Since becoming the National Hockey League commissioner in 1993, Gary Bettman (No. 27 on the SI Power 50 List on page 48) has been at the center of three lockouts, one fully abandoned season and the target of nonstop criticism from our hockey loving neighbors to the North. While the lack of work stability may forever define Bettman’s career in the eyes of many, the exponential growth of the league under his reign cannot go unnoticed. In this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Michael Farber wonders if Bettman, who has taken a $400 million league and turned it into $3.3 billion dollar powerhouse, is really as terrible as everyone says? Farber says:
“The balance sheet flatters a commissioner who landed hockey’s great white whale—an American network-TV contract. In 1993 Bettman returned the NHL to over-the-air TV in the U.S. for the first time since 1975 with a $155 million deal with Fox, and, in 2011, he upgraded with a 10-year, $2 billion deal from NBC. The NHL also expanded by four teams under Bettman.” (PAGE 55)
While the growth of the league has business analysts singing his praise, Canadians seem to hum a different tune. When Bettman moved two Canadian based teams, the Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets, in consecutive years to American cities, he alienated a fan base that loved his sport the most. Matters were only made worse when Bettman openly blocked the sale of NHL teams to Jim Balsillie, a Canadian telecommunications CEO who intended on uproot intended teams and move them to the south of Ontario.
“All Canadians share an opinion about hockey: Americans have sold out our game. . . . At the center is this Napoleonic figure,” said Kevin Tierney, a Canadian filmmaker who has never been discrete with his opinion on the commissioner. (PAGE #52)
But while the Canadians continue to vehemently deny Bettman their approval, he continues to work towards a league that not only includes Canadian teams and money, but also nurtures the delicate balance that is American and Canadian interest in hockey.
In order to maintain this balance, Harber writes that the commissioner assisted Canada in two significant ways:
1) Bettman gave the country its coveted seventh team when he returned the NHL to Winnipeg, moving the Thrashers from Atlanta in 2011 (“Right a wrong,” the commissioner called it); and
2) more significantly, he developed the Canadian Assistance Plan, spanning from 1995 to 2004, which transferred money to the Oilers, Flames, Senators and, briefly, the Canucks to offset the debilitating effects of the Canadian dollar, which at the time traded as low as $0.62. (PAGE 56)
Manny Pacquiao Has Given up Gambling, Drinking and Infidelity, How Will That Affect His Boxing?
In This Year’s Stanley Cup Finals, No Player Has Shown as Brightly as Kings Goaltender Jonathan Quick
The U.S. is in Position to Sweep the Decathlon for Just the Second Time in Olympic History
U.S. Soccer Coach Jurgen Klinsmann Is Transforming the Game in America
(NEW YORK – June 6, 2012) – Texas Rangers centerfielder Josh Hamilton is on pace to have one of the greatest seasons in major league history, but one night earlier this year could have altered everything. Hamilton’s battle with drug and alcohol addiction had wasted five years of his career and an alcohol relapse in a Dallas bar in late January gained national attention. His family, teammates, the Rangers organization and most important Hamilton have moved on from this worrisome moment, but the difficult journey Hamilton faces every day is the cover story for the June 11, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now. This is the second time Hamilton as appeared on the cover, the first was on June 2, 2008.
Rangers manager Ron Washington knows the cost of bad choices, as he tested positive for cocaine during the 2009 season. He and Hamilton talk frequently about temptation, the game, people and what it means to be a man. Washington says, “Sometimes he can’t sleep at night. This is when the demons start to come out of him, and he needs someone to talk to. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes up in here, and sometimes we take a half an hour. Then he leaves, and I’m cleansed and he’s cleansed.”
Senior writer S.L. Price spoke with Hamilton’s wife, Katie, about the battles and the two relapses Josh has had over the last four years. Katie, who like Josh is a born-again Christian, credits their faith for saving Josh’s life, their marriage, his body and talent for the moment when he could return to baseball. After all she has been through with Josh, it would be easy to write off what happened in January, but Katie says, “People that don’t know me probably think I have some kind of co-dependence issue, like I get my value in helping him. Absolutely not. I fully expect him to be the man and husband that God has called him to be. I should never have to assist him in this.”
As Hamilton continues to put up what could be historic numbers, through Sunday, he was hitting .354 and leading the majors in homers (21), RBIs (57), OPS (1.138), total bases (142) and slugging percentage (.728), for him, it will be his faith and hard work that keeps him going every day (page 36).
