Miked coaches won't stop the NBA's popularity plunge
You think the NBA's gone too far, wiring the coaches for sound on
selected telecasts, and then you realize it hasn't gone far
enough. Really, this is only a half-hearted stab when it comes to
making the game more entertaining. If you think letting fans hear
Jerry Sloan call for the ol' pick-and-roll during a Jazz timeout
will arrest the decline in ratings, well, you've never heard
Sloan in a huddle, have you?
This isn't going to do it. Of course, you can appreciate the
league's desperation. NBC's pro basketball ratings are down 19%
from last season, TNT's and TBS's more than 20%. Watching an NBA
game on TV, even with the prospect of seeing one of those
remote-controlled blimps patrolling arena airspace, has
apparently slipped to about No. 12 on our list of preferred
sports activities, right between ice fishing and go-kart racing.
But miking these guys is such a lame idea that you can't even
feel sorry for the protesting coaches, all worried about their
sideline intimacy. First of all, it's not as if their comments
are going out unfiltered. The coaches will have on-off buttons,
and because they're on tape, whatever they say can be edited by
the production crew. So you won't be getting the good stuff.
Second, and this is kind of crucial to the whole notion, there is
no good stuff.
Larry Brown to Allen Iverson, shooting 2 for 20 on a Feb. 20 NBA
telecast: "Keep popping, Allen." And he's a good coach. Here's
some more news: Phil Jackson isn't lecturing Kobe about the
Lakota tribe during Lakers TOs. This huddle stuff just isn't that
interesting. If the fans get to hear what the coaches are really
saying, the ratings will go into full free fall.
What the NBA needs to do if it's serious about this idea is mike
more colorful personalities than Gregg Popovich. Go all the way.
David Letterman goes home to Indiana to coach the Pacers, and the
microphone catches him reflecting on his sports drink: "This is
useless cold green water." Bill Cosby picks up the reins in
Philly and tells the team stories about the old neighborhood.
Dennis Miller, bombed from HBO to the Clippers, delivers puzzling
rants using impossibly involved metaphors.
Look, Rick Pitino gets entertainer money, yet he clearly fails to
entertain. For entertainer money, you should get an entertainer.
It's that simple.
What's Seinfeld doing these days, anyway? --Richard Hoffer
A KEY DEAL?
Bill Parcells's final NFL act may be to unload the Jets' best
Tell you what I'm doing right now," Jets director of football
operations Bill Parcells said a little after 7 a.m. last
Thursday. "I've got canisters of videotape here on my desk, and
one by one I'm looking at all the top linebackers in the draft.
I've done all the defensive linemen, all the tight ends and most
of the receivers. I'll look at the top 100 guys in the draft at
New York owns the 16th and 18th picks in the first round, and
Parcells is exploring the addition of one or two more first-round
choices by making a very uncharacteristic move: trading star wide
receiver Keyshawn Johnson (above). The Ravens, sitting on the
fifth pick, are interested in obtaining Johnson, as are several
other teams that need a receiver and are ready to deal draft
Why would Parcells, a win-now guy, ponder such a move? The most
popular notion is that Johnson is too much of a self-promoter to
fit into Parcells's team framework. That simply isn't so. First,
Parcells is the best handler of star egos in the game. Second,
contrary to Johnson's image as a selfish pretty boy, he works
harder on his game than his teammate and rival, blue-collar fan
favorite Wayne Chrebet.
Parcells loves Johnson. Before a December 1998 game in Buffalo in
which the Jets clinched the AFC East, Parcells climbed aboard the
first team bus set to leave the hotel for the stadium. He was
almost always the first one on board, but that morning Johnson
beat him to it. "Couldn't sleep," Johnson said. "I just can't
wait to play this game." Last week Parcells said, "If I picked an
alltime team of guys I coached, Keyshawn would definitely be on
Pro football is a live-for-today business, but Parcells the
architect--who will likely retire from football after the
draft--feels an obligation that Parcells the coach might not have
felt. From the architect's standpoint, trading Johnson would not
be a dumb decision. Johnson, 27, is entering the fifth year of a
six-year deal and is slated to make $2.2 million this year. He
wants to renegotiate his contract, and market value for a marquee
receiver is about $7 million a year. If the salary-cap-strapped
Jets deal him to one of the five other teams with two first-round
picks--and get both--they'll save $1.3 million on the cap, have
four first-round selections in a receiver-rich draft and probably
be able to sign their best defensive player, free-agent
linebacker Mo Lewis, to a long-term contract. They'll also be in
a better position to re-sign valued 2001 free agents like
nosetackle Jason Ferguson.
