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Original Issue


They're Only Human
Blown calls and official indecision have at times marred this
year's playoffs. But not even the mighty NFL can eliminate

Talk about a tough week at the office. Mike Pereira, the NFL's
director of officiating, was so distraught over the missed pass
interference call at the end of the Giants-49ers Jan. 5 playoff
game that several evenings later he was still sipping chamomile
tea to help him sleep. The son of a Big West Conference referee,
Pereira, 52, took the bullets for the crew's gaffe, which may
have cost the Giants their season, and which Paul Tagliabue
described as the most disappointing officiating blunder he'd seen
in his 13 years as NFL commissioner. "I give the league credit
for being up front and for realizing we needed to admit the
mistake," Pereira told SI last Friday. "But I've felt awful about
it all week, and I'll feel awful for a long time."

Last Saturday's Steelers-Titans game may have had Pereira trading
tea for Maalox. After Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher asked for a
replay review, saying that the right knee of Tennessee's Derrick
Mason had touched the ground after contact during a punt return
in the third quarter, referee Ron Blum told a packed house and a
national TV audience, "I don't believe that's a challengeable
play, but I'll double check."

So much for authoritativeness. The play did turn out to be
reviewable, and after watching it, Blum ruled that Mason's knee
had hit the ground early in the return. Clearly, Blum, an 18-year
veteran, didn't know the parameters of the review system. His
admitted ignorance will draw a slap on the wrist from the league
and raises questions about his qualifications. But Blum--a golf
pro, who, like all NFL officials, is a part-time employee of the
league--has one thing over his colleagues who muffed the
interference call against the 49ers: Ultimately he got the play
right, which is what officiating is all about. (Later, though,
the Steelers castigated the crew for refusing to let them call
time in the game's final seconds.)

In the wake of these mishaps, the league has heard renewed cries
that it hire full-time officials, or at least give full-time
employment to its 17 referees, who double as crew chiefs. Each
ref would cost an estimated $200,000. (Officials start at $2,000
per game and can make more than $6,700, based on experience.) But
it's doubtful such a move would make much difference. Blum's
brain lock aside, NFL officials are well-schooled. They've all
reffed at least 10 years of major-conference college football;
they're graded and critiqued after every game; they're subject to
a weekly rules test; and they attend classes before games and in
the off-season.

Pereira, who was in the press box during the Giants-49ers
debacle, sensed the call had been blown, and his fears were
confirmed after he watched a replay. The officials in the
Giants-49ers game apparently forgot that New York's Rich
Seubert--a guard who had lined up legally in a receiver's
spot--was an eligible receiver. After the game Pereira went to
the officials' dressing room and told them they had missed the
call. "They were pretty down," Pereira said, "but they know there
are no excuses in this game." The next day Pereira called both
coaches, and the league admitted the errors.

Is there any guarantee that a full-time employee would have
thrown a flag for pass interference when 49ers defensive end
Chike Okeafor dragged Seubert down? The seven officials had to
cover a lot of ground on that broken play, and back judge Scott
Green may have missed the call because he'd been forced to
scramble. Would being on staff with full dental benefits and two
weeks vacation have changed anything? Major league umpires and
NBA referees are full-time employees, yet they still make
mistakes. No matter what the NFL does, some calls will always be
farcical, and football will remain part of the human comedy. Or
as Giants coach Jim Fassel said last week, "It doesn't change the
sick feeling in my stomach, but at least Mike was honest about
it." --Peter King

And the Ball Plays On
A court ruling hasn't ended the fight over who caught Barry
Bonds's homer

'Twas a few days before Christmas, and the Barry Bonds
73rd-home-run-ball controversy at last seemed put to rest. Judge
Kevin McCarthy had startled lawyers on both sides and turned
property law on its head with his Solomonic ruling that plaintiff
Alex Popov, who gloved the record-breaking homer on Oct. 7, 2001,
and defendant Patrick Hayashi, who ended up with the ball after
fans clashed in the bleachers at San Francisco's Pac Bell Park,
must sell the ball and split the estimated $1 million it would

Neither combatant was thrilled, but there was relief that the
long ordeal was over. Hayashi, 37, the son of Japanese-American
parents who were held in internment camps during World War II,
could melt back into the anonymity he craved. Popov, who thrived
in the media glare, seemed ready to desist after the near death
of his father. As the trial wound down, Popov, 38, watched his
dad, Nikolai--a Russian immigrant who'd fled the Nazis during
World War II--undergo three surgeries for stomach cancer, then
suffer a seizure that left him incoherent. "I was saying, 'God,
if you're putting me in a position to choose what's more
important, my dad or the ball, then I'll give up the ball in a
heartbeat,'" said Popov.