THE FIGHTER FINDS PEACE – CHRIS MANNIX (@ChrisMannixSI)
Manny Pacquiao was on top of the world. And as the face of his sport, a world champion and a congressman in his home country, the Philippines, he had every reason to be. But in life, Pacquiao was on a path to destruction. Gambling, drinking and infidelity almost derailed the boxer’s life. His gambling turned so bad that even though Pacquiao was earning $25 to $30 million per bout, he was still forced to go to his promoter, Bob Arum, for cash to pay his debts. Arum has to wired hundreds of thousands of dollars to casinos five or six times. Arum said, “[Manny] had one of the worst gambling habits of any athlete I’ve ever known. He was addicted to it.”
After his wife Jinkee told him she wanted a divorce, he knew it was time to change and nine months ago when he found God, he finally was able to turn his life around (page 58).
Now, with a bout against the undefeated Timothy Bradley scheduled for Saturday, Pacquiao, and those around hm, say he’s in a better place—that he is at peace. Trainer Freddie Roach says Pacquiao’s killer instinct is still there, saying, “His boxing is as consistent as it has ever been. He’s not the same fighter he was five years ago, but he is still better than everyone else.”
JONATHAN AND THE AMERICANS – MICHAEL FARBER (@MichaelFarber3)
When the Stanley Cup is won, commissioner Gary Bettman will hand the trophy to New Jersey’s Zach Parise (Minneapolis) or L.A.’s Dustin Brown (Ithaca, N.Y.). For the first time both finalists have U.S. natives as captains. In addition, this marks the first time that both general managers – the Kings’ Dean Lombardi (Ludlow, Mass.) and the Devils’ Lou Lamoriello (Providence) – are U.S. born. In Game 2 both teams dressed six American players in their 20- man lineup, ratios that far exceed the overall NHL percentage of American players (24.2%).
In a coast-to-coast series brimming with U.S. born stars, no one has shone as brightly as the Kings’ soft-spoken goaltender, Jonathan Quick. Hailing from Connecticut, Quick may prove to be a once-in-a-generation goalie. On the ice his low stance obscures the bottom of the net while his skill and reflexes safeguard the upper portion of the net (page 46).
L.A. defenseman Willie Mitchell said, “This is my second year here, and he’s one of the best goaltenders I’ve ever seen. He’s also one of the best teammates ever because he’s such a selfless guy.”
FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER – TIM LAYDEN (@SITimLayden)
The winner of the Olympic decathlon receives the unofficial title of World’s Greatest Athlete. In London the U.S. has three men who could all vie for the gold. Ashton Eaton, 24, may be a little young but has been deemed the greatest decathlon runner ever. Bryan Clay is 32 and while he may be too old, he won the gold at Beijing and is the second-best thrower in event history. The last is Trey Hardee who at 28 is in the prime of his career and is the most consistent across all 10 events (page 62).
The U.S. has an opportunity to sweep the decathlon for just the second time in Olympic history. The other was in 1936. Said Chris Huffins, Olympic bronze medalist in the decathlon, “We have three very talented guys in stable training situations, and the European-combined-event factories—the Czech Republic, Germany, the former Soviet countries—do not have that one guy. This is our time.”
Eaton, who many feel is the favorite because of his superior running ability, is trying to stay grounded. He said, “It’s important to not make the gold medal bigger than it is. But nobody ever says that about things that aren’t big.”
NOW IS THE TIME IN SOCCER WHEN WE DANCE – GRANT WAHL (@GrantWahl)
World Cup qualifying has begun and U.S. soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann hopes to transform the way the game is played in America. By using the latest medical technology and pushing his players out of their comfort zone, Klinsmann is shaping a new era of leadership in American soccer, both at the professional and youth level. As he looks to change the American soccer philosophy, he organizes team yoga sessions, pattern recoginition drills and consistent blood tests (page 52).
Klinsmann has his players participate in VO2 max screenings, which measure the body’s ability to transport oxygen during exercise to gauge overall fitness. Some players believe this is a good and interesting way to approach their training but some are a bit skeptical about the aspects of the blood tests, amount of blood drawn and the value of doing your own scouting report.
With a history of mixed results, Klinsmann is looking to other coaches like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski for inspiration and is trying to develop his players as complete people. Klinsmann said, “If you have a choice of seeing the Panama Canal or playing Xbox for two hours, we make that choice of the Panama Canal for you.”
SCORECARD: BACK TO HIS FUTURE – MELISSA SEGURA (@MelissaSeguraSI)
Brian Banks, a former blue-chip middle linebacker at Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High, has lost a lot in his life. In 2002, Banks was accused of raping former classmate Wanetta Gibson in a school stairwell. Banks lost his football scholarship to USC, spent five years of his life in prison and another five years wearing an electronic monitoring device strapped to his ankle. Last year, Gibson admitted that she had lied, and with the help of the California Innocence Project, Banks cleared his name. Now the 26-year-old hopes to revive his football dream and make an NFL team. Banks’ first tryout with NFL teams will be on Thursday, when he travels to Seattle to work out for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, the man who recruited Banks to USC a decade ago (page 13).
Banks said, “The main thing for me is to reinvent myself as a person. I want to be known for who I really am and not what this system has labeled me as being. That starts with football.”
POINT AFTER: NOT-SO-HARD KNOCKOFFS– PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)
HBO’s Hard Knocks has finally found a team for next season, the Miami Dolphins. But why should HBO stop there? There’s plenty of room for expansion in the Hard Knocks franchise all you need to do is look at the formula for other TV shows. Why not do a Hard Knocks Criminal Intent, focusing on the Roger Clemens trial? Or a Hard Rockers, following Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson and the gang as they judge the London Olympic Games? Says SI’s Phil Taylor, “A Hard Knocks appearance can either draw attention to a team that needs it or rehabilitate the image of one that’s getting the wrong pub. In fact HBO, ought to be considering building out the franchise, like Law & Order and CSI.” (page 72).
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- Golf (page 24): Open Questions – Sports Illustrated surveyed more than 50 Tour pros on everything from which major is the most fair to who beat Hogan in 1955. Survey questions include:
- Besides yourself, who would you like see win the U.S. Open – Phil Mickelson 22%
- Based on course setup, which major is the most difficult? – U.S. Open 87%
- What is your favorite U.S. Open course? – Pebble Beach 26%
- Your least favorite U.S. Open course? – Oakmont 15%
- MLB (page 32): Good As New – In the 8,020th game in Mets history, Johan Santana did what Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and every other hurler in the franchise’s history couldn’t: He threw a no-hitter. In just his 11th start after shoulder surgery cost him the entire 2011 season, Santana threw a career-high 134 pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out eight, walking five and creating a million memories for Mets fans. (@SI_BenReiter)
- NBA (page 28): These Kids Are Alright – No one in Oklahoma City’s core four is older than 23, hard to believe given the team is in its second straight Western Conference finals. The Thunder have showed that they have grown up since last year’s playoffs with their play this series. (@SI_LeeJenkins)
- NHL (page 33): Best Ever? – Nicklas Lidstrom combined extraordinary ability with superb durability. At 42 years old, he retired, capping off the greatest career of any defenseman. (@Rosenberg_Mike)
- Tennis (page 30): The Old World Order – Week 1 of the French Open, with so many European players playing through, proved that the center of the sport has moved to the Continent. The top eight seeds of the men’s draw were from Europe and 24 of the top 27 women’s seeds. (@Jon_Wertheim)
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page20)
- Summer Green (Milford, Mich./Brighton High) – Soccer
- Dom Kone (Bucksport, Maine/Colby College) – Track and Field
- Marie Kelleher (Glen Allen, Va./Virginia Senior Games) – Swimming
- Shawn Beam (Burleson, Texas/U.S. Bowling Congress) – Bowling
- Kate Baldoni (Newport Beach, Calif./Stanford) – Water Polo
- Christian Metzler (Woodbridge, Va./Pope John Paul the Great) – Track and Field, Soccer
Sports Illustrated Stanley Cup Prediction: Kings in Six
The Celtics Big Three Have One Last Shot at a Title
A Look at the Work of American Realist Master George Bellows
Matt Cain Voted Baseball’s Most Underrated Pitcher by His Peers
(NEW YORK – May 30, 2012) – Ten years ago, Sports Illustrated’s exclusive in-depth look at the use of performance-enhancing drugs in major league baseball (MLB) led to a senate investigation. Former National League MVP and admitting steroid user Ken Caminiti told SI that he had used performance-enhancing drugs and believed that about as many major league players were using steroids as were playing the game clean. Senator Byron Dorgan opened the senate subcommittee hearing by citing the SI story as a call to action, a reason to decide whether any “legislative action is necessary.”
