The first tradition instilled by new coach Bill Parcells at the
New York Jets' training camp involved turning top draft pick
James Farrior into a $1.7 million-a-year water boy. Farrior, a
6'2", 240-pound linebacker out of Virginia and the eighth player
chosen in April's draft, has to fetch Parcells the first cup of
Gatorade out of the jug during each break in practice. Also,
every Saturday Farrior must buy doughnuts for the team. In years
past Parcells assigned those chores to such ballyhooed rookies
as New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Considering
that Parcells took Bledsoe and the Patriots to the Super Bowl
last season while the Jets were 1-15, Farrior is not complaining.
Rookie hazing is a staple of many NFL camps, and hearing a
rotund coach snarl, "Where's my Gatorade?" is nothing next to
what some newcomers have endured from their veteran teammates.
In addition to having to foot steep dinner bills, wash players'
cars and sing fight songs while gripping their own crotches,
rookies have suffered humiliation worthy of a frat house. At the
Arizona Cardinals' camp, for instance, cornerback Ty Howard, a
third-round selection, upset the veterans when he refused to
sing. "They put Doritos on my floor," Howard says. "Then they
soaked my bed, and I couldn't sleep in it. Later I had powder in
Cardinals camp is also where quarterback Jake Plummer, a
second-round pick, had a live skunk planted in his room. That
sort of earnest hazing didn't scare off Brent Burnstein, an
undrafted defensive end who signed with Arizona after having
fled the Tennessee Oilers' camp for fear that he would have his
long black mane shorn by the vets. New Orleans Saints running
back Troy Davis, a third-rounder, eliminated any haircut worries
by shaving his own head before his teammates could pin him down.
Because some coaches--including Parcells's New England
successor, Pete Carroll, and Mike Holmgren of the Green Bay
Packers--have started to forbid hazing, rookie abuse hasn't
reached the proportions of recent years. The highlight (or
lowlight) may have come at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' camp in
1995 when first-round pick Derrick Brooks, a linebacker, was
taped to a goalpost while defensive end Eric Curry pretended to
urinate on him. "He had a cup of water, which I didn't know, and
he was pouring it out," Brooks says. "The guys standing around
were like, 'Yeah, yeah, pee on him!'"
No such tale has trickled in this year, and the hazing tradition
is carried on primarily in the form of servitude--and serving
food. In Buffalo the Bills' top pick, running back Antowain
Smith, has to buy fried chicken before every road trip.
"Sometimes we won't even eat it," says veteran Buffalo running
back Thurman Thomas. "We just pass it around the plane."
The prospect of such obligations has some rookies making
preparations. "I know they're going to get me," says
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Renaldo Wynn. "I've put
aside a little fund--the hazing fund."
LOVE THOSE LOANERS
Though the Tucson Toros, the Milwaukee Brewers' Triple A
affiliate, are struggling in the Southern Division of the
Pacific Coast League, they can thank their parent club for
having provided some much-needed roster help--from an unusual
source. When Tucson first baseman Antone Williamson was summoned
to the bigs on May 30, the Brewers had no one ready to play
first at the Triple A level. Enter Travis Lee, the Arizona
Diamondbacks' bonus baby, and now perhaps the highest-profile
loaner in Triple A history. "The Diamondbacks called to see if
we were interested," says Brewers general manager Sal Bando,
"and we needed to upgrade Tucson at that position. It's worked
Arizona, which begins play next season, has no Triple A team,
and Lee, who was hitting .363 with 18 home runs in 61 games in
Class A, needed more of a challenge. At week's end, Lee was
batting .291 with 13 home runs in 49 games with the Toros.
That's a lot of bang for the buck: While the Diamondbacks paid
Lee a $10 million bonus and take care of his $2,000 monthly
salary, the Toros merely chip in an $18 per diem on road trips.
The venture has been so successful that after the Tucson
pitching staff was weakened by call-ups and injuries in June,
Arizona and Milwaukee hooked up again. Diamondbacks lefty Mark
Davis, the former San Diego Padres reliever and 1989 Cy Young
Award winner who had been pitching in Class A, joined the Toros
on July 1. Through Sunday he had a 2.45 ERA in 14 2/3 innings.
It's unlikely that Tucson, which was 10 games out with 39 to
play, can get into contention, but the Toros do know they can
count on Lee and Davis to help. "The best part," says Tucson
general manager Mike Feder, "is that they can't get called up."
The British pistol shooting team, which is one of the best in
the world, has a considerable problem: Soon its members will not
be allowed to own or discharge pistols on British soil. Last
November, Parliament passed the Firearms Bill banning all
handguns larger than .22 caliber. Those guns--about 160,000 are
registered--must be handed in to police by Oct. 1. An amendment
extending the ban to .22-caliber guns (about 40,000) passed
through a crucial stage in the House of Commons and it appears
that it too will soon become law. "This has decimated us," says
Graham Gill of the U.K.'s Practical Shooting Association. "Our
1,500 members have had their sport taken away."
