Puttin' On The Ritz
If you're looking for a giant, dimly-lit picture of Lenny Dykstra talking on the phone from a hotel bed at the Paris Ritz while his wife Terry stares off into space, well, look no further. That was the big Contents page photo in this issue. Makes you wonder what they passed on if that was the best that could do.
"Might" is the Key Word
The highlight of the Letters page is a submission from reader Donald Schmitz of San Jose nominating race-car driver Nigel Mansell for 1993 Sportsman of the Year. After listing some of Nigel's incredible (his word, not mine) accomplishments Donald wraps it up by stating, "Mansell might be the biggest British import since the Beatles." Ummm, sure. If you say so.
L.T. on the NASDAQ
The Scorecard section has a tremendous blurb about Lawrence Taylor's fledgling company, All-Pro Products. Described as "one of the hottest new stock offerings of 1993," All-Pro opened at $5 per share on November 9th and was trading at $15.50 on the NASDAQ by November 26th. Rumors had it that L.T., about to enter the final year of his contract with the Giants, was so pleased with All-Pro's hot start that he was considering forsaking $2.5 million and walking away from football.
And what, you ask, did All-Pro sell? Well, the company had one product in the winter of 1993, a sports drink called Metro-Pro, which was marketed as "an urban drink for males." Unfortunately, Metro-Pro is also described in the piece as having "a less than pleasing taste." All of which helps to explain why All-Pro was operating with "a total revenue of $36,220" since inception and "losses of over $900,000."
But despite those discouraging financials, All-Pro was forging ahead. L.T. "and his associates" were said to be tinkering with a new formula for Metro-Pro. And, what's more, plans were underway to develop "a virtual-reality home entertainment system," although the prospects for that venture were considered uncertain, "given that no one connected with All-Pro has experience in developing that media."
Sadly, I'm sure you can guess how this all turned out in the end. Here's the section of timeline from L.T.'s bio on espn.com that covers this era in his life...
-L.T.'s No. 56 was officially retired at halftime of the Giants-Vikings Monday night game on Oct. 10, 1994.
Poor L.T. One minute you're getting your number retired and riding high in the stock market and the next minute your wrestling Bam Bam Bigelow to pay the bills.
I'm sure it all seemed like a good idea at the time.
Raffy vs. Will Clark
The Scorecard section also has a brief mention of the Texas Rangers deciding to sign Will Clark as a free agent and let Rafael Palmeiro walk. The move is largely praised on the grounds that numbers don't mean everything and that Clark will get in the faces of guys like Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez and Jose Canseco and teach them how to be winners.
The best is Raffy's reaction, described thusly...."Palmeiro blasted the Rangers for signing a "mediocre" player, then inexcusably ripped his former Mississippi State teammate, saying Clark had "no class" and was a "lowlife."
Yeah, because you're such a class act, Raffy. See you in Congress....
Fixing the N.F.L.
On to Peter King's story on the ailing state of the N.F.L. The opening paragraphs of the story paint a picture of professional football in the winter of 1993. Steve DeBerg and his "dental floss arm" was trying to keep the Dolphins in the AFC East race with Dan Marino out. Northern Exposure was seen a legit threat to the ratings of Monday Night Football. Deion Sanders, described as "the rascal that half of us love and half of us love to hate," was missing time with the Braves. And no less an authority than broadcaster Matt Millen (Matt Millen!) was quoted as saying, "Is it just me, or is this the worst football we've ever seen?"
Peter then tosses out 10 problems facing the league along with his solutions. Let's quickly run them down:
Problem #1: Parity is a monster unleashed.
Comments: That's actually not a bad idea. Even today. I wouldn't mind tweaking the system to allow teams an opportunity to hang on to a few veterans that would otherwise be too expensive. It's just funny to see parity, which is almost always cited as one the NFL's greatest strengths today, being lamented for damaging the league just 13 years ago. And it's even funnier when the guy talking about it is Matt Millen..."Parity is fine, if we have good teams beating each other. But bad teams with good records are beating each other, and usually the games are full of sloppy play." I don't like sloppy play either, Matt. If only they would let you run your own team...
Problem #2: One quarterback injury and a contender falls like a house of cards.
Comments: First of all, you have to love any solution that involves the World League. That's always a good idea. But what's even better is the list of backup QBs from playoff contenders that Peter rattles off in this section. Check out these beauties...Ty Detmer (Packers), Tommy Maddox (Broncos), Kent Graham (Giants), Browning Nagle (Jets) and Peter Tom Willis (Bears).
Problem #3: The double byes are a double disaster.
Comments: Amen. And they did. No need for a team to get two byes per season.
Problem #4: There are more good college games on TV than pro games on a given weekend.
Comments: Well, that second part of that solution is about to come true in a few weeks. As to the first part, I imagine LA became less of a concern when they lost both franchises. Overall, I guess this is still a concern but I've got the NFL package on Directv so I'm not as worried about it myself. I might be singing a different tune if I got caught in that Atlanta-Pittsburgh bonus coverage mess on CBS last weekend.
Problem #5: Kickers are becoming too good.
Comments: Kickers were too good 13 years ago? And that would be solved by adding two-point conversions? I'm not sure I understand.