As MLB continues to expand its drug testing since the hearing, the focus has been on the tainted records and court cases that resulted from the Steroid Era. But the cover story for the June 4, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated looks inside the lives of ordinary players whose careers were defined by the choice they made, to cheat or not to cheat.
Senior writer Tom Verducci, who wrote the cover story in 2002, examines the playing careers of four right handed pitchers who were members of the Minnesota Twins organization in mid-to-late 1990s. They had similar skills and backgrounds. None were drafted by the Twins higher than the fourth round of the MLB amateur draft. One of the four, however, took steroids, and he was the only one who ever reached the major leagues. His name was Dan Naulty and his decision to cheat the game, his teammates and himself affected all their lives (page 38).
Naulty was 6’6’’ and 180 pounds as a senior at Cal State Fullerton, had a fastball that sat around 85mph and was drafted in the 14th round. After using steroids and other performance-enhancement drugs, he began throwing his fastball at up to 95mph and at one point weighed 248 pounds. He spent three seasons with the Twins, pitching in 97 games before being traded to the New York Yankees in 1999, where he won a World Series.
On the outside, he looked like many other major leaguers, but inside he was an emotional wreck from the steroids, the guilt of cheating and a drinking problem. Naulty hit rock bottom just after the World Series. After a night of celebrating with some teammates, Naulty asked his driver as they crossed the George Washington Bridge, “Tell me. Tell me if this is all there is to life. Because if this is all there is, just stop this car right now and I’ll jump…. I had no hope. I had sold myself that bill of goods so long that I believed it. But I realized at that moment I had totally destroyed my life. And I had destroyed countless other people’s lives. I was ready to die.”
Brett Roberts was the highest drafted of the four pitchers, and in 1996, the Twins invited he and Naulty to big league camp where Naulty beat him out for a roster spot. Roberts said, “It’s hard enough trying to make it in this profession. You want to make it on your own abilities and work ethic, and all of a sudden, when you think it’s an even playing field, you’ve got somebody cheating. I was very upset, knowing my chance to get to the big leagues was cut short. I was jealous, hurt, frustrated, angry . . . all that stuff. I guess I should have been suspicious. How can a guy go from 85 miles an hour to 95 in three or four years? As I look back on it, it’s so clear and obvious that I can’t believe I was that naive and incredibly stupid. All the signs were there.”
On the Tablet: Podcast with Tom Verducci and Richard Deitsch.
LAST STAND OF THE BIG THREE – IAN THOMSEN (@SI_Ianthomsen)
Despite a season plagued by injuries, the Boston Celtics have reached the Eastern Conference finals. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came together in Boston before the 2007 season and have since been known as the Big Three. After winning a title in their first season together, they have been consistently successful but haven’t won another championship. With Garnett’s and Allen’s contract set to expire at the end of the season, this is likely their last shot to win it all (page 58).
When Ainge traded for Garnett and Allen, he was reluctant to refer to his stars as the Big Three out of deference to Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, who won three titles in their 12 seasons together in Boston. Now Ainge feels that the current trio has earned the right to be called Big. Ainge said, “When Kevin and Larry and Robert were healthy, they were extremely special. They just didn’t maintain it this long; Kevin and Larry weren’t the same players after their surgeries. When they were in their 20s, I’d give the nod to the Big Three of the ’80s. But in their 30s, I’d give the nod to the Big Three of today.”
QUEST FOR THE CROWN – MICHAEL FARBER
The Kings have gone 45 years without winning a Stanley Cup, which ties them with the Maple Leafs and the Blues for the longest active drought in the NHL. During that time, the franchise has wasted some of the best offensive talent in the history of the game including Wayne Gretzky. They have failed to raise their status in the city of Los Angeles in large part because they have never won the Stanley Cup, but they have a chance to rewrite history for now and years to come (page 52).
Luc Robitallie, the franchise’s all time leading scorer and president of business operations said, “Thirteen million people here. We’re not a city. We’re a country. The way we make a dent is if we compete [for a Cup] year after year. But our best players—27-year-old captain Dustin Brown, 26-year-old goalie Jonathan Quick, 24-year-old center Anze Kopitar, 22-year-old defenseman Drew Doughty—are our youngest players. We should be able to compete for six, seven years.”
On the Tablet: Slideshow of the Kings over the years.
