As the second-leading receiver among tight ends in NFL history, Kellen Winslow demanded your eye. When he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last Saturday, the former San Diego Charger staked a claim to something else: your ear. In his induction speech Winslow touched only briefly on his brilliant nine-year career. Instead he used much of his allotted time to address such issues as affirmative action, the direction of the Supreme Court and the continued dearth of opportunities for minorities in sports management. "Statements of protest from African-American athletes would have a profound effect on the hiring practices of professional teams and universities," Winslow told an audience that included at least two people pledged to rolling back affirmative action: House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Hall inductee Steve Largent, the former Seattle Seahawk receiver who's now a freshman congressman from Oklahoma.
Two weeks ago, when Norwegian soccer player Lars Bohinen refused to play in a friendly match with France as a protest against the Chirac government's plans to conduct nuclear tests in the South Pacific, his decision hardly caused a ripple overseas, where athletes routinely speak out on social issues. Whatever one thinks of Winslow's positions, it's encouraging to see a Stateside athlete—particularly one who rose from the squalor of East St. Louis, Ill., to earn a law degree—engaging himself in the world of which sports is only a small part.
In their latest effort to capitalize on the popularity of Hideo Nomo, the Los Angeles Dodgers are offering sushi in the stands during home games in honor of the rookie wunderkind. Vendors clad in happi hawk the 10-piece boxes of sushi, which sell for $5.25 a pop. Despite Nomomania the fishmongers aren't making out the way they do when they peddle more traditional in-the-stands fare. And Dodger Stadium's most famous flogger of food wants no part of the vogue. "I made my career on peanuts," says celebrity peanut man Roger Owens, "and I'm not going to change now."
Fest and Famine
Before a press conference to kick off the 1995 U.S. Olympic Festival in Colorado last week, U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Moran gestured at four large floral arrangements surrounding the podium from which he spoke and tried to inject a bit of levity into the proceedings. "If you'll join with me for a moment of silence for the passing of our beloved friend," he began. But the next day USOC president LeRoy Walker stood at the same lectern to make an announcement that was no joke. The USOC's executive board has voted to cancel the 1997 festival, largely for financial reasons, and it's uncertain whether there will ever be another staging of the multisport event that was founded in 1978 to help develop U.S. Olympic hopefuls.
The decision to eliminate the festival reflected the USOC's emphasis on supporting those sports in which U.S. athletes are likeliest to win Olympic medals at the expense of "minor" sports in which Americans historically haven't done very well. The roughly $4 million that the USOC would have spent on the '97 festival is the same sum that will be earmarked for Home Team '96, a program to fund national governing bodies that are expected to produce medal contenders at next summer's Atlanta Olympics. "The USOC is going through a shift in principle," says a disappointed Jon Lugbill, a five-time world-champion white-water canoeist who headed a group that had already spent more than $100,000 trying to lure the '97 festival to Richmond.
That shift clearly isn't good for U.S. flat-water canoeists and kayakers, team handball players, fencers, judokas, modern pentathletes and the like, who contributed to past festivals' motley texture and charm. There was the usual collection of good stories in Colorado last week, from 1992 Olympic gold medal swimmer Mike Barrowman, who's trying to win a spot on the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team; to Dan Leyson, the water polo player whose father was on Oskar Schindler's list; to Maria Runyan, the legally blind heptathlete. But in the summer after the Atlanta Games, Americans won't be meeting the latest crop of athletes and hearing their compelling stories.
"The whole purpose of Home Team '96 is to win the medal count [in Atlanta]," says USOC interim executive director John Krimsky. But in light of Baron Pierre de Coubertin's belief that "the important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part" and the eagerness of USOC pooh-bahs to parrot high-minded rhetoric like that when it suits them, it's a shame to see some members of the Olympic family served only scraps.
For Pete's Sake, Pete
The Left Coast beckons Pete Rose, baseball's hit king, Hall of Fame wannabe and incipient stage father. Pete and his wife, Carol, now frequently travel out West, trying to get a movie career started for their five-year-old daughter, Cara. The family's peregrinations have made it difficult for Rose to host every edition of his sports radio show from his restaurant in Boca Raton, Fla., so he frequently hooks up from some remote locale. And on a number of occasions Rose—whose gambling and associations with bookmakers led to his lifetime suspension from baseball—has hosted his show from the sports book at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.