RHAPSODY IN BOO
Fans know the rules. You don't boo a player who has more floor
burns than field goal attempts. You don't boo a high school or
college athlete unless he drives a more expensive car than you
do. You don't boo the anthem singer, the organist, the backup
quarterback, Tony Gwynn or any player whose mother is sitting
Whom to boo? You boo underachievers, cheap-shot artists,
whiners, loafers and arrogant churls who believe their $6
million salary is just about right for all the joy they bring
to our otherwise empty lives. You boo Latrell Sprewell, Wayne
Huizenga, Jeff George and Albert Belle. You boo coaches who
scream when they're 20 points up with two minutes to go and
referees who think they're part of the show. Taunting or
heckling is rarely appropriate, but good, orderly, heartfelt
booing is part of the deal.
Isaiah Rider, this boo's for you. This season alone, Rider, the
talented but troubled Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard, has
missed practices, been late for games, served a suspension for
marijuana possession, verbally abused a flight attendant,
speculated that the FBI or a "racist sniper" might be after him
and spit on a fan. Other than that, he has been a coach's dream.
Before last week Rider had missed five games this season as the
result of suspensions stemming from some of the above incidents.
He was suspended for a sixth after he prematurely left the
locker room during the Blazers' Feb. 10 home victory over the
Los Angeles Lakers. Why did Rider leave? Why else? He had gotten
After Rider took an ill-advised shot midway through the fourth
quarter, Portland coach Mike Dunleavy subbed for him. Instead of
returning to the bench, Rider walked toward the locker room,
motioned to his girlfriend to join him and left the arena. The
next day, after arriving late to practice and leaving early,
Rider told the media that he could no longer tolerate the abuse
of Portland fans, who, if you listen to Rider, are busy lynching
people when they're not enjoying Blazers games. "The respect
isn't there," said Rider. "I might be the best player on the
team, and I get booed."
Indeed, Rider may be Portland's best player, which is part of
the reason he has been so lustily booed. Blazers fans are funny
like that--they prefer their best players to play rather than
serve suspensions. Naturally Rider has a more reasonable
explanation. Portland is "a racist area," says Rider, who adds
this brilliant observation: "Forty miles from here, they're
probably still hanging people from trees."
No, they're not hanging anyone, Isaiah. They're just booing one
ignoramus in a Blazers uniform, and for that we've got to hand
it to you. In the long history of booing, rarely has an athlete
done more to deserve it. --Gerry Callahan
The Marlins' Big Season
THE BOOK ON LEYLAND
After the Florida Marlins spent $89 million on free agents at
the end of the 1996 season, writer Dave Rosenbaum arranged with
them for full access during the '97 campaign so he could write a
book about how the investment turned out. If They Don't Win It's
a Shame: The Year the Marlins Bought the World Series, which is
so full of rich detail that it rings with authority, is overrun
with contemptible characters, from conniving owner Wayne
Huizenga to crass pitcher Kevin Brown. No one, though, comes
across as distastefully as manager Jim Leyland.
As the season unfolds and the pressure grows, Rosenbaum's
Leyland (a far cry from the warm, grandfatherly character known
to the public), withers before our eyes. Fueled by increasing
doses of nicotine and caffeine and sailing along on a stream of
vulgarity, he grows more gaunt and crude with every turn of the
page. Leyland goes so overboard that at one point general
manager Dave Dombrowski calls him into his office and asks,
"What's going on here, Jim?" That was after Leyland had shouted
for a low-level employee to be fired and barked at Dombrowski,
"If you want to manage the team, you manage the team. Here, you
take the f------ lineup card."
Leyland's likability vanishes as he rips his players to
reporters, usually in off-the-record sessions; claims that "the
ruination of this country was the women's liberation movement";
asks a group of male reporters, "Which of you guys have fooled
around with [a female writer on the beat]?"; plays the horses
with such verve that he dispatches a clubhouse attendant to
place his bets at a nearby track; and generally snaps at
players, reporters and clubhouse employees faster than a bowl of
Rice Krispies. When a reporter explains that fans want to know
why outfielder Gary Sheffield isn't in the lineup, Leyland
erupts with "The last thing I care about is the f------ fans."
Writes Rosenbaum, "During the post-season, the national media
never heard Leyland berating reporters or cursing a blue streak
or speaking negatively--off the record, of course--about his
players. They had never heard him dressing down front office
workers, nor had they witnessed all of his moods. That's because
Leyland had no trouble controlling his behavior for
fifteen-minute World Series press conferences.... It was over
the long haul that the crass, temperamental Leyland came out."
