MELT DOWN AND PAY UP
Athletes who lose control are getting off too cheaply
Remember when Cal Ripken Jr. punched an ump's lights out? Or
when Magic Johnson threw a hissy fit, stamped his feet and
refused to play center in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals? These
are golden memories--Arthur Ashe kicking the Duchess of Kent,
Jack Nicklaus mooning Arnie's Army, Mark Spitz taking an
Olympic-sized leak in the pool, Lou Gehrig saying, "Today I
consider myself the biggest victim on the face of the earth."
If you don't recall those tantrums and 'tude coppings, it's
because Ashe and Gehrig and the rest weren't the type to suffer
meltdowns. They were grown-ups, or at least they acted like it
in public. Lately, though, athletes have been going Chernobyl
with scary regularity.
The Knicks' Larry Johnson freaked when a league p.r. woman asked
him to talk to reporters at the Finals, as NBA contracts oblige
players to do. After skipping 20 minutes of the half-hour
session, Johnson went off on NBA officials who "don't like me.
Like I give a s---.... They don't pay my f---ing rent." The
league fined him $25,000, and Johnson, who has an $84 million
contract, portrayed himself and several other Knicks as
While losing the French Open final Martina Hingis smashed her
racket in anger, briefly refused to play and then tried to show
up Steffi Graf by serving underhand. When WTA official Raquel
Martin reached for her after the match, Hingis slapped Martin's
arm. "It's probably too hard to understand me," said Hingis, who
then crossed the English Channel and won all of two games in a
first-round loss to 129th-ranked Jelena Dokic.
John Daly smacked a still-moving ball at the U.S. Open and
blamed the U.S. Golf Association for making the course too hard.
Dodgers pitcher Carlos Perez grabbed a bat and went berserk,
clubbing two Gatorade coolers that had somehow caused him to
walk three Pirates in a row. Chilean tennis star Marcelo Rios
broke down in tears and blamed a magazine for ruining his life
after his fiancee saw its photos of him dancing with another
woman at that most secret of spots--a Paris disco.
What to do? Fines don't work because they haven't kept pace with
the money in sports. A $25,000 fine for a $10-million-a-year man
like Johnson is the same as a $125 fine for a guy making
$50,000. Solution: bigger fines. Let's hit Johnson with a fine
that would flip his grandmama's wig--$250,000.
Hingis? She's 18, so she gets off with a $100,000 fine. Daly? A
quarter million, with $50,000 off for apologizing. Perez can
send $100,000 to the same address: the Sports Trauma Onus Pool,
a new fund to benefit causes selected by fans. Once we get STOP
started, we can sit back and enjoy watching jocks do their
IMPORTING X SPORTS
How can you get your offbeat sport into the X Games? By
impressing Ron Semiao, that's how. In his role as the Juan
Antonio Samaranch of extreme sports, ESPN vice president Semiao
gets lobbied by extremists with some pretty eccentric ideas.
Freestyle jump rope? He's heard all about it. Boomerang throwers
and greased-pole climbers have also pushed Semiao to include
them in the Games, which have added street luge and aggressive
in-line skating to the pantheon of American sports. "We could
stage the Wile E. Coyote Games with some of the suggestions I've
heard," Semiao says.
The new sport at this year's games, which opened on Sunday in
San Francisco, is freestyle motocross--an example of the current
X trend toward motorized events. There's a good chance next
year's X Games will feature medal competition in jet-skiing.
"They're doing some cool stuff with those things on surf," says
the 43-year-old Semiao, who sometimes sounds like an Xer
himself. "They're getting great air and doing really good tricks."
Even after Semiao adds a sport, athletes can shoot it down.
"They tell us if something is cool or not," he says. "We did
bungee jumping for two years. We had guys jumping off the bungee
platform in kayaks and Elvis costumes. The other athletes
finally said, 'C'mon, man.'" Semiao cut the bungee cord after
the '96 Games but risked further ridicule last year when he
green-lighted doubles skateboarding.
Will extreme go mainstream? Semiao admits he is slower on the
trigger these days after learning a lesson in 1995. That was the
year Semiao, who'd seen "a really cool picture in Details" of a
man soaring through the air behind a kite, added kite-skiing to
the inaugural X Games. But the guy in the photo turned out to be
the only person on earth who was any good at it. Of his nine
opponents at the games, one kite skier got terrible air--he
never left the water--and another took off all right but
couldn't figure out how to turn his kite. He disappeared down
the Rhode Island coast and had to return to the Games in a cab.
