A Measured Response
There's no right way or wrong way to deal with grief. Still, we can't help but admire the manner in which Michael Jordan has conducted himself throughout the ordeal surrounding the murder of his father, James Jordan. When Daniel Green, one of two men charged with shooting James as he slept in his car in July 1993, went on trial in Robeson County Court in Lumberton, N.C., in January, reporters repeatedly asked Michael about the case and whether he was eager to see Green (who now calls himself Lord D.A.A.S. U'allah) punished. Jordan refrained from expressing the kind of I'd-like-to-pull-the-switch thoughts that are often heard under such circumstances.
Jordan did not attend the trial, because he wanted neither to relive the tragedy nor to create a media frenzy. On Feb. 29 the jury found Green guilty, and last week the judge, Gregory Weeks, sentenced him to life in prison. (The other defendant, Larry Demery, turned state's evidence and hasn't been sentenced yet.) Jordan expressed no satisfaction at Green's conviction, nor did he say he wished that Green had gotten the death penalty. "It's not going to bring my father back," said Jordan.
To help improve its image, baseball is planning a fan festival to be held in conjunction with this year's All-Star Game, in Philadelphia. A news release about the event issued last week by Major League Baseball Properties contained this jaw-dropping sentence: "As a Hall of Famer and former Philadelphia Phillie, Steve Carlton is the natural choice as spokesman for Pinnacle All-Star FanFest." Considering that Carlton made a career out of not speaking, we assume that Albert Belle will be Properties' "natural choice" as the event's hospitality chairman.
Down but Not Pinned
What will happen on the mat at the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament in Minneapolis this weekend is fairly predictable: Iowa will dominate, and Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Penn State will scramble to finish second. But far more compelling is what's happening off the mat, where the sport is grappling for its life. Since 1972, the year that Title IX was passed, 256 institutions in all NCAA divisions have dropped wrestling. The sport is all but extinct in the Deep South and is kept alive there at the Division I level by only one school, Georgia State. "It's a slow death," says Edinboro (Pa.) University coach Bruce Baumgartner, a former NCAA champion and twice an Olympic freestyle gold medalist, "and it's been painful to watch."
Predictably, belt-tightening administrators blame Title IX, the landmark federal legislation that, among other things, mandates equal opportunities for males and females in university athletic programs. The spirit of the law was to create opportunities for women. But bottom-line athletic directors, faced with dwindling budgets and loath to trim any fat from bloated football programs, have used it to eliminate existing programs for men. Wrestling is an obvious target because it has no female equivalent.
Trend-bucking Georgia State, which started its program in 1991, shows that there is hope for a school determined to succeed. The Panthers get by on a wrestling budget of about $100,000—$50,000 to $100,000 below average—and have just four in-state scholarships (the NCAA maximum in wrestling is 9.9). The program must hold fund-raisers just to stay alive. This summer, for example, families of the wrestlers and others involved with the program will house visitors during the Olympics with the goal of raising $40,000.
Still, the Panthers have had much success—two of their wrestlers qualified for the nationals. Coach Keith Walton is even contemplating putting in a bid to host the NCAAs in 2000. With luck, there will still be a Division I tournament then.
Dead Men Tackling
We've heard of drafting sleepers, but this is ridiculous. For the second time in a year a team in the Canadian Football League selected a dead player. This time it was the Montreal Alouettes, who in the fifth round of last week's college draft picked defensive end James Eggink of Northern Illinois. Eggink died of cancer last December. In the April 1995 dispersal draft of Las Vegas Posse players, the Ottawa Rough Riders took defensive end Derrell Robertson, who died the previous December in a car crash. Said CFL chairman John Tory of his teams' drafting philosophies, "I would think the first qualification they might want to come up with is that the person's alive."