THE ART OF BOXING – ALEXANDER WOLFF
The savagery and spectacle of prizefighting a century ago are at the heart of an exhibit of works by American realist master George Bellows. On June 10, the first comprehensive retrospective of his work in 30 years, opens at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., with further stops at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in the fall and London’s Royal Academy of Arts next spring (page 64).
Said Charles Brock, curator of Bellow’s boxing work, “These are the greatest sporting images in American art. Bellows is an intensely serious and ambitious artist speaking to the entire history of art. His work can appeal on a popular level but aspires to the highest place in the culture” curator Charles Brock says of Bellows’s boxing work.” Senior writer Alexander Wolff examines his work which includes six oils and scores of lithographs and drawings.
MLB PLAYERS POLL
Who is the most underrated pitcher in the game?
Matt Cain, Giants 9%
Doug Fister, Tigers 8%
Ricky Romero, Blue Jays 6%
Dan Haren, Angels 4%
Vance Worley, Phillies 3%
[Based on 293 NBA players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: A whopping 98 hurlers received at least one vote—including four Cy Young winners (the Brewers’ Zack Greinke, the Phillies’ Roy Halladay, the Mets’ Johan Santana and, at ninth overall with six nods, the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez). . . . Combined career record for the top five: 264–233; combined ERA: 3.47. . . . Fister, who drew 16% of the votes from his own AL Central, is winless in five starts in ’12, but has a 1.84 ERA. . . . In a similar poll on Facebook, Romero led with 34%.
SCORECARD: A MATTER OF HORSE SENSE – TIM LAYDEN (@SITimLayden)
On Saturday, June 9, I’ll Have Another has a chance to become the first thoroughbred in 34 years to win racing’s Triple Crown, one of the rarest feats in any sport. Hundreds of thousands of people will be attendance and millions watching from their TVs, but the sport of horseracing has a number of problems going on that can’t be solved with one Triple Crown winner. Senior writer Tim Layden said, “It is only a moment, and the sport’s troubles will rise unchanged with the Sunday sun. But racing deserves that moment. Racing can again be great for a day” (page 15).
POINT AFTER: TO FIGHT CANCER, IT TAKES A TEAM – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)
The California softball team is one of many sports teams, who are active members of the Friends of Jaclyn foundation, a nonprofit organization that pairs children suffering from brain tumors with teams, primary college. Barbara Wiggs, better known as Bebe, has been a fixture with the Golden Bears all season. As she continues to battle cancer, she is always around the team, providing a vast amount of inspiration. Said coach Diane Ninemire, “I hope we’ve given her half the inspiration she’s given us” (page 74).
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- Motor Sports (page 31): Great Scot – On the second hottest day in Indy 500 history, Dario Franchitti shot to the lead on the next-to-last lap to win his third 500 and enter the talk of IndyCar legends. (@LarsAndersonSI)
- MLB (page 34): Death, Taxes and Adam Dunn – White Sox DH Adam Dunn had one of the worst offensive seasons in baseball history in 2011, but he’s back on track in 2012, putting up statistics like his old self. (@SI_BenReiter)
- NBA (page 36): Market Watch – A look at free agents not named Deron Williams who will garner a great deal of interest this summer. (@chrismannixsi)
On the Tablet: Truth and Rumors
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 24)
- Megan Pinson (Fallbrook, Calif./Fallbrook High) – Rugby
- Allex Austin (San Marcos, Texas/San Marcos High) – Track and Field
- Maggie Fobare (Dallas/Hockaday School) – Lacrosse
- Brandon Newton (Ruston, La./Cedar Creek High) – Golf
- Jessica Simpson (North Canton, Ohio/Miami (Ohio)) – Softball
- Kyle Merber (Dix Hills, N.Y./Columbia) – Track and Field
An Exclusive Look at Tim Duncan, the Most Successful Star of His Generation
Eric Hosmer Is Front and Center in the World of Baseball’s New Economics
The Irritable John Tortorella Has Led the Rangers to Their First Conference Finals in 15 Years
The Success or Failure of the London Olympics Falls on One Man
(NEW YORK – May 16, 2012) – Jabari Parker, a junior at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, is the best high school basketball player since LeBron James, but there’s something more important to him than hoops stardom: his faith. Parker—who was the 2011 USA Basketball athlete of the year and is being recruited by all the top college programs including Kentucky, Kansas and Duke—is a devout Mormon. After his freshman year in college, when top players will head to the NBA draft, Jabari will have to decide whether he will declare for the draft or—like thousands of other Mormon men who turn 19—embark on a two-year mission to spread the faith in the U.S. or a foreign country.
