SI Vault
Edited by Alexander Wolff And Christian Stone
May 08, 1995
Hypocritic Oath?
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May 08, 1995


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Here it says no. Of the colts seen this spring, none appeared more like a Derby horse than Talkin Man. He has tactical speed to stay close, is relatively fresh and has the pedigree of a distance horse. Jumron, Eltish and Timber Country will be right there. But Talkin Man's the one.

The Connors Tour

Like Senior tour golfers and the women on tennis's new Legends tour, superannuated male tennis players also have a retirement home of sorts. It's the Champions Tour, a two-year-old circuit that has a lot to recommend it. The players, 35 and up, resort to clever shot making in front of small, country-clubby crowds. Afterward the tennis pensioners mingle with spectators, recalling the days before pros began hiding behind retinues and dark glasses.

There's only one problem with the tour, and it's beyond any organizational ken: It has become a sort of vanity vehicle for Jimmy Connors. Until Sunday, when he lost to John McEnroe 6-1, 7-5 in Moscow, Connors's only loss in tour competition came in a final when he defaulted with stomach cramps. He's a one-man Harlem Globetrotters, keeping up a schmoozy patter with the crowd while dominating virtually all opposition.

All of which poses a dilemma for the 42-year-old Connors. As cofounder and president of the tour, he naturally wants each event to be competitive. Yet he does all he can to keep each tournament from being so. "Nothing would please me more than to have [Bjorn] Borg beat me next time out," says Jimbo the impresario. "But," adds Jimbo the champion, "I'm not going to let him."

Off Track

Track and field fans have looked to next year's Atlanta Olympics with a mixture of hope and trepidation—hope that USA Track & Field would use these Games to reverse the sport's long slide into domestic obscurity, and trepidation that business would continue as usual, with a dearth of energy and imagination devoted to promoting track and field. Thus, with the 1996 Olympics a sort of last-chance Games for U.S. track and field, it was dispiriting to learn last week that the Mobil Corporation will relinquish its $1.25 million role as title sponsor of the five-meet indoor circuit televised by NBC. The series, a stage for many top American stars, was touted by the U.S. federation as the key to the sport's future. In addition, Mobil will reevaluate its sponsorship of American track after next summer's Olympic trials. The sport's most generous patron since 1981, Mobil pumps about $3.5 million annually into the indoor Grand Prix circuit and indoor championships, as well as the U.S. outdoor championships.

In fact, the indoor series averaged a 2.2 rating, more than respectable for track. But some Mobil executives developed doubts about the professionalism and business acumen of USA Track & Field's leadership. Visa, which contributed only $85,000 toward the cost of the series, was given roughly the same prominence as Mobil in the advertising boards placed around the outside of the track. Mobil officials were given no notice that gambling would be permitted on the Reno meet, only learning of that decision through a newspaper report. Finally, when looking over a dummy of the program for last February's Mobil One meet in Fairfax, Va., which happens to be the site of the company's world headquarters, a Mobil executive discovered an advertisement depicting a credit card for Shell Oil. Talk about impolitic.

The last Olympics held on U.S. soil, the Los Angeles Games of 1984, were touted as the first "corporate Games" and as a lesson that the Olympic rings can command a handsome price. As the Atlanta Games approach, it's sad to discover that far from heeding that lesson and enticing new benefactors, the grandest of Olympic sports has been deserted by old ones. But then it's not hard to understand why.


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