To regain his license in Nevada, Iron Mike had to give up his
Now what was it Mike Tyson was applying for? An airline pilot's
license? An Amway distributorship? Scuba certification? It must
have been a position extremely critical to public safety or the
Nevada State Athletic Commission wouldn't have set these
degrading events into motion. You don't release a guy's
psychological profile to the Web--he has problems spelling? he
don't read so good? he has "executive control" deficits?--unless
you absolutely have to.
Surely you wouldn't humiliate a man, lay him out for all the
boys at SportsCenter to jeer, just for a boxing license. You
wouldn't demand the most sensitive of medical records, knowing
that they would become public, just to reassure fight fans he
would never bite another ear (but would break a nose). It's one
thing to make a fighter drop trou at a weigh-in, another to
expose every cranial cranny.
Something else must have made necessary the psychological strip
search that culminated in the commission's 4-1 vote on Monday to
let Tyson back in the game. It's not like we'd been tossing and
turning nights, worrying over the "constellation of
neurobehavioral deficits" (the report's term) that plunged Tyson
into his globally televised temper tantrum. Most of us felt the
suspension of his license had been curative enough.
So why was it that the commission packed Tyson off to
Massachusetts General Hospital for five days of testing before
he was allowed to reapply? True, those commissioners can be a
squeamish bunch when it comes to fighters' well-being (though
they weren't squeamish enough to protect Tyson from Don King's
jailhouse contract, which left Tyson with just 50 cents on the
dollar from his $30 million bite-night take-home). But the
commission's mental mining expedition wasn't about protecting
Tyson or his future opponents. It was about protecting the
commission from embarrassment.
We now know that Tyson has difficulties with "impulse control,
inhibition of behavior." (Aren't these the very neurobehavioral
deficits that qualify him to perform in the ring?) What good is
the public dissemination of this news except to insulate boxing
authorities from the outcry that would follow another Tyson
breakdown? It's hard to imagine some other more popular figure
than Tyson being forced to undergo this inquisition with less
public outrage. Of course Tyson cultivates villainy and has
himself to thank for the lack of support. But even men who
appropriate Sonny Liston for a role model deserve their psychic
privacy. Maybe especially those men. --Richard Hoffer
SHADOW ON THE GAME
Groundhog Day arrived for the NBA on Monday, when arbitrator
John Feerick at long last poked his head out of hibernation and
ruled that the 226 players with guaranteed contracts aren't
entitled to be paid during the owners' lockout. This almost
certainly means that the relationship between management and
labor is in for several more weeks of winter, and most of that
time will probably remind fans of the film Groundhog Day--every
day will be identical to the one before, with each side
criticizing the other for not submitting a realistic proposal.
With the first two weeks of the season having already been
canceled, Feerick's ruling seemed to have removed any chance of
resolving the dispute before more games have to be excised. If
Feerick had decided that the players were entitled to their
salaries, commissioner David Stern and the owners would have had
more incentive to soften their demand for a loophole-free salary
cap and bring the lockout to a quick end. Instead, they now have
more reason to be patient as they wait for the players to feel
the economic pinch. As even San Antonio's Avery Johnson admitted
on Monday, "The owners are kind of sitting pretty now. They feel
they have all the power in their hands."
Stern didn't wait long after the ruling to apply pressure
himself, not so subtly encouraging the players to challenge
players' association executive director Billy Hunter. "This
union leadership has stymied us," Stern said.
For its part, the union acted quickly to prevent cracks in its
members' resolve. Two players said they had been called by their
team's player rep within minutes after the ruling to urge them
not to be discouraged. Hunter insisted that Feerick's decision
would not shake the union and said that no league proposal has
been compelling enough to bring to the reps.
The owners' dream scenario is for the players, who are scheduled
to meet in Las Vegas this week, to be so devastated by Feerick's
ruling and the prospect of no income that they cave in and
accept a deal that would put a hard cap in place. But there
seems little chance of that happening for at least several
weeks. "We didn't wait it out this long just to cave in now,"
said one player. "At some point your competitive nature kicks
in, and you decide that you're just not going to let the owners
The owners will win, however. The only question is how decisive
their victory will be and how much of the season--and the fans'
goodwill--it will cost them. Both sides had better bundle up.
The climate is going to get even colder before the thaw.
Seth Burton (1980-1998)
A YOUNG ATHLETE REMEMBERED
On Oct. 14 two vehicles carrying members of the Fairmont (W.Va.)
High boys' cross-country team to a meet collided head-on,
killing one teenager and seriously injuring three others. The
accident made the national wires, another tragedy boiled down to
a dateline and a few grim sentences. But there's always more to
Seventeen-year-old Seth Burton, with his spiked blond hair and
his personal Web site, was different. He was a vegetarian. He
was student body vice president. He'd been to Russia to help
build orphanages. He performed plays for elementary school kids.