Parker appears on the cover of the May 21, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now. Parker is the first high school athlete on the cover since Bryce Harper appeared on the June 8, 2009 cover.
Jabari wakes up each morning at five and says a prayer, and three days a week, he is at Bible study by 5:30. Parker also accompanies a Bishop of his church on visits to the sick, the poor and the elderly—an assignment designed to teach young men the importance of service and self-sacrifice. Parker tells contributing writer Jeff Benedict, “I realize why I’m in the position I’m in right now. It’s not because of me. It’s because of God.”
He knows his decision will be difficult. His brother Christian, who has already served a mission, has told Jabari that it was the best thing he’s ever done. Jabari says, “When he came home from his mission, we talked a lot about it. I want to go. But I have doubts. The NBA is the biggest dream of basketball players, and I’m not different.”
On the Tablet: Podcast with Richard Deitsch and Jeff Benedict and a video montage of Jabari Parker.
21 SHADES OF GRAY – CHRIS BALLARD (@SI_ChrisBallard)
Tim Duncan is the most successful player of his generation, maybe even its best. In the 15 years since Duncan was drafted, no other team in the four major pro sports has had a better winning percentage than the Spurs. Now Duncan is the foundation of yet another Spurs team that could win it all. So why haven’t the masses fallen for him? Senior writer Chris Ballard breaks down the 21 reasons why Duncan, compared with his peers, remains practically anonymous (page 36).
Duncan said, “Winning should be the only thing that matters. I can’t manipulate how people see me. I could be more accessible and be the darling of everybody. I could open up my life and get more endorsements and be out there and be a fan favorite. But why would that help?”
WHEN WILL ERIC HOSMER GET HIS? – ALBERT CHEN
George Brett is the greatest baseball player to play for the Kansas City and he thinks the world of the Royals young first baseman Eric Hosmer. Brett said, “These kids in our farm system, most of them weren’t born when I was playing…. But if they make a big splash, then suddenly they are getting compared to me. Hos is getting the comparisons now, but let me tell you, he’s the real deal. And hopefully he’ll be in Kansas City for the next 20 years.”
If the Royals are going to keep Hosmer in their organization, they will have to persuade him to sign a contract extension. Many teams have begun to sign their young talent to long-term deals before they hit the free-agent market. It’s a strategy that has worked for a number of mid-market teams including Tampa and Cincinnati (page 44).
Hosmer’s agent, Scott Boras, doesn’t love this new world. He said, “Evaluating and understanding the value of that kind of player and talent, that’s a process that takes years. Whether it’s a Madison Bumgarner or a Matt Moore or any of those other deals, I find those contracts to be unconscionable.”
A POSTSEASON ON THE BRINK – MICHAEL FARBER
The postgame press conferences for New York Rangers coach John Tortorella are so quick that they have become one of the most popular topics of conversation during the 2012 NHL playoffs. Hockey networks in the U.S. and Canada have super imposed a stopwatch on the screen to see how long they will last. This shouldn’t diminish the fact that Tortorella has led his team to its first conference finals in 15 years. He has molded them to fit his image; the Rangers are relentless, driven and confrontational (page 52).
On the Tablet: A look at John Tortorella’s best press conference moments.
LONDON’S MAIN MAN – ALEXANDER WOLFF
Sebastian Coe won gold medals in the 1,500 meters at the 1980 and ’84 Olympics, but his biggest challenge is about to take place. As the driving force behind the London Games, Coe has assured everyone that this summer’s Games will be a complete hit. Coe became chairman of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) in early 2004, just 18 months before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made its decision on a host city for 2012. Coe’s efforts in that short time are what led to London’s receiving the bid and many believe he is the perfect fit for this tough task (page 56).
Jonathan Edwards, who heads LOCOG athletes’ committee, said, “He believes that if you have the right attitude, you’ll succeed. If the Games go well, it’s Seb. It the Games don’t go well, it’s Seb. No on will point the finger at the prime minister or Boris Johnson [London Mayor]. Seb himself wouldn’t say he set the world on fire as a politician, but as a sports politician he’s been a real leader.”
On the Tablet: A photo of the 1979 Sports Illustrated cover that featured Sebastian Coe.
NBA PLAYERS POLL
Which athlete from another sport could play in the NBA today?
