Mark Starr

Stories by Mark Starr

  • 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...
  • Starr Gazing: Nightmare Team?

    Has Allen Iverson ever been quite as excited as he was yesterday when he threw in that prayer at the buzzer--almost from midcourt--to beat Germany 80-77? Seeing the rapturous expression on Iverson's face just before he was engulfed by his teammates, I would have guessed that coach Larry Brown had just informed him that he could skip practice for the next week.Mind you, one should never complain at the sight of an NBA star displaying a little passion while playing for his country. And I'm hardly surprised that victory didn't come easy. Anybody who has paid the least attention to basketball in this new millennium knows that the pro game long ago crossed over into a brave new world.Still, I'm having a bit of an adjustment problem. Regardless of what one knows, it remains a giant leap, psychologically speaking, to comprehend how an NBA Dream Team could be thrilled just to squeak by Germany--in an exhibition game no less. Of course it's a lot better than getting your butt kicked by Italy...
  • OLYMPICS: ANCIENT WARRIORS

    In Olympic sports today, star athletes seem to stick around forever. Swimmer Jenny Thompson, 31, is headed to her fourth Games in Athens; hurdler Gail Devers, 37, to her fifth. But women's gymnastics has always been child's play. When Olympic veterans Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes and Kerry Strug returned--at ages 19, 19 and 18--to form the nucleus of the '96 team, they were seen as ancient warriors on their last legs.So it was no surprise last week when six Olympic rookies were chosen for the 2004 team. But USA Gymnastics' choice was still a stunner, naming to the roster two ladies who are downright geriatric: Annia Hatch, 26, a former Cuban champion, and Mohini Bhardwaj, 25. Team coordinator Marta Karolyi cited maturity in giving them the nod over two teens from America's reigning world-champion team. In fact, their selection was dictated less by maturity than by rule changes in the sport since the 2000 Olympics. In the team finals, only three women (compared with five in Sydney...
  • OK, WHOSE ESSAY IS IT?

    College tours are like snowflakes: no two are exactly alike. But when the moment comes on every tour to discuss the importance of the essay question on the admissions application, each school seems to parrot the identical notion. I recently completed a weeklong--if it's Friday, it must be Ithaca--college swing with my 17-year-old daughter. And again and again we heard the essay portrayed as "the one chance for the student's own voice to come through, the one chance for us to get to know the real you."Each time, I would raise my hand--ignoring the look of chagrin on my daughter's face--and ask how the school was defending itself against what may be an increasingly synthetic creation. With admissions summer camps, private counselors and high-school curriculums even incorporating tips on how to write a personal essay, were colleges actually getting to know the kid or, rather, some combination of parents, English teacher and high-priced tutor? But each college official I queried...
  • Starr Gazing: Begrudging Barry Bonds

    I wouldn't want my absence from the chorus congratulating Barry Bonds on the occasion of his 40th birthday to be considered a possible oversight. My absence, as well as my abstinence from praise, was deliberate.Believe me, I don't begrudge him his piece of cake or a jolly locker-room chorus of, "Stand up and tell us ..." Actually, there's a great deal I'd like him to stand up and tell us. And I do begrudge baseball's reigning curmudgeon so many remarkable paeans from so many sportswriters who should know better.Too many tripped over each other to sing Bonds's immortal praises. Most feared batter of all time! Greatest 40-year-old player in history! I've watched Major League Baseball squander its greatest asset, its storied history, with cynical indifference to the whys and wherefores of modern, record-smashing performances. But I expect baseball writers to do a little better by the game and demonstrate at least a modicum of historical perspective.Let's start by taking those claims at...
  • Starr Gazing: Red Sox and Blue Staters

    Both the Democrats and the Yankees arrive here in Boston this weekend and, frankly, it's hard to tell which team is more unwelcome. Actually, it's not that hard at all. Any second I expect to hear the chant of "Democrats Suck!" wafting along with the summer breeze down Newbury Street.Somehow the denizens of this most Democratic of American cities have not been charmed by the virtual lockdown that the Secret Service is imposing on our city. Nor by Mayor for Life Tom Menino, who has offered a decidedly mixed bag of counsel to locals: stay home, but enjoy the city and this wonderful spectacle of democracy in action.Admittedly Boston is a city that has elevated moaning and groaning to a fine art. After all, it is embedded in our heritage. Do you think the Pilgrims were happy campers? They kvetched--though they might not have used that word--about everything from the miserable English they left behind to the lousy spread the Wampanoags contributed to the first Thanksgiving.Here's my own...
  • The Track and Field Field

    The recent U.S. Olympic swimming trials proved to be exactly what the Olympic track and field trials were four years ago: a showcase for a single superstar taking aim at unprecedented Olympic goals--and one who is likely to overshadow all Americans in Athens next month.Michael Phelps, a swimmer for all seasons (and strokes), is now cast in the role that Marion Jones played to perfection at the 2000 Sydney Games, where she won three gold and two bronze medals. Jones did compete again at her sport's trials last week, but she bore little resemblance to the legend of old. She did not qualify to defend her Olympic title in either the 100 or 200 meters, dropping out of the latter race citing "fatigue." Jones will compete individually only in the long jump, always regarded as her weakest event.Indeed over eight days of competition in sweltering Sacramento, the track trials produced no singular star. What overshadowed the competition, though, was a singular issue--illegal drugs, especially...
  • Starr Gazing: Balancing Act

