Mark Starr

Stories by Mark Starr

  • Starr: Baseball's Racial Divide

    Many black fans believe Barry Bonds is being singled out. He is. But that doesn't necessarily mean his treatment has been unfair.
  • Starr: On Roger Clemens's Return

    My pal didn’t want to be in Fenway Park on that cold, dank April night 21 years ago. He would have been far happier had he scored tickets to Boston Garden, where Larry Bird and the Celtics were playing the second game of the Eastern Conference semifinal against Dominique Wilkins’s Atlanta Hawks. Second choice would have been watching the Celtics game in the comfort of his home.But the Celtics, not the Red Sox, were the impossible ticket in those days. So with his former college roommate, a passionate baseball fan, visiting town, my friend secured two tickets to the baseball game—not a difficult get, with just 13,414 fans in the stands. They were pleased they would get to see the Red Sox’s young stud, 23-year-old Roger Clemens, who had shown flashes of brilliance in an injury-shortened season the previous year and was off to a 3-0 start.What they witnessed turned out to be a magical evening of baseball immortality. That was the night that Clemens broke baseball’s single-game record...
  • Starr: Boxing's Last Great Fight

    After all the extraordinary hype, the 'real' reality show takes place Saturday night. Might we finally see a classic?
  • Starr: America's Next Olympic Hopeful

    The U.S. Olympic Committee has to choose between L.A. or Chicago as its candidate to host the 2016 Summer Games. Why I like Chi.
  • Starr: Don Imus Is Us

    As the college basketball season wound down to its ends with a distinct lack of any of the promised madness, the Rutgers women’s basketball team was the closest thing to a Cinderella story that this year’s tournaments offered. Rutgers was not quite that much of a long shot—it has long been on the periphery of elite women’s teams—but was still a scrappy underdog that had overcome an unfavorable draw to reach the final against the University of Tennessee, the gold standard of women’s basketball.What pretty much anyone watching could see in that women’s final was that Rutgers was overmatched in almost every facet of the game, except possibly grit. And it quickly became clear that the team’s frantic effort—it seemed to be trying too hard—wouldn’t be enough even to keep it close.But Don Imus apparently saw something else. On his nationally syndicated radio show, “Imus in the Morning” (simulcast on MSNBC TV), the reigning king of the radio talk show empire revealed that instead of game...
  • Mark Starr's 2007 Baseball Preview

    The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry in the American League East will finally tip the other way, but both teams will be there in October. And this year's surprise playoff team is ...
  • Books: The Bracket Game

    Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? Duke or Carolina? The single-elimination bracket grid really can answer all of life's questions.
  • Starr: The Badness in March Madness

    Thanks to the social engineering of NBA chief David Stern, this March will be even Madder than usual.When the league boosted its minimum age to 19 years old, it forcibly redirected a handful of players—the cream of the high-school crop—to college rather than their preferred route of directly to the big money awaiting them in the pros. As a result, rather than having already disappeared into the NBA netherworld of Toronto or Portland, two of the most sensational freshman players in years will be showcased this week on center stage in the NCAA tournament. Thursday, fans can see Ohio State's 7-footer, Greg Oden, a fierce rebounder and shot-blocker who has the potential to become the most dominant American-born center since Shaquille O'Neal. On Friday, University of Texas' Kevin Durant will display the prodigious offensive skills that have made him a shoo-in for college player of the year honors.Stern's seemingly minor-rule tweak appears to have provided an embarrassment of riches—an...
  • Super Bowl: Settling The Score

    A few seconds after Tom Brady’s last-gasp pass died in the arms of an Indianapolis Colts defender, my phone rang. I figured it for the first of many condolence calls to be exchanged between my fellow lifers from section 132 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.Instead, it was my daughter on the line—ah, the swift and dexterous dialing fingers of youth—and I immediately detected the anxiety in her voice. “Are you all right, dad?” she asked. I thought, “What kind of jerk does she think that I am, that my physical and mental health couldn’t withstand the heartbreak of a New England Patriots defeat?” Then, of course, I realized: exactly the kind of jerk she’s known for the 20 years of her life.So I took a quick inventory and, a little too my surprise, discovered I was, in fact, all right—a little disappointed but not remotely devastated by the defeat. Which by the time I caught up with my buddies seemed to be the consensus. It had been a great game. We were outplayed. All those breaks,...
  • A Super Bowl Showdown

