IT'S ALL GREEK TO THEM
Throughout the 55 minutes allotted to Greece for its final bid
presentation to the International Olympic Committee last week in
Lausanne, Switzerland, delegation president Gianna
Angelopoulos-Daskalaki commanded the stage. Smoothly switching
from French to English, a small smile playing across her lips,
she turned seemingly endless footage of construction sites into
riveting theater. While Rome's bidders would bring out tenor
Luciano Pavarotti and screen clips from Ben-Hur, Angelopoulos
directly carried Greece's case to the IOC, a case she made seem
so compelling that Athens was surprisingly--and
overwhelmingly--awarded the 2004 Summer Games.
Angelopoulos, 41, is a lawyer, a vice chairwoman at Harvard's
John F. Kennedy School of Government, a former parliament
member, a mother of three and the wife of a steel and shipping
tycoon. The first woman to head a successful Olympic bid
committee, she donated more than $1 million to Athens's cause,
and used equal parts charm, force of will and Athena-like
intelligence to make the case for her city. "Gianna did it all
by herself," said Craig Reedie, the Scottish IOC member. "For
Mrs. Angelopoulos it was a triumph of organization."
At the 1990 IOC vote to determine which city would host the '96
Olympics, Greece had alienated committee members by demanding
that the Centennial Games take place where the inaugural ones
did, in Athens. The face of the nation's bid, actress Melina
Mercouri, further estranged voters with her carping and
chain-smoking. This time around Angelopoulos presented a
deferential front, stressing that Greece had addressed the
objections raised by the IOC in 1990. New metro lines and
highways to be built by 2004 should help curb Athens's traffic
and pollution, and 72% of the necessary athletic facilities are
already completed. In lobbying the IOC's 107 voters,
Angelopoulos repeatedly characterized Athens's application as "a
new bid from a new city."
With its five-star hotels along the Via Veneto beckoning the IOC
delegates, Rome had been considered the favorite among the five
finalists (Buenos Aires, Cape Town and Stockholm were the
others). Italian IOC member Primo Nebiolo, the president of the
International Amateur Athletic Federation, track and field's
governing body, repeatedly sniped during his sport's World
Championships in Athens last month that Greece was incapable of
staging the Olympics. But Angelopoulos refused to return fire,
and in the end Nebiolo's tactic wounded Rome's hopes: The
Ancient City outpolled the Eternal City 66-41 in the final,
head-to-head ballot. "The Greeks played their cards extremely
well by concentration on the technical aspects," Reedie says.
"They said, We listened to you seven years ago."
CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK?
During Sunday's New York Jets-Buffalo Bills game on NBC,
play-by-play announcer Marv Albert, who is facing charges of
sexual assault and whose old phone number was found in the black
book of a murdered New York City dominatrix, plugged the
network's sitcom Men Behaving Badly.
FIRST TIME A CHARM?
A few hours after swatting a home run in his first major league
at bat, on Sept. 2 in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, Expos
outfielder Brad Fullmer was a dreamy young man. "It was
indescribable.... I didn't realize they set off fireworks," he
said. "Maybe it even made SportsCenter."
Whether or not he gets hold of a videotape, Fullmer, 22, isn't
likely to forget the two-run, pinch-hit tater off Boston Red Sox
righthander Bret Saberhagen that made him the 74th player to
homer in his first big league at bat. As of Sunday, St. Louis
Cardinal Gary Gaetti had hit 330 homers since going deep his
first time up, yet that 1981 home run remains especially vivid.
"I was using [Minnesota Twins teammate] Tim Laudner's bat, and I
yanked the ball down the third base line," Gaetti recalls, "It
bounced back on the field. I got it and gave it to my dad."
Gaetti's career total is by far the highest for anyone among the
74--the runner-up is outfielder Earl Averill (238), whose first
blast came with the Cleveland Indians in 1929--and Fullmer may
be off base in asserting that his debut "has to be a good sign."
Of the 73 players who preceded Fullmer, 13 never hit another
homer. Only two of the group's members have been enshrined in
the Hall of Fame: Averill and Hoyt Wilhelm, a pitcher.
In years past USA Basketball had to lure its best women players
home from foreign leagues when it wanted to stage a tryout for
the national or Olympic teams. Now, with the ABL season running
from October through May (training camps opened on Sept. 2) and
the WNBA playing from June through August (its season ended on
Aug. 30), USA Basketball has to try to wedge its women's tryouts
between the schedules of the new domestic leagues.
Last week's national team trials in Colorado Springs were the
first step in selecting a squad for the 1998 world championships
to be held from May 26 to June 7 in Berlin. They were as
well-wedged as possible, yet only 28 of the 51 invited players
showed up, and just eight made the initial cut. Meanwhile, USA
Basketball wound up picking six players last Thursday from among
13 top candidates who had been excused from attending the
trials: ABLers Teresa Edwards (Atlanta Glory), Katie Smith
(Columbus Quest) and Kara Wolters (New England Blizzard);
WNBAers Ruthie Bolton (Sacramento Monarchs) and Tina Thompson
(Houston Comets); and Tennessee junior Chamique Holdsclaw. The
remaining seven from that list of 13 will vie next March with
the eight survivors from Colorado Springs for the final six spots.
