What's most ominous about this incident is that Gooden, a recovering drug abuser and alcoholic, has yet to find the discipline and structure in his life to prevent his sad story from becoming even sadder. Even one sip of beer, which is what Gooden admitted drinking, can unleash an alcoholic's demons. Since November, when he received a one-year suspension for failing his second drug test in less than six months, Gooden has said his drug and alcohol troubles are behind him. Still, the revelation that he was at a Tampa nightclub in the wee hours of March 18 came only two months after he told SI that visits to such haunts trigger his binges. "In Tampa after the sun goes down, it's like I'm a vampire," he said. "I change."
This latest episode is likely to set back Gooden's efforts for a reduced suspension and a possible mid-summer return to baseball. With the sun rapidly setting on his career, Gooden continues to provide little hope that it will rise again.
In a Dark Alley
It was a kegler ritual not seen since the dark ages of Fred Flintstone. On the evening of April 12, 150 men crouched around lane 17 of Marcel's Pinarama Bowl in Oswego, N.Y., many of them holding lighters and flashlights. In the middle of this muddle stood Matt Berlin, a 30-year-old sanitation worker and Wednesday-night bowler in the local Elks league. An hour earlier he had been one strike shy of a perfect game. Then the power went out. "Not only was it pitch black, but there were no sounds," says Berlin. "Normally you hear the hum of the machines and the smack of pins being knocked down, but there was nothing."
With his friends showing the way, Berlin stared into the half-light and threw a strike. The next minute he found himself at the bottom of a jubilant pile; the next morning, at the bottom of the front page of The Palladium Times. "From now on," he says, "I'm just going to look down at the fourth dot and pretend it's dark around me."
Kick in the Teeth
Before Bora Milutinovic came along, American soccer was, to put it politely, an oxymoron. Hired by the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) in 1991, he led the men's national team to the second round of last summer's World Cup—its best finish since 1930. That alone should have ensured that Milutinovic, a 50-year-old Serb, would continue coaching the American team through the 1998 World Cup. Indeed Milutinovic and USSF president Alan Rothenberg had reached an oral agreement to that effect in October.
Which makes last week's news of Milutinovic's departure curious. USSF officials said that Milutinovic "resigned" because he was unwilling to oversee the development of coaches and youth soccer in the U.S.—an administrative task better suited to Carlos Queiroz, the early favorite to replace him. But Milutinovic insists he was forced out by a cabal led by Hank Steinbrecher, the USSF's second in command. One rap on Milutinovic was that he rarely spoke English, though he knows the language. But after getting the boot, his response was fluent: "They have the right to decide what they like. But they also gave me their word. They have to respect that."
Now, for This Message
When asked recently if the Orlando Magic meant to "send a message" to the Chicago Bulls with a recent win, Magic center Shaquille O'Neal answered curtly, "I don't send messages. I'm not a fax machine." Touch�. But his protestations notwithstanding, Shaq has never passed up an opportunity to deliver a bon mot on behalf of a corporate sponsor. Here's an exchange between O'Neal and NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw in the current issue of that Eurotrash-talking tabloid Interview: