Skip to main content
Original Issue


The Nevada boxing commission weighs Mike Tyson's future

Mike Tyson remains in exile for two more weeks, until the Nevada
State Athletic Commission gets further medical assurances that
he's not full-on insane and can again provide family
entertainment in the ring. As this is hard to guarantee of any
boxer, particularly one given to spontaneous cannibalism, his
chances of reinstatement are not 100%. But the fact that Tyson
didn't detonate on the dais during a long and contentious
hearing in Las Vegas ought to encourage everyone to consider
that the former champ may have a new and improved equilibrium.

"In six ours," noted commission chairman Elias Ghanem with some
surprise, "he did not blow up." This isn't just a new standard
of mental health, as applied to boxing's biggest draw, but a
psychological O.K. in itself. All Tyson needs to do is get it in
writing next week, so that the commission, better insulated from
the consequences of Tyson's next disaster, can more confidently
license him at an Oct. 3 hearing.

Tyson's third career can then begin. Like the last one, which
picked up after Tyson did time for rape, this one will be more
about money than about boxing. Armed with pie charts and bar
graphs, Tyson lawyer Dale Kinsella tried to show that Tyson's
ban for biting Evander Holyfield 15 months ago cost Tyson $65
million in income. Moreover, according to Kinsella, the fighter
never took home all that much to begin with because of a
disadvantageous 1988 contract with Don King.

According to Kinsella, Tyson cleared just $5.2 million from his
$30 million share of the purse from the Holyfield fight, with
King claiming $9 million and Tyson's two former managers another
$6 million. The commissioners were astonished to learn that
King, as promoter, was dipping into Tyson's paycheck. They were
saddened to hear of a $6.3 million lien the IRS had placed on
one of Tyson's houses. But, determined not to grant a need-based
license, they shrugged off his money woes.

For that matter, they weren't terribly impressed with the bunch
of slick, entertainment-industry types who have self-righteously
undertaken Tyson's comeback now that Tyson is estranged from
King. While the commissioners seemed aghast at Tyson's contract
with King, they weren't amused to learn that Tyson's new CPA was
getting $325 an hour. They wondered how shrewd these advisers
were to steer him to New Jersey for an abortive attempt to get a
license there, burning up two months of the very career they were
so impatient to restart.

The point is, the commissioners wanted a warranty on Tyson's
mental health. The image of a frantic fighter, a foe's blood
dripping from his leering grin and body parts strewn across the
ring, is too fresh in their minds. They want assurances--a note
from the doctor is all--that pie charts never seem to provide.
--Richard Hoffer

Hall of Fame

Larry Bird will surely draw most of the attention when he's
inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Oct. 2. The Hall,
in Springfield, Mass., is only 100 miles from Boston Garden,
where Bird performed heroically for the Celtics for 13 seasons,
and his surprising success as a rookie coach with the Indiana
Pacers last season has only added to Larry Legend's luster.
Bird's shadow will certainly eclipse the other six entrants,
including one man whose combined accomplishments as a player and
a coach surpass those of any other double threat in any other
U.S. major sport.

Lenny Wilkens has been in the Hall since 1989 because of his
play as an ultrasmooth, lefthanded guard for the St. Louis
Hawks, the Seattle SuperSonics, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the
Portland Trail Blazers. He twice led the NBA in assists during
his 15-year career and was selected as one of the 50 greatest
players in history. He becomes the Hall's second
double-enshrinee because of his NBA-record 1,120 coaching wins,
carved out in 25 years with Portland, Seattle (where he won a
championship in 1979), Cleveland and the Atlanta Hawks, and he's
the one with the clearest claim to having mastered the pro
playing field and the pro blackboard.

John Wooden has two busts in Springfield, but he earned them for
his bifurcated excellence in college basketball. A couple of
Boston Celtics whose names you might know, Bill Russell and K.C.
Jones, are Hall of Fame players who were also successful
coaches, but neither matched Wilkens's sustained success on the
bench. Ditto for two other Hall of Fame players, Bill Sharman
and Billy Cunningham. Rudy Tomjanovich has guided the Houston
Rockets to two titles and may be on his way to a Hall of Fame
coaching career, but he wasn't in Wilkens's class as a player.

None of the prime candidates from other sports can match
Wilkens's excellence and longevity as a player and coach. The
only possible exception is baseball's Cap Anson, who is a Hall
of Fame player (baseball doesn't give separate admission for
players and managers) and, as a manager, compiled a .578 winning
percentage over 2,300 games in 21 seasons. But Anson's two
careers predate 1900. New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka is a
Hall of Fame tight end, but Ditka's Super Bowl season with the
Chicago Bears in 1985 was the high point of what is, to date, an
otherwise unexceptional coaching career. Atlanta Falcons coach
Dan Reeves was a fine player and has been equally good as a
coach, but he isn't Hall of Fame-caliber in either capacity. The
same goes for New York Yankees manager Joe Torre.

When Wilkens coached center Shaquille O'Neal on the 1994 NBA
Eastern Conference All-Star team, O'Neal asked, "Did you used to
play, Coach?" Yes, and he can coach a little, too.

ABC's Rising Star

Cris Collinsworth might want to phone his agent. Since retiring
from the Cincinnati Bengals in 1988, Collinsworth has proved,
first at NBC and now at Fox, to be a candid and perceptive NFL
broadcaster. Collinsworth's prime-time reward? Moonlighting as
the host of Fox's Guinness World Records, on which he recently
introduced viewers to a lady with a 300-pound tumor.

Then there's one of Collinsworth's former Cincy teammates,
quarterback Boomer Esiason, who in just three weeks as a
full-time on-air personality has become ABC's 300-pound gorilla.
On Sept. 7, Esiason made his debut as a color analyst on Monday
Night Football alongside Dan Dierdorf and Al Michaels. Last
Saturday night he traded his rowdy friends in the booth for 51
bosom buddies on the runway, when he cohosted, without
embarrassing himself, the increasingly embarrassing Miss America
Pageant in Atlantic City.

"The producers wanted to change the dynamics of the show," says
Esiason of his replacing last year's cohost, somebody named John
Callahan. "They were looking for taller, blonder, younger." And
to think that used to describe the contestants.

Esiason was no Bert Parks, nor did he try to be. He didn't sing
There She Is, Miss America, when Miss Virginia, Nicole Johnson,
was crowned, although he did high-five--what, no chest bump?
--contestants as they sashayed off the stage. At the risk of
damning him with faint praise, we'll say that Esiason was better
than his sidekick, Meredith Vieira.

Esiason, 37, a TV rookie in name only, appears to be on the fast
track at ABC, not only because he is tall, blond and young but
also because he's free with his Monday-night commentary and more
than willing to wave the corporate flag. "For two weeks Dan and
Al have been teasing me during the telecast about doing this
pageant," said Esiason during dress rehearsal. "That's fine.
It's also a way of reminding our football viewers when the
pageant will air." Now there's a man who understands the ABCs of
self-promotion as well as the self-promotion of ABC.

Sports Collecting

The ball Mark McGwire hit over the leftfield wall in Busch
Stadium on Sept. 8 for his historic 62nd home run is already on
display in a glass case in Cooperstown, presumably off the
collectibles market forever. Several other balls from the Great
Home Run Chase of 1998, however, including Sammy Sosa's 62nd,
remain in play. Two Chicago claimants to Sosa's 62nd are in
court over what they hope will prove to be a horsehide cash cow,
while the fan who caught McGwire's 63rd and held onto it, hoping
to sell, has found himself being characterized as a greedy
opportunist. Still, those in the collectibles game say that the
true payoff pitch has yet to be made.

"Everybody related to 62, but after the season, it's going to be
the final home run ball," says Steve Ryan, the owner of North
Shore Sports, a sports collectibles company in Northbrook, Ill.
Bob Connelly, a member of the American Society of Appraisers,
agrees. "McGwire's 62nd held its value for--what?--about 48
hours," says Connelly. "After that, if it hadn't gone into the
Hall, it would have dropped like a brick." Tom Hultman of Sports
Collector's Digest estimates that McGwire's 62nd would be worth
around $200,000 if it were on the market.

