It's no wonder that the song Santa Maradona—a tribute to you know who—is a hit in Argentina. When Diego Maradona returned from a 15-month drug suspension to play for the Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires last Saturday, the faithful responded with teary cheers and genuflections worthy of a papal visitation. Although the suspension, for testing positive for five banned substances at the 1994 World Cup, was the second of Maradona's career (he was banished in '91 for cocaine use), the Juniors welcomed him proudly at their stadium, La Bombonera (the Candy Box). As the overflow crowd of 60,000 serenaded Maradona with love songs, he stepped onto the field amid confetti, fireworks and thick smoke that billowed in Boca Juniors' blue-and-yellow hues.
Chubby and goateed, with a blond swipe in his black hair, Maradona seemed an unlikely target for such veneration, particularly after the headlines he has made in his Catholic homeland for rumored extramarital affairs, drug binges and such declarations as "the [Vatican] roofs are full of gold and the children are starving to death."
Maradona's appeal still stems as much from his formidable futbol ability as from the irreverence that has captivated Argentina ever since he slapped in a goal that helped win the '86 World Cup and then credited it to the "hand of God."
Though he has grown steadily slower and heavier, Maradona, 34, has retained a certain magic in his feet. Before being suspended last year, he made a sly through pass to key an Argentina victory in the World Cup. And last Saturday he made several characteristically crafty steals in the Juniors' 1-0 win over Colón. Just as characteristically, he also drew a yellow card for his belligerence.
That made it all worthwhile for the thousands who had waited for hours under a hot sun to buy bleacher seats for their idol's return. "It means so much for me," said 60-year-old Maria Milano. "I cry whenever I see him."
Networks' Bad-Ad Attitude
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised at the lack of taste shown by TNT in the billboard ads for its NFL telecasts. One says: GET IN A FEW LATE HITS. Funny, huh? In another, TNT assaults us with a photo of a battered football player on the sidelines, his mouth covered by an oxygen mask. The grisly image is accompanied by "Shortness of breath. Nausea. Disorientation. Memory loss. The fun begins at 8 p.m. Sunday night. NFL on TNT." Never mind that neurological disorders, manifested by precisely the symptoms enumerated in the ad, are a real risk to NFL players (page 76). Though the latter campaign was ultimately pulled in response to negative press, the TNT ads underscored a simple truth: Violence sells.
Almost as bothersome is a series of ESPN ads for its college football telecasts. In one annoying spot, commentators Lee Corso, Chris Fowler and Craig James surround a baffled player, who, dressed in football garb, is taking an exam. The three ESPNers harangue him about the pressures of passing the test. For a network that has shown sensitivity in dealing with issues that arise off the field, making light of the pressures put on college athletes is just not very funny. Neither, might we add, is Lee Corso.
Schott's Troubling Echoes