Like any college basketball coach, Herb Livsey spends a good
part of his time identifying the nation's top high school
players and wooing them. His current target is Lamar Odom, a
6'9" New York City phenom, and though he has yet to meet Odom,
he has made inroads with Odom's AAU coach and with his aunt.
Livsey, however, is not a coach. He's the Continental Basketball
Association's director of player development, and he's
recruiting Odom at the behest of CBA commissioner Steve
Patterson. "We are pursuing [Odom] through the same avenues as
college coaches," says Patterson. "And we are pursuing him for
the same reason: He can have a financial impact. The difference
is, we'll pay him."
The pursuit of Odom is the first step in Patterson's plan to
transform the CBA from a forum for failed or fading pros into a
farm system similar to baseball's minor leagues, which develop
young players and are subsidized by big league organizations.
The NBA, which drew 45 players from the CBA last season, has not
yet taken a position on the league's more aggressive approach to
recruiting teens. "I believe in everybody getting the best
education he can," NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik says.
"But there's some sense to the notion that if a player's not
interested in an education and not good enough yet to be in the
NBA, he ought to have some place to play."
Though Odom may still attend college, he was released from a
letter of intent to play at UNLV after the validity of his ACT
score was called into question (SI, July 7). Even if Odom had
enrolled, the lure of the NBA undoubtedly would have cut his
stay in Vegas short; Rebels coach Bill Bayno went so far as to
call him a "one-year player." But unlike Kobe Bryant and
Jermaine O'Neal, high school players who went straight to the
NBA last season, Odom would probably not have been a first-round
pick in the NBA draft. Patterson hopes to sign a dozen such
prospects a year--including college freshmen and sophomores who
may be tired of school--to contracts that average $30,000.
The league's teams are located away from the limelight--for
example, the Sioux Falls (S.Dak.) Skyforce and the Rockford
(Ill.) Lightning--which could ease a teenager's transition to
the pro game. The CBA is also working with Northeastern
University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society to develop
a life-skills program similar to the one the center formulated
for the NBA. "Xerox and IBM come to college campuses to recruit
students at a job fair," Patterson says. "Maybe the CBA should,
Blistering sun, flying sand, vicious deer ticks, cheek-stinging
wind from excessive cart speed: Golf is murder on the
complexion. That's why Morelle Enterprises, a New York
City-based cosmetics firm, has introduced Par Excellence, a line
of skin-care products "formulated to anticipate the rigorous
demands on a golfer's skin." The company promises that its
products, which run the gamut from facial mist to foot gel, will
"pamper, nourish and protect." Isn't that the caddie's job?
With spring training 1998 only six months away, major league
clubs still don't know if they'll have a designated hitter, what
league they'll be in or what teams they will be battling for a
division title next season. Realignment plans continue to be so
changeable that owners--not unlike their fantasy-league
counterparts--are faxing their own proposed league makeovers to
faux commissioner Bud Selig, who says a plan will be decided
upon by Sept. 30 and that "it's entirely possible" one could be
put in place at an owners meeting on Sept. 17 and 18 in Atlanta.
The owners have been slow to acknowledge obvious mistakes in
previously discussed realignment plans, such as the geographic
folly of putting the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the
American League West and the scheduling nightmare of creating
two 15-team leagues, which would have effectively required
interleague play every day of the season. Now, thankfully,
several owners have begun to see the warts on the so-called
radical realignment proposal, which would divvy up teams by time
zones with scarcely a nod to tradition. Though one owner says
the plan has "at least two-thirds support," that's not enough,
because no team can be made to switch leagues without its consent.
Plenty of clubs have reason to oppose radical realignment. Three
National League stalwarts--the Atlanta Braves, the Cincinnati
Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates--don't like the idea of being
dumped into the American League. Eastern teams, such as the
Boston Red Sox, would play 152 games within the Eastern time
zone, with a West Coast trip once every three or four years. And
rival teams in two-team markets like New York would be left
trying to sell tickets to games against the same schedule of
One National League source speculates that Selig backed the
radical plan knowing it would help him pass a more moderate
proposal under which eight to 12 teams might switch leagues.
Says Selig, "You have to go through a complex process. It's
going about just the way I thought it would."
