Just when professional golf was beginning to shake its elitist image and appeal to the masses, the PGA Tour has come up with a way to make sure those masses don't get too close to the elite. The Tour last week announced plans to sell a maximum of 1,000 GolfWatch passes per tournament this season, which, for a mere $1,500 apiece, will entitle well-heeled bearers access not only to corporate hospitality tents but also to "express walking lanes." Set up parallel to fairways and patrolled by four or five guards per hole, these rabble-free zones—the brainchild of the Denver-based firm Strategic Marketing International—will be in place at four events this year, beginning with the Nissan Open on Feb. 27, and are scheduled to be expanded to 12 tournaments next season. For the golf world's truly idle rich this is most assuredly a step in the right direction. Some of those folks, however, are no doubt holding out for moving sidewalks.
The Cowboy Files
For years women's groups have tried to get across the message that a rape victim is just that—a victim, who should be treated with sympathy and respect, not tainted with innuendo, whatever her personal history. A concomitant message came across loud and clear in Dallas last week: We should not rush to judgment against someone accused of rape, either, whatever his background. After an 11-day investigation, Dallas police last Friday afternoon said that the 23-year-old former topless dancer who had accused Michael Irvin and Erik Williams of aggravated sexual assault had recanted her story and that no charges would be Tiled against the two Dallas Cowboy stars.
That won't stop many people from continuing to believe that a crime occurred at Williams's north Dallas home on Dec. 29, the night on which, according to the complaint that Nina Shahravan filed the next day, Williams had raped her as Irvin recorded the event on a video camera. She also alleged that Irvin had pointed a gun at her before the rape. The histories of Williams (who in 1995 reached an out-of-court settlement after being accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old topless dancer) and Irvin (who is still on probation after pleading no contest to cocaine possession last July), as well as the notorious misbehavior of many other Cowboys, have made it easy to look cynically at the erstwhile America's Team. But just because it's easy doesn't mean it's right. Continuing to doubt Irvin and Williams after they have been cleared, or assuming that they were guilty before all the facts of the case were known, is no better than doubting the story of a rape victim because she was a party girl, or because her skirt was too short, or because she was drinking in a bar at two o'clock in the morning.
Questions about the case do remain. Dallas police pointed to a medical exam administered on Shahravan on Dec. 30 that revealed bruises and injuries "consistent with a sexual assault." A Dallas police lieutenant told SI on Dec. 31, "Everything she [Shahravan] told us has checked out." As late as last Friday morning, a Collin County prosecutor said that he believed that his office had a good case against Irvin and Williams and that Shahravan "had not wavered" in her story. Part of the police's willingness to believe Shahravan was based on having found a balled-up piece of aluminum foil in Williams's house, supporting, they believed, her contention that she and the two men had used cocaine that evening. But last Friday afternoon, test results came back revealing no trace of drugs on the aluminum foil. Shahravan recanted soon thereafter.
Police have been wrong before, and so have medical reports. And so have high-profile celebrities been victimized by predators of all stripe. Williams and Irvin denied their guilt all along, and hard as it might be for a cynical public and a carnivorous press to admit, these Cowboys were unfairly branded this time.
Boston Writers Strike Out
For an example of spineless behavior, it would be hard to top the one-two punch delivered last week by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. First, the chapter kowtowed to Boston Red Sox CEO John Harrington, who had threatened to boycott the group's annual dinner last Thursday and dissuade players from attending if the writers awarded veteran Mike Greenwell the Tommy McCarthy Memorial Good Guy Award. Tensions that had simmered all season between the front office and Greenwell—who in December announced he was leaving Boston after 12 seasons to play in Japan—boiled over in September when Greenwell began cleaning out his locker while the Sox were technically still in contention for the American League wild card.
Although the association wrote to Harrington objecting to his interference, it presented Greenwell with a lifetime achievement award instead. As Harrington wanted, Greenwell did not show up. But in a subsequent interview with The Boston Globe, Greenwell lambasted the Red Sox, particularly embattled general manager Dan Duquette, exactly the sort of criticism by Greenwell that Harrington wished to avoid at the banquet.
And what happened when a Boston reporter asked chapter president Charlie Scoggins of the Lowell Sun about the episode? Scoggins, who is in the information business, said, "No comment."