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July 19, 1999
The Falcons' TroublesHow to Pluck a Dirty Bird
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July 19, 1999


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Dating Gaines

With the dons of Wimbledon thinking of rescheduling the fortnight—delaying the tournament two weeks to give players more practice time on grass and to take advantage of better summer weather—other sports might follow suit. Here are eight more events that should dump their blind dates.



Better Date


BCS Bowls

Jan. 1-Jan.4

Jan. 1

New Year's Day should be an orgy of college football's top games, not a tease before the big one

Daytona 500



NASCAR's Super Bowl should be the year's last major race, not its first

Women's NCAA Final Four

Late March

Late February

As a warmup for March Madness, distaff finals could be February Fever

Stanley Cup Finals

Late June

Early June

Ice would be more playable earlier in spring

Baseball All-Star Game


July 4

National pastime's midseason bash belongs on America's birthday

PGA Championship


Late October

Golf's fourth major should be the season finale, not a post-British Open anticlimax

World Series


Early October

Cleveland's parade wouldn't be called on account of snow

Tyson-Holyfield III

Early 2000?


A better pay-per-view show: Tyson chews out Don King on Court TV

The Falcons' Troubles
How to Pluck a Dirty Bird

Dan Reeves began the Falcons' mini-camp last week with a heartfelt warning. "Remember how hard we came at the teams that were at the top?" Reeves asked his players. "Now we're the team at the top of the NFC, and teams will come hard after us." Judging by its off-season, however, Atlanta may be poised for the quickest slide into mediocrity since the Chargers went from the '95 Super Bowl to 26-39 over the next four years.

In February, Falcons wideout Tony Martin was indicted on federal money laundering and conspiracy charges for his alleged involvement with a drug smuggler. The team cut Martin rather than pay a $400,000 bonus he was to get on March 1. Losing Martin—an 11-year veteran who signed with the Dolphins—leaves Atlanta with just four receivers who have caught NFL passes and without a deep threat. "They aren't going to run by you, that's for sure," says one NFL defensive coordinator.

The Falcons won't run much at all unless Reeves resolves a nasty contract dispute with Jamal Anderson, who led the NFC in rushing last year with 1,846 yards. Anderson never attends off-season workouts, but this year he blew off minicamp too and racked up $4,882 in fines for it. Entering the last year of a five-year contract that calls for a $1.6 million base salary in '99, he wants a three-year extension worth $10 million, including a $6 million signing bonus. Reeves, who doubles as coach and general manager, offered Anderson to the Patriots on draft day, but New England said no.

"They're pushing us into a corner," Anderson's agent, Jim Sims, says of his contract talks with the Falcons. Reeves contends that the front office has "gone about as far as we can go."

"I say pay the guy," says offensive tackle Bob Whitfield. "Of course, when he gets his deal, I'll be asking for more real fast."

Starting right guard Gene Williams, another holdout, might soon be released—perhaps to clear cap room for Anderson. Starting left guard Calvin Collins may be headed for the bench, and due to free-agent signings and Reeves's youth movement there's a good chance that Pro Bowl cornerback Ray Buchanan will be the only starter from the NFC' champs' defensive backfield who returns to the position he played last year. "For a team that went to the Super Bowl, it seems like a big shake-up," Buchanan says.

"There are still a few weeks before training camp," says Falcons linebacker Jessie Tuggle. "It'll all get worked out It always does."

Not always. Ask the Chargers.

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