SI Vault
Edited by Alexander Wolff and Richard O'Brien
December 12, 1994
Guts and Gaul
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December 12, 1994


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The runner-up at the French Open, Berasategui dodged Wimbledon's grass and lost a first-round match to No. 135 Marcos Ondruska on composition courts at the U.S. Open. But back on his beloved clay he grabbed one of the final berths in last month's ATP Tour World Championship in Frankfurt. There he was a stain on the carpet, winning only eight games in three matches but nonetheless walking away with $75,000. It's bad enough that the ranking system allows a player to mire himself in clay and still finish in the Top 10. An Elite Eight berth in the game's climactic event should be reserved for those who show competence on all surfaces.

Pulling the Plug
Sports agent Leigh Steinberg, a Los Angeles native who is well connected to that city's celebrity scene, seems to have picked up some tricks of the Tinseltown trade. Last week Steinberg announced plans to hold a conference on head injuries in the NFL and stressed the need for further scientific study of the subject. "Unlike other parts of the body, the nature of the brain function is not totally understood," said Steinberg, who then offered this inexplicable comparison: "We know more about Diet Coke than we do about our own brain." Could Steinberg, who counts six of his clients among the NFL stars recently appearing in a Coca-Cola promotion, be indulging in a little Hollywood-style product placement?

Yeah, Right
Reports in Britain carry the astonishing news that Kim Jong II, North Korea's apparent leader, recently shot a 34 for an 18-hole round at the Pyongyang Golf Club, including five holes in one and an eagle 2 on the 400-yard par-4 1st hole. Robert Green, editor of the British publication Golf World, has greeted the news with understated skepticism. He suggests that Kim permit "a wider audience to get a sight of his remarkable prowess" by entering next year's British Open at St. Andrews. Writes Green: "Given the brilliance and alacrity with which he clearly takes to new sporting challenges, there must surely be a chance that next year he could accomplish an unprecedented British summer double by taking possession of the old claret jug just a fortnight after winning Wimbledon at his first attempt."

This Just In

Gerald Polley, who goes by the title of the Reverend Speaker Polley and describes himself as "an internationally known psychic working out of Ellsworth, Me.," has some interesting news for baseball fans. He reports that he has "been in contact for some years with Babe Ruth and several other well-known baseball players," and that the Bambino and the other old-timers, whom he does not name, are "enraged by the current situation" in the game. In a recent issue of his Voices from Spirit magazine, Polley outlines what he says is Ruth & Co.'s proposal for a solution to the strike. "First of all," writes Polley, "they want an end to the draft system, which they consider legal slavery." While that's no surprise, from beyond the grave comes a clear, if disembodied, call for a salary cap. The Ruthian proposal stipulates that "no player may receive a salary in excess of a million dollars a year."

Neither side in today's labor dispute has responded. As far as we know.

Hoop Realities

If you've seen Hoop Dreams, the documentary about inner-city life that's currently in theaters, you're not likely to forget Arthur Agee and William Gates, the Chicago high school stars at the center of the film. While neither appears on any NBA scout's radar screen, both are still in college and playing ball, a small miracle given the tumult they've experienced in the three years since they graduated from high school and filmmakers Steve James, Frederick Marx and Peter Gilbert finished chronicling their lives.

Agee put in two seasons at Mineral Area J.C. in Flat River, Mo., and then moved on to Arkansas State, where he's a senior starting at point guard. College has been a refuge from troubles back home. In Chicago he has a son, Anthony, and a daughter, Ashley, by two different women, and on Thanksgiving morning a half-brother, DeAntonio Agee, was killed in a drug-related shooting. But at Arkansas State, Agee is a campus celebrity, a broadcasting major whose sports reports can be heard twice a week on student station KASU. The Indians are 2-1 after their 76-65 victory at Tennessee-Martin last Thursday night, in which Agee contributed 12 points, five assists and four steals. "European ball or the CBA would be great if it worked out," says Agee, who's still the uneven student he was in high school. "If not, I'd like to go into acting or radio."

Gates's personal life has been more stable than Agee's, but his basketball path rockier. After two seasons at Marquette, he married Catherine Mines, the mother of his five-year-old daughter, Alicia. But by November 1993, under the combined stresses of family life, school and his increasingly limited role on the team, Gates gave up basketball and would have dropped out were it not for the pleas of his family back home. Without basketball he began to do better in school, earning a 3.0 average for the spring semester of 1994. And he started telling people he didn't miss the gameā€”or so he said until he saw his former Marquette teammates upset Kentucky on TV last March. This season, after deciding to suit up for new coach Mike Deane, Gates has come off the bench to play 14 minutes a game for the 4-0 Golden Eagles. He seems to bear no weight at all on his hunched shoulders, and he attributes his prosperity on and off the court to one thing: his decision to stay in school. "It's ironic how me and my brother Curtis's lives were so similar," he says of his rueful sibling, a former small-college player and prominent figure in the movie. "We both became fathers in high school. We both had problems with our college coaches. There's only one difference. I'm getting my degree."

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