Mark Starr

Stories by Mark Starr

  • TACKLING THE PROS: PLAY HARDBALL

    You don't have to hit Major League Baseball or its Players Association over the head with a bat for them to take baseball's drug problems seriously. No, it requires somebody on steroids to bash them over the head a couple of times really hard before they'll think about doing something. Maybe.Those blows have now been struck. First came the San Francisco Chronicle's account of federal-grand-jury testimony by two of baseball's biggest superstars. Jason Giambi confessed to using an expansive regimen of illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and Barry Bonds may have used steroids, too--though, he insisted, he didn't know what he was taking. Then Sen. John McCain threatened to legislate drug testing if baseball didn't quickly improve its act. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig responded by welcoming a federal initiative, and last week even the players union showed signs of buckling, saying it might agree to tougher testing before next season.Weak leadership coupled with the union's obstructionism...
  • Starr Gazing: Baseball's Unsentimental Season

    Pedro Martinez, with his prodigious talent and charismatic style, became far more popular in Boston than another future Hall of Famer, Roger Clemens, ever was. But Pedro's departure for New York and the Mets, after seven standout seasons, is causing surprisingly little consternation here in Red Sox Nation, far less than when Rocket Roger was shown the door eight years ago.With Boston fans still basking in the afterglow of the championship season, even the most contentious of them are now inclined to cut the Red Sox front office some slack. And having already said goodbye this past summer to another icon, Nomar Garciaparra, with fortuitous results, they are no longer quite as wedded to the past. They are also baseball savvy, attuned to this "Moneyball" era in which overpaying and overextending a 33-year-old pitcher with a fading fastball and history of shoulder problems is a cardinal sin. It remains, however, a trademark Mets mistake, exactly the kind that has plunged the team into...
  • HIGH AND INSIDE

    When Jason Giambi showed up at the New York Yankees' spring-training camp in Tampa this year, he looked as if he were auditioning for a Hollywood sequel: "Honey, I Shrunk Myself." His neck seemed to have dropped several sizes, his shoulders had new slope, and his torso could no longer be described as hulking. Only months earlier Giambi had been named as a client of BALCO, a Bay Area lab accused of supplying illegal performance-enhancing drugs to elite athletes. So Giambi's physical transformation inevitably led to speculation that the slugging first baseman had stopped using steroids. Giambi publicly denied ever taking such drugs.Last week the Yankee's denials were exposed as lies: in federal grand-jury testimony taken in 2003 and leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, Giambi not only confessed that he had used steroids over several seasons, but that he had injected himself with both synthetic testosterone and human growth hormone. Giambi was one of a succession of prominent...
  • Starr Gazing: Musical Chairs for Football Coaches

    It was just three seasons ago that Notre Dame Nation embraced--hell, they were ready to canonize--Tyrone Willingham as the right man to preside over its "Return to Glory," as the football team's 2002 motto proclaimed.Indeed there was little doubt that sainthood was imminent after Willingham launched his Notre Dame career with an eight-game winning streak. And while his team stumbled late in the season, Willingham still became the first coach in that university's illustrious history to win 10 games in his rookie year, landing the team a decent payday in the Gator Bowl.So it represented a remarkable--and inglorious--reassessment when Notre Dame decided this week that St. Tyrone was actually the wrong man in the wrong place. It chose, in a move unprecedented in the school's history, to pull the plug on the Willingham era just three years into a five-year contract, before the coach even had a full recruiting cycle under his belt.Willingham's dismissal was just one of many messy chapters...
  • Starr Gazing: NBA Brawl Shouldn't Surprise Anyone

    My wife can attest to the fact--without a smile on her face--that I seldom miss a beat in the sporting world, let alone a giant crescendo that is being described as one of the watershed events in sporting history.But I spent last weekend in a flu stupor, unable to handle anything more challenging than a football game on mute. I emerged from my semi-comatose state to discover--in a country fighting the bloodiest battles of an already bloody war--that everyone was talking about violence in the NBA: Ron Artest, the brawl in Detroit, the commissioner's stern punishment, and how our world had somehow been changed by all of it.I really wish it had changed--that this ugly episode did, in fact, represent some quantum leap of bad behavior. But having come to the news late, without being beat over the head by relentless replays, it struck me as business only a little worse than usual. Because I remember two all-time NBA greats, Larry Bird and Julius Erving, brawling on the parquet at Boston...
  • Starr Gazing: Kid Quarterbacks Rule Today's NFL