    There are undoubtedly some folks waiting for the hypefest in Miami in two weeks under the misapprehension that it is the Super Bowl. But any true football fan knows the Super Bowl was played in Indianapolis Sunday night—when the hometown Colts beat the New England Patriots 38-34 for the AFC Championship.The game may have set a record for clichés available to sportswriters: two heavyweights; got up off the canvas; monkey off the back; a defense that bends and, in this case, finally broke. But none do justice to the magnitude and the brilliance of the Colts’ victory. Indy came back from 18 points down and years of heartbreak to score the winning touchdown with just a minute left in the game. It came on a masterstroke of deception. With a third-and-two at the Patriots’ three-yard line, the NFL’s premiere passer, Peyton Manning, eschewed the air and, instead, handed the ball off to rookie Joseph Addai, who scooted into the end zone.Then Manning retired to the bench, barely able to watch...
  • The NFL's Final Four

    Could Sunday’s Final Four have worked out any better for the NFL? First we get Chicago vs. New Orleans: the league’s historic heartland pitted against a Cinderella story for the ages, the perennial Aints turned into America’s team. That’s followed by the league’s premier rivalry: the Colts vs. the Patriots, Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Will Manning finally break through to the next level? Will Belichick’s boys take a giant step toward a fourth title that would, arguably, establish the Pats as the greatest NFL champions ever?Here’s a look at how we got here and what lies ahead.The WinnersIndianapolis: There were plenty of improbable scenarios last weekend, but none more than the Colts dominating the Ravens without Peyton Manning leading his team to a single touchdown. Indeed, had you described to me Manning’s shaky performances the first two weeks of the playoffs—five interceptions and a couple more that should have been picked by Baltimore—I would have guaranteed you that Indy...
  • The NFL Coaching Game

    There was so much to talk about following the NFL’s first wild playoff weekend: Tony Romo’s chokehold, Jeff Garcia’s redemption, the post-season wobbles of the Manning brothers, and Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork’s at-once brawny and brainy play. Yet the incessant chatter has been focused on coaches. Nick Saban has left, Bobby Petrino is coming. What did Bill Belichick have to say, along with his quick hug, to his former acolyte Eric Mangini? What could Tony Dungy possibly say, along with his long hug, to best pal Herman Edwards, after his offense was a no-show in Indy? Will Bill Parcells stick with the Cowboys? Why would the Giants ever let “Screamin’” Tom Coughlin stay around for another season?I don’t exactly know when our obsession turned from the men on the field to the men on the sidelines. Perhaps it happened as baby boomers, with their overarching influence, aged, and, with their aching bodies, could no longer muster playing fantasies. But there is no doubt that the...
  • The Biggest Sports Stories of 2006

    With an Olympics and a World Cup, 2006 was always destined to be a year replete with athletic glories. What is distressing, though, is how many of the biggest stories of the year were of the “bad news” variety. And my “top 30” countdown didn’t even mention former Ohio State star running back Maurice Clarett heading to prison, Kenny Rogers’ black-handed pitching in the World Series, Ben Roethlisberger’s motorcycle sack, the latest NBA brawl, the Cincinnati Bengals’ string of arrests or any of Terrell Owens’ bizarre antics, from his non-suicide attempt to his spitting episode.But there was plenty of good happening out there, too. The best sports story of 2006—I didn’t rank it because it was singular, and “biggest” doesn’t do it justice—was the return of the New Orleans Saints to the team’s beleaguered hometown and home stadium, the Superdome. Nobody could have predicted the remarkable renaissance of one of the NFL’s perennial doormats, a renaissance that we would have wished for the...
  • Nastia Liukin

