A Bloody Good Start
Her face was splotched with blood before her team had scored its first basket in the first game of this first year of the American Basketball League (ABL). Can there be any more snide jokes about watching women play this sport? Not if you saw 5'5" point guard Jennifer Rizzotti of the New England Blizzard in the ABL opener. Whacked over the right eye by an elbow from Marta de Souza Sobral of the Richmond Rage only two minutes into the first quarter, Rizzotti went to the locker room at the Hartford Civic Center and asked the team doctor, Paul Tortland, to "slap a Band-Aid on it." Instead, the doc gave her a shot of novocaïne, sewed the cut shut with seven stitches and covered it with a bump of white bandage that made Rizzotti look like one of the marchers in The Spirit of '76.
She was back on the floor in time to spearhead a 24-2 Blizzard run and, ultimately, a 100-73 victory. "If you know me, there wasn't any doubt that I was coming back," said Rizzotti, who scored eight points, had five assists and battled head-to-head against former Olympian Dawn Staley of the Rage before an appreciative crowd of 8,676. "Except for being self-conscious about this thing on my head, no, there wasn't any problem at all."
If there is a problem for the new league, it is the looming presence of the WNBA, another women's pro league, which will begin play next summer. The WNBA has the backing of the NBA, the advantage of being in larger cities and a network TV contract. "Whether there's room for two leagues, I don't know," admits ABL cofounder and vice president Gary Cavalli. But he believes that the timing is right for at least one women's league, given the surge in interest in women's college basketball and the success of the gold-medal-winning women's Dream Team. The ABL features seven U.S. Olympians and has attracted other former college stars who heretofore had been forced to play overseas. "It's great to be back where you can hear the language of basketball on the court and in the stands," says two-time college player of the year Clarissa Davis Wrightsil, now playing with the Blizzard after seasons in Italy, Japan and Turkey. "We were all ready to play tonight, I can say that. Jennifer Rizzotti was doing cartwheels in the dressing room before the game."
Red Light, Green Light
After the coaching staff of the Sydney Swans forbade Swans players from having sex with wives or girlfriends on the eve of the recent championship game of Australian Rules Football, played in Melbourne, a local brothel called the Top of the Town offered the players what a spokesman for the bordello called "freebies to help them keep their routine." Explained the spokesman, "If the players are used to having sex before the game, they will feel neglected. It might affect their performance."
The Swans declined the invitation and then lost to the North Melbourne Kangaroos 131-88. We have no further comment.
The Sad Soccer Toll Continues
Soccer tragedies have come to be expected—an inevitable consequence of the sport's intertwining with the politics, economics and emotions of so many towns, cities and nations. The 83 spectators crushed to death at Mateo Flores Stadium in Guatemala City on the night of Oct. 16, before a Costa Rica-Guatemala World Cup qualifying match, were the latest casualties in a series of stampedes that have left more than 300 soccer fans dead in the last 10 years. The deaths, and injuries to some 200 others, were caused when hundreds of fans pushed through a narrow entrance tunnel and spilled into already packed bleachers. Some spectators were trampled, others mashed against a chain-link fence around the perimeter of the field. Though Flores Stadium has only about 45,000 seats, more than 55,000 tickets were sold. Guatemalan soccer officials reportedly oversold the game by several thousand, and several thousand other, phony, ducats were hawked by counterfeiters. The counterfeits were easy to spot, yet Rolando Castro de Leon, president of Guatemala's national sports agency, which helped organize the match, defended the ticket takers and guards. "Maybe at night they couldn't see false tickets," De Leon said. "I'd like to have seen you trying to control 55,000 incoming fans."