SI Vault
Edited by Craig Neff
November 20, 1989
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November 20, 1989


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Last week's extraordinary events in East Germany raised questions about the future of that country's powerful Olympic sports machine. As of Monday, millions of East Germans had taken or were taking advantage of their newly granted freedom to travel—most were flocking to West Germany—and at least some of them had no intention of returning home. Although it may not be known for a while if any prominent athletes or coaches were among those leaving for good, top soccer players Gerd Weber and Hans Richter and former world champion cyclist Uwe Unterwalder were said to be among the tens of thousands of East Germans who fled through Hungary, Poland or Czechoslovakia in previous weeks to find new homes in the West.

The underpinnings of the East German sports system may be in jeopardy. That system demands great discipline and sacrifice from its athletes. As a reward for their single-minded pursuit of sports, the athletes are given cars, homes and money, and are allowed to travel to the West and buy prized Western goods—privileges that are no longer so special. To the extent that freedom of speech and thought blossoms in East Germany—and prize money from Western pro sports becomes accessible—athletes may become less willing to let a government sports federation control their lives. Beyond that, economic reform could make nonsports careers more attractive and force the government to slash its huge sports subsidies.

Despite the events of last week, reunification of the two Germanys does not seem imminent. Neither does the possibility of the two Germanys fielding a combined Olympic team—although the prospect remains intriguing. Together, teams from East Germany and West Germany would have led all nations in medals at every Winter and Summer Olympics from 1972 through '88, except for the boycotted '80 and '84 Summer Games. But if the East German sports system weakens, a combined German team might not be a juggernaut. When Germany last fielded a combined Olympic team, at the '64 Summer Games, it finished fourth in total medals, with 35.

Last week's events stirred hopeful talk of Berlin hosting the 2004 Summer Olympics. And East and West did unite for a small sporting cause on Saturday. The Hertha soccer club of West Berlin offered free admission to its game against Wattenscheid to 10,000 East Berliners. Thousands of East Germans went over or through the Berlin Wall, cheered Hertha to a 1-1 tie and returned home—most of them, anyway—to the East. Who could have imagined it?


Boxing promoter Dan Duva gave his Little Falls, N.J., neighbors a real scare on Halloween. Duva, whose stable of fighters includes No. 1-ranked heavyweight contender Evander Holyfield, dressed his nine-month-old son, Bryan, as rival promoter Don King. Dan put Bryan in a tiny white tuxedo, made his hair stand straight up with a heavy dose of styling mousse and draped around his neck a "gold" pendant topped with King's trademark: a crown and the letters DON. "Everybody knew who he was supposed to be," said Dan. "We got a lot of laughs and a lot of candy."

King, who handles champ Mike Tyson, has been taking a hard line with Duva in recent negotiations for a proposed Holyfield-Tyson bout. That may have been on the mind of Duva's wife, Kathy, when she said, "Halloween is traditionally when you dress up as the thing you fear the most and exorcise the demon."


Pete Rose said last week that he's receiving psychiatric help for a gambling disorder and isn't sure if he will even apply for reinstatement to baseball when he becomes eligible to do so next August. Rose, who was "permanently" banned from the game on Aug. 24 for his gambling and his unsavory associations, gave interviews to Phil Donahue, Barbara Walters and selected print journalists to coincide with the release of his book Pete Rose: My Story, written with Roger Kahn. In both the book and the interviews, Rose, who has hired a Cincinnati public-relations specialist to help him repair his image, continued to contend that he never bet on baseball and was "framed" by the nine people who told baseball investigators otherwise. Rose said he has taken up golf to keep busy in the spare hours he once devoted to betting.

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