    As a fan of the New England Patriots, I've had to make one major adjustment in my tastes. Pulling for young Tom Brady doesn't come all that naturally to me. I've never been a huge fan of the dimple-chinned, golden-boy, world-is-my-oyster quarterback.By my nature (petty and jealous), I'm more of a Y.A. Tittle man. Or at least Tittle as revealed in that iconic 1964 photo--the grizzled warrior bowed, bloody and very bald. The NFL used to prefer its quarterbacks a wee bit grizzled, too. Once upon a time a veteran quarterback was regarded as the one indispensable player for any team with championship, or simply winning, aspirations. A coach would gladly hand off to a rookie running back or even plop a youngster down in the heart of the defense. But no coach in his right mind entrusted football's most critical position to a raw kid. Winning a championship required all the gray matter of a graybeard.I'm not sure when the NFL began to go Sesame Street on us. But this season strikes me as a...
  • REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

    I am a denizen of Red Sox nation, a lifer who can recall every crushing moment of my fandom. My stomach ties up in knots at the thought of the '86 World Series against the New York Mets--one out away, with the champagne bottle already in hand. Unrelenting disappointment has long been the reward of supporters of the Boston Red Sox, a team with an uncanny ability to snatch defeat from victory in almost unfathomable fashion. Those failures tend to get reduced to a succession of one-liners--Pesky held the ball; Bucky hit the homer; Buckner let the ball go through his legs; Grady left Pedro in too long--that don't do justice to the complexity of those events nor the psychic ravages they inflicted on Red Sox Nation. But last week on a night in St. Louis of genuine lunacy, the Red Sox eclipsed history in a fashion that can be neatly summed up in one improbable word: sweep!Nor does that word do justice to Boston's tortured path to this championship. It was always destined to go through our...
  • Starr Gazing: The View From Boston

    Just 72 hours ago, Boston was awash in red, the epicenter of the baseball universe. Today the city is adjusting to an abrupt color change--Yankee blue on everybody's election map. The state's unquestionable support for the Democratic candidate has made us totally irrelevant to the drama of this historic Election Day showdown.The campaign hardly mattered all that much while we were consumed by the events of our spiritual homeland, Red Sox Nation. But with the World Series celebration officially over and even the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots' record-winning streak finally laid to rest, we looked up to find ourselves consigned to the sidelines at a critical juncture in the future of that other nation to which we owe allegiance.It is a strange place for Boston and Massachusetts to be. Politics has always been serious sport here, an integral part of our heritage and our lifeblood. From day one in America's history right into the new millennium--from the Adams men to the...
  • NEWSMAKERS

    Q&A: Lauren BacallLauren Bacall has done it all. Movies, Broadway, best-selling books, teaching Bogie how to whistle. Now costarring with Nicole Kidman in "Birth," the legend talked to NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin."Birth" is about reincarnation. Do you believe in it?I would like to believe in it, but I'm afraid I don't quite.You come across on screen as one who doesn't suffer fools gladly. Are you like that in real life?I'm not sure I would describe myself in any particular way. I have no patience with people who lie, with pretension, with real meanness.You're 80. You look fabulous. You seeing anyone?Well, I'm talking to you and I'm looking out the window and I'm waiting for my dog to come back from her walk. She's the one I see the most of and I'm very happy with that.No male companions?Do you know of any?It's hard. Guys your age can date 50-year-olds.I'm not interested in guys my age anyway. I don't think there are any men left. I don't know what is with a lot of men. They're just...
  • Starr Gazing: 'Finally, on the Other Side'

    Eighteen years ago, with the Boston Red Sox but one out away from winning the World Series against the New York Mets, I was poised, bottle of champagne in hand, to race to Fenway Park and join the celebration. My wife couldn't fathom why l would voluntarily embrace that madness. I told her, "I just want to be with my people."Last night I was never tempted to go out (except briefly to glimpse at the eclipse and to make sure the world hadn't ended). It was not just the middle-aged curmudgeon in me. It was more a sense that those celebrants are no longer my people, just kids joining a bandwagon that most of them don't really understand, ready to party for any reason (of which the end of an 86-year-old championship drought happens to be a good one). Instead I stayed home, hugged my family, toasted the occasion with a special 30-year-old Laphroaig and went to bed, if not exactly to sleep.This morning I got up early and went to the cemetery. I had always joked to my wife that I wanted...
  • The World's Game

