"Someone must make Maradona get therapeutic assistance," sports psychologist Justo Boheck told Clarín, an Argentine daily. And Oscar Mangione, another psychologist who works with Argentine athletes, said Maradona's actions could become dangerous.
Actually, they already have. On Feb. 2 Maradona leaned against his Mercedes Benz 300 and fired a pellet gun at reporters camped outside his luxury compound in Moreno, a suburb of Buenos Aires. Five journalists suffered minor injuries, and Maradona faces charges of inflicting bodily harm. (A conviction carries a sentence of one month to two years, though it is usually suspended.) After firing at the reporters, Maradona went to the gate and warned them that next time he would use real bullets. Later the same day he hosed down a camera crew filing a report from atop a truck. Five days later, after he escaped to the quiet beach resort of Mari-sol. he reportedly helped six other men, members of his entourage, beat up photographer Jose Mateos of Clarín. No criminal charges were filed.
Maradona, unquestionably the game's most talented player in the '80s, was already in decline by April '91, when he was arrested for cocaine possession. A series of ill-fated comebacks followed, but he was invariably out of shape or out of favor with his coaches. He did perform reasonably well in November when he helped Argentina qualify for the World Cup, but then, suddenly, on Jan. 26 he went AWOL from Newell's Old Boys, his club team in Argentina, and retreated to Moreno. Journalists pursued him, and the latest incidents, more snapshots from the crumbling career of a global superstar, followed.
Maradona's soccer future is in the hands of Argentina coach Alfio Basile, who has been mute on the subject. Maradona says he is ready to go. "I have all my batteries ready to play in the World Cup," he says. His batteries aren't the issue, however. His marbles are.
Here's a tip as you ponder the trades announced before the Feb. 24 trading deadline in the NBA: No deal is a done deal until all the players involved bring a note from their doctor. Or, more to the point, from their new team's doctor.
Two NBA trades this month have been nullified when one of the players flunked a physical with his prospective employer. On Feb. 4 the Detroit Pistons sent forward Sean Elliott to the Houston Rockets for forwards Robert Horry and Matt Bullard and a draft pick, but the Rockets sent Elliott back two days later after a physical turned up a kidney infection. A Feb. 18 trade sent Sacramento King center Duane Causwell to Detroit for center Olden Polynice and forward David Wood, but all parties involved had to go back whence they came when Causwell failed a Detroit physical because of what a Piston spokesman termed "a preexisting condition." The speculation was that Causwell's chronic foot ailments—he has missed parts of the last two seasons with stress fractures in his left foot—were the stumbling block.
Strangely, both players who flunked their physicals were healthy enough to go back and play for their old teams. Elliott returned to the Piston lineup last week, and Causwell was scheduled to play for the Kings on Monday night against the Phoenix Suns. (Meanwhile, Sacramento acquired Polynice for center Pete Chilcutt and a draft choice.) Elliott and Causwell are either healthy enough to play or they're not, and if they are, the trades should have gone through. Detroit coach Don Chancy suggested that the Rockets might have backed out of the Elliott deal because ""they got cold feet."
In any case, the two incidents suggest that the system should be changed in some manner. First, trades should not be announced until all physicals are passed. And second, physicals of traded players ought to be conducted by impartial medical personnel, not by physicians from the traded players' new teams. That would help avoid any finger-pointing as well as the awkwardness of returning traded players to a team that only days before considered them expendable.
A Man of Influence