The owners' stumbling leaves hope that they'll rally in the
bottom of the ninth. Realignment is good for the game, but only
if it preserves the integrity of the leagues, enhances
traditional rivalries and creates sensible geographic ones,
keeps the number of interleague games at the current limit and
plays those games in one midsummer block, and provides more
As long as they're swinging for the fences, owners ought to keep
pushing to eliminate the designated hitter; they've offered to
compromise and add a 26th roster spot and are awaiting the
players' union approval. That would end the awkwardness of one
sport with two sets of rules. Predicts one American League
owner, "The National League will never go to the DH."
DRIVING FOR DOLLARS
Jeff Gordon tried to make the $1 million bonus he earned for
winning Sunday's Southern 500 sound like more than just a week's
fuel for his Learjet. But around NASCAR these days, a million
isn't what it used to be. When Bill Elliott--the only driver
before Gordon to win the bonus--bagged the Winston Million in
1985, it marked stock car racing's biggest payday, quadrupling
the prize for the Winston Cup season championship. Newspapers
hailed Elliott as Million Dollar Bill.
But before the start at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Gordon's shot
at the bonus, which goes to any driver who wins three of four
designated races during the season, wasn't accorded huge
significance, even by the 26-year-old Gordon. "We have to think
about the season," he said. The Winston Cup standings, which
Gordon leads with nine races to go, reward consistency more than
winning. Gordon wasn't about to compromise his pursuit of the
$1.5 million title and another $1.5 million in incentives for a
measly million at Darlington--unless a chance to win fell into
It did. Though Gordon's Chevrolet had been running subpar for
most of the race, a quick pit stop during a late caution period
got him back on the track in first place, and he held off Dale
Jarrett and Jeff Burton. Burton later groused about Gordon's
fender-banging on the final laps, and Gordon acknowledged that
he had driven rougher than usual. "But I'd said all week that if
I went into the last laps with a shot at winning, you were going
to see a man going for a million dollars," Gordon said. Jet
fuel, after all, is pretty expensive.
By signing swingman Rick Fox, late of the Boston Celtics, to a
one-year, $1 million contract last week, the Los Angeles Lakers
assured themselves of having someone in the lineup who can act.
After filling the role of a player in Eddie, a 1996 Whoopi
Goldberg comedy about NBA life, Fox stepped out to thespian
three-point range this summer in Oz, a riveting drama on HBO
about a maximum-security prison. (The eight-part series was
scheduled to be rerun starting on Sept. 2.) Fox appears in the
final three episodes playing Jackson Vahue, an NBA star serving
12 years for attempted rape and assault. Executive producer Tom
Fontana auditioned five NBA players before the 28-year-old Fox
seized the role. "He was the only one who made me say, 'He can
really act,'" Fontana says.
With an acting coach and a part in Spike Lee's upcoming He Got
Game, the 6'7" Fox is serious enough about showbiz that he
passed up a heftier offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers. He even
attributes his breakthrough with the Celtics last year--in his
sixth NBA season Fox averaged a career-high 15.4 points as well
as 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game--to lessons
he learned while shooting Eddie. He studied more film, developed
more patience and learned to share the stage more with his
fellow players. "The great actors really use their costars," he
says. "If you can bring greatness out of them, then you can get
it out of yourself."
For his portrayal of Vahue's hellish, heroin-fueled descent, Fox
drew on trips he made to a prison in Raleigh when he was a
player at North Carolina. He also tapped into a more immediate
rage. "When we were shooting in the summer, I had a situation in
Boston where I thought we had hammered out a new contract with
the Celtics, and then they renounced my rights," Fox says. "A
lot of that anger came out. Not that I was really in jail, but I
felt like I was in Renounced Land jail."
CORKING GOOD RUN
Marathoners have been known to do a little whining during a
race, so grueling is their 26-mile, 385-yard run. But wining?
Welcome to the Medoc and Graves Marathon. Or perhaps we should
Toasted by Runner's World magazine as one of the most
well-organized marathons in the world, and lauded in France as
the nation's "most convivial race," this annual event in the
heart of Bordeaux is as much a celebration of gastronomic
enthusiasm as it is a test of aerobic fitness. The 7,500-runner
field for this year's race, on Sept. 6, was filled by May 1, and
already some 3,000 are signed up for 1998. While the event
attracts top competitors (last year's winner, French national
champion Philippe Remond, showed a robust body and a smooth
finish, running 2:25:55), the majority of entrants turn out in
the spirit of the race's motto: Wine, sports, pleasure and
health can be one.