    NBA Commissioner David Stern admits his league hit a "plateau" in the post-Michael Jordan years. Many fans have a less generous assessment, lamenting a game in which ego and showmanship supplanted fundamental skills and team play. But last season witnessed some promising developments. The next "next Michael" arrived in LeBron James, who showed that he might actually have the talent to match the hype. Then in the NBA finals, a no-name Detroit Pistons squad revived the concept of "team" basketball by thoroughly whipping the bickering superstars from Los Angeles. League luck didn't hold in Athens where the Olympic "Dream Team" lost for the first time ever (as well as the second and the third) before settling for bronze. With the 2004-05 season opening Tuesday, Stern shot around with NEWSWEEK national sports correspondent Mark Starr. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Was the Olympic disappointment embarrassing for the NBA?David Stern: It wasn't embarrassing. If anything, it causes a little bit of soul...
  • SPORTS: CALLING THE SHOTS

    Year in, year out, The New Yorker's Roger Angell delivers the most lyrical perspective on baseball's postseason. Unfortunately, it arrives around the same time as your Thanksgiving turkey. If you prefer instant analysis, there are folks blogging baseball faster than the snail's pace at which the games are played. The most democratic site is baseballblogs.org, with offerings on all major-league teams. (No surprise, Red Sox and Cubs fans lead the blather.) With some 48,000 entries, it's the quantity, not the quality, that attracts. At billy-ball.com, you encounter a delightfully quirky sense of the game's history. On the eve of the latest Red Sox-Yankees mayhem, it harked back to 1952, when two famously temperamental players, Jimmy Piersall and Billy Martin, duked it out under the Fenway Park stands. Red Sox Nation will delight in the musings at bambinoscurse.com. On the who's your daddy? T shirts mocking Pedro Martinez: "I guess 26 world championships and all that Yankees legacy isn...
  • Perfecto

    Has anyone ever had as good a week as we Boston sports fans just did? Okay, maybe God during the opening week of the world. But frankly that sixth day wasn't so hot and even He might have benefited from a little relief help before trying that Adam's rib stunt.By comparison, from Sunday to Sunday (using, of course, The Beatles' eight-day-week model), Boston hit the perfecto. The Red Sox went 6 and 0, first winning four straight to make history against the New York Yankees, then jumping off to a 2-0 World Series lead against the St. Louis Cardinals. The New England Patriots brushed aside two putative championship contenders, the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets, to extend their record NFL winning streak to 21. Boston College won the nation's Catholic Bowl, scoring a last-minute touchdown, in the very shadow of "Touchdown Jesus," to nip Notre Dame 24-23. And the karma in Boston was so exceptional that even the lowly New England Revolution opened the Major League Soccer playoffs with...
  • Starr Gazing: The Curse Is Dead

    New York Yankees fans have but one weapon left in their arsenal of abuse for Boston Red Sox supporters. So, of course, last night as their last resort, they used it. As they trudged out of Yankee Stadium--disappointed, disbelieving and even discombobulated by the stunning turn of events and the final thrashing--the guys in blue hats kept turning back and screaming at the Red Sox celebrants: "Until you win the series, it's still 1918."If the baseball gods offer up one more act of mercy next week, that taunt--the relentless reminder of the last time the Red Sox won the World Series--will have been heard for the final time in New York. Which leaves me with a rather devilish notion. The BoSox actually open the 2005 season back in the Bronx. How about we retire that juvenile "Yankees suck" refrain, especially since the events of the past four days speak for themselves. Instead, every Red Sox fan shows up for Opening Day with a sign that reads: 2000.Admittedly four years isn't easily...
  • Starr Gazing: On a Limp and a Prayer

    Those who know the Red Sox curse, but don't live it in the gut and in the heart, tend to reduce it to a succession of one-liners: Pesky held the ball; Bucky Dent hit the homer; Bill Buckner let the ball go through his legs; Grady Little left Pedro in the game.But those of us who truly live it, not just in the post-season when baseball reaches this fever pitch, but every day of our life, know that those moments are far more complex and nuanced than that shorthand would suggest. Take as an example the Buckner tragedy against the Mets in 1986. Before Billy Buck, at the end of a superb season and near the end of a fine career, could become a goat for the ages, Roger Clemens first had to ask out of the game with a blister, reliever Calvin Schiraldi had to implode, reliable reliever Bob Stanley had to uncork a wild pitch and, finally, manager John McNamara had to have made the uncharacteristic decision to leave Buckner in the game. All post-season long, the manager had replaced Buckner,...
  • Starr Gazing: The Curse of the Rivalry