    A couple of Olympic cycles ago, I spent a long, liquid evening with Bela and Marta Karolyi at their ranch in the Sam Houston National Forest about an hour outside Houston. After sampling a selection of Bela-brewed brandies ("this make slivovitz look like lemonade") and some homemade red wine ("the bull's blood is good"), we settled down to talk gymnastics. I asked the legendary coach, who had guided both the incomparable Nadia Comaneci and American icon Mary Lou Retton to Olympic glory and later carried injured Atlanta hero Kerri Strug to the medal stand, why he had never coached boys. He shook his head, staring at me in disbelief. "Boys, they get older," he said. "They have their own opinions."Maybe his wife, Marta, wasn't listening or maybe, being older too, she has her own opinions. Because when Marta, the American women's national team coordinator, announced the Olympic team last Sunday, she stunned fans by selecting two women who, by the sport's standards here, are senior...
  • Starr Gazing: The Long (Jump) Goodbye

    It's almost ridiculous to call it a controversy, certainly not in comparison with the firestorm of rumor and innuendo that has engulfed Marion Jones this week in her bid to make the U.S. Olympic team for Athens.But there was, in fact, a minor flap regarding Jones during these same U.S. Olympic Trials four years ago, back when she was America's unrivaled darling. By contrast with the current drug scandal that has tarnished the sport and Jones's once stellar reputation, this was the kind of controversy devotees of the sport could embrace--an insider, highly technical debate over Jones's long-jumping prowess.Track veterans criticized Jones's coach at the time, Trevor Graham, for not importing a specialist to help her develop sound jumping techniques. Instead she relied on God-given talents--her speed down the runway and her athleticism in the air. They would prove to be not enough in Sydney, where she settled for bronze in the long jump, derailing her five-gold-medal dream. Still, at...
  • Starr Gazing: Jewels of Denial

    You've got to be impressed with how Marion Jones goes about denying ever having used performance-enhancing drugs. The track superstar's denial is unequivocal and unambiguous: No, never! Test my old urine samples, she says; release my grand jury testimony to the public; hey, I passed a lie-detector test; let me meet my accusers in a public hearing rather than a "kangaroo court."That's a huge improvement over those athletes who respond to doping allegations by saying that they have never failed a drug test, which is about as compelling a defense as, "I puffed, but I never inhaled." For many years, most experts figured that to fail a drug test, an athlete had to be very stupid or very unlucky. Between newly designed steroids that weren't detectable, compounds like human growth hormone for which there weren't yet reliable tests, labs that would monitor an athlete's doping levels to tell him or her when it was safe to compete, and masking agents that cover up traces of illegal substances...
  • STEROIDS: HOMING IN ON JONES?

    Did U.S. anti-doping officials inch closer last week to charging sprinter Marion Jones with drug violations? Jones, who has never failed a drug test and maintains that she's never used banned substances, is under the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's watch for her implication in the BALCO steroids case--but has not been notified of any disciplinary action against her. Still, with track-and-field trials starting July 9, and with the USADA wanting an untainted team going to Athens, the agency last Wednesday charged boyfriend Tim Montgomery, the world's fastest man, with cheating based on documents and other circumstantial evidence from the BALCO case; it also charged Michelle Collins, Jones's former training partner. (Neither has failed a drug test, and lawyers say the athletes will contest.) Then, last Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle, citing unnamed sources, reported that Montgomery told a federal grand jury last year that BALCO founder Victor Conte Jr. had given steroids to him and...
  • The Laker Wars

    A late, great man of my town once uttered the famously succinct, "All politics is local." The former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, was a major fan of the Boston sports teams, so he would have understood that all sports is local, too.Here in Boston these days you can barely get anybody to engage in an NBA conversation. Between the perennial despair over the Red Sox's futile Yankee chase and the eager anticipation of the New England Patriots' title defense, the beleaguered, rebuilding Boston Celtics might as well not exist. But I spent the past week in Los Angeles and, despite the onset of summer with two baseball teams in playoff contention, the sports talk of the town is all Lakers all the time.After an ugly, bickering season and an implosion on the floor in the NBA Finals, the Laker "three-peat" championship team is breaking up. And breaking up is indeed hard to do. Coach Phil Jackson has already departed. That decision may not have been entirely his, but he clearly had...
  • Starr Gazing: Bad Baseball Deals and Basketball Drafts

    Major League Baseball entered this season with tremendous momentum, coming off a stirring World Series upset and a soap opera of a winter that enabled the game's best player, Alex Rodriguez, to escape baseball purgatory in Texas and land in baseball heaven in New York.Now it has followed up those successes by producing what, to date, has been the most surprising season in recent memory. With the '04 season approaching the halfway mark, who would have believed that at least 20 teams (and even a couple more in the eyes of the optimists) remain in contention for the playoffs? Who could have predicted that the contenders would include such recently beleaguered teams as the Milwaukee Brewers, the Texas Rangers, the San Diego Padres and, in that spirit of optimism, even the Detroit Tigers? Who would have guessed that five division races would be within two games--and the sole exception would be the New York Yankees' scant 4.5-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the Richie Rich Division?...
  • ROCKET REDUX