Both the ABL and the WNBA are trying to cooperate in the
assembling of the national team. The ABL allowed players who
took part in the trials to arrive late to training camp. The
WNBA has agreed to let its players report for next season after
the world championships and plans to cut short its 2000 season
to accommodate training for the Sydney Olympics, which will take
place in September. If, as expected, the two leagues eventually
do merge, USA Basketball could treat the women as it does the
men, choosing distaff Dream Teams based on players' performances
during the regular season. "With one league you could see them
compete against each other," says Carol Callan, an assistant
executive director with USA Basketball, "but now you can't see
ABL players against WNBA players." Sometimes not even when you
schedule a tryout.
The numbers 21-year-old first baseman/outfielder Greg Morrison
put up for the Pioneer League Medicine Hat (Alberta) Blue Jays
this season--a .448 batting average and league records of 23
home runs and 88 RBIs, in 69 games--were so phenomenal that he
has received an invitation to go to spring training with Toronto
next year. Morrison's success was all the more astounding
considering that last winter he was sitting glumly in his
parents' home, his major league dreams seemingly dashed.
In June 1994 Morrison, who grew up in Medicine Hat, became the
first player from that city to be drafted by a big league team.
The Los Angeles Dodgers selected him in the 71st round, and he
went on to hit .323 for the Great Falls (Mont.) Dodgers of the
Pioneer League in '95, earning a promotion to the Class A
Savannah Sand Gnats. But there Morrison batted a mere .254. Last
October the Dodgers, limited to 28 visas for foreign minor
leaguers, handed him his pink slip.
Dispirited, Morrison returned home. After writing to 15 major
league teams seeking an invitation to spring training (his mom,
Shirley, looked up the addresses for him on the Internet) and
receiving none, Greg resigned himself to a life of coaching at
his old high school and playing in an independent league. That's
when his dad, Ross, went to bat for him. In April, without
telling Greg, he phoned Medicine Hat general manager Chris
McKenna. "He was happy I called," says Ross. "He'd seen Greg
play and knew he could hit."
The Blue Jays let Medicine Hat sign the 6'1", 205-pound Morrison
partly because he was a native son. Now Toronto has been
rewarded with a Triple Crown. "I'd given up, and then my dad
made that call," Greg says. "I'll owe him a long time for that."
The beer was flowin', the barbecue was smokin', and the UCLA
Bruins were being eaten for lunch. It was last Saturday
afternoon, shortly before No. 23 USC would take on No. 5 Florida
State (page 62), and Michael Coates, his brother Stephen and
Scott Gilmore--three die-hard Trojans fans--were tailgating
beside the Los Angeles Coliseum, roasting their crosstown
rivals. On their two TVs the Bruins were battling No. 3
Tennessee at the Rose Bowl.
"You know what a UCLA graduate calls a USC graduate?" asked
Nothing unusual about such gibes; last week the faithful at UCLA
were calling the Song Girls, USC's renowned cheerleaders,
Silicon Valley, and not because they're computer science majors.
But what made the scene outside the Coliseum shocking was what
was said between the barbs, when the Trojans fans screamed at
their TVs in support of the...Bruins? "It's L.A. pride," said
Michael, gesturing toward the multitude of Southern Cal
tailgaters huddled around TVs of their own. "You may be
surprised, but some SC fans are rooting for UCLA. This is a big
day for football in these parts."
Los Angeles's football fans have had little to cheer about since
the NFL's Rams left for St. Louis two years ago, a development
followed by subpar seasons in 1996 for the Bruins and the
Trojans. Last week's doubleheader--Super Saturday, it was being
called--was a reminder that big-time football is still played in
L.A. That UCLA lost 30-24 and USC 14-7 was merely a mild bummer.
But what disheartened the locals only served to fuel the
regional pride of the visiting boosters, Beverly Hillbillies who
painted the town Seminoles garnet and Vols orange and who were
determined to show the locals what real pigskin fans were all
about. The Southerners did adhere to one Left Coast maxim: You
are what you drive. One Tennessee fan named John Thornton
cruised around Los Angeles in his outsized orange-and-white
limo, which he and some buddies had driven 2,000 miles to L.A.
Two other Volunteers votaries, Ron and Zula Davis, took in the
scenery on their unmistakable Honda Gold Wing motorcycle, which
sported an orange-and-white paint job, orange leather seats,
orange flags and an orange-and-white trailer. The couple claimed
to have had other ideas to further decorate their bike, but as
Ron put it, "We didn't want to do anything gaudy."