The day after the ruling, Popov entered his father's hospital
room. "I heard about the ball," Nikolai said. "I guess that means
I get my money back." It was the first lucid thing the
73-year-old man had uttered in four days. The money he referred
to was $100,000 worth of property he'd put up as collateral in
case his son's suit failed and the ball's value dropped at
Hayashi's expense.

Grateful to have his father back, Popov hacksawed a $5 baseball
in half and featured photos of it on Christmas cards that wished
friends "Halfy Holidays." The bang of an auctioneer's gavel would
soon end the battle.

Or would it? Now Popov, feeling that ballpark violence is being
half-sanctioned by the ruling, has proposed that Hayashi name a
reasonable sum and allow him to purchase Hayashi's half-share--or
possibly face a Popov appeal of the verdict that could continue
the litigation for another year. Popov refuses to submit the ball
for an appraisal. "They'd just find three guys to say it's worth
$10 million, and I'd find three to say half a million," says
Popov, the owner of a health-food restaurant in Berkeley, Calif.
"I want to use the ball to promote baseball among youth." The
court has asked the men to meet with the judge in late January to
resolve their differences--again. "I don't understand," groans
Hayashi, who'll soon enter a university in San Diego to pursue a
business degree. "I want it to end, but this ball just goes on
--Gary Smith


4--0 Career record of Wizards guard Michael Jordan against the

83.4 Percentage of free throws made by the Mavericks, the best in
the NBA.

83.2 Percentage of free throws made by the 1989--90 Celtics, the
NBA's alltime best.

70 Times in three years Newport Beach, Calif., police have
responded to complaints about noise at the home of Dennis Rodman,
who last week was briefly jailed after a woman reported he
assaulted her.

11 Days former Cowboys coach Dave Campo was jobless before being
hired as the Browns' defensive coordinator.

43 Games Bobby Knight coached Texas Tech before committing a
technical foul, the violation coming in Saturday's 68--44 loss at
Kansas State when Knight informed a ref he'd made "a [expletive]

74 Age of retired car dealership owner Jack Gosch, who on Jan. 6
stroked back-to-back holes in one, at the Sunrise Country Club in
Rancho Mirage, Calif.

10 Times TNT analyst Charles Barkley has weighed himself on the
air (he's fluctuated between 337 and 290 pounds and is now at
roughly 300) since joining the network in March 2000.


ASSISTED On a goal in a Finnish second division game, Canadian
Olympic women's hockey team star Hayley Wickenheiser, thus
becoming the first woman to earn a point in a men's pro hockey
game. The 24-year-old Wickenheiser, who's on a 30-day tryout with
Kirkkonummi Salamat, won a face-off back to defenseman Matti
Tevanen, who scored on a slap shot from the point, helping
Kirkkonummi to a 7--3 win over Kettera. Four other women had
played in a pro men's league, including three goalies and
Germany's Maren Valenti, who played 24 games at forward for
Freiburg of her nation's second division in 1998--99 but did not
have a point or a penalty.

APOLOGIZED Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal for remarks about
Rockets center Yao Ming that were construed as insensitive. After
O'Neal told reporters that they should "tell Yao Ming,
'Chingchongyangwahahsoh,'" an editorial in AsianWeek decried the
mock-Chinese gibberish as a "racial taunt." Last Friday, O'Neal
called a pregame press conference to say, "If I hurt anybody's
feelings, I'm sorry. I said it jokingly."

FILED For bankruptcy protection, the Buffalo Sabres, who owe
their 40 largest creditors more than $206 million. The Sabres
have been operated by the NHL since last June, after the collapse
of former owner John Rigas's Adelphia Communications Corp.
Buffalo businessman Mark Hamister's attempt to buy the Sabres has
been delayed by the state of New York's refusal to loan him $23
million. Among the Sabres' creditors are three current players
owed deferred signing bonuses: forward Curtis Brown ($133,000),
defensemen Jay McKee ($133,000) and Brian Campbell ($25,000). The
filing came just four days after the Ottawa Senators sought
bankruptcy protection from a debt load of more than $92 million
(page 60).