By World Series time, Leyland has walking pneumonia, and you're
no longer wishing for him to get the ring. You're rooting for
him to fix himself some chicken soup, go home to bed and keep
his foul mouth shut.
Cowboys' New Coach
MR. GAILEY GOES TO DALLAS
Before Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones chose Chan Gailey as his
new coach, he wasted five weeks interviewing candidates who
didn't begin to satisfy his purported desire for a hungry,
low-paid, small-ego offensive specialist. He courted former San
Francisco 49ers coach George Seifert, a defensive type who
wanted at least $2 million a year to reenter the coaching arena.
He also talked to Green Bay offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis,
who didn't fill Jones's wish for a candidate with play-calling
experience and a resume that included a stint as a head coach.
Jones was most fervid in his pursuit of former UCLA coach Terry
Donahue, but Donahue walked away from the deal when Jones
proffered a contract worth about $500,000 a year, a sum that
would have made Donahue the lowest-paid coach in the NFL.
Fortunately for Jones and the Cowboys, Gailey, who reportedly
went for the $500,000 a season for five years, might be the
right man for a difficult job. Gailey, a head coach at Troy
(Ala.) State, at Samford and with the World League's Birmingham
Fire, will be working for an owner who insists on the final say
on personnel and scouting matters and who often insinuates
himself into strategy sessions.
Gailey, 46, seems like a guy who can handle that. He's a man of
small ego and large organizational skills. He won't care about
Jones's taking credit on draft day for the top pick; he will
care about guys being 10 seconds late for meetings. As someone
who has run the conservative wishbone in college and radical
five-wideout schemes during his four seasons as an NFL offensive
coordinator, most recently with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gailey
has always fit his offense to the talent available.
But rebuilding Dallas won't be easy, especially when Jones and
director of scouting Larry Lacewell have a checkered record at
best--only one (guard Larry Allen) of the Cowboys' 34 draft
picks since the departure of Jimmy Johnson in 1994 has made the
Pro Bowl--and the roster is loaded with old players sucking up
most of the salary-cap money. Good luck, Mr. Gailey. You'll need
Racial Incident In Indiana
MARTINSVILLE'S SAD SEASON
Martinsville, Ind., ought to be basking in the accomplishments
of the girls' basketball team at the town's namesake high
school. Through Sunday the team had won 45 straight games and
was ranked second nationally by USA Today. Instead, this
basketball-crazy town, the hometown of John Wooden, is reeling
from a harrowing racial incident during a boys' basketball game
that has put Martinsville High on probation with the state
athletic association and imperiled the future of the school's
According to an Indiana High School Athletics Association
(IHSAA) report, on Jan. 23, as Bloomington High North's racially
mixed team got off the bus upon arriving for a game at
Martinsville, about a dozen Martinsville students greeted the
visitors with a barrage of racial epithets. Sue Beerman,
principal of Bloomington North, said that the comments included:
"Here come the darkies." Not surprisingly, the evening was
marked by animosity.
During the junior varsity game several Bloomington players were
bitten by Martinsville players. During the varsity game a member
of Martinsville's all-white team elbowed a black North player in
the stomach so fiercely that the player began vomiting. As he
was doubled over on the sidelines, a fan yelled, "That nigger's
spitting on the floor! Get his ass off the floor."
According to a report that Bloomington North filed with the
IHSAA, epithets like "baboon" and threats such as "You're not
safe in this town" continued after the game, which Martinsville
won 69-66. "It wasn't just nasty," says one Bloomington North
fan, an adult who was in attendance, "it was downright scary."
The severity of the sanctions handed down by both Conference
Indiana (the league in which Martinsville plays) and the IHSAA,
among them a ban on Martinsville's hosting conference games in
any sport until February 1999, is without precedent for an
Indiana high school. The IHSAA has also warned that another
incident of this sort involving a Martinsville team could result
in suspension of play for that team.
This wasn't the first time that charges of racist behavior were
leveled against one of Martinsville's teams. In the last year at
least two high schools in central Indiana have dropped the
Artesians from their schedules after games were marred by brawls
and racial slurs. School administrators in Martinsville--which
has few black residents among its population of 12,000 and has
long had a reputation for Ku Klux Klan activity--were unwilling
to discuss the incident or its aftermath.
Beerman says "the matter has been resolved to our satisfaction,"
but the actions of her school's girls' team, which is racially
mixed, speak louder: The Cougars chose to end their season and
forgo a chance at a state championship rather than take part in
the first of their sectional games, scheduled to be played at
Hall Of Fame Oversight
FOOTBALL'S DOVE TALE
The College Football Hall of Fame has begun the process of
putting together its 47th class, which will be chosen in March.
