•Muhammad Ali, like so many boxers, couldn't bow out gracefully. He was badly beaten by Larry Holmes in October 1980, after which he retired, but he returned 14 months later to fight Trevor Berbick. Ali, one month shy of his 40th birthday, lost a lackluster 10-round decision in the Podunkian setting of a run-down ballpark in the Bahamas.
•Nolan Ryan was 11 days shy of finishing his record 27th and final major league season in 1993 when he tore a ligament in his right elbow. "I was just trying to squeeze a few more innings out," he said then. "I did not want it to end this way." Fans desperately wanted America's Flamethrower, who was 47, to turn in one more masterly performance for the Texas Rangers, but he couldn't do it.
Most college presidents like to position themselves above the athletic fray, to present themselves as semidetached observers who politely applaud each touchdown but are uncomfortable in the sweaty, dollar-driven world of big-time college sports. That hardly describes Charles Young, chancellor of UCLA.
Last week Young belly-flopped into the mess that has grown out of last season's Rose Bowl by admitting that he had given approval for a UCLA booster named Angelo Mazzone III to buy 4,000 of the Bruins' allotted 41,586 Rose Bowl tickets, worth $184,000, in exchange for a $100,000 contribution to the university. Young knew that Mazzone, a former associate athletic director at UCLA, intended to put together package tours to the game, presumably to make a profit. That deal was struck on Dec. 2, three days before the Bruins learned that Wisconsin would be their Rose Bowl opponent.
The whole thing has become a public-relations nightmare for Young. Badger fans, who have been complaining for months that legions of them were shut out of the game or had to pay scalpers' prices, contend that UCLA should have made the 4,000 tickets available to them and that selling them to Mazzone contributed to the chaotic ticket situation. James Doyle, Wisconsin's attorney general, has even asked UCLA to make restitution to the Badger fans left in the lurch—thousands made the expensive trip to California only to find that promised tickets didn't materialize—by handing over Mazzone's $100,000 donation to Doyle's office for distribution.
That may have been a blatantly political gesture on Doyle's part. But there is no politics involved in the anger displayed by the Bruin faithful. Many UCLA fans, including season-ticket holders, were outraged to learn that one booster had gotten a block of 4,000 tickets while many of them had been unable to buy even one.
Bruin officials contend that they made the Mazzone deal to avoid being stuck with unsold tickets, as some previous Pac-10 representatives in the Rose Bowl have been. And there is no proof that Mazzone's package deal had an impact on Wisconsin's ticket shortage, despite Doyle's contention that "the sale helped feed into the secondary ticket market." But Young's involving himself in the ticket business in exchange for a contribution is a sleazy practice that demeans the office of a college president.
A Day with the Veep
One of the nation's best-known sports fans died last Friday. Assistant managing editor Joe Marshall offers a reminiscence.