    During the run-up to the 2000 Sydney Games, gymnastics guru Bela Karolyi visited a Dallas gym to appraise an Olympic hopeful. He was surprised to see a 10-year-old sprite cavorting among the elite gymnasts. At first Karolyi was annoyed by the distraction, but soon he found he couldn't take his eyes off the kid. "Her personality commanded attention," he says. "She had this total confidence--with no sense she didn't belong there among the best."Today, at 17, Nastia Liukin commands the attention of the entire gymnastics world--and nobody questions her standing. She has won back-to-back U.S. all-around titles and, at the 2005 Worlds, took home more medals--two golds and two silvers--than any other gymnast. Now Liukin has her sights on Beijing 2008, where, with her dazzling repertoire, she could be America's breakout summer star.No American gymnast has ever had a more exalted pedigree. Liukin's father, Valeri, who coaches her, won two gold medals for the Soviet Union at the 1988 Seoul...
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka

    One of the most enchanted spectators at the 1999 World Series in Atlanta was a young Japanese pitcher named Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Seibu Lions had sent their 19-year-old rookie sensation to the series as a reward for a season in which he led his league with 16 wins (16-5, 2.60 ERA). "I could smell the field from the seats and imagined how great it would be if I were standing on the field," he recalls. "I wanted to get back there soon."Seven years later, after compiling a 108-60 record in Japan, Matsuzaka will now fulfill his dream of pitching on the biggest stage of all, Major League Baseball. But the hard-throwing, 26-year-old right-hander could never have imagined that he would return to such fanfare--and at a price that matches his yen to pitch in America. The Boston Red Sox has made Matsuzaka a $100 million man--$51 million to his former team and $52 million over six years to him.Since Hideo Nomo set off "Nomomania" with the L.A. Dodgers in 1995, a steady stream of Japanese...
  • Headed for The Majors

    One of the most enchanted spectators at the 1999 World Series in Atlanta was a young Japanese pitcher named Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Seibu Lions had sent their 19-year-old rookie sensation to the series as a reward for a season in which he led his league with 16 wins (16-5, 2.60 ERA). "I could smell the field from the seats and imagined how great it would be if I were standing on the field," he recalls. "I wanted to get back there soon."Seven years later, after compiling a 108-60 record in Japan, Matsuzaka will now fulfill his dream of pitching on the biggest stage of all, Major League Baseball. But the hard-throwing, 26-year-old right-hander could never have imagined that he would return to such fanfare--and for such a price. The Boston Red Sox have made Matsuzaka a $100 million man--$51 million to his former team and $52 million over six years to him.Matsuzaka is the latest Japanese player to cross over. This year's inaugural World Baseball Classic proved to be a showcase for...
  • My Last Gasp

    Have you noticed, of late, that vacation has become a euphemism for working at home? Good thing too, because I was running out of time on 2006. Sport is a vast empire and I still have a lot to say and very little time to say it in. So here are some final short takes.If the NBA really wants to punish New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas for a role in provoking that ugly brawl at the Garden, Thomas should be forced to coach the Knicks for another season.The Chargers may be the consensus favorite for the Super Bowl. But a lot of teams felt a whole lot better about their chances after watching Philip Rivers stink up the joint—and lose his composure to boot—against Kansas City Sunday night. Still, any plan that revolves around stopping LaDainian Tomlinson and letting Rivers try to beat you runs into a problem: it may be impossible to stop Tomlinson.Only Don Shula and Tom Landry have taken more teams to the playoffs than Marty Schottenheimer. One Super Bowl victory and that disdainful ...
  • U.S. Soccer’s Sorry Season

    You might have read how 17-year-old Freddy Adu, a young man that I and many others once cast as the future of American soccer, spent a couple of weeks last month practicing with English soccer giant Manchester United. Adu has often said that he would love to join Man U or another European power when he became eligible after his 18th birthday next June. And after this brief trial, Man U’s legendary coach, Sir Alex Ferguson, allowed that he was impressed by the American teen and would monitor his progress with an eye to possibly signing him at some point in the future.Was I prophetic about this kid or what?Actually, I think the answer to that is definitely “what.” Because from every angle, the matchup of Man U and Adu, with the exception of its poetic possibilities, is total bull----, uh, make that bullswoosh. You might recall that Nike signed Adu, when he was just 14 to a $1 million endorsement deal. Nike also has a lengthy, gazillion-dollar partnership with Manchester United. In...
  • A Schott at NFL Glory