Calvin Johnson, Lions WR 16%
Jimmy Graham, Saints TE 10%
Terrell Owens, Free-Agent WR 7%
Antonio Gates, Chargers TE 7%
Cam Newtwon, Panthers QB 6%
[Based on 146 NBA players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: Graham, Gates and Tony Gonzalez (who was sixth, with 5%) played D-I basketball. Graham averaged 4.2 points at Miami, Gates 16.5 at Eastern Michigan and Kent State (where he was an honorable mention All-America in 2003), and Gonzalez 6.4 at Cal. . . . Of the 39 athletes named, 29 play pro football—19 as receivers or tight ends. . . . Usain Bolt (3%) received the most votes for a nonfootball player. . . . In a similar poll on Facebook, 56% of SI readers named Johnson.
SCORECARD: VOICES FROM HEAVEN – STEVE RUSHIN (@SteveRushin)
When Red Sox public-address announcer Carl Beane died last week, at 59, the team honored him not with a moment of silence but with three hours of it. For one game there were no introductions. Every hitter strode to home plate, bat in hand, in silent eloquence (page 15).
The baseball P.A. announcer is a voice from the heavens, but we seldom know the names and almost never know the faces of these disembodied voices. These voices eventually became a piece of a team’s persona. Bob Sheppard’s run at Yankee Stadium echoed almost the entire history of the profession. At Wrigley Field, Pat Piper was as familiar as the ivy. In Philadelphia, Dan Baker has manned the microphone for 40 years. Carl Beane’s passing reminds us of the soothing sounds of subtlety.
POINT AFTER: THIS ACT IS A FLOP– PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)
The NBA is at the height of the playoffs, but senior writer Phil Taylor says that flopping during games could undermine the terrific athleticism. He would like players to stop taking dives and he isn’t alone. ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy said during the Heat-Knicks series, “It just ruins the game. I can’t believe with all the brilliance we have in the NBA office that we can’t find a way to eliminate this part of the game.” (page 68).
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- NBA (page 28): The Case for the Truth – Paul Pierce’s name rarely comes up when talking about the best players in the game, but no opposing coach wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line. Jack McCallum
- MLB (page 33): Texas-sized Dilemma – Josh Hamilton is set to hit free agency this off-season. What will determine how much he is worth, his immense talent or his age and cautionary past? (@Joe_Sheehan)
- Soccer (page 34): Homes Sweet Homes – Major League Soccer continues to mature as more teams begin to play in venues designed with soccer as a top priority. (@GrantWahl)
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 24)
- Kayden Porter (Spanish Fork, Utah/Spanish Fork High) – Baseball
- Shayla Sanders (Pompano Beach, Fla./Boyd Anderson High) – Track and Field
- David Heron (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo High) – Swimming
- Gabrielle Jennings (Slidell, La./First Baptist Christian School) – Track and Field
- Michael Pelletier (Burnt Hills, N.Y./Springfield College) – Volleyball
- Stephanie Ricketts (San Jose/Hawaii) – Softball
Also in this week’s Sports Illustrated: the Patriots’ no-name defense, a first-of-its kind study on football’s long-term effects on an entire NFL roster and comparing the BCS to Las VegasPosted: December 8, 2011
You’ve read about the 2011 Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year, Pat Summitt and Mike Krzyzewski, and found out that NFL players consider Eagles and Steelers fans to be the league’s toughest. Here’s what else readers can expect in the Dec. 12, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.
PATRIOTS DEFENSE: THE NEW NO-NAMES – BEN REITER (@SI_BenReiter)
Bill Belichick has built a Patriots defense from spare parts, castoffs and converted receivers. It has bent—but not broken—as New England has run its record to 9–3. Will it be good enough against the league’s better offenses in the playoffs? Starting outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich makes no bones about what the defense tries to do (page 68): “We have to progress as a defense and get the offense the ball. That’s our job, to put the ball in their hands as many times as possible during the game, so they can do what they do best, and that’s score touchdowns.”
Belichick has turned to receivers Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater to lend assistance to a depleted secondary. He’s hopeful they can be as effective as his original two-way player, Troy Brown. Says Brown: “I would do anything to win. I just loved playing football in general. I was awful at first—we had about 10 receivers on the roster, and I got beat by all 10, all five tight ends, a couple of running backs. But it got better the more I did it. Guys like me can’t say, ‘Coach, I saw something and dropped off on that play, and that’s why I got beat.’ [Belichick] doesn’t want to hear that from any of his players, but especially from the low-profile guys.”