"The only way this team is going to be out of a game is if we panic," Bledsoe said after leading a late charge against the Colts last month. "We can come back in any game. We believe that, and I believe that." Now the rest of the league is starting to believe it too.
A Cruel Twist Of Fate
Fans got a jarring reminder of how dangerous football can be when UC Davis running back Sam Paneno had his lower right leg amputated on Sept. 20, nine days after dislocating his knee while running the ball on the first play of overtime at Western Oregon. "He just got hit awkwardly," says UC Davis coach Bob Biggs, who knew how badly Paneno was hurt when he saw players waving frantically. "He was in tremendous pain."
Paneno was treated on the field and rushed to nearby Salem Hospital, but an artery behind his knee had ruptured. Despite four operations over the next week, the muscles and nerves in Paneno's lower leg were so badly damaged by poor blood flow that surgeons saw no choice but to amputate. Paneno, 22, a psychology major who scored two touchdowns in his final football game, should walk again with the help of a prosthesis.
His teammates were hit hard by the news. "It gave me a different outlook," says running back Trae Milton, who ran for 171 yards in the Aggies' 42-16 victory over New Haven last Saturday. "I used to complain about things like my leg not feeling good, but every complaint in my life became irrelevant. I have a leg."
The news that Missouri-based billionaire Bill Laurie, owner of the NHL's Blues and St. Louis's Kiel Center, has agreed to buy the Vancouver Grizzlies for an estimated $200 million triggered the sort of speculation not seen in British Columbia since the gold rush. GOING, GOING...read a Vancouver Sun headline, alluding to the common belief that Laurie will move the Grizzlies to St. Louis as early as the 2000-01 season. Vancouver coach Brian Hill, posing for a photo with Laurie, casually asked about the seating capacity at the Kiel Center.
Laurie is a basketball junkie who played guard for the Memphis State team that lost to UCLA in the 1973 NCAA championship game. He could become a hero in St. Louis by bringing the NBA back to the Gateway City, which lost the Hawks to Atlanta in 1968. Staying in Vancouver—where the weak Canadian dollar works against him and where he'd have to pay rent at General Motors Place—can't be too appetizing. "It's a business decision," says Jack Scott, a season-ticket holder famous for waving a huge Canadian flag behind the Vancouver bench. "He'll do what's in his best interest."
NBA rules require that a majority of the 29 owners approve any franchise relocation. One general manager says that Laurie might have to cough up some extra dough to his fellow owners in the form of transfer fees, but that shouldn't be a deal-breaker: Laurie's wife, Nancy, is the daughter of Wal-Mart co-founder Bud Walton.
Grizzlies fans, who have filled GM Place to 87% of capacity during the Grizzlies' four seasons, will probably ask commissioner David Stern for help in retaining their franchise. No NBA team has moved since the Kings left Kansas City for Sacramento in 1985, and five years ago Stern helped quash a bid by the Timberwolves' owners to move their franchise to New Orleans. " David Stern made a commitment to Canada," says Grizzlies fan Bob Wong. " Vancouver has done its part by supporting the Grizzlies. Maybe he'll convince NBA owners to keep the team here."