Parcells is playing football roulette with the Jets' future. Last
week he was trying to figure out the risk-to-reward ratio of
trading Johnson. He examined the last five first rounds and noted
two threesomes from the bottom third of 1997's opening round. The
busts: Steelers cornerback Chad Scott (who went 24th); defensive
end Jon Harris (25), now a Packer; and quarterback Jim
Druckenmiller (26), now with the Dolphins. The budding stars:
Buffalo tailback Antowain Smith (23), Denver defensive tackle
Trevor Pryce (28) and Green Bay left tackle Ross Verba (30).
There's no right answer. But whether Parcells keeps Johnson or
trades him, his last act in the NFL will have repercussions long
after he's gone from the league. --Peter King
Shaq's Big Score
For a snapshot of how dumb the eternally bumbling Clippers are,
consider the motivation they provided for the Lakers' Shaquille
O'Neal last week. Though the two clubs share the Staples Center,
the Clippers were the home team at the new arena for their March
6 game with the Lakers. That date happened to be Shaq's 28th
birthday, and the big guy kindly asked the Clippers for a dozen
or so extra complimentary tickets. The request was denied.
Not a sterling idea. O'Neal's line: 24 for 35 from the field, 13
for 22 from the line for a career-high 61 points, to go with 23
rebounds in a 123-103 Lakers victory. It was the NBA's first
60-20 game since Wilt Chamberlain had 66 points and 27
boards--Wilt's 28th 60-20 performance--for the Lakers in a win over
the Suns on Feb. 9, 1969. Said Shaq, "Don't ever make me pay for
GOLF CART RULINGS
The Battle Isn't Over Yet
The ache sets in just four steps down the fairway. Soon Ford
Olinger, 33, starts to feel as if he has a half-ton weight
pressing on his hips. When the pain gets so bad that he has to
pop an Oxycontin, a prescription painkiller, everything--from the
tee in the ground to the flag in the distance--fades briefly into
Like a certain newly minted tour player six years his junior,
Olinger, a club pro from Warsaw, Ind., struggles with a handicap
that not even his skill as a golfer can erase. He suffers from
bilateral avascular necrosis of both hips, a degenerative
disorder that makes a short stroll seem like a marathon. Like PGA
Tour player Casey Martin, who has a rare circulatory disorder in
his right leg, Olinger has sued under the Americans with
Disabilities Act to be able to ride a cart in competition. But
the two golfers' fates diverged in the courtroom.
On March 6 the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco upheld a
lower court's ruling requiring the PGA Tour to permit Martin to
use a cart. The following day the federal Seventh Circuit Court
in Chicago ruled that the USGA, which runs the U.S Open, did not
have to permit Olinger to use a cart during Open qualifying.
"Casey had three judges who attacked the legal issues, whereas I
got golfers for judges," lamented Olinger after hearing the
decision in his case.
Indeed, while Ninth Circuit Judge William Canby Jr., a
non-golfer, concluded that "the central competition in
shot-making would be unaffected by Martin's accommodation,"
Seventh Circuit Judge Terence Evans, an avid player, plumbed golf
lore in his decision to support the game's Old Guard. Evans
quoted from John Feinstein's book The Majors, recalled Ben
Hogan's victory in the 1950 U.S. Open one year after a
devastating car accident and noted that on a typical U.S. Open
championship course, "even a slightly errant shot puts the player
in jail, where he usually faces at least a bogey once he gets to
a lightning-fast green."
PGA Tour officials were scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss
whether they'll appeal on Martin and suffer further public
excoriation, or sit tight and hope for a precedent-setting USGA
victory in the U.S. Supreme Court, where Olinger's case appears
to be headed. The USGA, which allowed Martin to ride in the last
two U.S. Opens pending resolution of his case with the PGA Tour,
wouldn't comment on the implications of the Olinger ruling for
Martin, though executive director David Fay said, "We're very
pleased with the decision." Pleased enough to force Martin to
walk the Open course at Pebble Beach in June? That's within the
As for Olinger, with an April 26 deadline for Open entries fast
approaching, he plans to head south to Orlando to prepare his
game--and his body--for qualifying. "If I have to walk, I'll walk,"
says Olinger, who limped through a first-round elimination in
last year's local qualifier. "I'm not out to conquer the world. I
just want to play in the U.S. Open."
BASKETBALL BOORS (CONT.)
Meet Joe Blake
My suggestion to you Joe is, hide for your life, kiss everyones'
ass and write a letter to The Observer telling Coach D and his
players...how sorry you are. I'm sure you feel bad but I don't
care you will be burned at the stake my friend.
