The Syracuse basketball program, slapped on the wrists two weeks ago by the NCAA for assorted rules violations, was dealt another stinging blow Monday when the NCAA announced that center Conrad McRae could begin serving a previously announced three-game suspension by sitting out exhibitions against Marathon Oil and Kazakhstan's national team. Unless Syracuse can quickly schedule a touring team from Azerbaijan or the Jiffy Auto Lube taxi squad, McRae will also miss the regular-season opener against that traditional basketball powerhouse, Cornell.
An Inspired Choice
When the U.S. Olympic Committee elected LeRoy Walker as its 23rd president on Sunday, he became the first African-American chosen for that job, after a long line of white patricians. It's good to knew that I was elected for what I've done rather than what I am, but I don't mind hearing 'first black,' " Walker said after his election. "There are a lot of disenchanted blacks, women and Hispanics in our country who feel they will never get their just due. I think I serve as a model of the idea that if you keep plugging away and pursuing excellence, you can overcome any odds."
What the 74-year-old Walker has done, among cither things, is coach 77 track All-Americas and eight Olympians while he was a teacher and coach at North Carolina Central University, where he also served as the school's chancellor. He was coach of the U.S. track team at the Montreal Olympics. The grandson of slaves, Walker will be an eloquent spokesman for less favored members of the Olympic movement, as well as for the movement itself. The Olympics, Walker says, are "like Christmas. Both are in danger of being ruined by the marketplace, and neither will ever return to how it was ideally conceived, but both are still worth saving."
At first glance it didn't make sense. How could the Pittsburgh Penguins justify lavishing a seven-year, $42 million contract on Mario Lemieux? After all, the Penguins play in one of the NHL's smallest markets, and the Lemieux outlay increases the team's payroll this season to a league-high $15.2 million. One answer is that as part of the deal, the Penguins received exclusive merchandising rights—valued by the team at $10 million for the life of the contract—to Lemieux and his face. So the people of Pittsburgh should be prepared to see more, a lot more, of that fabulous face: on every T-shirt, hockey puck, coffee mug and seat cushion the Penguins can throw onto store shelves. For seven years. Get used to it.
Depth and Taxes
Finally all four major sports leagues and their players associations are working together to defeat the one thing they hate even more than they do each other—taxes. The city of Philadelphia has decided to start collecting a 4.3% city wage tax on visiting workers, including professional athletes, for money earned there. Denver Bronco quarterback John Elway, for instance, owes $5,375.00 following Denver's 30-0 loss at Veterans Stadium in September. "Taxes and the Eagle defense," Elway said. "Two reasons not to go to Philadelphia." What is worse from the players' point of view is that they will have to pay retroactively to 1986, when the tax was enacted. For example, New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor will soon be hearing from the city that he owes $22,640.63 plus penalties and interest. Philadelphia hopes to raise $1 million with the tax this year. Five states and several cities already impose taxes on visiting pro athletes, but Philadelphia is dunning visitors at a far higher rate.
The Montreal Expos, who were the first team to visit after the city announced its tax crackdown, rose up against this attempt at taxation without representation with a latter-day Boston Tea Party. They stopped the team bus as it passed the harbor on their way out of Philadelphia and dumped a batting tee into the water. This historically informed act of rebellion seemed particularly inspired given the fact the Expos are still technically subjects of the queen of England.
No News Is No News
The Pirates were battling to stay alive against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series, the Steelers were in the midst of what should have been a hot quarterback controversy, and Pitt football coach Paul Hackett was struggling through such a wretched season that newspaper columnists from other cities were suggesting he should be run out of town. But it was strangely quiet in Pittsburgh, where the two local dailies—The Press and The Post-Gazette—have been shut down since May 17 by a Teamsters' strike. The Post-Gazette, which has adopted the slogan "Gone today, here tomorrow," has been reduced to putting out a daily fax sheet for which diehard readers shell out $1.50 a week. "I have no idea who my readers are," says Post-Gazelle sports columnist Bruce Keiden, who's writing for the fax sheet. "But I've discovered to my horror that it's no easier to write for 300 people than 300,000."