The 50 or so elite British shooters, who train five or six times
a week for 10 months each year, will have to go abroad to
practice, storing their arms overseas. They hope to get by with
a four-day training session each month in Switzerland or
Belgium, with additional sessions before major competitions. One
such meet is the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England,
where, unless the law changes, visiting competitors will receive
temporary firearms permits enabling them to shoot, but the hosts
won't be allowed to return fire.
SERVING AMERICA'S YOUTH
Illicitly contacting recruits, wooing them with tickets to
games, holding unsanctioned practices--sounds like the usual
laundry list of NCAA transgressions, right? Sadly, these were
some of the infractions cited by the governing board of the
Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association against
Brentwood Academy, a private Christian school for grades 6
through 12 outside Nashville. Brentwood, whose football team is
regularly among the best in the U.S., was given two years'
probation and fined $3,000. All Eagles teams will be kept out of
next season's playoffs; football and boys' basketball will miss
the following year's postseason as well. "The violations go all
the way to the top [of the program]," says Ronnie Carter, the
association's executive director.
The recruits in question were 14- and 15-year-old
middle-schoolers. For years Brentwood has been accused of going
after athletes early and using financial incentives, such as
gratis tickets and transportation, to draw the best talent. The
Eagles served as Exhibit A last year when Tennessee's public
school coaches and administrators succeeded in establishing
separate state tournaments for public and private schools.
"There are some truths [to their findings], but they're twisted
to make us look like a bunch of cheaters," says Carlton Flatt,
the Eagles' football coach. "We resent the heck out of that."
Dick Vermeil, the new St. Louis Rams coach, is 60. His staff
includes wide receivers coach Dick Coury (67), defensive
coordinator Bud Carson (66), offensive line coach Jim Hanifan
(63), assistant head/tight ends coach Mike White (61) and
offensive assistant/special teams coach Frank Gansz (58). So it
may be of some comfort to them--especially if the team gets off
to a slow start--that this year the Rams have endorsed a
facility called Delmar Gardens. It's a retirement home.
To boxing's list of great training camps--Pompton Lakes, N.J.,
where Joe Louis battered sparring partners and held court for
reporters; Grossinger's, the Catskills resort at which Rocky
Marciano lived like a monk; and Deer Lake, Muhammad Ali's
boulder-strewn retreat in the Pennsylvania woods--add the name
Big Bear Lake. A gold-rush community turned ski resort in
California's San Bernardino Mountains, 128 miles northeast of
Los Angeles, Big Bear has become boxing's hottest prefight
mecca, the place to hit and be hit.
WBC welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya has a cabin on the
lake, complete with a private gym, and WBO junior bantamweight
champ Johnny Tapia built a home nearby. On any given week the
area's gyms hum with activity, the pine-lined trails are dotted
with fighters pounding out their miles in the mountain air and
the restaurants are crammed with hungry boxers. "We get them
all," says Mark Henderson, owner of Thelma's, a
biscuit-and-gravy eatery down the block from Big Bear Fitness.
"Lennox Lewis, Macho Camacho, Riddick Bowe--and those guys can
eat. Montell Griffin was in here for every meal during his
camp." Says Griffin, the WBC light heavyweight champ: "Big
Bear's like the places the old fighters used to go. Nothing to
do but train and grow a beard."
It was that sort of spartan atmosphere that Los Angeles trainer
Larry Goosen was looking for back in 1990 when he opened Big
Bear's first gym, a makeshift operation in a drafty airplane
hangar. "The altitude is a plus," Goosen says of Big Bear's
6,700-foot elevation. "And outside the gym there's not enough to
do to get in trouble."
De La Hoya, who began training at Big Bear during his amateur
days, might be called the pied piper of Big Bear. His presence
drew several L.A.-area boxers, and he also brought trainer
Emanuel Steward to Big Bear. Steward, the founder of Detroit's
legendary Kronk Gym--an inner-city sweatbox about as far from
the pristine air of the California mountains as one can
imagine--was soon training not only De La Hoya but also several
of his other fighters at Big Bear. This past spring Steward
rented a lakeside house and opened a Kronk Gym in the area.
