Cannabis versus Chaos
Is marijuana the way to mellow a hooligan?
The violence that broke out last Saturday between drunken English hooligans and German fans in the Belgian city of Charleroi before the Euro 2000 soccer match between their two countries was hardly surprising, given that Charleroi officials had allowed sales of potent Belgian beer (9% alcohol) to begin at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the match. City officials opted not to follow the lead of their counterparts in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, where special Festival Beer—just 2.5% alcohol-was sold before the England- Portugal match played there on June 13. "In Eindhoven if you drink 10 beers, it will be the same as if you drink three here," said Charleroi police spokesman Michel Rompen. "Alcohol isn't the problem. It's the consequence of alcohol that's the problem."
Questionable logic, especially in light of the placid behavior of the English faithful in Eindhoven. Despite England's 3-2 loss to Portugal, only a handful of arrests were made, all for minor offenses. Dutch police suggested that Eindhoven had another weapon in the battle against hooliganism: marijuana, which is decriminalized in Holland and widely available in so-called coffeehouses. "The cannabis may have helped relax them," said police spokesman Johann Beelan the day after the Portugal match. "Even the hooligans enjoyed the party." The BBC reported that throughout the city's bars, the defeat inspired only "mild disappointment and gentle applause."
Pot wasn't the only distraction Eindhoven offered. English fans swelled the town's red-light district—prostitution is legal in Holland—and two bikini-clad Dutch porn stars, Tona, 31, and Kate, 26, mingled with English supporters. "We made a point of kissing those who looked most like hooligans, and sometimes we let them touch us," said Tona, "provided they were gentle."
HIGH SCHOOL MILER
The Slow Route To Four Minutes
Alan Webb, a junior at South Lakes High in Reston, Va., became one of the most compelling stories of the Olympic year when he seemed poised to become the first high school runner in 33 years to break four minutes for the mile. Instead, Webb's coach, Scott Raczko, last week called off scheduled assaults on the four-minute barrier in Raleigh, N.C., and Eugene, Ore., and shut Webb down for the season. It seems that a full-throttle nine months of cross-country and track, including a spring spent chasing the ghosts of Jim Ryun and Marty Liquori, has left Webb physically and emotionally drained. For the patience, common sense and compassion of this decision, Raczko and Webb's parents deserve a gold medal.
The rush to turn children into serious athletes has gotten out of hand. High school players are considering the NBA in record numbers. Figure skaters, gymnasts and swimmers are racing to be the next teen (or preteen) sensation. Across America kids as young as eight vie for spots on ferociously competitive traveling teams in basketball, hockey and soccer. It's considered sacrilegious to put the brakes on a promising kid's career, as if the window of athletic opportunity closes at age 18. It doesn't.
Webb is strong and fast and tough and dedicated, and to be a great miler you need to be all of those. He ran 3:59.9 for a 1,600-meter relay split at the Penn Relays in April, which is the equivalent of a 4:01.4 mile. Two weeks after that he sat on his high school track and told an SI writer who had asked about a sub-four mile, "I know it hasn't been done in 33 years, and I'm going to do it." He spoke reverentially of Roger Bannister. Webb skipped his prom to run a meet in Charlotte on May 20 and produced a spectacular 4:03.3, only to have to answer an hour's worth of dour media questions that all played on the theme, Are you disappointed? He was.
Ryun ran 3:55 in high school and improved by four seconds over the rest of his career, which was good enough to set the world record twice. After Webb breaks four minutes, he'll need at least another 17 seconds to reach the world mark. "He can't help but make it under four next year, says Raczko. If he does, great. If he doesn't, that's fine, too. People who care about him are trying to ensure he has a long, successful career, with sweet memories and no burnout.
McCain: Stop the Mismatch