Connelly suggests that the final McGwire or Sosa home run ball
this year--the one with which the record will have been
established--could be worth $700,000 to $750,000. Or more.
Ryan's company, in partnership with two other memorabilia firms,
offered the much-publicized $1 million for the first 62nd ball,
a bid that went by the boards when Norman Rockwellian Cardinals
groundskeeper Tim Forneris nabbed the ball and returned it to
Big Mac. They have now repeated that offer for the McGwire/Sosa
record ball. "We're pushing for the last one," says Ryan, who
intends to display the ball at his own auctions as well as to
share it with the Hall. "If somebody gives it back to McGwire or
Sosa, that's great, but they'll be giving back a million bucks."

Bucs' New Stadium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Trent Dilfer was asked what
feature of the Bucs' new $168 million Raymond James Stadium is
his favorite. "The showerheads," said Dilfer. "It's a waterfall
when you take a shower. I just love it."

Lawn Bowling

The mention of lawn bowls, boccie's stuffy cousin, calls to mind
overcast British skies, bespectacled matrons in sensible shoes
and upper lips as stiff as the starched collars on the match-day
white dress shirts. It's serious business for the Brits, so
serious that Sir Francis Drake insisted on finishing his game
before going about the minor task of defeating the Spanish Armada.

It's hardly surprising that many officials and fans choked on
their scones when Griff Sanders rolled onto the scene nine years
ago, wearing shoulder-length hair, postpubescent peach fuzz and a
don't-mess-with-me McEnroeian demeanor. But the lad had enough
talent to make England's under-25 team, and until recently his
worst crimes were feigning drunkenness and wearing neither a tie
nor white socks during play.

Then, at a tournament last month in Devon, Sanders, 25, outdid
himself by verbally abusing judges and calling John Smerdon, a
county lawn bowling association official, a "tosser," which means
someone who finds too much gratification in his own company.
Sanders's antics led the Devon County Bowling Association to ban
him for 10 years, a prohibition that will likely be honored by
all of England's 34 other lawn bowling associations.

Sanders can take solace in the fact that should he attempt a
grand return in 2008, he'll still be at an age when most lawn
bowlers are reaching their prime. But it's doubtful Sanders was
thinking about that after he learned of the ban. "I should have
shot him," he said of Smerdon. "I'd have probably been out of
prison before 10 years was up."

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY FRED HARPER [Drawing of Mike Tyson on psychoanalyst's couch]

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Double life As coach or player, Wilkens has been the point man. [Lenny Wilkens coaching]

B/W PHOTO: AP [See caption above--Lenny Wilkens with ball in basketball game]

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [University of Tennessee football players and fans celebrating]




--That the baseball season were a few weeks longer so the
Indians' Manny Ramirez, who had eight home runs in five games,
could give Sammy and Mac a scare.

--That college football broadcasters bury the phrase true
freshman and, if they must, use redshirt freshman only.

--That NFL defensive backs concentrate less on trying to punch
the ball out of a runner's hands and more on tackling.


Cost, in dollars, of four Prairie View tubas damaged in a
brawl--a literal battle of the bands--at halftime of last
Saturday's 37-7 loss at Lamar.

Celebratory cartwheels performed by Brazil's Ronaldo da Costa
after he crossed the finish line at the Berlin Marathon in
2:06:05 to break the world marathon best by 45 seconds.

Time, .16 of a second faster than Donovan Bailey's world record,
that Ben Johnson, who has announced a comeback at age 36, claims
he could have run in the 100 meters had he not been banned from

Price, in dollars, that Kansas State kicker Martin Gramatica must
pay for the ball he kicked for a 65-yard field goal, the longest
ever without a tee, because NCAA rules forbid him to accept the
ball gratis from the school.

Paid attendance for the six Milwaukee Brewers' home games on
Sept. 1-6 against the Colorado Rockies and the Philadelphia

Paid attendance, a team record, for the three home games played
last weekend against the St. Louis Cardinals.