"Right now," says Steward, "this is the center of the boxing
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: JEFF WONG In tending to Parcells's thirst, Farrior is one of many well-heeled rookies getting an NFL initiation. [Drawing of Bill Parcells engaging James Farrior and other football players in hazing activities]
COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT TROYANOS Bonus baby Lee has lent Tucson a hand at first base--for just $18 a day. [Travis Lee fielding]
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN [Greyhound]
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: ANDREW MCCLOSKEY (4) [Action figures of Carlos Valderrama, Tab Ramos, Cobi Jones, and Alexi Lalas]
COLOR PHOTO: RICK RICKMAN De La Hoya (rear) sold Steward on the benefits of lakeside training in Big Bear. [Oscar De La Hoya and Emanuel Steward]
Not a Total Dog
Air Bud; Disney; directed by Charles Martin Smith
It's no surprise that Buddy, the movie's canine star, has a long
list of credits under his collar, including appearances on David
Letterman, TV commercials and a sitcom cameo. A dog that can
play basketball is an amazing thing, and Buddy, a comely golden
retriever, can do. The task for the makers of Air Bud was
turning a Stupid Pet Trick into a full-length film.
They did it by sticking to cliched plotlines and easy sight
gags, and saving Buddy's best ball handling for last. A classic
boy-meets-dog story, with a horrible title--sounds like it's
about flying beer--Air Bud proves an eminently watchable
children's film complete with an evil clown, a morality fable
about the value of teamwork and a pair of irresistible puppy-dog
Josh Framm (played by Kevin Zegers) is a lonely, fatherless new
kid in town who courts the homeless Buddy by laying out vanilla
pudding on the leaf-strewn blacktop of a secluded churchyard.
When Buddy emerges from the underbrush, he's filthy and
snarling, but Josh goes ahead and approaches the stray, putting
his open hand a few inches from the mutt's bared teeth. (Warning
to kids: Don't try this with your local junkyard dog.) The
friendship takes off when Buddy joins in with Josh's solitary
hoop-playing, and while the boy-dog relationship ("I know what
he's feeling, he knows what I'm feeling!" Josh exclaims)
provides some predictably sappy moments, the more compelling
development is Buddy's taking the court for Kevin's
state-tournament-bound middle school basketball team.
Ignoring the fact that Buddy is not a student at the school, the
moviemakers find a way to get him into the big game. Buddy is
not flashy--he can't dribble between his legs, he never makes a
no-look pass and three-pointers are beyond his range. Yet the
dog has the kind of game young hoopsters can admire. He hits his
foul shots, plays relentless defense, sticks his nose into any
on-court skirmish and is oblivious to pressure.
Buddy won't join Benji and Lassie in the pantheon of film
hounds, and Air Bud will soon be forgotten. In the meantime it's
worth taking a kid to see it. The child probably won't mind the
predictability of the tale, and you'll get to see a pretty cool
Americans age six and over who played basketball in 1996, making
it the country's No. 1 participatory team sport.
Average days of play for those hoopsters.
Climbers who have died in the Alps over the past three weeks.
Temperature, in degrees, on the artificial turf at Cincinnati's
Cinergy Field during a recent Reds game.
Players on the Florida State football team who have been
arrested since February.
Amount, in dollars, of each check that FIFA, soccer's world
governing body, sent to families of of the 78 Guatemalans who
were crushed to death in an overcrowded soccer stadium in
Guatemala City last October.
Major league games in 1996 that ended with a bases-loaded walk
or hit batsman.
Major league games this season, through Sunday, that had ended
with a bases-loaded walk or hit batsman.
The BEST of the REST
On Sunday the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.,
welcomed four new members, one week after four football
luminaries were enshrined by the NFL in Canton, Ohio. Many stars
in other sports have entered their respective halls of fame with
far less fanfare. In fact, even the existence of these
institutions has escaped the notice of the average fan. Can you
match the little-known shrines with their locations and the
notables they house?
HALL OF FAME
A. COLORADO SPRINGS
B. ABILENE, KANS.
C. MOUNT SOLON, VA.
E. COLUMBUS, OHIO
F. OSHKOSH, WIS.
AMONG THE HONOREES
a. Al Banuet, who was described by a New York Times sports
editor as "the greatest champion in his chosen sport I have ever
b. D.A. (Swanny) Kerby, who won't divulge what his initials
c. Flea, Cricket, Chipmunk and Jackrabbit--all hanging with honor.
d. Mary Lou Bartram, known as the Maid of Bartram Manor, who
promoted her sport by appearing on To Tell the Truth.
e. Dennis Brabec, who first drew acclaim with the help of a
partner known as Country Dude.
f. Julius Caesar and Kunta Kinte.
Key 1-C-d; 2-E-e; 3-A-b; 4-F-c; 5-D-a; 6-B-f
A major league isn't major without action figures of its
players. Representing the two-year-old MLS:
Carlos Valderrama is the Mutiny's maned man.
Tab Ramos balances the MetroStars' midfield.
Cobi Jones lights up the Galaxy with his speed.
Alexi Lalas heads the Revolution's defense.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The 38-year-old Welsh soccer club Llansantffraid has changed
its name to Total Network Solutions in exchange for $400,000
from a cellular phone company.
They Said It
Atlanta Falcons coach, on the series of grudge matches on his
team's schedule, including one against the Denver Broncos, his
former team: "I just hope we can do some vendetting."