The Anger Vote
Ted Williams's rudeness angered sports-writers, and Steve Spurrier's brashness angers his fellow college football coaches, and that's why neither of them got what they deserved. Spurrier's Florida Gators finished third in the final CNN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, despite going 12-1 and losing only to national champion Nebraska. Tennessee (11-1) was ranked second, even though the Vols got flogged 62-37 by Florida on Sept. 16. Sixty-two coaches vote, but it was the pettiness of the two who ranked Florida 11th and 13th that led to the Gators' fall to third. Those votes were indefensible and could only have been driven by a disdain for the cocky Spurrier.
We would like to know who those two coaches are, just as we would like to know the identity of the sportswriter who helped deprive Williams of the American League's Most Valuable Player award in 1947. The Kid won the Triple Crown that year but lost the MVP race because a writer, apparently put off by Williams's surliness, didn't include him among his top 10. It's reprehensible that personal considerations play such a big role in determining polls and postseason accolades. And as long as voters can hide behind anonymity, recognition won't just be about how well you coach or how well you hit but also about how you play the political game.
The Windup, the Pitch, the Suit
Nine-year-old Johnny Lupoli of Wallingford, Conn., knows that his goal of both pitching for the New York Yankees and playing linebacker for the New York Giants is a long shot. But he has ruled out at least one career alternative. "He doesn't want to be a lawyer," says his mother, Susan. On May 6, 1995, Johnny, a pitcher for Kovacs Insurance in the Yalesville Little League, overthrew his catcher during a pregame warmup session and hit a spectator. Now he finds himself the sole defendant in a $15,000 lawsuit.
The suit was filed two weeks before Christmas by Carol LaRosa, who was hit by the toss and is seeking damages, and by LaRosa's husband, Thomas, who is suing for "a loss of consortium." The LaRosas' attorney, Joseph DeLucia, says that Carol received 60 stitches and has a one-inch scar on her jaw. But the question remains as to why the LaRosas, whose son was one of Johnny's teammates, did not seek relief from the league's insurance carrier, or, if they felt compelled to sue, why adults, such as coaches, were not named instead of a nine-year-old boy.
"Lawsuits are a search for truth," says DeLucia. "At the time the suit was brought, all the facts were not known. As they become known, it's possible that other defendants will be brought in." Such as Little League Baseball? "That's a possibility," DeLucia confirms. But isn't there an implied risk for spectators? "In Connecticut there is the doctrine of the assumption of risk," DeLucia explains in perfect legalese. "There was no game going on. It was a warmup session. Does a nine-year-old boy know that it's dangerous to throw near a crowd? I know when I was nine I had a rifle arm."
With thousands of nine-year-old rifle arms throwing thousands of baseballs as thousands of Little League parents look on, the likelihood of an errant throw is obvious. It's sad, but emblematic of our times, that such an incident results in litigation.
Cold? Cover Up with a Swoosh
Colorado's rookie coach Rick Neuheisel has been quick to break with established coaching traditions both on and off the field. But as the free-living, guitar-playing Neuheisel demonstrated after the Buffaloes' 38-6 Cotton Bowl victory over Oregon, his actions, somewhat like those of his God-fearing predecessor, Bill McCartney, are governed by a higher authority.