A Teammate Remembered
On Monday evening more than 400 people, including virtually all of the San Diego Chargers' players and staff, convened at New Venture Christian Fellowship in Oceanside, Calif., to celebrate the memory of running back Rodney Culver. Rodney, 26, and his wife, Karen, 25, died on May 11 when ValuJet Flight 592 plunged into the Everglades, killing all 110 aboard. The Culvers left behind two daughters, Briana, 2, and Jada, 15 months.
The crash had an immense impact on the Chargers' franchise, not only because Culver was the second San Diego player to have died in 11 months—linebacker David Griggs was killed in an auto accident last June—but also because he was such a leader, "a man who was never swayed by the opinions of others," in the words of San Diego equipment manager Sid Brooks. Brooks spent last Friday affixing decals of Culver's number, 22, to the Chargers' helmets for next season.
The Oceanside service was the third memorial for the Culvers to have drawn an audience in the hundreds; the others took place in Rodney's hometown of Detroit and at his alma mater, Notre Dame. All these tributes for a player whose longest run last season was 17 yards. But it was his strength of character, not his speed afoot, that set Culver apart. In 1991 he was a near-unanimous choice as Notre Dame's captain, becoming the first African-American chosen as sole captain for the Irish. Coach Lou Holtz, hoping to have a captain from both offense and defense, asked the players to vote once more. Again, only Culver's name appeared on most ballots. "Rodney was an extraordinary young man," says Holtz.
Culver, along with kicker John Carney, coordinated the Chargers' weekly chapel meetings and assiduously took notes whenever chaplain Shawn Mitchell spoke. When signing an autograph, Culver included a scripture verse, such as the one he often repeated to himself in the wake of Griggs's death. He had found it in the Book of Psalms and frequently discussed its import with Mitchell. "Teach us to number our days," it read, "that we may apply our hearts to wisdom." On Monday, Culver was remembered as a man who numbered his days far better than most.
No Looking Back
The Utah Grizzlies are the defending champions of the International Hockey League. They won the title last year as the Denver Grizzlies. An avalanche—make that the Colorado Avalanche, which moved to Denver from Quebec after the 1995 NHL playoffs—drove the Grizzlies out of McNichols Sports Arena all the way to Salt Lake City. Their lease had stipulated that if Denver ever landed an NHL team, the Grizzlies would no longer have use of the arena. And so they headed west.
Aside from a drop in attendance—the Grizzlies have drawn an average crowd of 7,200 at Salt Lake's Delta Center, compared to 12,000 at McNichols last season—the move hasn't hurt. Like their successors in Denver, the Grizzlies are playing for their league championship against a Sun Belt expansion team; they began the Turner Cup finals on Sunday against the Orlando Solar Bears with a 3-2 overtime win.
Fall of a Golden Girl
There was always a Norma Jean Baker quality about Laura Baugh, the blonde starlet who was supposed to take women's golf to Madison Avenue. That's how she was packaged and sold—not as a player who had been good enough at 16 to become the youngest winner of the U.S. Women's Amateur and good enough at 17 to earn a living on the pro tour. Her management company, IMG, and the LPGA tour took every opportunity to promote her pulchritude over her putting. In 1976, her fourth year on the tour, she made a reported $270,000 from endorsements; it took her nine years to earn that much on the course. Last Friday, Baugh spent her 41st birthday at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., receiving counseling for what friends and family have long suspected to be a combination of alcoholism and an eating disorder. Mark McCormack, the founder of IMG, was among those who finally persuaded her to seek treatment.