Marty McSorley's brutal blow was business as usual for hockey
The chilling sight of Bruins defenseman Marty McSorley's raising
his stick and bludgeoning Canucks forward Donald Brashear on the
right temple on Feb. 21 has sent the hockey community into a
state of denial. After suspending McSorley for the final 23
games of this season--the longest suspension in league
history--NHL head disciplinarian Colin Campbell called
McSorley's head-hunting "an isolated incident" and added that
"these kind of acts are not representative of our sport."
Can we please be honest? Though extreme, McSorley's hit was a
predictable outgrowth of the behavior that hockey is built upon.
McSorley has played 17 seasons and is widely respected around the
league--mainly because of his ability to pummel opponents. He has
now been suspended seven times for gratuitous violence.
You might have seen this one coming. McSorley lost a fight to
Brashear early in the game, and as Vancouver's 5-2 victory wound
down, Brashear taunted Boston players. McSorley wanted at him. "I
was just trying to get him to fight," McSorley said, explaining
the attack. In hockey, vigilante justice is the law of the land.
Defenders of the NHL act as if they haven't noticed the bodies
that have littered the ice in recent years. How about the Sharks'
Gary Suter's stick-smacking the Mighty Ducks' Paul Kariya in the
head two seasons ago? Last season the Kings' Matt Johnson sucker
punched the Rangers' Jeff Beukeboom to the back of the skull.
Beukeboom suffered a concussion so severe that he retired, and 18
months later he's too unsteady to skate with his two sons.
Would you want your kids playing this sport? In a bantam league
match in Ontario last week, Marty Ryersee, 16, delivered a stick
to the head of Jared Flick, 15, sending Flick to the hospital
with a concussion. Junior leagues in Canada and minor leagues in
the U.S. are forums for bloodletting, and unharnessed violence is
so integral to the NHL brand that the league promotes such mayhem
in advertisements for itself. Fans and players love the scenes
from Slapshot that sometimes air in NHL arenas. Slapshot isn't
"What scares me as a coach," says Dallas's Ken Hitchcock, "is
wondering whether I have a player on my team who is capable of
something like that."
You do, Ken. Of course you do. This is hockey. This is the NHL.
Pros or Pawns?
The NCAA is out of line in punishing players who got a helping
hand in high school
Jean Valjean at least stole a loaf of bread. Four college
basketball players recently suspended or targeted by the NCAA
seem to be guilty of little more than being miserables. The NCAA
holds that Michigan's Jamal Crawford, Cincinnati's DerMarr
Johnson and Oklahoma State's Andre Williams, all freshmen,
compromised their amateur status in high school, the latter two
because others helped pay their private-school tuition. St.
John's sophomore Erick Barkley is under investigation for
receiving similar tuition assistance.
It's a silly point to press. It would be one thing if Ernie
Lorch--the Manhattan lawyer who helped arrange for New York's
Riverside Church to pay between $2,500 and $4,000 of Barkley's
$23,500 tuition at Maine Central Institute (MCI)--funneled
players exclusively to St. John's, or if Tom Grant, the Kansas
City businessman who paid Williams's bill at MCI, was an
Oklahoma State booster. Neither is the case. For four decades
Lorch and Riverside, where he's a volunteer basketball coach,
have helped countless kids go to many colleges. Grant is a
Kansas booster with no incentive to do a Big 12 rival any favor,
and he has helped a number of kids, not just athletes, with
their private-school tuition. While the Johnson case does have
an odor to it--an AAU coach with a drug conviction paid $7,500
of his tuition at MCI--no evidence ties any of the money to some
Crawford's case is the most complex but also the most poignant.
In 1995, while living with his father in South Central L.A., he
saw his best friend shot and killed by a gang member at a bus
stop. Crawford, then 15, fled to Seattle, where his mother lived.
When a friend introduced her to telecommunications executive
Barry Henthorn, she asked for his help, and Henthorn obliged,
providing Crawford with cash, clothing, meals, transportation and
tutorial help while he attended Rainier Beach High, a public
school. Without knowing Henthorn's motives, the NCAA has debased
what he helped accomplish: delivering a young man from the urban
killing fields so he could safely finish high school and make his
way to college.