The course winds among some of the world's most hallowed
vineyards and past the area's historic chateaux. The runners,
many of whom compete in festive costume, are serenaded en route
by 50 musical acts ranging from orchestras to samba bands to
French folk groups. The aid station at Mile 23 serves oysters.
At Mile 24 runners are offered samples of Bazza beef. With just
over a mile to go, it's time for the cheese tray. Thankfully,
these final miles are made easier by 22 stations along the way
serving Lafite-Rothschild, Latour and other grand cru wines. Oh,
and there's water available, too.
"The entire event is really a three-day party," says Thom
Gilligan, director of Marathon Tours, a Charlestown, Mass.-based
travel company that takes groups of runners to races around the
world. "The race is to justify having too much fun."
A votre sante!
COLOR PHOTO: WILLIAM R. SALLAZ Odom is the prime target in the CBA's pursuit of top high school players. [Lamar Odom]
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN [Container of french fries]
COLOR PHOTO: STEVE SPATAFORE DENTON 6'3", 215-pound sophomore 1996 Co-WAC Freshman of the Year No. 1 in yardage (3,591) among passers back from '96 [Jon Denton in game]
COLOR PHOTO: JOE GOSEN DUTTON 6'4", 220-pound senior 1996 Big West Offensive Player of the Year No. 1 in efficiency rating (153.8) among passers back from '96 [John Dutton in game]
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: CHART BY NIGEL HOLMES [Drawing of Tiger Woods swinging golf club, and icons of money, golf bag, soda cup, shoe, watch and golf ball, television, and golf ball and money bag]
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DARREN THOMPSON Though only one marathoner tastes victory, all entrants get to savor the gastronomic goodies of the Bordeaux region. [Drawing of marathoner drinking glass of wine at rest stop]
Errors or passed balls by Florida Marlins catcher Charles
Johnson in his 103 games this season.
Countries and territories in which NFL games or highlights will
be televised this season.
NFL games, of the 14 played, that were blacked out in home
markets on Sunday because not all tickets were sold in time.
Increase in participants in boys' and girls' high school soccer
in 1996-97 over the previous year, making soccer the
fastest-growing scholastic sport.
Miles the Seattle Mariners will have traveled by the end
of the regular season, 6,000 more than the second-most-itinerant
club, the Anaheim Angels.
Cost, in dollars, of a large order of french fries at the U.S.
Open at Flushing Meadows.
Despite their nominal, geographical and statistical
similarities, quarterbacks Jon Denton of UNLV and John Dutton of
Nevada have never met. "I'm familiar with him," says Denton,
"but only through what I've seen and heard." Apparently the
doppelgangers steered clear of each other when Dutton led a
54-17 blowout of the Rebels last Oct. 5. Though another Wolf
Pack rout is likely when the teams meet this Saturday in Reno,
the game is expected to draw some 33,000 fans. "Both of us
having success makes the rivalry healthy," says Dutton. "You've
got two quarterbacks doing some things. It should be exciting."
Since Tiger Woods turned pro last year, the golf world has been
feeling the financial impact--and laughing all the way to the
bank. Here's an accounting of the fortune Tiger has made for
golf, as well as for himself.
Woods's winnings and appearance fees (30 tournaments, seven
A 1% Woods-driven increase in course fees and sales of
merchandise, including clubs
20%-25% increase in tournament concession and souvenir sales;
18%-35% increase in ticket sales
100% increase in Nike golf apparel and footwear sales
Value of Woods's endorsement deals, including those with Nike,
Titleist, and Rolex
100% increase in value of TV deals for the Tour and PGA
TOTAL $653.4 MILLION
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
The New Hampshire Pari-Mutuel Commission has approved a pilot
program that will give gamblers back a credit based on a
percentage of their wagers if they agree to use the rebate to
place new bets.
THEY SAID IT
Coach of the Denver Broncos, when asked whether he was surprised
at any of the Broncos' final roster cuts: "No. I made them."