Mark Starr

Stories by Mark Starr

  • Fast Chat: Sebastian Coe

    Five glamour cities competed to win the 2012 Olympic Games. In the end, London upset favored Paris. British M.P. and Olympics legend Sebastian Coe, who heads London 2012, talked to Mark Starr.We didn't really have any period at all other than the night of the result, because 12 hours later we got the phone call about the bombings in London.If it's just seen as another seven-year construction project, you won't keep people with you. I'm determined to talk about the why rather than the how. When you talk with anybody who's not a technician, the first response is "This is fantastic, because my son or daughter will be 20 or 21 at the time of the Games." People see it through the eyes of children.London is best placed of all cities to deal with the global nature of what we're looking at. We are the world's most popular destination for young people, the world's most fashionable city for young people. If you want to start a youth movement, you start it in London. Band Aid. Live Aid. We are...
  • Seth Wescott

    Seth Wescott couldn't have imagined a worse start. As he burst out of the gate for his semifinal run at this year's World Snowboard Championships, the binding on his boots let loose. For the first 100 yards he tried to stay calm while he reattached the binding on the run. But no boarder is better than Wescott--thanks, he says, to a childhood spent on a skateboard--at generating speed on the flats and exploding off the rolls along the course. With his boot firmly reanchored, he was soon surging past his three rivals en route to his first world title. "I had the biggest smile on my face after each run," says the 29-year-old veteran of a decade of pro snowboarding. "I believe fun and success go hand in hand."The Winter Olympics have, of late, adopted that very view--striving to get hipper and sexier. In recent years crowd-pleasing, daredevil competitions such as freestyle skiing, halfpipe and short-track speed skating have been added to the Olympic mix. And in February in Turin,...
  • Who Cares About Turin?

    Olympics are replete with drama, often before opening ceremonies even take place. In 2002, the world anxiously awaited the Salt Lake City Games, nervous about an American Olympics only a few months after 9/11. In 2004, Athens raced the clock as everyone wondered if the Greeks could get the roof on the Olympic Stadium before the torch arrived. And there is already anticipation of Beijing 2008, viewed as China's coming-out party and, inevitably, a corporate feeding frenzy. But the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, are less than two months away, and not many people--inside or outside of Italy--seem aware of it. If Salt Lake was the Security Games and Athens the Will They Be Ready Games, then Turin is the Stealth Games, coming up quickly under the radar.Italy has bet more than $15 billion that when the Olympics do open on Feb. 10, the world will be watching. And it is counting on the aura of the rings to transform the nation's fourth largest city from a drab and fading automotive...
  • Football Winners, Classroom Flops

    Among the many fascinating things you don't know about me is that I once was on stage with Bill Murray. Well, in the interest of honest and full disclosure, make that almost on stage with him. He was a little-known but rising talent with Chicago's legendary Second City comedy troupe and I was a young reporter for The Wall Street Journal hanging out for a story--far longer than necessary--at the comedy club. On my final night, the gang invited me to join them onstage during the postshow improvisations. I drank relentlessly throughout the performance and the combination of booze and stage terror--fright doesn't do justice to what I was feeling--rendered me incapable of proceeding with my debut. Or, in fact, proceeding with anything at all.Murray said something withering. I choose to believe it was with a twinkle in his eye, preferring to recall it as camaraderie rather than contempt. Since then, nobody has been able to make me laugh quite like he does. I can recite chapter and verse....
  • Sports: Duds Go Out of Bounds

    In recent years the NBA has spent a lot of time defending its young players, insisting that fans would come to embrace its next generation as worthy successors to the Michael, Magic and Larry era. But as America's love affair with the NBA game has faded, commissioner David Stern is conceding that it's time for those players to undergo a fashion makeover. But unlike most makeovers, the NBA version is actually designed to make players look less hip--and, specifically, less hip-hop. The league's label for its new dress code is "business casual," taking aim at such mainstays of NBA arena style as outsize T-shirts, hats, do-rags, sunglasses, headphones and big chains. The bling ban will be backed by fines and, if required, suspensions, though Stern believes disciplinary action won't prove necessary. "When it's properly understood," he says, "it will be embraced."That understanding may take a while. Some players have already denounced the new code as racist, an attack on black culture....
  • Sports: To Play or Not To Play