--posting by someone with the Internet alias whoknows on an
NDToday.com message board
With friends like whoknows, Notre Dame sophomore Joe Blake has no
need for the enemies who have directed dozens of rude phone calls
and hate E-mails his way since he hurled his bottle of Powerade
onto the Joyce Center court with the Fighting Irish down by two
points to Syracuse with 8.8 seconds to play on March 1
(SCORECARD, March 13). The fateful toss--which came after two
pieces of trash had been thrown onto the playing floor and after
Notre Dame coach Matt Doherty had issued a warning over the
P.A.--prompted a technical foul that cost the NIT-bound Irish a
chance at a win over the Orangemen and maybe a ticket to the Big
Notre Dame's student fan section is aptly nicknamed the M.O.B.
(Matt's Outrageous Bunch), but it offered Blake no anonymity
after he hurled the bottle. Within hours of the game's end he'd
been identified as the culprit in more than 50 user-created polls
and more than 100 message-board postings on NDToday, an
independent campus Web site. "One poll asked, 'What should the
plot of Meet Joe Blake be?' and it had references to physical
violence and sodomy and all kinds of bad stuff," says Frank
Helgesen, whose company, 3BStudios, runs the site. "I don't think
people were serious, but they were using the forum to work out
their frustrations about the incident."
NDToday's administrators took down many of the messages but left
a small sample that were nonthreatening. Other students, alumni
and the athletic department took a more traditional route with
their criticism of Blake, writing letters to The Observer, the
Blake declined to speak to SI, so we can only assume that yes,
message-board poster Let's grow up, he "feels like crap and
wishes he could take back what he did." That yes,
veryhurtNDstudent, he realizes "the players put in hours upon
hours of hard work only to see it screwed by their fellow
classmate." And that most of all, he'd like the E-mail barrage to
BILL DANIELS, 1920-2000
America's Cable Bill
Every Malibu native in the Big Apple who can't watch Pepperdine
dance because New York City's CBS affiliate is wed to St.
John's--indeed, every sports fan stuck in provincial hell--had a
friend in Bill Daniels. The so-called father of cable television
died on March 7 at age 79, nearly half a century after being
introduced to the small screen. In 1952 Daniels, who had finished
a tour in Korea as a decorated naval pilot, stopped into a Denver
bar to watch the Wednesday Night Fights. The ex-New Mexico Golden
Gloves champ was amazed at the clarity of the black-and-white
picture but wondered how to make the signal available in Casper,
Wyo., where he lived.
Less than a year later Daniels began using microwave relays to
bring the fights to Casper via a community antenna television
(CATV) system. Five hundred subscribers paid an installation fee
of $150 and a $7.50 monthly charge to access programming that
originated 225 miles away in Denver. Daniels wasn't the first
cable guy, but he was the first to use microwave relays, and he
quickly became the cable industry's strongest advocate. In '58 he
founded Daniels & Associates, a cable-TV brokerage firm that
would lure media giants like Cox Communications, Times Mirror and
the Tribune Co. to fledgling cable properties.
Daniels died a billionaire. A philanthropist who gave away money
like pocket Bibles, he also owned the ABA's Utah Stars, sponsored
an Indy 500 car, helped found the USFL and, with Lakers owner
Jerry Buss, started Prime Ticket Network, a nationwide group of
regional sports cable companies that's now part of Fox Sports.
How fitting that the original couch potato left us in March. His
dream house, a 24,000-square-foot Denver mansion he called
Cableland, boasted a viewing room with 64 TVs.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY RANDY DAHLK
COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR (JOHNSON)
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY MARK ZINGARELLI
COLOR PHOTO: SIMON & SCHUSTER (PLUTO)
COLOR PHOTO: DOUBLEDAY (WILLIAMS)
COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF COMEDY CENTRAL
COLOR PHOTO: MARK LENNIHAN/AP
The unsightly wrenching of Cincinnati senior Kenyon Martin's
right fibula during last Thursday's loss to Saint Louis was
matched only by the look on Bearcats coach Bob Huggins's face as
the NCAA tournament seeds were announced on Sunday. The selection
committee denied 28-3 Cincinnati a No. 1 seed. Still more
surprises may be in store. Martin is on schedule to complete his
degree in criminal justice this summer, quite an achievement for
someone in the graduation-challenged Bearcats program.
Inning of a game against DePauw in which visiting
Indiana-Northwest broke its last bat and had to forfeit.
Age of Vincent Lecavalier, new captain of the NHL's Lightning.
Amount of legal wagering that Nevada casinos expect to take
in on the NCAA men's tournament.
Amount the FBI expects to be wagered illegally on the NCAA
Value of soccer club Manchester United, highest in the world for
a sports franchise.
Formula One rookie Jenson Button, 20, of England, who
negotiated the Australian Grand Prix course on the opening day of
practice while a bird flapped around in his cockpit. After
qualifying second-to-last in the 22-car pecking order, Button
winged his way to a 10th-place finish in Sunday's race.