It's past time for the voters to honor a player who has been
overlooked for too long: Notre Dame's Bob Dove. A consensus
two-time All-America for Frank Leahy's great Irish teams of the
early 1940s, the 188-pound Dove was one of the most dominant
defensive ends in college history, winning the Knute Rockne
Memorial Trophy as the outstanding lineman in 1942. Of the 63
two-time consensus All-Americas from '25 to '68, only two aren't
in the Hall. One, LSU's Billy Cannon, is a convicted felon. The
other is Dove.
The National Football Foundation, the Hall's governing board,
says that with all the great Notre Dame players over the years,
Dove has simply been overlooked. After reviewing material
submitted by Dove's son, Tim, the Hall says it will ignore the
50-year rule (a player has 50 years after his last college game
to be enshrined) and place Dove on this year's list of nominees.
The list will go to a screening committee, and if Dove gains
that body's approval, his name will be passed on to the honors
court, a 12-member panel that selects the 10 to 12 enshrinees.
The odds are long, and Dove, 77, who lives in Canfield, Ohio,
and works as a fund-raiser for the Youngstown State football
team, isn't particularly hopeful. "All these years have gone by,
and probably not many people who decide ever saw me play," he
says. But the people who decide can still do the right thing.
OLD MAN ON THE MAT
Clint Long, a freshman heavyweight wrestler for Mount St. Clare
College in Clinton, Iowa, received an unusual greeting before a
meet last month. "The other team's coach came up to me and
asked, 'Hey, Coach, how you doing?'" says Long. "Our real coach,
Dan Knight, was standing right next to me."
Given that the heavyweight is three years Knight's elder, such a
mistake was understandable. At 31, Long is the nation's oldest
college wrestler, and on March 6 he will become the oldest
participant ever in the NAIA national tournament. "It's weird
coaching someone who's older than I am," says Knight, who
recruited Long, a husband and father of two, from his job as a
foreman at a fence company to join St. Clare's first-year program.
Fourteen years ago, when Long was a senior at Eldridge (Iowa)
North Scott High, he placed third in the 185-pound class at the
state tournament. After dropping out of Wisconsin-Platteville,
he spent the next 13 years working on a pig farm and building
fences, as well as coaching wrestling and football at his alma
mater. Knight, who was a freshman at a rival high school when
Long was a senior, persuaded him to return to college. "After
coaching 10 years I got used to beating up on kids," says Long,
an elementary education major. "In college they're beating up on
Not really. At a recent tournament the 5'10", 264-pound Long
beat the top two seeds and pinned the No. 4 seed in the final.
At week's end he had a 28-11 record to go with a 3.4 GPA. "He's
an older guy trying to improve himself through wrestling and
getting an education," says sophomore teammate Ray Hopkins.
"That means a lot to us younger guys."
TWO COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY FRED HARPER [Fan gives the thumbs down sign; Isaiah Rider in diaper ]
COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO Another look Rosenbaum sees Leyland as crude and unkind. [Jim Leyland]
COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN SUMMER [Michael Johnson]
COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY WINTER [Michelle Kwan]
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: JEFF WONG [Drawing of Casey Martin in golf cart driven by gun-toting Travis Bickle]
COLOR PHOTO: PAINTING BY DANE TILGHMAN/WWW.NEGROLEAGUEBASEBALL.COM [Painting of Negro league baseball player]
--That Hideki Irabu's new translator has a lexicon of colorful
New Yorkese handy if the $12.8 million righty again fails to
--That Kenneth Starr takes time out from Whitewater to look into
where all of Mike Tyson's money went.
--That the Nike exec who hatched the crass Kenyan cross-country
ski sham is sent swooshing down a luge run sans sled.
Combined value, in dollars, of the top 10 NFL free-agent
signings through Monday.
Percent (four of five) of courses owned by the PGA Tour on which
carts are mandatory for everyday play.
Months that Jennifer Rodriguez, the first Cuban-American to
participate in the Winter Olympics and the fourth-place finisher
in 3,000-meter speed skating, has competed in her sport.
Percent improvement, through Sunday, in the Boston Celtics' win
total (11 to 23) from one year ago.
Percent drop in the price of publicly traded Celtics stock from
one year ago.
Canadian-born hockey players on teams other than Canada's in
Canadians on Italy's team, the No. 1 user of players from the
country of the maple leaf.