    It seemed to be cause for celebration: Tedy Bruschi, defensive centerpiece of three New England Patriots Super Bowl championships, returned to practice last week eight months after a stroke that threatened to end his career (and seven months after surgery to repair a hole in his heart). But some observers are greeting his comeback with considerable consternation. Though Bruschi, 32, says his medical team was unanimous in clearing him to play, and the Patriots insist that the final decision rested with "Bruschi and his family," prominent ex-NFLers decried the return as too perilous. Even the response of rabid Pats fans was muted. "People are wondering, 'Why risk it?' " says Gerry Callahan, cohost of WEEI's popular morning sports talk show. "We all thought he was smarter than that." Bruschi told reporters, "I'm living life one day at a time right now. I'm very fortunate that I'm still able to play the game that I love."Bostonians have an acute sensitivity to such issues. Twelve years...
  • NFL: WORKING OVERTIME

    Andy Benoit has written his NFL preview for nine seasons now--rather remarkable, since he's just 19 years old. This year the Boise, Idaho, teen scored big: a three-book deal with Ballantine. He talked "Andy Benoit's Touchdown 2005" with Peri's Mark Starr.With all the pros out there, why should anybody listen to a 19-year-old?Three reasons: I know what I'm talking about. I'm too young to have developed much tact, so it makes for better reading. And in the world of sports, young is better these days. Think LeBron James, Michelle Wie.Does that mean that you were even better when you were 11?Well, it's harder to criticize an 11-year-old.You foresee any surprises this season?The Arizona Cardinals will make a run at the division title, mainly because the division [NFC West] they play in is terrible. And I picked Pittsburgh to finish third in the AFC North. The Steelers don't know how to put together back-to-back successful seasons.What's your Super Bowl prediction?New England and...
  • Starr Gazing: Palmeiro's Stumble

    Dave Stewart, the estimable former star pitcher for Oakland and Toronto, had a rather interesting take when his one-time A's teammate, Jose Canseco, published his accusatory book on steroids. Stewart reportedly said that Canseco was a lot of things--by implication, many of them unflattering--but that he had never known Canseco to be a liar.I had much the same reaction to Canseco's naming names in his book. He only named four, and three of those--including Rafael Palmeiro--were largely inconsequential when it came to the slugger's literary success. The book was always destined to make headlines once he talked about shooting up with Mark McGwire, whose 70-home-run season and playful record chase with Sammy Sosa was credited with, if not baseball's salvation, at least its reinvigoration. I saw no reason for Canseco to make up any other names. And if he was going to make them up, why stop at a paltry four? After all, he played 17 seasons for seven different teams yet only fingered a few...
  • Starr Gazing: Raising Hall of Fame Standards

    Tonight in Seattle, or one of the next few nights there, Baltimore Orioles first basemen Rafael Palmeiro will lace his 3,000th base hit, thus joining one of baseball's most exclusive clubs. Only Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray have ever compiled 3,000 hits along with 500 home runs.My baseball friends say that, as a result of this rare milestone, Palmeiro is destined for Cooperstown--that either 500 home runs or 3,000 hits is usually sufficient to punch your Hall of Fame ticket. Thus the combo makes it a "no-brainer," they say. Palmeiro, who will turn 41 in September, has shown no inclination to retire and put it to the test. With 566 home runs to date, he may pass both his fading teammate Sammy Sosa and the 600 mark next season--putting him fifth all-time behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Willie Mays.But what so many of us love about baseball is that it is the most delectable brain food. Every decision on the field, every analysis of a player or a team off...
  • HOST CITIES: OLYMPIC CALCULATIONS

