Life in Grand Forks, N.Dak., and its sister city of East Grand Forks, Minn., has been dramatically altered since the flooding of the Red River last month. Some 50,000 citizens had to be evacuated, and those who love to play have endured an extra hardship. Athletes at Grand Forks's two high schools, Central and Red River, have been allowed to compete for their schools while attending other ones out of town. But because of the flood, fewer than half the eligible athletes are suiting up, and several teams have had to forfeit their seasons. Meanwhile, the University of North Dakota, which is in Grand Forks, canceled the remainder of the current semester on April 19, thereby wiping out its spring sports and denying several All-Americas their senior seasons. The Fighting Sioux's athletic department has appealed to the NCAA for a hardship ruling that would give spring-sport athletes another season of eligibility.
As people return to homes that will need to be rebuilt, the prospects of any sporting recreation are dim. The Little League and adult Softball seasons will be delayed; all three of Grand Forks's bowling alleys were severely damaged by water; the seven area golf courses are in shambles. "There was 12 inches of mud around the greens," says the city's superintendent of recreation, Bill Palmiscno about one municipal course. "That's a lot of mud."
At least 20-year-old Kraft Field escaped relatively unscathed, and the June 20 home opener for the Grand Forks Varmints is not in doubt. "We're finding our services are needed now," says Jim Swanson, general manager of the independent Prairie League baseball team. There have been obstacles: The team's offices were destroyed, and housing has been hard to find for the 21 players. But Swanson doesn't complain. "Our new offices are in a complex with the Red Cross shelter," he says. "Every time I come and go, I walk past 400 people sleeping on cots."
The Wrong Message
A new Nike TV commercial featuring former U.S. basketball Olympian Lisa Leslie flashes back to 1990, when she scored 101 points in a single half while a senior at Morningside High in Inglewood, Calif. Over footage of Leslie shooting baskets, a narrator says of Morningside's opponents, the Spartans of South Torrance High, "The other team couldn't stand it, so they left and went home."
The ad doesn't mention that because of injuries and foul outs, South Torrance had only four players remaining at halftime. Nor does it point out that Leslie, at the urging of her coach, Frank Scott, began taking advantage of undermanned South Torrance High with the self-glorifying intention of breaking Cheryl Miller's girls' single-game national high school mark of 105 points, set in 1982. In fact, when Leslie learned that the second half would be canceled because the Spartans didn't have enough players, she asked South Torrance coach Gil Ramirez if he would keep his team on the floor long enough to let her set the record. Ramirez, we're glad to say, refused to just do it.
Folks take the waving of pom-poms pretty seriously in Texas, home state of Wanda Webb Holloway, the infamous Cheerleader Mom, who in 1991 attempted to have the mother of her daughter's cheer-leading rival murdered. A more benign killer instinct manifested itself earlier this month at an auction to raise money for the Trinity School in Midland. When the chance to become a varsity "Homecoming Cheerleader" for a week went on the block, two fathers set out to snag the spot for their daughters, who are in the third and fourth grades at the school. Their head-to-head bidding began at $100 and reached $15,000 before Trinity officials decided to let both daughters have a turn leading cheers on the football sidelines. Both dads proudly paid.
Hanging It Up
Eric Cantona, the French-born forward for Manchester United whose brilliance on the field was often eclipsed by his outrageousness off it—he served a season-long suspension for kung-fu kicking a fan during a 1995 game—on Sunday announced his retirement from soccer. Fittingly, he was embroiled in controversy to the last.
In The Art of the Game, a 10-by-8-foot, lavishly painted reinterpretation of Piero della Francesca's 15th-century Resurrection of Christ, British artist Michael Browne has replaced the figure of Jesus with that of Cantona. Soccer's bad boy is depicted rising from a tomb surrounded by other United players and watched over by Alex Ferguson, Manchester's manager. Ferguson is shown holding a palm frond, symbol of Christ's triumph over death.