    I don't know any Boston Red Sox diehards who weren't rooting almost as fervently for the Minnesota Twins against the New York Yankees as they were for their own team against the Anaheim Angels.Yet each confessed to a nagging suspicion that if our cursed championship drought is ever to end--86 years and counting--it might require the fire and brimstone, the cataclysm that a Red Sox-Yankees series brings to town. So within minutes of David Ortiz's game- and series-winning home run that swept Boston into the American League Championship series, the cheers that rocked ancient Fenway Park had transmogrified into a chant. Though the New York-Minnesota series would not be settled for another 24 hours, the Fenway faithful bellowed their choice and challenge for the baseball world to hear: "We want Yankees. We want Yankees."In their delirium, these fans seemed completely oblivious to that old admonition: be careful what you wish for. For me, older, perhaps wiser and certainly more scarred by...
  • Starr Gazing: A Tribute To Torre

    As a Red Sox fan bracing myself for the inevitable pain of the postseason, I indulge in a certain amount of remembrances of things past. As in, "Whatever happens, it can't be worse than ..." There are, of course, loads of options for that fill-in-the-blank space. But the season on which I tend to dwell, my baseball madeleine, is 1978.That was truly an incredible Yankees team. It had to be great in order to catch, then hold off and, finally, Dent the juggernaut that was the '78 Red Sox. The Yankees had pitcher Ron Guidry (an incredible 25-3 record for the season) and Catfish Hunter as starters, the fearsome Goose Gossage as its closer, Reggie Jackson providing the power and Mickey Rivers the speed. On top of all that, New York boasted an array of talented, character guys like Thurman Munson, Chris Chambliss, Roy White and Lou Piniella. And, of course, there was a banjo-hitting shortstop--Bucky-what's-his-name--who was an unlikely candidate for baseball immortality.Nobody mentions...
  • Starr Gazing: Confessions of a Baseball Lunatic

    One always departs an Olympics marveling at the geopolitical wonders that have been paraded before us when 202 nations gather in one place with allegiance to the same five rings and under a single flame: Greece's most bitter enemy, Turkey, parading into the Olympic stadium to a cordial welcome; Korea, North and South, marching together under a unification flag; the giddy resurgence of Afghan and Iraqi athletes, the latter with a wondrous run to the soccer semifinals; game performances by nations so obscure that even "Jeopardy" sensation Ken Jennings wouldn't have a clue as to their location.This whole Olympic thing truly does operate within a Beatles "All you need is love" framework, and one has to be a devout cynic or committed curmudgeon not to appreciate its genuine magic. That is, of course, if you can ignore the antics of defrocked priests tackling marathoners or don't count verbal brickbats flying, like those between the Americans and Koreans over gymnastics (not to mention...
  • Starr Gazing: Let's Go to the Tape ...

    This column will serve as my official notice. On Friday night, I was seated at Fenway Park no less than 250 feet from third base. I witnessed the umpire's two botched calls at third--both in favor, naturally, of the always-and-forever favored New York Yankees.It is my honest, heartfelt contention that those blunders cost the Red Sox the critical game--not manager Terry Francona's idiotic decision to try out his best Grady Little impression--and certainly the American League East title to boot. So I am formally appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to declare Boston the winner of last Friday's game and--because of incalculable psychic pain to me and other fans as a result of that miscarriage of justice--champion of the division too.In fact, while the court is sitting in judgment, I would also like them to take a look at the following travesties: Jeffrey Maier's fan interference noncall in Yankee Stadium that paved the way for New York to win the 1996 World Series; the...
  • Starr Gazing: An NFL Preview

    One cannot fully appreciate the miracle that is today's New England Patriots without having held season tickets, as my family has, for the full 44 years of this franchise's endurance test of an existence.I cannot possibly convey to you, in just one column's worth, all the pathos, fiascos and futility that have been at the very heart of this football team. But I discovered one little nugget that can provide a glimpse. One of my football preview mags (Street & Smith's) ranks the 20 worst NFL teams of the modern age. The worst ever--right ahead of (or behind, as it was) the 1990 Pats, a sorry squad that averaged just 11 points a game on the way to a 1-15 record--was the 1981 Baltimore Colts. That Colts team had a 2-14 record. Want to guess what team the Colts beat for those two wins? Losing to the "worst" team in NFL history not once, but twice in one season is the perfect metaphor for our perennial Patsies.But that was then and this is now. And now--tonight even--Elton John, Toby...
  • GOOOOOOAAAALL!!!