    If New York City loses its bid for the 2012 Olympics this week, the United States immediately becomes a heavy favorite to host the next Summer Games in 2016. On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee will vote on 2012, with Paris and London regarded as front runners. If a European favorite does win, the U.S. Olympic Committee could ordain New York as its 2016 candidate, but is more likely to reopen competition. In 2002, when New York won USOC backing for the 2012 bid, 9/11 was a uniquely compelling factor. Some rivals said that New York's victory was more about politics than the quality of its proposal. San Francisco (the losing finalist to New York), Washington, Houston and Los Angeles could all compete to become the official American designate for 2016.Whichever city prevailed at home would have a big edge. The IOC prefers to rotate its Games around the world. And both Europe (Athens 2004 and the presumed 2012 winner) and Pacific Rim nations (Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008)...
  • Starr Gazing: Off the Podium

    A year ago I summed up the chances of New York winning the 2012 Olympics rather succinctly: no way, no how!My wisdom had barely floated out onto the Internet when Jay Kriegel, executive director of the city's Olympic-bid committee, NYC2012, was on the phone to me. I braced myself for a harangue, as only a New Yorker can harangue. But Kriegel's tone was more pitying than punitive. "Mark, Mark, you're wrong. You just don't get it," he lamented, assuring me that New York's bid was riding the wings of destiny. Or riding something equally poetic.That's how the New York campaign was run, on the wings of the two "ch"s--charm and chutzpah--both of which abound there. It was easy to surrender to NYC2012's absolute certainty and unabashed enthusiasm. But charm and chutzpah can carry you only so far. And today in Singapore, they collided with reality, as the International Olympic Committee swiftly dispatched the New York bid, on its second of four secret ballots.In truth, New York's Singapore...
  • 'This Is Winnable'

    NEWSWEEK: Do you still believe that New York can win?Daniel Doctoroff: This is winnable. But I think anybody who says they know what is going to happen is deluding themselves.How much was New York's bid hurt by the West Side stadium deal falling apart at the last minute?If we hadn't come up with a solution [afterward], it would have been a fatal liability. But I think there is a sense of relief that it was resolved and wonder that it could get resolved in such a dramatic way. Obviously there are plusses and minuses in relation to the West Side. But this solution didn't deviate from our fundamental concepts. And we are talking about an area [in Queens] that hosted 96 million people for two world's fairs. I think we found a solution that works for pretty much everyone.How much of a handicap is it for New York getting lower technical ratings from the IOC evaluation committee than Paris or London?Most of that related to the stadium issue. Now that that question has been answered, there...
  • Starr Gazing: Retiring at the Top

    When Ted Williams reported to spring training with the Boston Red Sox in 1960, his prospects for the season ahead seemed rather unsettled. Of course, Williams, the man many regard as the finest hitter in the history of baseball, had spent a career unsettling pretty much everyone--opposing pitchers with his prowess, fans with his oft-cantankerous temperament and the press with his unwavering hostility.Still, nobody would have wished it to end so badly. The previous season, when he had turned 41, Williams, hobbled by injuries and with two wartime military stints behind him, was no longer "the splendid splinter" of legend. He had hit a meager .254, almost 100 points below his lifetime average, with just 10 home runs. Nobody wanted to witness any further ravages of time through a long, tortuous season.Instead, Williams scripted one final season of magic. He batted .316 (second best in the league), his on-base percentage was .452 (for comparison, 1960 home-run champ Mickey Mantle's was ...
  • Starr Gazing: The Buenos Aires Connection

    ABC needs a lot more folks like me who are willing to accept the challenge of recruiting viewers during the NBA Finals.I serve as point man for a group of longtime basketball fans who simply have no stomach for three-hour contests that resemble the Mike Tyson-Kevin McBride fight far more than the "Showtime" ballet of the NBA's glory years. Nor for more timeouts than my kid saw as a 5-year-old.Since I am obliged to watch, I take on the responsibility of calling my pals sometime late in the third quarter, just before they're lost to Jon Stewart, to alert them if the game threatens to become interesting. I did that for the first time during Sunday's fifth game. When I called around the next morning to see if the gang had stuck with it through the dramatic overtime ending, all, in fact, had. But nobody was overly grateful for the heads-up. There was this sense that they had endured rather than thrilled. I could almost hear my brother shaking his head as he said, "It's just so hard to...
  • Starr Gazing: The Return of the Zen Master