    It was definitely not baseball business as usual. The Houston Astros were playing the Cardinals in St. Louis, but their ace, Roger Clemens, was 650 miles away in Dallas tossing batting practice to an all-star team of teenagers that included his oldest son, Koby. After two days cheering on the Texas Heat, Clemens flew home to Houston to hang briefly with his three other boys. Then it was on to Seattle where, two nights later, Clemens blanked the Mariners, 1-0, running his season's record to 9-0. "All in all, it's been going OK," says the 41-year-old.We should all be doing so "OK." The apparently ageless Clemens now leads the major leagues in both wins and earned run average and is a lock to start the All-Star Game next month. Not bad for a guy who retired last fall--after 20 seasons and 310 career victories with the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees--intent on devoting himself to his four sons, ages 8, 9, 15 and 17. He especially wanted to spend time on the baseball diamond with the two...
  • Starr Gazing: The NBA in Black and White

    I was disappointed, but not exactly surprised when the comments of two prominent sports figures got lumped together as examples of racial insensitivity.Bill Parcells's labeling of surprise plays as "Jap" calls was a gratuitous slur and demanded the apology that the Dallas Cowboys coach quickly delivered. But despite the reflexive reproach, Larry Bird's insistence that the NBA needs more white superstars is no such thing. His is a legitimate marketing concern; certainly one of every other NBA executive from David Stern on down has at least contemplated privately as the league's popularity has waned. (During halftime of Game 5, the commissioner dismissed Bird's contention as "flat-out wrong.") Bird's real mistake, of course, was talking candidly about race, a subject on which this nation seems increasingly incapable of any genuine public discussion.Like many children of the '50s and '60s, I consider the civil rights movement to be one of my intellectual building blocks. Indeed, my...
  • Starr Gazing: Tiger's Slump

    Seldom does a single golf hole offer a perfect microcosm of an entire season, as the 14th at the Memorial did for Tiger Woods during last Sunday's final round. Woods was chasing Ernie Els when he teed off on the par-four 14th, spraying his drive wildly left and into a creek. Forced to take a penalty drop into an awkward lie, Woods next sent his ball--accompanied by a loud and completely appropriate epithet--flying over the green, where it nestled in the rough. From there, 50 feet away and facing double bogey, he made the shot of the tournament, holing out his chip to save par.The trouble was that Tiger was tallying his miracle par at the exact moment when he desperately needed a routine birdie. But instead of rallying down the home stretch, Woods, who had been tied with Els early in the round at 12 under, faltered. He finished with a distinctly un-Tiger-like 11 straight pars--and in third place, a distant six strokes behind the South African star. A $357,000 payday can't exactly be...
  • Starr Gazing: Bora, Bora, Bora

    I fell in love with Bora the very first time we dined together, back in the spring of 1994. We were in a posh Laguna Beach restaurant and Bora, decked out in his dress sweats, was telling me--without apparent resentment or regret--that not a single person in this fancy joint recognized him or even had a clue who he was.He proved to be very wrong. Quickly word spread through the kitchen that Bora Milutinovic was in the house. Soon a group of busboys and dishwashers had congregated close by and were peering around the corner at our alcove. They could hardly contain their excitement over the presence of this soccer legend, the former national coach of Mexico, who had crossed the border to coach the host American team at that summer's World Cup. Interrupting his meal, Bora beckoned the young men over to our table. Then, with scant regard for decorum, he whipped out a soccer ball, tossed it into the corner and delivered an impromptu clinic in protecting the dribble from double-team...
  • Running On Dope

    It should have been the most glorious day of Kelli White's athletic career. The young American sprinter had completed her sport's most prized double, winning gold medals in both the 100 and 200 meters at the World Track and Field Championships in Paris last August. But instead of celebrating, White was trying to explain why she had tested positive for the banned stimulant modafinil, often used to treat narcolepsy. Dewy-eyed and with an audible catch in her throat, White revealed a hidden family history of the sleep disorder, which made this allegation of cheating particularly "harmful and hurtful." "I know that I did nothing wrong and sought no advantage over my competitors," she said. "I have never taken any substance to enhance my performance."It was a heartfelt performance. And a complete lie. Last week White, 27, revealed that modafinil was the least of her doping offenses. She admitted that for several years now she has been taking a regimen of banned drugs--including steroids...
  • Starr Gazing: The Nba Gets Defensive

    I arrived at the Dallas airport the other night to the unsurprising news that I was facing a lengthy delay. But for once, I was actually delighted. The extra hour or so meant that I wouldn't have to miss the finish of the Lakers-Timberwolves playoff game. So I raced around in search of a bar in my wing of the American Airlines terminal. I found the absolutely perfect joint in the Cowtown Bar, pulled up a stool and quickly found myself staring in amazement at the two TVs overhead. ...