On Feb. 4 Crawford received a six-game suspension for benefiting
materially from his relationship with Henthorn and was told to
pay $11,300 to charity. (How he's supposed to come up with the
cash is anyone's guess.) The NCAA then banned him for another
eight games for having had the gall to attempt to enter the 1999
Crawford likely won't play for Michigan again this season. Yet
the NCAA will continue to bless its schools' selling the jerseys
of star players, and its conferences' tattooing the court with
corporate logos, while the NCAA's gumshoes do little to ferret
out the dirty recruiting and the standardized-test fraud that
plague the game.
Just curious: If a ballplayer who accepts money for his
secondary-school education is a professional, what do you call a
kid on an athletic scholarship at an NCAA school? --Alexander
HIGH SCHOOL SCANDAL
The Homestead Globetrotters
In a preseason basketball game on Nov. 23, The Berkshire School
of Homestead, Fla., drubbed Miami Southridge by 35 points. As if
the victory of a Class 1A private boarding school with fewer than
130 high school students over a 6A public school with an
enrollment of 3,900 wasn't remarkable enough, Berkshire was
starting its first year with a full varsity basketball program.
How did little Berkshire amass a 34-2 record this season? It
doesn't hurt that five of its players have committed to Division
I colleges, with more signings imminent. "No one in the history
of Florida has had six to eight Division I prospects at a 1A
school," says Bob Hughes, president of the Florida High School
Activities Association (FHSAA). What's more, all 14 members of
The Berkshire team are international transfer students. They came
to Homestead from Bulgaria, Cameroon, Costa Rica, England, Panama
and Yugoslavia, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
The specter of athletic recruiting prompted a formal complaint
filed on Jan. 31 by another Class 1A school. The FHSAA began an
investigation of Berkshire and four other South Florida private
schools--Champagnat Catholic, Gettysburg, Miami Christian and
Northwest Christian--suspected of basketball recruiting or
eligibility violations. The association declared three Miami
Christian players, all Dominican transfer students who had played
for elite teams in their home country, ineligible and barred
Berkshire's boys' and girls' teams from the playoffs. On Feb. 23
the FHSAA removed Northwest Christian's boys' team from the
playoffs after learning that the Eagles had used an ineligible
player from New Hampshire. No action has been taken against
Champagnat Catholic or Gettysburg, both of which have benefited
from transfer students.
Berkshire's case is the most egregious. Eight of the school's 14
boy players and four of the girls--and no other students--were
referred by Julie Lyon, who claimed to represent a Plymouth,
Minn., company called International Student Exchange. All 14 boys
plus two jayvee transfers live in a dorm that houses no other
students. "It's obvious to us that she was acting as an athletic
recruiter," Hughes says. "It's too coincidental that all these
players would end up at one school."
Berkshire contends that the FHSAA's case is based on hearsay,
appearance and bias against private schools and foreign students.
"There's no tangible proof that these kids were recruited for
athletics," says Braves coach Rolando de la Barrera. "We just
managed to have a real strong collection of kids come in at one
time. What raises a big stink about this is that these kids are
not born in the U.S."
Tank out of Commission
Onetime uberagent William (Tank) Black, whose client list has
included such athletes as Jaguars running back Fred Taylor,
Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse and Raptors superstar Vince
Carter, is in treacherous waters again, but this time he may not
be able to keep himself or his 12-year-old sports management
agency afloat. Last October, Black and a colleague were accused
by University of Florida police of giving money and cars to
Gators athletes they hoped to represent. Last week the Securities
and Exchange Commission alleged that Black and business partner
James A. Franklin Jr. pilfered millions of dollars from the
athletes who became their clients.
On top of the SEC's civil suit, Black and colleague Lisa Adams
were arraigned in federal court in Gainesville on Monday on
counts including mail and wire fraud and money laundering. Three
other Black associates were expected to be arraigned later this
In the complaint filed last Thursday in federal court in Tampa,
the SEC charged that through a complex web of investment schemes
Black had defrauded some two dozen of his clients of at least $5
million since 1996. The SEC was granted a temporary restraining
order against Black, 42, Franklin, 32, and their two Columbia,
S.C., firms, Professional Management Inc. (PMI) and Professional
Management Consulting Inc. While a cheery receptionist was still
answering the telephone at PMI last Friday, as a result of the
restraining order the company's assets were frozen and its
employees prohibited from exercising control over clients'
accounts. Black and Franklin were ordered to bring back to the
U.S. money deposited in offshore accounts. "The allegations are
false and do not reflect actual events," Black said in a brief
statement last Friday. "We will respond vigorously with the facts
at the appropriate time."