    As athletes readied for the mass frolic that signals the Olympics' close, Greece was indisputably the biggest winner here. Olympic chief Jacques Rogge has done away with his predecessor's hyperbolic insistence on declaring each Games "the best ever." But by virtually any standard, Greece would have been a contender. There were no major security incidents; the trains, trams and buses ran on time, and the international press, whose every whine can provoke a crisis, was effectively silenced.American athletes shined throughout (though China's performance presages a new sports dynasty in Beijing in 2008). Not all U.S. stars--notably the former Dream Team and Marion Jones--left happy. Most everyone else, though, leaves Athens with newfound respect for the little country that could. Greece kept its promise to thread the history of both its ancient and first modern Olympiad through these Games of a new millennium. While the Olympics will now move on, Greece forever holds the copyright.
  • BACK FROM THE BRINK

    What Paul Hamm did was unprecedented. No, not what he did in Athens last week, but what the gymnast did a year ago after he became the first American man to win the all-around World Championship. On the cusp of the Olympic season, Hamm quit his lifelong coach and moved with his twin brother, Morgan, from Milwaukee to Columbus, Ohio, a gymnastics hothouse for the U.S. men's team. And right away Paul and his new coach, Miles Avery, made a critical decision: to change his daring, signature high-bar routine. "I was at best 75 percent with that routine and I knew that wasn't going to cut it at the Olympics," Hamm said. They created a stylish new opening with a pair of one-armed passes, cut the nerve-racking blind releases off the bar from five to three and produced an exercise that Hamm thought he could execute 100 percent of the time. "The only part that's risky is the releases," he said, "but, because it's less than I used to do, it actually feels easy."Even if Hamm truly believed that...
  • Starr Gazing: Doping on the Track, Sportsmanship on the Mat

    I fear the Greeks are in for one final disappointment. Having endured relentless skepticism as well as frequent insult in the run-up the Athens Olympics, they appear to expect effusive congratulations as well as a mass mea culpa.Let me say it has been a fine, well-run Games, which is a credit to our hosts. But the days of Juan Antonio Samaranch proclaiming every Olympics (except, of course, Atlanta) "the greatest ever" are gone with Juan. And reporters will soon move on to matters of Turin 2006 and the heavyweight battle between world capitals--New York, Paris, Madrid, London, Moscow--to host 2012.To the extent that we, the media, dwell on anything here, it will be the scandals and controversy. That is the nature of the beast. So in this, my fond farewell, I need to footnote the biggest scandal of the Athens Games, drugs (it's always drugs) and the biggest controversy (gymnastics).Drugs: OK, now we know for sure what we knew almost for sure, when the San Jose Mercury-News reported...
  • Starr Gazing: Everything You Wanted To Know About the Olympics ...

    Before he became a best-selling novelist, the late Irving Wallace earned a few extra pennies by serving as the ghostwriter for the legendary native-American football and track star, Jim Thorpe.Thorpe's Olympic experience was decidedly mixed. When Thorpe won both the pentathlon and decathlon at the Stockholm Games in 1912, Sweden's King Gustav V was said to have told him, "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world." That appellation has stuck with the decathlon gold medalist ever since. Thorpe was less lucky with his medals, which didn't stick. In an era when the Olympics were supposed to embody true amateur sports, Thorpe was stripped of his gold medals for having played semi-pro baseball. Seventy years later, 30 years after Thorpe's death, his medals were restored along with his rightful place in Olympic history.Wallace, though, never lost his enchantment with Olympic magic and in 1960 he passed it on to his 12-year-old son, David, by taking him to the Rome Olympics. When the...
  • CARLY & CO.