Problem #6: Unlimited substition is killing offense.
Comments: Apparently, nobody was going no-huddle in 1993.
Problem #7: There’s not enough big plays.
Solution: See Problem #6. Get rid of unlimited substitutions.
Comments: I had no idea unlimited substitution was such a big deal. When did this stop becoming a big concern? Or is still a big problem and I’m just not aware of it?
Problem #8: Artificial turf causes too many injuries
Solution: Get rid of it.
Problem #9: The 40-second clock is causing offenses to misfire.
Solution: Add 5 seconds to the play clock.
Problem #10: The game has no character and almost no color.
Solution: Do a better job marketing the players.
The Wit and Wisdom of Tomba La Bomba
Couple good quotes from the legendary Alberto Tomba in an article about the 1993 World Cup of skiing.
On his prospects of winning gold in the upcoming Lillehammer games…
And on rumors of his retirement in the wake of Michael Jordan’s departure from the Bulls…
Midseason Report on the 1993-94 Sonics
The 1993-94 Sonics will forever be remember for losing as the #1 seed in the West to the 8th seeded Nuggets in a famous first-round upset. S.I. did a profile on them in this issue back in December of that year. Some highlights from that piece…
-"We’re crazy at times. We yell and cuss at each other maybe more than most teams.” –George Karl
-“If we were happy all the time, we wouldn’t be the Sonics.” –Gary Payton
-A story about Shawn Kemp trying a crazy spin move in the post against Billy Owen that resulted in an offensive foul, followed by Karl telling him to “just play basketball,” followed by Kemp swearing at Karl.
-Tons of praise for offseason acquisitions Detlef Schrempf and Kendall Gill. Probably too much praise in retrospect.
-Genuine debate about whether their go-to guy in the clutch was Schrempf, Kemp or Ricky Pierce.
-The last line of the story talking about Seattle going deep in the playoffs. Didn’t quite work out that way. Unless you consider a 5-game opening round series a deep run.
The Bowl System Sucks: 1993 Edition
While the image of the NFL might have been different 13 years ago you can take comfort in knowing that everybody hated college football’s postseason just as much then as they do now if not more. The 1993 regular season ended with two undefeated teams, Nebraska and West Virginia, but the Mountaineers were shut out of the Orange Bowl, and a shot at the national championship, in favor of Florida State.
Here’s what West Virginia coach Don Nehlen had to say about it…
“It’s the biggest misjustice in the world.”
And then added the following in reference to FSU’s November loss to Notre Dame…
“To have the opportunity to play for the national championship the good Lord says you’ve got to do every single thing right for 11 straight weeks.” And Florida State, in his mind, “didn’t get it done.”
Other voices in the article include Bobby Bowden, who summed up his 33-21 win over Florida thusly, “Almost a rout and almost close,” and Michael Wilbon, who called Nebraska, “the second biggest fraud in college football every single solitary season.” His number 1 fraud? Michigan.
Nails in Europe
In the feature on Lenny Dykstra touring Europe in the offseason as a goodwill ambassador for baseball come these two quotes….
“Now, Paris is France. But London, that’s just London, right? It’s just London?”
-Lenny, working on his geography
“My goal is to build a financial empire. I know people laugh about all the stuff I say and do. But believe me, before I take a dirt nap, I’m going to build myself a financial empire.”
Inside The NFL
Prolific issue from Peter King who, in addition to his cover story, still found time to do his weekly Inside the NFL piece. And the lead story there was, ho hum, a story about Drew Bledsoe’s growing pains under Bill Parcells. Honest to God. 13 years ago and that was the story. Drew’s a good kid. He’s learning. Getting better. Still makes mistakes. Etc, etc. And you wonder why Parcells might be frustrated with him now. He was having the same conversations 13 years ago.
Another tidbit I enjoyed was a blurb about Barry Sanders missing time with an injury and this quote from Lions coach Wayne Fontes…"A lot of people are counting us out but we’ve won without Lomas Brown. We’ve won without Herman Moore. We’ve won without Pat Swilling. We can with without Barry.” Well, yes and no. The ’93 Lions went 3-2 down the stretch without Barry and won the NFC Central but were bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
Finally, here’s SI’s Top Ten Power rankings with records at the time…
1) San Francisco 8-3 (Finished 10-6 and lost in the NFC title game)
2) Dallas 7-4 (Finished 12-4 and won the Super Bowl)
3) Miami 9-2 (Finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs)
4) Kansas City 8-3 (Finished 11-5 and lost the AFC title game)
5) Buffalo 8-3 (Finished 12-4 and lost in the Super Bowl)
6) Houston 7-4 (Finished 12-4 and lost a Divisional game)
7) Pittsburgh 6-5 (Finished 9-7 and lost a wild card game)
8) N.Y. Jets 7-4 (Finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs)
9) N.Y. Giants 8-3 (Finished 11-5 and lost a Divisional game)
10) Denver 7-4 (Finished 9-7 and lost a wild card game)
Wheatley vs. Faulk
Reprinted from Inside College Football in a section comparing two players by talking to teams that played against both of them in the regular season...
Past S.I. Reviews...