-edition Air Jordan basketball
shoes from 1986 were bought last week at auction by a Japanese
businessman for $22,000.
THEY SAID IT
Billionaire Berkshire Hathaway chairman, after playing a round
of golf at the Omaha Country Club with Microsoft chairman Bill
Gates: "We had a small wager, but the outcome did not affect the