Lamar Hunt, the Dallas oil baron and owner of the Kansas City
Chiefs, bought a small piece of the Chicago Bulls in 1966 and
has held it ever since. He has, by his own count, seen Michael
Jordan play in person 108 times. But Hunt has never tried to
meet Jordan--never solicited a handshake, never even ventured a
hello. "Sometimes," he says, "beauty is best appreciated from
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY FRED HARPER "The first woman to head a successful Olympic bid committee, Angelopoulos made the case for Athens." [Drawing of Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and Acropolis]
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS [Gymnast's hands holding rings]
COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO With 330 dingers and counting, Gaetti has gone deep more often than any other player who homered in his first at bat. [Gary Gaetti batting]
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL BAZ The new nasty: Spirlea in 1997 [Irina Spirlea raising middle finger]
B/W PHOTO: UPI/CORBIS-BETTMANN The original Nasty: Ilie Nastase in 1976 [Ilie Nastase displaying middle finger]
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK In Pasadena, UCLA fans took out their aggression on a Volunteers dummy. [Effigy hanging from noose]
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: CHART BY NIGEL HOLMES [Chart not available--world map detailing legs of Whitbread Round the World Race]
Danger, Will Robinson
On the Pitch and On the Track: Keeping Up with Japan's Most
In Japan, supersmart robots commonly entertain fans by engaging
in wrestling matches (about 100 motorized creatures took part in
the recent Robot Wrestling Festival in Kawasaki), shooting
baskets (a staple of Japanese TV variety shows) and even playing
soccer matches. Thus it made sense that RoboCup '97, the world's
first robot soccer tournament, was held in Nagoya late last
month as part of the four-day International Joint Conference on
Of the roughly 40 university-based teams that entered the
tournament--schools in Australia, Canada, the U.S. and six
European nations took part--half were from Japan. The field was
split into two classes: one made up of six-inch-high critters
that kicked an orange golf ball around, and the other of
four-foot-tall robots that used a regulation-sized ball. Both
brackets played five to a side, and games unfolded in
five-minute halves. At halftime teams recharged their batteries,
Unlike their basket-shooting and grappling counterparts, which
are remote-controlled as they compete, the soccer robots rely on
a preprogrammed central computer to help them recognize the ball
and shoot it toward a net. Once the game begins, there's no
human interaction. "We give each robot a camera [to help it
determine where the ball is] and let it act without much
nitpicking from the central computer," said Wei-Min Shen, who
headed up a team from USC that competed in the large-robot
bracket. "That's our secret."
The secret helped Southern Cal play to a 0-0 tie (see how like
the real game RoboSoccer is!) in the final against Osaka
University. Carnegie Mellon's entry, meanwhile, won the
small-robot division. The strong U.S. showings came on the heels
of an even more surprising development: At the Tokyo
International Robot Grand Prix last month, a robotic car from
the University of Maryland outraced more than 100 Japanese
competitors to earn the title "fastest automaton in the East."
That's not to say Japan can't match the best the U.S. has to
offer in other sports. When asked how well the
basketball-playing robots shoot free throws on his show, a
television producer pondered a moment before answering, "About
like Shaquille O'Neal."
Height, in feet and inches, of the rim on which Harlem
Globetrotters Michael Wilson and Fred Smith dunked, breaking the
slam-dunk altitude record by two inches.
Average price, in dollars, of a ticket to a Washington Redskins
home game, the highest average in the NFL.
Average price, in dollars, of a ticket to a New York Jets home
game, the league's lowest average.
Unseeded players among the 16 men's singles semifinalists in
this year's Grand Slam tennis events, the most in the Open era.
Points scored by South Florida in its first football game ever,
an 80-3 win over Kentucky Wesleyan.
Most points scored in a game by the South Florida basketball
team in the '96-97 season.
Straight world titles in the rings for Italian gymnast Yuri
Chechi, who, already retired, came to last week's meet in
Switzerland as a spectator, was persuaded to compete and won.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
At the U.S. Open, Romania's Irina Spirlea signaled a
photographer to go focus himself, raising, along with her middle
finger, memories of an earlier Bucharest bad-ass.
THE 31,600-MILE RACE
On Sept. 21, 10 boats will set sail from England in the
eight-month Whitbread Round the World Race. The U.S. entries are
Neil Barth's America's Challenge, George Collins's Chessie
Racing and Dennis Conner's Toshiba.
Dates shown are for departures.
Boats arrive at the stopovers on different days, but all start
the next leg at the same time.
Distances are in nautical miles (one nautical mile=6,075 feet).
START from Southampton 9/21/97
The first leg is the toughest, passing through a full range of
On cold legs crew members, trying to limit weight, make do with
one set of thermal underwear, creating some foul weather below.
Boats may communicate with anyone on land or sea but may not
discuss the weather (or other boats).
FINISH at Southanpton 5/24/98
After spending an estimated $10 million to compete, the winner
will get a nice trophy but no prize money.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
The First State Bank of Brownsville, Tenn., is offering
customers a certificate of deposit with an interest rate that is
based on the local high school football team's margin of victory
THEY SAID IT
Detroit Tigers reliever, on his recent contract extension, which
will pay him $2.25 million in 1998 and $2.95 million in '99: "Am
I worth it? No. Is anybody?"