According to the SEC, Black exploited his clients' "lack of
investment experience and financial sophistication" in a number
of fraudulent moneymaking schemes. The most far-reaching involved
persuading at least 13 athletes--including Rae Carruth, the former
Panthers receiver recently charged with murder--to invest more
than $8 million in high-yield promissory notes that purportedly
funded an Atlanta auto title loan company called Cash 4 Titles.
In reality, the SEC says, the notes were part of a Cayman
Islands-based Ponzi scheme that Black and Franklin used to divert
the interest paid on these notes into their own hands.
During last fall's investigation Taylor sat by his embattled
agent's side in a press conference. By January, however, Taylor
had had enough. He publicly accused Black of cheating him out of
several million dollars, including his entire $5 million rookie
signing bonus. "If I had a bad heart, any kind of mean streak in
me," Taylor told The Miami Herald, "that's the kind of thing you
kill people for."
Still, at least one of Black's clients was standing by his man
last weekend. "We're sticking by Tank Black," Michelle
Carter-Robinson, full-time business manager for son Vince, said
on Friday. "I checked out [Vince's] financial statements today.
Everything's in place." The NBA's brightest young star agrees.
"He didn't do anything to me," says Carter, who has reportedly
been inundated with endorsement requests since All-Star Weekend.
"I'm not worried about it. I'm sticking behind him, plain and
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY RANDY DAHLK
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BAZEMORE/AP Dunked NCAA hounding cut short Crawford's freshman season.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY MARK ZINGARELLI
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO
COLOR PHOTO: SHEEDY & LONG
What Would Kurt Warner Do?
Labor strife threatens to put a lid on Arena football
Nothing says American major league sports quite like labor
strife, and so it was that the Arena Football League officially
went big-time last week with the announcement that owners had
voted to call off the 2000 season, which was to begin on April
17. They did so in response to a class-action antitrust lawsuit
filed by the AFL Players Association on Feb. 4 in federal court
in Newark, N.J., accusing the owners of conspiring to limit
players' salaries and ability to move among teams.
The AFLPA filed a motion on Monday seeking a preliminary
injunction against the cancellation. A federal judge will rule on
that on March 14; barring a settlement, his decision could be the
14-year-old league's last chance at a season and, more important,
That the owners would take such drastic measures so soon after
the AFL basked in the publicity of alum Kurt Warner's magical
season with the Rams speaks volumes about the acrimony between
the two sides. The hostility reached its apex in mid-January,
when commissioner C. David Baker told players the 2000 schedule
would be canceled unless they either formed a union (which the
AFLPA isn't) or promised not to sue. By organizing, the players
would be bound to collective bargaining with the league; they
believe they can gain more in the courts. "The AFLPA wants
players to have the freedom to negotiate for themselves, the
freedom to switch teams, the freedom to make a salary that's not
fixed," says Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer representing the AFLPA.
"It's obvious that the owners are lashing out, trying to force
the players to cave in by using the cancellation like a hammer."
An aborted season would be a huge blow to an organization that
had gained credibility thanks to Warner's ascension and the NFL's
recent purchasing of a minority interest. Moreover, the 18-team
AFL has expanded into Chicago and Los Angeles, signed three-year
television contracts with three networks (ABC, ESPN and TNN)
valued at a total of $25 million and made a deal with SFX Sports
Group to sell national sponsorships.
In the AFL's infancy, cost control was integral to its survival
strategy--players even paid their own moving expenses when
traded--but now, with teams worth up to $7 million, the AFLPA says
player salaries averaging $25,000 are unacceptable. The owners
aren't backing down. Said AFL spokesman David Cooper last week,
"We've already started the very involved process of dismantling a
Eleven months after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Kerry Wood,
the National League Rookie of the Year in 1998, is again hitting
98 mph with his heater and may start testing his reconstructed
right elbow with breaking balls as early as next week. If all
goes well, Chicago's savior--the '99 Cubs had the highest ERA
(5.27) in club history--could make his first start on April 9
against Ken Griffey Jr. and the Reds in Cincinnati. No pressure,
Extra phone lines the Reds have installed to handle ticket
requests since acquiring Ken Griffey Jr.
