U.S. bald eagles protest a hairy situation

Ken Rosenthal

July 29, 1992|By Ken Rosenthal

BARCELONA, Spain -- Upset by a jury's decision? Don't appeal. Don't call Stephen L. Miles. Just make like the U.S. men's Olympic volleyball team, and shave your head.

In our litigious society, we would all go bald.

That's what the volleyball players are, bald eagles upholding the grand tradition of protest on which this nation is founded.

They have a point, but yesterday they nearly lost their heads as well as their hair, narrowly defeating Canada, 3-2, with a 16-14 victory in the final game.

What if they had lost?

"I was thinking, 'Well, the eyebrows could go, then the legs,' " said Steve Timmons, who in an inspired show of team unity, had ordered the removal of his flat top, circa 1983.

Timmons uses a silhouette of his normal spiked cut as the logo for a beachwear company he owns. Thus, his decision was the equivalent of Michael Jordan's trading Nike for Converse.

And you thought commercialism ruled the Games.

Anyway, this all started when the U.S. team beat Japan in its first match, only to see the outcome reversed by one of those great Olympic committees with the power to declare a blue sky green.

Japan was one point away from winning the match when America's Bob Samuelson appeared to draw his second yellow card for yelling at the referee.

That penalty results in an automatic point and possibly an ejection. The referee didn't want the match to end in such fashion, so he immediately put the card back in his pocket.

Naturally, the United States rallied to win that game and another for the match. Japan protested, and a 23-man jury from the international volleyball federation voted unanimously to change the outcome.

Team captain Scott Fortune said he felt "violated."

Teammate Jeff Stork compared the reversal to the one that cost the U.S. basketball team the gold medal in the 1972 Olympics.

Timmons said, "The jury took the card out of the referee's pocket. I've never seen anything like that. It's a joke it happened in the Olympics."

All right, enough.

For one thing, it was only the first match. For another, four of the six teams in each pool advance, and as a medal favorite, the United States figures to have no problem.

Our boys, it seems, just needed a cause.

Injured Brian Ivey scrawled on his kneepad, "Fight the Power, 23-0?" The team got so worked up, even its press officer agreed to be shaved.

"I'm a team player," Richard Warringer explained. "I said I'd go along with it. I could feel a little pressure. I said, 'Hey, I'm with those guys.' "

Samuelson did the honors, although he didn't actually participate himself, suffering as he does from a skin disorder that keeps him nearly bald.

"A couple of guys dragged their feet into the room," Timmons said. "When they saw Steve Timmons give it up, that was the deciding factor."

What do their wives think? Good question.

Two of the wives -- Stork's and Robert Partie's -- are in California attending to newborns. Imagine their surprise upon seeing their husbands appear on Triplecast at 4 a.m. PDT.

Timmons' wife -- the daughter of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss -- arrived early yesterday. She didn't see Steve before the match, but he wasn't expecting any domestic strife.

"Come on, guys," Timmons said. "She loves me."

Timmons smiled, but he said he was still "in shock" over the jury decision, claiming that the Japanese pour so much money into the sport, they get whatever they want.

Nothing like a litle Japan-bashing, but Timmons is probably right. Stork claimed that in 35 years of international competition, no referee has ended a match with a yellow card.

All right, fine.

But shaved heads?

"I think it's a joke," Canada's Kevin Broyles said. "It means nothing. It makes them look silly, that's all."

Ivey, though, claimed, "Everyone here wants to see us lose, except some of the fans." He even charged the powers-that-be with twisting a news release to make the U.S. team look foolish.

The release said Ivey was receiving four to five injections a day for his injured knee, when in fact that's the number of times he's receiving treatment.

Something got lost in the translation.

Ivey: "Somebody did that on purpose."

Out with those razors, America.

Kojak for President!

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