Liberty at Sparks
In the same week that one of its marquee players, Sheryl Swoopes of the Houston Comets, is due to give birth to a son she'll name Jordan (and you thought the Mailman delivered!), the WNBA, or Fem-BA, will itself emerge from the womb. Statuesque Rebecca Lobo, who stands 6'4", will carry the torch for the New Yorkers, while 6'5" native Angeleno Lisa Leslie, one of Lobo's 1996 Olympic teammates, will ignite the Sparks. Keep an eye on Los Angeles's 6'8" Zheng Haixia. The Great Wall of China, as she is known, is equal in height to the tallest player to appear in the first NBA game 51 years ago, Toronto Huskies center George Nostrand.
•NBC, 4 PM
Was it only last summer that San Diego played host to the Zzz Games (i.e., the Republican National Convention)? Who wouldn't love to see a few of those GOP members return for the third annual X Games, relocated from Rhode Island? "Jesse Helms needs to catch some big air if he's to have any hope of overtaking Strom Thurmond in the barefoot water-ski-jumping competition. This just in: Gen. Colin Powell has been disqualified from the sky-surfing event for ordering antiaircraft missiles to be aimed at his fellow competitors." Now those would be extreme sports! But there should be thrills and spills enough in the events (such as street luge, below) telecast nightly this week on ESPN and ESPN2.
•ABC, 5 PM; ESPN, 10 PM
World Bowl '97: Fire at Dragons
Never mind the sun, the Fire also rises. From the embers of a 3-7, last-place finish a year ago, Rhein emerged as a WLAF power and will invade Barcelona's Estadi Olímpic de Montjuic with the league's best record (7-3) and a bullish offensive line that stampedes defenders as if they were feckless tourists in Pamplona. Not only did the Rhein line help the Fire set a World League rushing record (155.5 yards per game) this spring, but it also allowed only one sack—that a slip by quarterback T.J. Rubley. Barcelona (5-5) must also contend with Rhein kicker Manfred Burgsmüller. The fourth-leading scorer in German soccer history. Burgsmüller is second among WLAF kickers in scoring (44 points) and first in birthdays (47).
•FOX, 1 PM
AVP Miller Lite Open
At age 36 Karch Kiraly finds himself deposed as King of the Beach and playing the role of his sport's King Lear. Kiraly, volleyball's highest career money winner, missed the first seven stops of the '97 AVP Tour while he was recovering from shoulder surgery. In Kiraly's absence, his 29-year-old partner Kent Steffes paired up with Brazil's 27-year-old Jose Loiola—who came out on top in the King of the Beach tournament in March—to win seven of those events. Now Steffes-Loiola is touted as potentially the best duo ever, and Kiraly (above, in hat, with Steffes) admits, "They could break all the records." But remember, as the Bard said, "Striving to better, oft we mar what's well."
•NBC, 3 PM
Wondering how those two ebullient French Open champs, Iva Majoli and Gustavo Kuerten, will fare at the All England Lawn Tennis Club? She has never won a match at Wimbledon. He has never even played a match on grass. Majoli enters a women's field that is minus defending champion Steffi Graf, who is sidelined by knee surgery. Kuerten will shed his blue suede shoes in favor of the required all-whites, but he and the rest of the men's draw will not be rid as readily of three-time champ Pete Sampras (below), who's hoping to bounce back after his early exit in the French.
•HBO, 9 AM DAILY THROUGH FRIDAY
Until President Clinton reverses himself on cloning, and carbon copies of Michael Jordan become an option, the draft remains the best way for the NBA to replenish its talent. Wake Forest center Tim Duncan will be selected first, by the San Antonio Spurs, but after that not even God (Shammgod), the sophomore Providence point guard who declared hardship, knows how the night will proceed. (For Jackie MacMullan's predictions, see page 50.)
•TNT, 7:30 PM
All times Eastern. Schedules are subject to change.