Four months have passed since Colombian soccer player Andr�s Escobar was shot to death outside a roadhouse near Medell�n. The gunman, Humberto Mu�oz, yelled, "Thanks for the own goal!" before pumping six bullets into Escobar, the defender for the national team who had inadvertently knocked the ball past his own goalkeeper during the 2-1 loss to the U.S. that helped assure the heralded Colombians' early elimination from last summer's World Cup. Mu�oz confessed to the killing soon after he and two other men were taken into custody, and he at least remains behind bars. That's a rarity in Colombia, where more than 98% of the 30,000 homicides every year go unpunished. But reformers have abandoned any hope that Escobar's murder would lead to any measures that might begin to free Colombian soccer from the welter of drugs, guns, gambling and mayhem in which it is trapped. All charges against the two other men arrested, Pedro Gall�n Henao and Juan Gall�n Henao, brothers for whom Mu�oz worked as a driver and bodyguard, have been dropped for lack of evidence. But investigators have linked them both to money-laundering and gambling. Another probe found "indications" of narcotrafficking influence in 10 of the 16 teams in Colombia's first division. "The sport is so infiltrated by bad guys that any attempt to rip out the mob is automatically thwarted by institutionalized corruption and inertia," says Juan Jos� Escobar, Andr�s's father, who is still being treated for the depression that followed his son's murder.
Indeed, gambling pervades Colombian soccer. Forward Faustino Asprilla, who's now playing in Italy, says that a gang of angry bettors stole a Mercedes from his wife at gunpoint shortly after the World Cup, calling the car "a down payment on what you owe us." Says Asprilla, "Lots of people mortgaged their houses to bet on us. For them our early elimination was a tragedy."
Meanwhile soccer in Colombia remains suffused with a numbing sadness. Attendance is down by 30% as fans register their cynicism about the fecklessness of the government's investigation and lingering sorrow over Escobar's death. Those who do show up to support National, Escobar's old club team, observe a pregame minute of silence, and one group of fans faithfully hoists a banner in his honor. "Andr�s was the soul of the squad," says Francisco Maturana, the former national coach who's now in Spain with Atl�tico Madrid. "When he was murdered, something died in all of us."
Dishing It Out
In an uncharacteristic paroxysm of good sense, the NCAA has given Florida offensive lineman Anthony Ingrassia the go-ahead to resume writing "Anthony Digests," his restaurant column for The Independent Florida Alligator, the school newspaper. The too-many-cooks of Overland Park, Kans., are apparently satisfied that Ingrassia, a 300-pound senior who describes himself as "every All-You-Can-Eat restaurant's worst nightmare," won't be violating the spirit of the NCAA's Bylaw 18.104.22.168, which prohibits college athletes from endorsing commercial products.
For connoisseurs of both good food and good writing who live in greater Gainesville, Ingrassia's return is welcome news. In a review of local pizza joints, the Gator gourmet issued withering assessments of Little Caesar's delivery ("takes so long you could invest $8.47 and accumulate interest to buy two pizzas") and Domino's quality ("so much oil and grease that pictures of workers rescuing sea otters and birds come to mind"). His palate took more kindly to Ruscito's, an Italian place with mozzarella sticks that look like "deep-fried Lincoln Logs."
But he heaps his highest praise on the family spread in Watchung, N.J., where he grew up. "It wasn't until I was 13 that I was tall enough to see my brother across the table, behind the mounds of food between us," he writes. "I thought there were only three kids in my family until one day my two-year-old sister popped up from behind a tray of lasagna."
Alas, as a result of the notoriety he received from his reviews, Ingrassia has run up against the bane of all food critics. While checking in last week on Harry's Seafood Bar and Grille, he realized that he can no longer dine incognito. Says Ingrassia, "When the waiter says, 'Here's a fresh Coke,' and takes away one still two-thirds full, something is going on."
In the Hall
The LPGA has an exacting policy that requires golfers to win 30 tournaments, including two majors, before they can be enshrined in its Hall of Fame. For 38-year-old Amy Alcott, who's at 29 career wins and holding, her last chance at immortality this season comes next week at the Toray Japan Queens Cup. Whether or not she goes over the top, she won't soon forget a moment earlier this year in Nashville when she stuck her rumpled self out the door of her hotel room before 6 a.m. to fetch a newspaper lying in the hallway. She was only half wrapped in a towel, figuring that the corridor would be empty. She figured wrong.