The Reggie Lewis Trial
Donna Harris Lewis may have helped ruin her husband's reputation
while trying to save it. Former Celtics captain Reggie Lewis is
buried in a Boston cemetery, but his plot has no headstone
because, says Harris Lewis, "there hasn't been complete
closure.... I know he's not at peace right now."
Lewis was a widely admired NBA star when he collapsed during a
playoff game against the Hornets in 1993. A group of 12 doctors
led by Celtics team physician Arnold Scheller advised him not to
play basketball again, but Lewis sought a second opinion from
Gilbert Mudge, a prominent cardiologist at Boston's Brigham and
Women's Hospital. Mudge diagnosed a relatively mild condition
that could cause fainting spells and said the 27-year-old
All-Star could probably rejoin the Celtics in time for the
1993-94 season. Less than three months later Lewis died while
casually shooting baskets at Brandeis.
In 1995 a controversial Wall Street Journal article suggested
that cocaine use might have damaged Lewis's heart and
contributed to his death. According to the story Mudge had told
Lewis that cocaine was the only possible reason for his heart
trouble. The player's angry widow filed a malpractice suit
against Mudge and three other cardiologists who had consulted
with him on Lewis's diagnosis. She settled with one of the
doctors before the trial; the jury cleared the other two.
Harris Lewis, who has reportedly collected more than $11 million
from her husband's contract with the Celtics, says she sued not
for the money but to preserve his memory. If that's true, her
strategy backfired. Mudge told the court that Reggie admitted to
him that he'd used cocaine. Former Northeastern athletic
director Irwin Cohen stated that he had been told by the
school's former health director, Job Fuchs, that Lewis had
tested positive for cocaine while playing there. Wayne Brown, a
college acquaintance of Lewis's, told the court that he had used
coke with Lewis about six times and provided it to him a dozen
"Everybody is a loser," Judge Thayer Fremont-Smith said after
declaring a mistrial in the Mudge case last Thursday with the
jury deadlocked. "We've all lost Mr. Lewis. Everybody's
reputation has been attacked.... I think it's a sad situation."
FEELING HIS OATS
Less than a month after Charismatic broke down in the Belmont
Stakes, the muscular colt poked his head out of his stall in
Barn 10 at Belmont Park and playfully nipped at trainer D. Wayne
Lukas's fingers. "He's starting to get happy," said Lukas.
"We'll have to keep him from playing too much."
For the next month or so, playing could be hazardous to the
health of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner. The broken
left leg he suffered in the Belmont will keep him confined to
his stall for as long as 60 days, and while June 6 surgery to
insert four screws into his fractured cannon bone was a success,
the horse will have to stay put until Lukas and veterinarians
agree that he's ready to start a walking program. "He's doing
absolutely super," says Lukas. "He's an excellent patient."
A white support bandage on Charismatic's foreleg is the only
evidence of his injury. The stitches from the operation were
removed on June 18, and he's off the anti-inflammatory
medication phenylbutazone. Lukas's chief concern is how a horse
as tightly wound as Charismatic--a colt who thrived on frequent
strenuous workouts--will handle spending his days in a
10-by-10-foot stall. "At least he's never alone," Lukas says,
alluding to the round-the-clock watch his staff keeps over Barn
Charismatic will be put up for sale to a breeding farm this
summer, but he'll stay at Belmont until autumn. Then he'll head
to the breeding shed, where he will spend his days trying to
transmit some of the genes he inherited from his great-grandpa
Secretariat to horses who might make a run for the Triple Crown
Nike's Three-Tier NBA
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
After the Lakers traded him to the Hornets last March, Eddie
Jones lifted his average from 13.6 to 17, raised his shooting
percentage from 42.3 to 44.6 and went from 23rd in the league in
steals to second. So then why did Nike dock him $300,000 on his
endorsement deal? Because Jones had also gone from the top of
the company's marketing ladder to the bottom.
As a Laker, Jones played for what Nike calls a Group A team, one
of the marquee franchises at the top of a three-tiered system
the company uses to assess the marketing value of NBA players.
(The Bulls, Celtics, Heat and Knicks are the others.) His deal
with Nike, which became public as part of a lawsuit he filed
against his former agent, paid him $950,000 a year as long as he
remained with a Group A team, but that sum automatically dropped
to $650,000 when he was dealt to small-market Charlotte, one of
the 19 league cities that lacks even the modest Group B status
of Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia and Seattle. Still,
Jones can probably get by on what his shoe deal and roughly $2.2
million Hornets contract will pay him next season, and he's in
good company: Tim Duncan and David Robinson play for a Group C
TOTE THAT MARGE, LIFT THAT GAIL
The rules for Saturday's fourth annual World Wife-Carrying
Championships in Sonkajarvi, Finland, are simplicity itself.