He wasn't Fairmont's No. 1 runner, but he had still been chosen
captain of the Polar Bears' undefeated team, the defending state
champs. Skaters liked him. Jocks liked him. Even parents liked
Seth was in a Ford Fiesta with four teammates. They were two
tenths of a mile from the site of the meet at Apple Valley Golf
Course. Some witnesses say the 16-year-old driver of the Fiesta
was going too fast down a hill when he smashed into a Ford
Windstar driven by a teammate's mother. Seth was thrown halfway
out, and the Fiesta rolled on top of him. As emergency workers
cut the roof off the car, people arriving for a race that was
never going to be run encountered a scene that they will never
There's an old toast: May your house be too small to hold all
your friends. Seth couldn't even fit all of his in a church.
Hundreds of people lined up for three hours to view his body
last Saturday at Fourth Street Methodist Church in Fairmont.
Seth even figured out a way to lead after he was gone. On his
Web site, friends posted hundreds of messages of sorrow and
memories. But the best item was already there.
Dear Dad Upstairs,
Please hear our prayers
If you want it to be
You can count on me
NHL Road Trip
THE REELS ON THE BUS
The Toronto Maple Leafs have simple tastes in celluloid heroes.
During a weather-delayed, late-night bus trip from Edmonton to a
practice site in Banff last week, the Leafs staved off sleep by
watching a triple feature of Ace Ventura, Tommy Boy and Dumb and
Dumber. We can only guess that Sense and Sensibility was rented
A SPORTSWRITER'S WRONGS
Players, coaches and fans who act like buffoons are criticized
in this space from time to time, and so should sportswriters.
Exhibit A: Jason Whitlock, a sports columnist for The Kansas
City Star. Whitlock was in the press box at Foxboro Stadium for
the Kansas City Chiefs-New England Patriots game on Oct. 11. As
the Pats built an early lead en route to a 40-10 victory,
several fans began good-naturedly taunting the writers from
Kansas City. That happens from time to time in Foxboro, where
the fans in section 308 sit adjacent to the press box.
Most writers ignore the fans, but not Whitlock, who has
developed a reputation for outrageousness in his column and on
his local radio and television talk shows. He held up two
handwritten signs to bait the fans, who were shivering in a
misty rain. The first read IT'S WARM IN HERE--GOOD-LOOKING
WOMEN, TOO, and the second said BLEDSOE GAY? PATS SUCK. After a
few minutes, during which Whitlock's taunting messages caused
what one bystander called "quite a ruckus" in the stands,
security personnel confiscated the signs.
The NFL and the Pro Football Writers Association heard about the
incident, but no action had been taken as of Monday. Whitlock's
column ran in the Oct. 12 editions of the Star but had not
appeared since. Efforts to reach Whitlock were unsuccessful.
Star sports editor Rick Vacek said the paper did not "condone
this type of behavior" and that there would be consequences.
For Whitlock we have this message: If you don't want to act like
a professional journalist, give up the seat in the press box and
buy a ticket.
To those of you who think that the NBA isn't in business at the
moment, hoof it over to the glittering NBA Store at 52nd Street
and Fifth Avenue in New York City. You'll see a league that is
definitely in business. Question: How much would you pay for a
spangly, rhinestone-studded purse shaped like a basketball?
(Better question: Why would you pay for a spangly,
rhinestone-studded purse shaped like a basketball?) Answer: At
the NBA Store you would pay $1,800 for the purse, a designer
model by Kathrine Baumann of Beverly Hills. The price, unlike an
NBA contract, is nonnegotiable.
We're no experts on purses, but these don't look like the kind
of accoutrement the fashionable women of the WNBA would wear.
Neither have we detected much interest on the street for New
York Knicks earrings ($650) and Orlando Magic key chains ($80).
The cuff links have us a little confused, too. We haven't heard
too many cuff link discussions over the last, oh, 40 years, so
we're not sure who's going to spring for the $1,200 Los Angeles
You can entice a zealous fan to buy almost anything, but we're
not sure who's clamoring for apparel bearing league logos. Yet
over at the NBAporium there is plenty of league-specific
apparel. There's a $475 leather jacket with a Western Conference
patch on the right sleeve and an Eastern Conference patch on the
left. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
The store carries more modestly priced items, such as $12 water
bottles and Barbie dolls for $25. These being progressive times,
Barbie is in the lineup, available as a Knick, Laker or Chicago
Bull, and not on the dance team. Teresa and Kira, two so-called
Friends of Barbie, are on the shelf in WNBA jerseys, though they
look like waiver-wire material. Teresa wears number 60, while
Kira is number 57. Ken didn't make the cut--in either league.
Our favorite item is the Waterford vase inscribed with an image
of Larry Bird dunking and a quote about Bird from Magic Johnson
that reads, "That's Larry Bird in a nutshell. One of the
smartest players ever to play the game. Just the Bird Man,
that's all." Huh? The vase costs $8,000, which strikes us as no
small sum, even for, say, Bird or Magic. "Eight grand used to be
the payroll for an entire NBA team," said writer David
Halberstam as he strolled wide-eyed through the store recently.
