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Boston Celtic star Reggie Lewis collapsed during the first quarter of his team's playoff-opening 112-101 win over the Charlotte Hornets last Thursday night. The subsequent determination that he suffered from "cardiac abnormalities"—one report said that the hospitalized Lewis had a condition called focal cardiomyopathy—stirred memories of Hank Gathers, the Loyola Marymount All-America who collapsed and died of a similar affliction during a game on March 4, 1990. Lewis, 27, is out of the playoffs, and his six-year career may be in jeopardy.
Gathers's condition was known at the time he was stricken—he was taking medication for it—but when Lewis collapsed, it was thought at first that he had been hit on the head by Charlotte guard Kendall Gill. According to Celtic CEO Dave Gavitt, Lewis then was cleared to play by team physician Arnold Scheller. "Arnie examined him fully at the half and said to me, 'Reggie wants to play,' " said Gavitt. "I said, 'Are you 100 percent comfortable with that?' He said, 'Yeah. There's nothing there that I can determine other than maybe it's low blood sugar or just he's excited.' Then I saw the videotape where it indicated he hadn't been hit. I went back to Arnie again and said, 'Are you 100 percent sure? Because if you're not, I'll make the call right now that he doesn't play. Arnie said, 'No, let Reggie [make] the call. I'm confident that nothing bad can happen, but we'll keep a close eye on him.' "
Lewis started the second half, but when teammates noted that his legs were wobbly and informed coach Chris Ford, he was removed from the game. The next morning he was taken to the hospital to undergo tests.
A flashback of a far different kind was prompted by the death last week of Los Angeles Raider defensive back Dave Waymer. Waymer, 34, a 12-year NFL veteran, was stricken at his home in Mooresville, N.C., and an autopsy revealed traces of cocaine in his system. It wasn't immediately known whether the drug had contributed to his death—initial reports were that he suffered a heart attack—but Waymer presumably knew at least some of the perils of cocaine use. In 1982 former New Orleans Saint running back Mike Strachan was convicted of selling cocaine, and Waymer, who was with the Saints at the time, said in a newspaper interview that he had bought the drug from Strachan. But Waymer added, "The problem didn't go that far. I've got too much to lose."
Lowering the Boom
Just when it appeared that the NHL was ascending from the sewer, Washington Capital center Dale Hunter dragged it back in last week by mugging New York Islander star Pierre Turgeon near the end of Game 6 of their teams' playoff series. Turgeon had just scored to give New York, which led in the series three games to two, a four-goal lead—game over, series over, bring on the Pittsburgh Penguins. As Turgeon joyously raised his arms and began to pump his fist to celebrate, Hunter blindsided him, slamming Turgeon into the boards. It was the equivalent of a football player's being speared by a frustrated rival after spiking the ball in the end zone.
The collision separated Turgeon's right shoulder, an injury that figures to keep him off the ice for the remainder of the playoffs. Hunter said he didn't know Turgeon's shot had gone in and was merely completing a check, an outrageous statement, considering that the 15,000 fans in the Nassau Coliseum were standing and cheering at the time and that Turgeon had begun his celebration. It also happens that Hunter has a long history of aberrant on-ice behavior; most recently, he butt-ended Islander captain Pat Flatley in the eye in Game 3.
The silver lining to the ugly incident is that it gives new NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who was at the game, a chance to make an unambiguous statement about the NHL's altered attitude toward malicious play. For once the NHL appears to be serious about reducing fighting, which is way down in the postseason—from 12 fights in the first round in 1992 to five this year. Bettman can bolster the league's image by lowering the boom on Hunter, who was put on indefinite suspension while the NHL decided exactly how severely to punish him. As SI went to press, Bettman was expected to announce a suspension effective next season that would go well beyond the five-to-10 game bans that have been the norm in the NHL for such conduct.