Jersey number of Villanova basketball immortal Paul Arizin that
was retired three years ago and mistakenly given to Wildcats
freshman Marvin O'Connor this season.
WHICH OLYMPIC GAMES ARE MORE COMPELLING?
When I watch the Summer Olympics, I know I'm seeing the world's
best runners and swimmers. When I watch the Winter Games, I see
a quirky collection of cult sports that almost none of us has
ever tried and daredevil exhibitions none of us would want to
try. The figure skaters are wonderful performers, but they
belong on the sports page as much as a review of Riverdance. At
least Michael Johnson didn't have to hope the judge from Belarus
liked his sequined blouse.
The Summer Games are all about excess: 2,450 athletes, 8,000
scribes, 520,000 fans (and four buses) all mixed into a rich
commercial stew. You can put your arms around the Winter Games.
Dwarfed by the mountains around them, they never feel
self-important. These are games, mostly, men and women playing
on ice and snow. The stars are as apt to be hapless ski jumpers
or African cross-country skiers as gold medalists with dollars
in their eyes. In winter the spirit is the thing that is big.
When Tiger Woods wins the Masters by 12 strokes, we know that's
a butt-kicking. But distinguishing runaway victors from
down-to-the-wire winners in the Winter Olympics is a lot more
difficult. That the gold standard is not always consistent is
made clear by this look at three winners who, as of Monday, had
enjoyed the largest margin of victory (in percentage terms) and
the three who won by the slimmest margins.
EVENT WINNER GOLD/SILVER TIME PCT. FASTER
Nordic Skiing, MEN'S 30K
Mika Myllylae, FIN 1:33:55.8/1:35:27.1 1.59
Speed Skating, MEN'S 5,000 M
Gianni Romme, NED 6:22.20/6:28.24 1.55
Snowboarding, WOMEN'S GS
Karine Ruby, FRA 2:17.34/2:19.17 1.31
Luge, WOMEN'S SINGLES
Silke Kraushaar, GER 3:23.779/3:23.781 .00098
Alpine Skiing, WOMEN'S SUPER G
Picabo Street, USA 1:18.02/1:18.03 .012
Snowboarding, MEN'S GS
Ross Rebagliati, CAN 2:03.96/2:03.98 .016
DRIVING MR. CASEY
Assuming the PGA Tour's appeal doesn't park Casey Martin's plans
to use a cart in tournaments, he may want to concentrate on his
tee shots and leave the driving to one of these well-known
Hoke Colburn Drove Miss Daisy, a far more grating person than
genteel Casey. --CHAUFFEURLY BENEFIT: Could impart sage advice
about putting surfaces, while quiet dignity would counterbalance
Bill Murray's antics at pro-ams.
Travis Bickle Piloted a hack through mean streets of the Big
Apple. --CHAUFFEURLY BENEFIT: Would control any gallery that
gets too vocal during Martin's putting--"You talkin' to
him?"--and should be big help in Shark Shootout.
Annie Porter Successfully and Speed-ily navigated booby-trapped
L.A. city bus through danger. --CHAUFFEURLY BENEFIT: Could fly
cart over hazards; unlikely to be rattled if Martin bombs in a
Otto Headphoned metal fan's laid-back bus jockeying gets even
Bart Simpson to school on time. --CHAUFFEURLY BENEFIT: Good
companion for Tiger's airhead, Deadhead caddie Fluff.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
The couple who bought Deer Lake, the six-acre compound in
eastern Pennsylvania that Muhammad Ali used for his training
camp for nine years, is turning it into a bed and breakfast.
Talking about his playing days in the Negro leagues, the great
third baseman Judy Johnson once said, "There was always sun
shining someplace." In the spirit of Black History Month--and of
this week's start of spring training--here are a few sites that
grant baseball's African-American trailblazers one more day in
The current issue of this on-line magazine showcases a gallery
of contemporary artists' paintings of Negro leagues stars (above).
The Web version of Kansas City's Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
features a tour narrated by actor James Earl Jones and
year-by-year lists of statistical leaders.
Major League Baseball's official site has bios of a wide range
of Negro leagues stars and a library of film clips of Jackie
Robinson, Josh Gibson and others in action.
This celebration of "shadowball"--what Negro leaguers called
their game, because they played outside the national
limelight--includes a list of humorous quotes from Satchel Paige
and other stars.
sites we'd like to see
Homepage for new Dallas Cowboys coach Chan Gailey.
Info page for Canadian snowboarders.
THEY SAID IT
Official of the International Luge Federation, on the IOC's
nixing of a unisex doubles luge event: "Some people's fantasies
have no boundaries."