RETURNED To the bench of the University of Washington women's
basketball team, Huskies guard Kayla Burt, whose teammates kept
her alive with CPR after her heart stopped on New Year's Eve.
Burt, 20, was watching the 11 p.m. news in her Seattle apartment
with several fellow Huskies when she fell off her bed and
fainted. The teammates--Nicole Castro, Loree Payne, Gioconda and
Giuliana Mendiola and Erica Schelly--called 911 and followed an
emergency operator's instructions until paramedics arrived. Burt
was later found to have Long QT Syndrome, an electrical disorder
that causes the heart to beat irregularly. "I'm as lucky as
anyone has ever been lucky," said Burt, who can no longer play
but whose scholarship will be honored. "My heart was stopped. I
was dead."

CONTINUED To guard his net for 10 minutes after his team's
lower-division English league home game was called on account of
fog, Stocksbridge Steels goalkeeper Richard Siddall, who thought
the match was still in progress at the other end of the pitch and
remained vigilant after teammates had retired to the dressing
room. "I stood there waiting for a player to come through the
mist," Siddall said.

RESIGNED After being suspended for bringing a gun into the
university arena, Tennessee State hoops coach Nolan Richardson
III, son of the former Arkansas coach. Richardson, 38, was 23--41
in two-plus years at the school and last fall survived a
potential scandal when officials discovered his resume contained
a false college graduation date. On Dec. 25 Richardson (below)
brought a pistol into the Gentry Center during an argument with
assistant Hosea Lewis. "[It's] beyond belief," said Tennessee
State president James Hefner.

Unsafe at Home

SWAMPED The U.S. embassy in Caracas, by major and minor leaguers
from Venezuela who need visas to return to the U.S for spring
training. The group reportedly includes Angels reliever Francisco
Rodriguez, Blue Jays closer Kelvim Escobar and Mariners ace
Freddy Garcia. In response to violent political unrest, including
an oil workers strike that has created severe gas shortages, the
U.S. State Department has announced that it won't accept
nonessential visa applications out of Venezuela after Jan. 20.
The decision has left ballplayers scrambling. "Players used to
get special treatment," says agent Peter Greenberg, who
represents more than 50 Venezuelan players. "Now everybody has to
play by the rules."

Each big league team has been assigned two days between Jan. 10
and Jan. 17 when approved players can pick up visas. Getting to
the embassy in Caracas is the hard part, because of two-day waits
for gasoline and violence in the capital, where groups are
protesting Hugo Chavez's presidency. As of Monday several
players--Rodriguez and Escobar among them--hadn't had their
petitions approved, meaning their paperwork might not be ready in
time. Baseball has devised an emergency plan to get those players
visas through a different Latin American country, most likely the
Dominican Republic.

The visa rush caps a rough off-season in Venezuela. In November,
Astros outfielder Richard Hidalgo was shot in the left arm during
an attempted carjacking. (He'll be ready for camp.) The strike
caused Venezuela's winter league to shut down in December, midway
through its season, and last week former major leaguer Chico
Carrasquel, 74, was carjacked and beaten in Caracas. "What
happened to me happens every day here," Carrasquel said. "We
Venezuelans live in a state of permanent anxiety."
--Stephen Cannella

Live from New York
Jeff Gordon takes a spin around the laugh track on "Saturday
Night Live"

Can there be any doubt that NASCAR is hip? Last week a stock car
driver hosted Saturday Night Live. "I still can't believe I've
been asked to do this," Jeff Gordon said last Thursday, after
rehearsing a sketch with musical guest Avril Lavigne and SNL
regulars Chris Kattan and Chris Parnell. "It says a lot about
where our sport is now and how it's grown." It also says a lot
about Gordon's natural showmanship that he was able to start cold
(as in no acting experience, except for a few commercials),
overcome a week of the usual frantic script revisions and the
pressure of a live performance, and hit the checkered flag at
1:00 a.m. looking like a winner. "[This show] is like being shot
out of a cannon," said SNL cast member Tracy Morgan. "I've seen
the biggest stars get shook here. It's the biggest comedy stage
in the world."

Gordon--the latest in a list of jock-ular SNL hosts that includes
Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky and Joe Montana--began his week as a
TV star on Tuesday morning, when he walked into executive
producer Lorne Michaels's office and was greeted with applause
from the cast and crew. Then he listened as the writers and
actors pitched their ideas. On Wednesday, Gordon spent nearly six
hours reading scripts with the writers and cast before returning
to Michaels's office to pick the sketches that would make the
final cut. Except that while he tried to memorize lines, the
"final cut" kept morphing. "I had a big stack of scripts with me
last night," Gordon told SI on Thursday, "and they're all changed

Ultimately Gordon did the monologue and performed in five
sketches. He played a snake handler (with a real boa constrictor
wrapped around his neck); an Air Force pilot who came to his
kid's grade school; a waiter who beat up Gary Busey (played by
SNL's Jeff Richards) in a bit called "Gary Busey Star Dates"; a
suburban husband and fish-tank owner faced with annoying
aquarium repairmen; and a mullet-wearing redneck who drew
audience applause for air-guitaring his way through Abracadabra.
"I can't tell you what an adrenaline rush it was," Gordon said
after the show. "The profession I'm in, I tend to be somewhat of
a perfectionist, but once it's live, there's nothing you can do
about it. It was a blast." --Mark Beech


We expect the mail to get a bit hot and heavy after our swimsuit
issue, but when we publish a list of a books?--no. Still, SI's
Top 100 Sports Books of All Time (Dec. 16) drew more than 225
letters, some purely complimentary but most scolding us for
leaving out one or another venerable volume. Things we learned
from the experience:

OUR READERS' MOST WANTED LIST The 10 omitted books that letter
writers mentioned most often were ...

--It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance
Armstrong and Sally Jenkins

--Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball by George F. Will

--Cobb: A Biography by Al Stump

--The Amateurs by David Halberstam

--Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.

--Missing Links by SI's Rick Reilly

--White Hopes and Other Tigers by John Lardner

--A Civil War ... by John Feinstein

--Jim Murray: The Autobiography

--Fighting Back by Rocky Bleier

popular candidate to be kicked off the list was No. 71, Arnold:
The Education of a Bodybuilder

ROLLER SKATERS HAVE THIN SKINS Author David H. Lewis complained
we had left off his Roller Skating for Gold, saying that the
omission "only confirms [your] long-lasting hostility to a great
sport that is smugly overlooked and underrated by the elitist
media." --Pete McEntegart


Where they've surfaced The NHL's only female Zamboni drivers both
work in the Western Conference's Pacific Division. Reyna, 30,
clears the ice for the Stars at American Airlines Center;
LeGault, also 30, smooths Arrowhead Pond for the Mighty Ducks. "I
don't really feel like a pioneer or anything," says LeGault.

How they landed such cool gigs Both began steering Zambonis to
earn money for school. Reyna was a cashier at a Dallas ice rink
while attending junior college, and, she says, "The ice always
looked terrible, so one day I asked if I could drive the
Zamboni." After a few years in the minors and two seasons as a
Stars backup, she won the top job in 1999. LeGault started as a
student at Michigan, at the school's Yost Arena. That led to
Disney Ice in '95. Last year she was one of nine Zamboni drivers
for the Olympics in Salt Lake City and worked the women's gold
medal game.

Do they give a puck? LeGault's an avid hockey fan, but Reyna's
not: "Lots of times I go home and I don't even know who won,"
Reyna says.

How does California ice queen status play back home? "My family's
really proud," says LeGault. "My mom, she tells everybody, and my
aunt tells people at the grocery store." --M.B.


JANUARY 17--23

SATURDAY 1/18 > ESPN NOON > Syracuse at Pittsburgh
Led by all-world freshman Carmelo Anthony and his 24.2 points per
game, the New School Orangemen (10--1 through Sunday) play an Old
School Panthers squad (12--1) led by senior point guard Brandin
Knight (11.3 points and 6.4 assists).

SATURDAY 1/18 > ABC 4 PM > State Farm U.S. Championship Women's
Free Skate
It's kiss and cry time as Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes
squares off with six-time U.S. titleholder Michelle Kwan.

SUNDAY 1/19 > FOOD NETWORK 8 PM AND 9 PM > Emeril's Big Game
Party and Al Roker's Tailgating Party
The best BAM! celebrity chef on TV shows viewers how to pull off
a Super Bowl bash, while the suddenly svelte weatherman tailgates
with LSU fans in Baton Rouge, Bills fans in Buffalo and D.C.-area
fans before a college football game.

SUNDAY 1/19 > FOX AND CBS 3 PM AND 6:30 PM > Bucs at Eagles and
Titans at Raiders
Tampa Bay is 0--6 lifetime away from home in the postseason,
including two losses to the Eagles; the Raiders crushed the
Titans 52--25 in September.

WEDNESDAY 1/22 > ESPN2 9:30 PM > Australian Open: Women's
In 2002 Venus lost to Monica Seles in the quarters and Serena sat
out with an ankle sprain. This year expect the Williams sisters
to deliver some Down Under thunder.