Couples need not be married, the carry-ee must be at least 18,
and dropping one's "wife" means a 15-second penalty. (Donald
Trump wishes he could get off that easily.) The winners receive
about $200 and the woman's weight in beer.
The rumor around Sonkajarvi's 253.5-meter obstacle course is
that the course record of 65 seconds might fall this year. Last
year an Estonian couple bagged the traditional piggyback style
and introduced wife-carrying's version of the Fosbury Flop. Imre
Ambos ran the course with Annele Ojaste's legs slung over his
shoulders, her back against his back, her head bumping along
near his tailbone. But after toting Ojaste to victory in 69
seconds, Ambos sounded downcast. "We wanted the world record,"
he said. "We ran the race in 58 seconds in Estonia, so this was
He and Ojaste are favored to repeat this weekend, but first
they'll have to get by record-holders Tiina and Jouni Jussila, a
Finnish entry. The Jussilas weren't able to run for the finish
line in '98 because they didn't want to race as a
threesome--Tiina was pregnant.
THREE COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: ILLUSTRATIONS BY FRED HARPER
COLOR PHOTO: ERIC LARS BAKKE Snow biz New events like Snowboarding Big Air won't fly if extreme athletes don't like them.
COLOR PHOTO: JACK SMITH/AP (BULLS)
COLOR PHOTO: RON FREHM/AP (YANKEES)
COLOR PHOTO: GARY CASKEY/REUTERS (BRONCOS)
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL MULVEY (STARS)
COLOR PHOTO: KEVIN GEIL/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS NEWS
--That Sean Casey and Tony Fernandez keep their averages around
.400 long enough to create some suspense.
--That U.S. sports fans stay tuned to soccer after the Women's
--That pro tennis players had to check their parents at the door.
Intentional walks issued to Barry Bonds through Sunday, tying
him with Hank Aaron for the alltime record.
Age of Columbus, Ohio's Joe Dean, who on June 15 became the
oldest person ever to bowl a 300 game.
Emmys won by NFL Films.
Homers in American League history through Sunday.
Tons of sand used to build a beach outside Nashville Arena for
the Predators' NHL draft party.
Average attendance at Expos home games, the lowest in the majors
by more than 5,000.
Luxury boxes in Dallas's Reunion Arena, home of the NBA
Mavericks and the NHL Stars.
Luxury boxes in Dallas's American Airlines Center, which opens
Goals by the U.S. Women's World Cup soccer team against Nigeria.
Goal by the U.S. men's soccer team in the 1998 World Cup
The Spurs went home in triumph last weekend, drawing an
estimated 230,000 to Sunday's parade of motorized barges on the
San Antonio River. That's a quarter of the city's population and
double the turnout at the Stanley Cup champion Stars' parade in
Dallas last week, but it wasn't close to a record. Here's how
the Spurs' fiesta stacks up in recent party history.
300,000 in Chicago's Grant Park
Pct. of Pop.
Jackson, Jordan, Pippen and Rodman together for the last time
Dynasty dies amid boos for owner Jerry Reinsdorf and G.M. Jerry
"If I had to marry anybody, it'd be the 12 guys here." --Rodman
Jackson goes on to build triangle offense around Shaq, Kobe,
3.5 million in New York's Canyon of Heroes
[Pct. of Pop.]
50 tons of confetti and Chinese-food menus falling from
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani proclaims that all New Yorkers should
respect Darryl Strawberry
"Te amo Nueva York." --El Duque
No other city could match N.Y. crowd even with 100% turnout
200,000 in downtown Denver
[Pct. of Pop.]
Topless women and orange-and-blue-painted men
Broncs sluggish after pre-parade meal: 800 pounds of food, 20
cases of champagne
"Threepeat sounds pretty good!" --John Elway
No party in '00 unless Bubby Brister learns to channel Elway
115,000 in downtown Dallas
[Pct. of Pop.]
Owner Tom Hicks's cowboy boots embossed with Stanley Cups
Bad parade town--revered Cowboys drew only 125.000 after '96
"Go for two? Aw hell, let's go for three!" --Ken Hitchcock
Parade film shows Brett Hull illegally parked on Crease St.
230,000 on San Antonio's River Walk
[Pct. of Pop.]
David Robinson singing and dancing to James Brown's I Feel Good
Fan bursting Alien-style from Robinson's chest (above)
"All over the world they have San Antonio on their lips."
Title for small-market Spurs proves NBA isn't as screwed up as MLB
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee has unveiled the official
manhole cover of the 2002 Olympics.
They Said It
Jazz president, on being 67: "I'm at the stage where you know
when you buy a pair of socks that they'll last the rest of your