    It was Atlanta, 1996, and America was poised to win its first team gold medal in women's gymnastics. Watching on TV, Natalie Patterson kept beckoning her 8-year-old daughter, Carly, to come in from the backyard and watch the girls make Olympic history. "But I just wanted to stay out there all night doing my own flip-flops," says Carly, who back then was a talented novice at her local Baton Rouge, La., gym. Carly finally came inside just in time to see Kerry Strug clinch the gold by landing a solid vault on her one good leg. Then Carly watched as Strug was carried to the medal stand in her coach's arms. "The whole thing was pretty awesome," says Patterson, now 16 and a U.S. national champion.If Patterson is on the beam in Athens, history could repeat itself. Just as Mary Lou Retton of L.A. '84 fame inspired the young girls who triumphed in '96, Atlanta's "Magnificent 7" sent another generation of young girls, Carly's generation, tumbling with new enthusiasm into U.S. gyms. As a...
  • A LONG JUMP

    She was, her Nike handlers never ceased reminding reporters, the total package: the looks, the smile, the smarts and the easy patter. And, just incidentally, she planned to win a record five gold medals in Sydney. "I'm going to run fast and jump far," Marion Jones told NEWSWEEK back in the summer of 2000. "All my preparation is pointed at the moment when the Games are over and I have the satisfaction of having won all ?I've entered." But Jones's quest was about more than personal satisfaction or even Olympic history. Before she'd set one foot Down Under, her national charm offensive was going gangbusters. Michael Jordan may have been king, but there was room for a queen beside him on the Nike throne.Jones never quite ascended to American royalty. While she performed brilliantly in Sydney, winning three gold medals, a silver and a bronze, when she fell short of her goal her disappointment was so palpable it became ours, too. Then there was an unseemly brush with scandal. In the...
  • ANOTHER TO WATCH: MAURICE GREEN: TRACK AND FIELD

    These days Greene is letting his tattoo speak for him: G.O.A.T.--GREATEST OF ALL TIME, it boasts from his bicep. The sprinter, who won two gold medals in Sydney, is very willing, though, to elucidate. "Not to take anything away from anyone else, but it takes an athlete like me to surpass them," says Mo, who has run 49 sub-10-second 100-meter races in his career, more than any runner in history. "They were great in their time, but this is my time."Greene appears back in form after two years of injuries and sub-par performances. If he becomes only the second Olympian to successfully defend his gold in the 100, what is now taken for trash talk may soon be regarded as gospel truth.
  • ANOTHER TO WATCH: PAUL HAMM: MEN'S GYMNASTICS

    For the last 20 years, America's male gymnasts have been totally upstaged by their U.S. women counterparts. But that won't happen while 21-year-old Paul Hamm is on the mat. (His twin brother, Morgan, also made the team.) Since his Olympic debut in Sydney, where the U.S. men finished a wobbly fifth, Hamm has led the team to back-to-back silver medals at the 2001 and 2003 World Championships.Last year Hamm became the first American man ever to win the all-round title at the Worlds. Trailing China's Yang Wei going into his final high-bar rotation, Hamm stuck a perfect landing to win the gold by .064 point. "Hopefully this time when it comes to the last event," he says, "it won't be that close."
  • An Olympic Gymnastics Primer

    We Olympic fans enjoy the gymnastics at the Summer Games almost as much as we do the Winter Games' figure-skating competition. But while most of us understand a little about the "figs," or at least know a double axel from a sit-spin, we are fairly clueless about the gymnastics and wouldn't know a double Arabian from "The Merchant of Venice."Nor will you know when you finish reading this preview of the gymnastics competition. But here are a few things that might enhance both your appreciation and understanding of the Olympic gymnastics, which begins this weekend, with the men's teams competing tomorrow and the women's teams on Sunday.Two Days: Both team competitions extend over two days. The preliminaries determine which eight teams go on to the team finals on Monday (men) and Tuesday (women).In the preliminary round for both men and women, the 6-5-4 formula is used. Five of the six team members compete on each apparatus (six for men, four for woman), but only four scores count...
  • Starr Gazing: Yes, Soggy Meatballs Do Matter

    Within a few hours of my arrival here in Athens, I had an experience that I would have guessed was decidedly atypical of Greece. But sad to say--actually pathetic to say--it was totally typical of me.First the typical. I had been in Athens just a few hours when, in order to acclimate my body to the local schedule and ease the pain of the 10-hour flight, I located a taverna in my new neighborhood. I enjoyed a Greek salad (the tomatoes were lush, the feta cheese was not that chalky stuff you get too often in the States), a little grilled chicken in pita and, of course, a few glasses of chilled local red to get my blood moving. I left happy and, unfortunately, without my American Express card. (This was no Visa plot to validate its claim that AmEx is not welcome at the Olympics; that may be true inside the fortress, but outside the gates every guy selling a skewer of souvlaki scarfs it up.)Now for the atypical part, or at least what I believed to be atypical. Within a few hours of...