Amount the YankeeNets plan to raise as the first pro sports
outfit to sell high-yield junk bonds.
Average increase in seat prices for the Super Bowl-champion Rams
Relief funds raised by Venezuelan-born Indians shortstop Omar
Vizquel for flood victims in his country.
Jump in the high bid at an auction for a dinner with Pavel Bure
after Anna Kournikova said she'd go too.
Darren Silver, 28, by '94 Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding,
29. Harding was charged with fourth-degree assault after
allegedly winging a hubcap into Silver's face and, in his words,
"hooking me like Mike Tyson." The two tussled upon returning to
Harding's Camas, Wash., house from an evening of video poker.
Ads for the Web site totalsports.net that depict Muslims praying
to a basketball, after protests by the Council on
American-Islamic Relations. The spots were part of the company's
Total Devotion campaign. CEO Frank Daniels apologized.
Eddie Robinson III, grandson of the longtime Grambling State
football coach, to the position of assistant to the traveling
secretary of the Yankees. He assumes the desk of George
Constanza, who held the previously fictitious job on Seinfeld.
Justin Huish, 25, two-time Olympic gold medalist in
archery--whose feats in Atlanta in '96 inspired actress Geena
Davis to take up the sport--and roommate Brian Mastrangelo, 24,
for possession of marijuana with intent to sell. Simi Valley,
Calif., cops seized 4.5 ounces of pot and 4.2 grams of hashish
oil from the pair's house. In '93 Huish pleaded no contest to
vandalism for painting KKK on the property of an
African-American couple in Simi Valley.
WORD FOR WORD
On December 13, 1972, Wilt Chamberlain's Lakers were scheduled to
fly from Chicago to Philadelphia on TWA. After the flight was
delayed for an hour and 45 minutes, then canceled, the team was
booked for a later departure, at which point Chamberlain lost his
cool. The following is from the FBI's report on the incident as
it appears on thesmokinggun.com.
As TWA Flight Two Three Eight passengers, including Chamberlain
and Lakers...were given a routine security screening by U.S.
Customs...security officers...three of these security officers
heard Chamberlain remark, "I may take over the plane. I am just
so mad I may shoot somebody." Customs security officers, aware
of fact Chamberlain prominent basketball star and was irritated
at delay in departure, verified he had no weapon and was no
potential hijacker, and called supervisor for instructions.
Chamberlain and other Lakers proceeded on board flight....
TWA passenger service rep on scene advised, and with security
officers, requested Chamberlain and [Lakers coach Bill Sharman]
to step off plane into jetway in order that Chamberlain might
merely be cautioned about remark. TWA rep felt Chamberlain should
be apprised of seriousness of such remarks since there might be
other passengers hearing it who were not aware of fact he was
important basketball star, and that [these] passengers might be
When Chamberlain confronted in jetway between terminal and
aircraft, he responded, "Bullshit. I never said that. It is your
word against mine. I said I might shoot somebody," because of
delay. "I am tired of this bullshit. I got this kind of bullshit
all through my life. If you are going to do something, do it now,
Mr. Federal Officer" to customs security....
Chamberlain returned to aircraft, retrieved luggage, and then
departed. TWA attempted to explain were not challenging his
boarding aircraft and anxious to have Chamberlain fly TWA.
Chamberlain responded, "I am not going to fly your (obscene)
airline. I have had enough bullshit," and left area. Chamberlain
subsequently flew to Philadelphia on December thirteen last via
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The New Zealand Game Industry Board plans to promote deer
velvet--the fuzzy stuff on antlers--as a performance enhancer
after clinical trials showed that it may boost strength and
endurance when consumed.
Minor leagues are forums for bloodletting, and violence is
integral to the NHL brand.
They Said It
Braves first baseman, after breaking a bone in his right foot:
"It could be worse. It could be Chipper's foot."