    Hollywood sequels seldom rise to the level of the original production, and Phil Jackson's return to coach the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant doesn't figure to be an exception.We sportswriters have had more than our fair share of fun abusing Detroit Pistons Coach Larry Brown for his wandering ways. The man certainly does, as the old Joni Mitchell song goes, "got the urge for going." Since he first took the reins of the American Basketball Association's Carolina Cougars more than three decades ago, Brown has gone on to coach seven different NBA teams and two college squads. And win or lose in this NBA finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Brown seems poised, after just two seasons in Motown, to make another leap, most likely to a front office job with the Cleveland Cavaliers.But while 10 teams in 33 seasons suggest that Brown may struggle with the loyalty thing, all that to-ing and fro-ing has provided us with a unique perspective on his coaching abilities. He is, arguably, the...
  • Starr Gazing: 'Queer Eye' for the Baseball Guys

    Everybody knows that my state, my home, my Massachusetts, often finds itself out of sync with the rest of the country. While that tends to be a rule rather than an exception, our idiosyncratic ways still make news. (And I'm not even talking about this week's perjury indictment of Thomas M. Finneran, our former speaker of the House; that's just business as usual to which, I suspect, folks everywhere can relate.)Recently, we made national headlines on a couple of other counts. One was regarded as serious, but really wasn't. The other was deemed frivolous, but was, to my mind, far more serious. The "serious" news was the revelation that Massachusetts drivers ranked 49th in the nation in knowledge of the rules of the road. (No. 50 was neighboring Rhode Island, which would be part of our Bay State but for a tiny religious schism in the Puritan community almost 400 years ago.)Of course, nobody who has driven, or even walked, in Boston for five minutes would be the least surprised by our...
  • CHINA: A JUMP-START ON 2008

    If you think Yao Ming is China's hottest sports star, you're... an American. The new kid on the block--literally, on the blocks--in China is Liu Xiang, who last summer was the first Chinese male to win an Olympic track-and-field gold medal, tying the 110-meter hurdles world record in the process. Liu, 22, makes his U.S. debut Saturday at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon; he'll race in New York City next week. "It's tough for a track athlete to rise to the level of a Yao Ming," says Mark Wetmore, whose Global Athletics & Marketing represents China's track-and-field federation. "But there's a real buzz around Liu."Liu is a singular sensation now. But with Beijing's hosting the '08 Games, nobody believes he'll remain that way. "When the Chinese put their minds to it, they can be among the best in any sport," says Jill Geer of USA Track & Field. China finished third in the overall medal count in Athens and should contend for the top spot in '08. Olympics watchers think it won't...
  • Starr Gazing: The Race for 2012

    I wax nostalgic quite often, a plague of the aging baby boomer. Still, I never imagined I could be sentimental about the olden days of the International Olympic Committee, back when that great autocrat, Juan Antonio Samaranch, ruled the roost.But that was before the IOC booted some of its most notorious rogues and brought in a Rogge of a different sort. Samaranch successor Jacques Rogge ventured so far out on the reformer's limb that, in awarding future Olympics, bribery actually became a no-no. Thus it has become increasingly difficult, absent naked corruption, to parse the selection process. Still, with the vote on the 2012 Games just a month away, it would be decidedly unsporting not to at least try. So here's the latest intelligence from the land of the rings.Pretty much everybody within the five circles believes that the long race to host the Games has come down to the three glamour cities of the Western world: Paris, London and New York. (Moscow and Madrid are expected to be...
  • Starr Gazing: Do the Yankees Suck?