Firstar Bank of Cincinnati, which is suing Nuggets guard Nick
Van Exel for fraud after Van Exel, making a reported $8 million
this season, allegedly said he couldn't pay a $19,000 credit card
balance. A Firstar employee, who didn't know that Van Exel was an
NBA star, accepted $12,000 to settle the account.
Rebecca Lobo, as an analyst on ESPN's telecasts of the women's
college basketball tournament. The NCAA, Solomon-like, has
determined that because she's now a pro, it wouldn't be
appropriate for Lobo--one of the best players in women's
collegiate basketball history--to call NCAA tournament games.
Loose Balls, by the Nets' Jayson Williams. The title of the
first book by Williams, whose name is eerily similar to those of
the Kings' Jason Williams and Duke's Jason Williams, is eerily
similar to the foremost book on the old ABA, Terry Pluto's Loose
A Dodgers ad created by the Seattle-based agency WongDoody
promoting a "buy two, get two free" ticket offer, after
complaints about the ad's copy, which said buyers could give the
extra pair to "your kids, your clients, or the two schmucks down
the street...." The Dodgers assumed responsibility for the boner
but said neither the copywriter nor the team exec who approved
the ad knew that the Yiddish word schmuck refers to male
It may be the most highly anticipated moment of Oscar night on
March 26: No, not the unveiling of Jennifer Lopez's dress, but
the performance of that most unlikely Best Song nominee, Blame
Canada, from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Our vote,
though, would have gone to another tune in that film, an ode to
Cartman and crew's favorite star-spangled skating champ that goes
What would Brian Boitano do, if he was here right now?
He'd make a plan, and he'd follow through,
That's what Brian Boitano'd do.
When Brian Boitano was in the Olympics, skating for the gold,
He did two Salchows and a triple Lutz while wearing a blindfold.
When Brian Boitano was in the Alps, fighting grizzly bears,
He used his magical fire breath and saved the maidens fair.
So, what would Brian Boitano do if he were here today?
I'm sure he'd kick an ass or two,
That's what Brian Boitano'd do....
When Brian Boitano traveled through time to the year 3010,
He fought the evil robot king and saved the human race again.
And when Brian Boitano built the pyramids, he beat up Kublai
'Cause Brian Boitano doesn't take s--- from anybody....
There's Someone Around Mary
For all the dysfunctional tennis parents that are a few games
short of a set, Jim Pierce long ago distinguished himself from
the field. Jim, the erstwhile coach of his daughter, Mary, did
time in jail for attempted robbery, punched out two fans at the
1992 French Open, regularly berated Mary in public and admitted
to having hit her, and in 1996 sued her for breaching their
coaching agreement. He chalked up repeated warnings from the WTA
about his egregious conduct at tournaments and, after a verbal
outburst at the '93 French Open, was banned from appearing on the
grounds of WTA tour events. (The ban ended in 1997, but, at
Mary's behest, he is still required to notify tour officials if
he plans on attending a WTA event.) During the past seven years
he has mercifully been off tennis's radar screen, save for a
brief stint coaching U.S. pro Vince Spadea in 1998, and has had
virtually no contact with Mary.
That changed two weeks ago. After a disappointing fourth-round
exit from the Australian Open in January and a bad loss to
little-known Lilia Osterloh at an event in Tokyo in February,
Mary, ranked sixth in the world, summoned her father to help
extricate her from a slump. Focusing primarily on conditioning,
the two worked out for five days in Mary's hometown of Bradenton,
Fla., and reportedly have an agreement to get together the next
time she's in Florida. Their rapprochement was particularly
perplexing given that as recently as the Australian Open, Mary
told reporters that she and her father had no relationship. Asked
why she abruptly ended the estrangement, Mary said, "My
relationship with my father is personal and private. That's the
way we want to keep it."
Currently coached by her older brother, David, Mary looked
sharper after the workouts with Jim. She reached the semifinals
of the State Farm Classic in Scottsdale, Ariz., early this month
before losing to top-ranked Martina Hingis and as of Monday had
reached the fourth round at the Tennis Masters Series at Indian
Wells, Calif. Will Jim join his daughter on tour? "It's up to
Mary," he says. That's not entirely true. Should Mary wish for
Jim to attend events, she would still have to apply to the WTA in
writing and explain why she was revoking her former request to
restrict his access.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
After Rockets rookie Steve Francis lost a tooth in a collision
with Denver's Tariq Abdul-Wahad, the Houston fan who found the
tooth put it up for auction on eBay.
If fans get to hear what coaches really say, ratings will go
into free fall.
They Said It
Texas pitcher, on why he'll vote for former Rangers general
partner George W. Bush for president: "I just think it would be
cool to know the dude in the White House."