Sure, the college system of giving each team the ball on the
opponent's 25-yard line and letting them have at it isn't really
football. Boo hoo! The NCAA's way combines heightened drama with
the fairness of extra innings. Last Saturday night Florida and
Tennessee traded the upper hand on nearly every down. When
Neyland Stadium exploded in joy (above), viewers flipped the
channel to watch Virginia Tech and Miami do the same thing.
Great theater. --Ivan Maisel


The idea is overtime, not overkill. In the pros' sudden-death OT,
a team has to earn the win by moving into scoring position. The
system works--there have been only two ties in the 1990s--and the
drama is faithful to the flow of football. Who came up with the
convoluted, clockless college system, Kenneth Starr? A college
team has to be lame not to score, and the points can pile up
until the mascots pass out. Soccer shootouts seem coherent by
comparison. --Michael Silver


Power statistics have always added fans to seats and zeros to
players' paychecks, but baseball's unbuffed could count on the
batting race as a competition in which the little guys could
shine. No more: While the top averages have remained about the
same in recent years, scrappy singles hitters have been all but
shoved out of the hit parade by sluggers. Here's how the home run
and RBI averages of the batting race's top 10 have increased
during the 1990s.


1998* 24.0/92.4 25.1/95.3
1997 24.0/96.2 25.8/96.6
1996 24.8/98.8 23.8/104.4
1995[#] 20.3/86.8 22.3/87.4
1994[#] 17.6/73.5 22.8/81.6
1993 20.1/88.1 16.6/84.6
1992 14.6/74.9 15.6/86.7
1991 16.4/77.5 20.1/85.8
1990 13.6/73.1 16.8/75.6

*Through Sunday [#]Strike-shortened seasons


After Michigan lost its first two games, to Notre Dame and
Syracuse, Lloyd Carr (right) deflected the blame from his
players. "We're a poorly coached football team," said Carr,
"which is a reflection on me." (Duh-uh.) Whether truly contrite
or willing to try any motivational gimmick, plenty of coaches
seem to believe their job means always having to say you're sorry.

New York Knicks' Jeff Van Gundy

The NBA's mea culpa master has shouldered the blame for having
the wrong players in at crunch time, for failing to call a key
timeout during a 1997 playoff game against Miami, for not
getting "on their ass" after his Knicks played lackadaisically
in a regular-season loss and for "doing as bad a job as you can
possibly do" in one stretch of '97, during which he was
"disgraced with myself" for a performance that was "poor, poor,
poor, poor, poor."

Apparently because he doesn't do the Knicks' hiring and firing,
he still has the job.

New Orleans Saints' Mike Ditka

With tears in his eyes following a 20-3 loss to Atlanta last
season, Ditka said that "somewhere along the way I have failed"
and that "maybe the game has passed me by" and "I don't have it

Saints win two of last four, and da big lug's still da coach.

Charlotte Hornets' Allan Bristow

The superintense Bristow knotted his own noose in 1996 when he
took responsibility for a late-season loss that all but
eliminated his team from the playoffs: "You've got to be in it
emotionally from the beginning, and we weren't. That's my fault.
We just seemed like we weren't ready to play, and that's my

Bristow was fired three days later.

San Diego Chargers' Bobby Ross

Even as general manager Bobby Beathard gave him a tepid vote of
confidence following a third straight loss at home in 1995, Ross
said that "it still comes back to me" and that he had been
unable to "rally this football team."

After another loss the following week, Ross said, "By god, I
took the damn fault last week, but I ain't taking it this week."
He resigned a year later.

The Jordan Watch

Michael says he is enjoying spending time with his kids and
rolled his eyes when asked if he would play for Tim Floyd. Stay

This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi has threatened
to torpedo confirmation of all Interior Department nominees if
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't extend the duck season
in his home state by two weeks.

They Said It


International Olympic Committee physician, on what the IOC will
do at the 2000 Olympics if Sydney, which has had three outbreaks
of drinking-water contamination in the past year, has another
during the Games: "We'll all have to drink whiskey."