    With our country awash in vitriol, I look back on the political trash-talk of my young manhood as rather more restrained than I thought it at the time. "Tricky Dick," the appellation bestowed on President Nixon by his enemies (and some friends as well) now sounds almost affectionate, a cute name for a Sesame Street character.I feel the same way about the chorus of "Yankees suck!" that my Boston brethren, in their bravado as well as their cups, will be chanting as the Red Sox play the Bronx this holiday weekend. I once found the sentiment so crude that I threatened to banish my daughter from Fenway Park if she joined in. But in this era of South Parkisms, it seems decidedly more quaint than vulgar.My city is, of course, steeped in a great intellectual tradition and the relentless war cry of baseball fans here has always been more about irony than abuse. We don't go around chanting "Royals suck!" There's no need. We have long chanted "Yankees suck!" because they so obviously didn't....
  • Starr Gazing: Tony La Russa's Enduring Passion

    Most baseball wannabes of a certain age will tell you that their career arc ended when they discovered they couldn't hit the curve ball. Truth is most of us washed out long before we ever saw a real hook, unable to catch up to any fastball that had what we prehistorics used to call "mustard" on it.Those of us who loved the game anyway gravitated to what we sensed was the true calling for men of intellectual gifts but physical limitations--the managerial ranks. We sat for hours on end with our Strat-O-Matics, experimenting with all sorts of brilliant innovations. How would the '27 New York Yankees have fared if Lou Gehrig batted in front of Babe Ruth instead of behind him? (The answer is: quite well.) My personal favorite was determining how those Red Sox bottom-feeders of my youth might have done if they just had the Yankees' pitching staff. (The answer is: decidedly better.)But that fantasy is so yesterday. Over the past decade our collective regard for the managerial function...
  • Responsibility and Loneliness

    St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa visited Boston this week for the first time since the unhappy events of October. He chatted with NEWSWEEK's Mark Starr about "3 Nights in August," a new book about him and the challenges of managing the modern game. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Baseball managers don't seem to get as much respect today as they once did.Tony La Russa: When I was a young player, it was the way society was--authority figures had automatic respect and credibility. As times have developed, I think [everybody] questions a lot more. You're really skeptical about people in charge. If you're a manager or coach, one of your initial challenges is to establish your credibility and give them a reason to respect you. And every year, you have to renew it. That's the challenge.You still hear the word "genius" thrown around the NFL and the NBA in regard to coaches like Bill Belichick or Phil Jackson. But you don't hear it about baseball managers.I don't think the tag applies. It's way...
  • Starr Gazing: Chicago's Legacy of Baseball Misery

    When I moved to Chicago in the mid-1970s, all my friends there--I'd say all my baseball friends, but frankly that would be redundant--assured me that I would be smitten with the Cubs.The Cubbies were, after all, viewed as the National League counterpart of my hometown Red Sox--from the friendly confines of their ancient ballparks to the ceaseless futility of their baseball quests. Moreover, embracing the Cubs would require no betrayal of my first love since--this was before interleague play--the Red Sox and Cubs could never meet except in a World Series. Today that possibility remains decidedly against the odds, but back then it was a truly laughable notion.But even though I settled in on Chicago's North Side, just a few miles from the Cubs home, the relationship never took hold. There were no lights yet at Wrigley Field and every game felt like the adult version of Ferris Buehler--hookey with sausage and beer on the side. It was altogether too happy a place for this East Coast...
  • Starr Gazing: The Premier Malcontent

    I think of myself as a man totally at odds with the current age. Truth is, though, I am a man who has pretty much been at odds with every age. As just one example, I could never do the twist.Still, I am not quite the modern misfit I posture as. While I have never watched "American Idol," sent a text message or visited a chat room, I can Google. And I do--often and with a vengeance. As proof, here's my little Google trivia quiz: What in the Googliverse was I searching to produce this list of modern baseball all-stars--Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Randy Johnson, Rickey Henderson, Nomar Garciaparra, Larry Walker, Ken Griffey Jr., Albert Belle, Jeff Kent, David Wells, Manny Ramirez, Juan Gonzalez, Gary Sheffield, Kenny Lofton, Jason Kendall, Jose Guillen, A.J. Pierzynski and Jose Canseco?OK, maybe the inclusion of Canseco is a giveaway. The answer is that each of these players has been labeled at least once in his career--fairly, unfairly or perhaps both--as a "cancer in the clubhouse." It...
  • STATISTICS: MAGIC NUMBER?