FRIDAY 1/17 > ESPN 9:30 PM
Lakers at Rockets
The most compelling Big Man matchup since Godzilla and King Kong
tussled in Tokyo. Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal (7'1", 338
pounds) meets Rockets center Yao Ming (7'5", 296 pounds) in the
first of many (we hope) titanic encounters.


Remembering Will

WILL MCDONOUGH (1935--2003)

When longtime Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough died,
apparently of a heart attack, in his Hingham, Mass., home last
Thursday at 67, sports journalism lost one of its greats. A
passionate reporter with unmatched sources, he was among the
first sportswriters to make the transition to TV, appearing on
CBS's The NFL Today and then NBC's NFL Live in the 1980s and
early '90s.

McDonough began his Globe career as an intern while at
Northeastern and later was a beat writer for the Celtics, Red Sox
and Patriots. He covered every Super Bowl and will be remembered
for decking Patriots cornerback Raymond Clayborn in the locker
room in 1979. (Clayborn, who provoked McDonough, later

I worked with McDonough at the Globe for five years before I came
to SI in 1996. I met him as a college intern and soon learned
what made him successful: a tireless work ethic and an ability to
relate to everyone. McDonough would be on the line with Jimmy
Johnson one minute and helping us interns answer phones the next.
He mentored me about working a beat--"You can always make another
call," he'd say. "The extra effort may mean the difference in
getting the story"--but especially on how to deal with people. My
last day at the Globe, McDonough took me to lunch. I chose Joe
Tecce's, a popular Italian restaurant, and when we entered, I
marveled at the pictures of celebrities who'd eaten there--Frank
Sinatra and Liz Taylor among others. Without missing a beat,
McDonough pointed to his photo on the wall, winked and led me to
our table. That was Willie. He was everywhere. --B.J. Schecter

The Devils in Detail

Gender Equity Last week Duke joined Connecticut as the only
schools ever to have both their men's and women's basketball
teams concurrently ranked No. 1 by the AP. Although no school has
won both NCAA basketball tournaments in the same season, one has
sent both its men's and women's teams to the title game in the
same year. Which school was it?

a. Connecticut c. North Carolina

b. Duke d. Tennessee

Two Pronged
The first player drafted out of Duke by an NBA team played only
26 games in the league, but he later won championships as a
player in another major pro sport. Who was he?

This Week's Matchup
Pair the Duke basketball star with his major while attending the university.

1. Shane Battier a. History

2. Mike Gminski b. Political Science

3. Grant Hill c. Religion

4. Bobby Hurley d. Sociology

Call to Order Rank these standouts in order of career points
scored for the Blue Devils.

a. Johnny Dawkins c. Christian Laettner

b. Danny Ferry d. Jay Williams


GENDER EQUITY: b. Duke. In 1999 Duke's men's team reached the
NCAA championship game and lost to Connecticut 77--74. The
women's team was beaten in the final by Purdue 62--45.

TWO PRONGED: Dick Groat was the 1951--52 national player of the
year in college basketball and was also an All-America baseball
player that season. He played one year for the Fort Wayne Pistons
of the NBA before switching full time to baseball in '53. The
shortstop won the MVP in '60 as a member of the world champion
Pirates; he also played for the world champion Cardinals in '64.

THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP: 1. c; 2. a; 3. b; 4. d

CALL TO ORDER: Dawkins (2,556 points); Laettner (2,460); Ferry
(2,155); Williams (2,079)


COLOR PHOTO: BILL KOSTROUN/AP (FASSEL) ASININE A missed interference call (right) sickened Fassel (above); Saturday's refereeing incensed the Steelers' Cowher.



COLOR PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: JOHN BURGESS (ALL) STILL IN PLAY Popov (left) says he has a backer who'll help him buy Hayashi's half.



COLOR PHOTO: FERNANDO LLANO/AP (VENEZUELAN CROWD) TRAPPED? Civil strife could keep Rodriguez (far right) and other top players in Venezuela.

COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO (RODRIGUEZ) [See caption above]

COLOR PHOTO: DANA EDELSON/NBC (GORDON WITH MORGAN) GOOD SPORTS Gordon (left, and with Morgan) wore a boa; Steinbrenner showed leg in '90.




TWO COLOR PHOTOS: DARREN CARROLL SMOOTH OPERATORS Reyna (left head shot and driving); LeGault (far right)






"An auctioneer's gavel would soon end the battle over the Bonds
ball. Or would it?"--AND THE BALL PLAYS ON, PAGE 18