If we were going to make the Larry Bird Exception and pay eight
grand for a Bird vase, we'd rather have him shooting his classic
three-pointer or releasing one of his funky little post-up
shots. Perhaps those moves don't look as good in crystal as a
dunk, but--we've gotta tell you--the dunk doesn't look that good
6 A.M.! KEEP THAT HEAD DOWN!
The holiday issue of the Competitive Edge golf catalog offers a
$29.95 travel alarm clock whose lighted display panel greets the
riser with a daily golf tip. It's only a matter of time, we
figure, before this device's owner--demonstrating an impeccable
swing plane, of course--activates the snooze alarm with a
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY FRED HARPER [Drawing of Mike Tyson holding his detached head in his hands]
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Grounded Sights like Pippen skying are, for now, the stuff of dreams. [Scottie Pippen in game against Utah Jazz]
COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER (DAVIS) [Terrell Davis in game]
COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER [John Randle in game]
THREE COLOR PHOTOS: MANNY MILLAN (NBA STORE) Inside stuff The thousands you'll need for the 14-karat gold Lakers cuff links and the Bird Waterford vase won't, in all likelihood, fit in the pebbled purse. [Cuff links; crystal vase with engraving of Larry Bird; rhinestone-studded purse bearing NBA logo in shape of basketball]
COLOR PHOTO: DARRELL MIHO [Michael Jordan]
--That all those celebs at the World Series don't forsake
baseball next spring (if the lockout's over) for NBA courtside
--That supervet Steve Young's beating him not obscure Peyton
--That we get zoologically correct and call the Dolphins the
Mammals, rather than the Fish.
Deferred salary, in dollars, the Pittsburgh Penguins (who have
filed for bankruptcy) owe retired center Mario Lemieux.
Combined salary, in dollars, of the 24 players currently on the
Value, in dollars, of free air time over the last 25 years
donated by the NFL for United Way spots.
Retail value, in dollars, of Adidas gear rejected by the Chapel
Hill-Carrboro (N.C.) school board, which was concerned about
commercialism in high school sports.
Estimated value, in dollars, of the 10 equine-themed paintings
hanging in Santa Anita's turf club to be auctioned off on Dec. 1.
Dollars spent by the Georgia athletic department to incorporate
holograms on 1998 football tickets to combat counterfeits.
Miles, at minimum, from its stadium that Croatia's Hajduk Split
soccer team must play its next "home" match, as a result of a
European Soccer Union ruling after a riot by Split fans at a
Which NFL Undefeated Is the Better Team?
Denver is better, as its 15.7 point average victory margin
shows, because coach Mike Shanahan told the Super Bowl champs
they would have to work harder this year to repeat. So 36
players--up from eight in 1997--made all 40 spring workouts.
Plus, Shanahan doesn't expect backups to play like backups. So
Bubby Brister turns into John Elway for three games. Almost
forgot: Terrell Davis (above) is on pace to have the best
rushing season of all time. --Peter King
It's been a long time since Minnesota's defensive front seven
could line up and stop people dead. Maybe John Randle (above) &
Co. aren't the Purple People Eaters, but they're among the
league's best. True, the Vikes don't have anyone to match T.D.
But when you consider the speed and size Randy Moss adds to a
receiving corps that already included the sticky fingers of Cris
Carter and Jake Reed, you realize that ol' Red McCombs bought in
at just the right time. --J.M.
The Jaguars and Patriots are among the AFC's early leaders in
the Super Bowl hunt, thanks in large part to the precocious play
of their rookie running backs. Jacksonville's Fred Taylor (379
yards) and New England's Robert Edwards (483) each leads his
team in rushing. But if recent history is a guide, they'll also
lead their squads to early playoff exits. In this decade 29
teams have had a rookie as their leading ground gainer. Only the
five below made the playoffs, and none reached the Super Bowl.
Team Rookie Rusher Postseason Results
'97 Buccaneers Warrick Dunn Lost NFC Divisional
'93 Raiders Greg Robinson Lost AFC Divisional
'92 Saints Vaughn Dunbar Lost NFC Wild Card
'91 Saints Fred McAfee Lost NFC Wild Card
'90 49ers Dexter Carter Lost NFC Championship
The Jordan Watch
Nets $50,000 in damages from filmmakers who had sued him for
breach of contract; tells Maxim magazine he'll never watch the
Bulls play until his sons are on the team--and "they're not
gonna play for the Bulls until Jerry Krause is gone." Stay
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
A Michigan Beanie Baby distributor wants to buy the McGwire 70th
home run ball so he can extract one million fibers from it,
insert them into one million McGwire dolls, put the ball back
together with new thread and sell it.
They Said It
South Carolina football coach, after his wife, Daryle, broke her
left ankle and sprained her right ankle while leaving a game:
"She's probably out for the season."