    Baseball's first superstar, Cap Anson, reputedly said he wanted his tombstone to read HERE LIES A .300 HITTER--even though he had a .333 career batting average. Almost from baseball's inception, a .300 average has defined stardom. But increasingly another stat, on-base percentage (OBP), is showing up everywhere from broadcasts to stadium scoreboards. OBP validates what your Little League coaches always insisted--that a walk is as good as a hit. ESPN began running OBP alongside the holy trinity of stats--batting average, home runs and runs batted in--last season. "Teams are making decisions on players based on that number," says Tim Scanlan, ESPN senior coordinating producer. "It was time we reflected that." Elias Sports Bureau, which provides stats to Major League Baseball and team broadcasts, has tracked OBP since the early '90s. The new interest is fueled by the growth of stat-driven fantasy leagues and "Moneyball," the best-selling story of Oakland A's exec Billy Beane. But while...
  • Starr Gazing: Boston Blues

    I am shocked, utterly amazed, that some of my readers live outside Boston, even outside Red Sox Nation. And they have urged me to find something, anything, other than my beloved hometown team to write about. I regret their attitude. But journalism is a form of commerce and the customer is occasionally right. So while I deplore their provincialism, I respect it as well. I have done away with my paean to Opening Day at Fenway Park in a city and fan base so unique that nobody wonders at a shared moment of silence for Pope John Paul II and Dick "The Monster" Radatz, an all-star reliever from the '60s. Instead, I will share with you readers what I have always tried to spare you. I am baring my mailbox and revealing the kind of important stuff I have ignored and, thus, you have missed during the six-month span of my Red Sox obsession.Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong supports New York City Olympic bid Quellesurprise! What would be news would be a French superstar endorsing the New York...
  • Fenway 'Fever'

    My favorite sports book of all time, not to mention the funniest, is Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch," a memoir of an obsessive love affair with Arsenal, the London soccer team that dominated his youth and young manhood.But the best scene does not take place on the soccer pitch or anywhere near a stadium. It's a conversation between Nick and a close woman friend, who has just informed him that she is getting married and that he is one of the privileged few being asked to bear witness. Hornby reflexively segues into congratulations and exultation over the happy occasion, even as his mind is scrambling elsewhere. And suddenly there it is: his realization that the wedding falls on the same day as, and indeed conflicts with, an Arsenal home game. The problem reveals itself first on his face and then in apologetic mumbles and half sentences. She can't comprehend the problem, at least not on the scale he endures it, and finally says something dismissive like, "Well, you'll think about it and...
  • Starr Gazing: My Fantasy Life

    I confess that, for a man my age, I have a very active fantasy life. And my wife can get really steamed about it sometimes.Nah, not that kind of fantasy. I told you ages ago that I haven't had an impure thought about another woman since Natalie Wood crossed the Great Divide. I'm not talking about the ladies. I'm talking fantasy baseball.I am one of the multitude of Americans--estimates now run to 15 million--who play fantasy baseball, a preoccupation that has grown from the quirky little hobby of some New York writers into a billion-dollar industry. (And there is now fantasy football, basketball, NASCAR and, for all I know, fantasy "American Idol" too ... or is "American Idol" the actual fantasy?) The pioneers of the fantasy baseball game have seen very little of any money generated by their idea. Hardly surprising. If they had a knack for profit, they wouldn't be in my profession.For the uninitiated, fantasy baseball uses real players and real stats to create faux teams in faux...
  • Friendly Fire

    PRE-GAME INTRO When Mark Starr and Bret Begun were in Athens for the Olympics last summer, they got into it a bit over baseball. OK, more than a little bit. Not surprising given that Starr is a born-and-bred Bostonian and Begun a New York lifer. With the season opening Sunday night--and the Red Sox-Yankees again on center stage--the two have decided to go public with their differences and to look for some common ground too. Readers should feel free to chime in at rivalry@newsweek.com, a selection of their letters--with occasional comments from our columnists--will be published online.FIRST INNINGMark: I don't think you believed me before the World Series when I insisted that beating St. Louis would never mean as much to me as beating your Yankees. And that's even with all my in-laws living in St. Louis, diehard Cardinals fans. You thought I was just being self-protective. But it proved to be true. I love the championship. But months later, it's still the comeback against the Yankees...
  • FIGURE SKATING: A SARAH SPINOFF?

