A phone tout turns a negative review into a positive one
In his story 1-900-RIPOFFS (SI, Nov. 18), Rick Reilly detailed the chicanery of many call-in sports betting services. One of the touts Reilly mentioned was Johnny DeMarco, whom he described this way: "If you think guys like [Stu] Feiner and [Mike] Warren will make you wish you had never installed your phone, Atlanta's John L. Edens, alias Johnny DeMarco, the Babe Ruth of 900 sales pitchers, will make you wish Alexander Graham Bell had never been born."
Reilly detailed several of DeMarco's underhanded pitches. Now add one more. On two consecutive Mondays recently, New York's Daily News ran an advertisement for "Johnny DeMarco's NFL Game of the Year" that featured this endorsement: "The Babe Ruth of 900 numbers—Sports Illustrated 11/18/91."
Fred Cantor, a lawyer for New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs, who monitors the betting ads, says, "After the SI piece, I sat down with [columnist] Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who is an opponent of these ads, and I asked him, 'Do you think any of these guys will use the article, as negative as it is, in their ads?' He said, 'You can bet on it.' "
George Foreman brings Reno good tidings and a bad fight
Santa Claus came early to Reno in the person of jolly old George Foreman. At this time of the year, the town's gambling halls are usually empty as customers prepare for the holidays. But this year, the place was ho-ho-hopping as the 257-pound, 42-year-old Foreman brought his lounge act to Reno for his fight last Saturday night with Jimmy Ellis. This was Foreman's first fight since his 12-round loss to heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield last April 19, and not even the anemic credentials of his 27-year-old novice opponent could diminish the big guy's appeal. Harrah's Reno, for instance, had to double its original order for tickets. Said Mark Neebling, manager of promotions for Harrah's, "It's not really a fight but an event."
It most certainly wasn't a fight, though HBO was paying Foreman $5 million to climb into the ring. Ellis, a former linebacker out of Boise State who bears no relation or resemblance to the former heavyweight champ of the same name, came in with a record of 16-0-1, with 15 knockouts. His last 10 opponents, though, had lost a combined 128 fights. Ellis's career had spanned less than 35 rounds. Foreman, who handpicked him, had more than twice as many fights as that. Nevertheless, Ellis insisted, "I think I am definitely qualified to fight George Foreman."
Ellis lasted just seven minutes and 36 seconds, which is about twice as long as he should have been allowed to go. With a mangled nose and an unshaven, jutting jaw, Ellis at least looked like a fighter as he entered the ring. He stopped looking like one at the opening bell. With a punishing jab and methodical, sledgehammerlike punches, Foreman pounded him almost disdainfully.