    A question to test your NFL knowledge: Who has won the most games of any active NFL head coach?A) Bill CowherB) Joe GibbsC) Bill ParcellsD) Marty SchottenheimerE) Mike ShanahanThe answer: Marty Schottenheimer, who has won 196 regular-season games, or 25 more than runner-up Parcells. No doubt many of you are surprised to find Schottenheimer's coaching record so prominent in the NFL's upper ranks. Perhaps the most surprising—and remarkable—fact about his NFL coaching career is this: despite being a head coach longer than all those other renowned, veteran coaches, Schottenheimer has the fewest losing seasons—just two in 21 years at the helm of Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington and, now, San Diego.Yet it is Schottenheimer who is widely regarded as a coach who doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those others. That’s because he is the correct answer to two other questions: Which of the above five never won a Super Bowl? (Gibbs has three, Parcells and Shanahan two each...
  • A Big Mac Attack

    If a mea culpa would help, if it would do the trick for you, I’ll offer one up now: Mea culpa!I am truly sorry that I spent two days in September 1998 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis—standing in the deepest recesses beyond the center-field seats, where even Big Mac couldn’t reach—cheering Cardinals first basemen Mark McGwire on to his home-run record.Honestly, I knew better even back then, having immersed myself in the debate over performance-enhancing drugs as part of my Olympic coverage. Yet I turned a blind eye to all the warning signals, joining unabashedly in the celebration of the record chase and its successful conclusion.So, too, did NEWSWEEK; we ran a cover story featuring a smiling McGwire with his arm around Sammy Sosa, under a one-word headline: AWESOME! We embraced the mythology with nary a discouraging word: “McGwire could even hit 70 unless a train hits him first (and even then it would depend on the size of the train).” I don’t suppose we deserve just a little credit...
  • The Mat$uzaka Sweepstakes

    “A million here and a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”—The late Illinois Sen. Everett DirksenMy mind keeps stumbling over a bad joke. There are these two guys. Let’s call them Bud Selig and Theo Epstein. Selig telephones Epstein and says …Selig: I have some good news and some bad news.Epstein: What’s the good news?Selig: Your Red Sox have won the Daisuke Matsuzaka auction, an absolute steal at $51.1 million.Epstein: That’s super! So what’s the bad news?Selig: Well, the kid doesn’t speak English so he’ll need an interpreter.Epstein: Why is that bad news?Selig: Because he already has one.Epstein: So?Selig: His interpreter is Scott Boras.Baseball über agent Scott Boras, of course, speaks only one language—the dulcet tones of cash on the barrelhead. And with Boston already halfway there, having proffered $51.1 million to Matsuzaka’s current team, the Seibu Lions, the Red Sox appear destined to make the 26-year-old Japanese star American baseball’s next $100...
  • The Passion of the Tigers

    I met with the team’s new manager, deep in the bowels of the stadium, a few weeks before the start of spring training. He embodied the game’s old-time, blue-collar roots—candid, colorful (and a wee bit profane), still chain-smoking and, still, after so many years, remarkably astute about the modern game. “You don’t manage teams any more,” he told me. “You manage individuals and try to mold them into a team.” He noted that his job would be to discover not only what his players could do, but—just as important—“what they can’t do.”While he was sensitive to all the complex nuances of the modern clubhouse and very respectful of his players, he was unwilling to cede power to them. He was, unmistakably, a buck-stops-here guy. “I’m the man in charge,” said the manager, then newly hired by general manager Dave Dombrowski. “That’s not ego. That’s a fact.” Perhaps most remarkably, given that he had inherited a perpetually sub-.500 team, he had no doubt that he would be successful. “Everybody’s...