    Her salt lake Olympic teammates Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen were competing at the World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow last week, but 2002 gold medalist Sarah Hughes was back home headlining the Stars on Ice--"if it's Tuesday, it must be Toledo"--national tour. Both Kwan and Cohen appear pointed toward another Olympic spin in Turin, Italy, next February. But Hughes, who at 19 is the youngest of the three, told NEWSWEEK it's "really unlikely" she will return to Olympic competition. "I had great success in 2002 and I doubt I'll go back," she said.Until recently Hughes was focused entirely on school. Last spring she completed her freshman year at Yale. But she couldn't resist returning to the ice for the lucrative world of ice shows. While a three-month, 60-city tour is grueling, show skating doesn't demand the difficult triple jumps required for competition. Hughes would be hard-pressed to get back into shape for an Olympic season after not having competed for more than...
  • Starr Gazing: Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

    I am not one who readily relinquishes credit for any job well done. And Barry Bonds credits (or in his mind, discredits) the media for doing what no pitcher has been able to do for years now--shutting him down.I only wish it were so. If it were true, even half true, I would already be claiming the accomplishment in a prominent spot on my resume. After all, I have been on this crusade for a long time. I have endured readers' vitriol for daring to attack this baseball hero without meeting the standard of absolute legal proof. I have patiently explained to readers again and again that there is no reason to trust Bonds's word over common sense, not to mention the evidence of their own eyes. So I would be pleased no end to believe that I--OK, make that a more generous "we" in the media--had the ultimate responsibility in this sorry baseball saga.But it is obvious now that Bonds has determined his own fate without help from anyone or anything--unlike, I would add, his baseball...
  • Starr Gazing: Selig's 'Sorry' Testimony

    Tomorrow the madness begins. And the NCAA men's basketball tournament starts, too."March Madness," however, pales in comparison with the lunacy that has been Major League Baseball's blind eye to its drug problem. And now, finally, somebody is calling on the game--its leaders and its stars--to account for itself.I know it's not easy to choose sides in a pissing match between two such feckless institutions as Congress and Major League Baseball. Kind of like having to root for either Sydney Greenstreet or Peter Lorre to find the Maltese Falcon.But forced to choose sides, I have no hesitation--OK, maybe a little--about choosing Congress's corner. For decades baseball has used congressional clout shamelessly to its advantage. Now, at last, when baseball's position is untenable and Congress can at least purport to represent the fans' interest, Commissioner Bud Selig and his minions would prefer to tell folks there to "stuff it."There's no stuffing baseball's dirty secrets back in the...
  • Starr Gazing: Kwan Last Time

    I would have sworn that Michelle Kwan toured as a young flapper with Sonja Henie. Or, at the very least, that she shared the ice with Dick Button, back when a double axel was still a gigantic leap of faith. I can even picture Kwan these days strolling through Disneyland, that beatific smile on her face, telling her very own fairy tale to her grandchildren. "Once upon a time, there was an ice princess ..."So imagine my shock to discover that Kwan is not only heading to another world championships, in Moscow next week, but that she claims to be just 24 years old. Frankly, I couldn't be more stunned if Barry Bonds suddenly started talking to reporters about the size of his testicles.All I can figure, so to speak, to explain Kwan's Peter Pan syndrome is that skaters must count birthdays only during Olympic years. How else to account for a lady who competed back when Michael Jordan was in his prime yet is still younger today than Kobe Bryant? And unlike either of them, she still wins...