World of sports gets even wackier than the weather

January 20, 1994|By Bill Tanton

Stop the world -- I want to get off.

That was the title of a Broadway show years ago. If they thought the world was crazy then, what would they think now? And the craziness has taken a full grip on sports.

Hey, there are lots of things more important than sports.

Look at Los Angeles. Is anybody in L.A. really worried about the Lakers right now? Or the Kings?

Is anybody here as concerned about fun and games as about surviving this crazy weather? In the season when pro hockey leaves Baltimore, all of Baltimore becomes a skating rink.

Sports used to be a refuge from our daily cares. Now, too often, they are our daily cares.

Take this business about Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. It's unbelievable in a sport like figure skating.

Olympic gold-medal winners, for as long as people can remember, have been squeaky clean ice princesses. Dorothy Hamill. Peggy Fleming. Carol Heiss. Dr. Tenley Albright. Sonja Henie 60 years ago.

Now we have a deliberate assault on Nancy Kerrigan, a worthy heiress to that legacy, presumably to enhance Harding's chances of winning the Olympic gold in Norway next month.

Maybe Harding had nothing to do with it, but with the FBI and the district attorney in Portland questioning her for 10 1/2 hours on Tuesday, someone in authority must think she did.

How can this happen in this most gentile of sports?

"This is a black eye for figure skating, but it will pass," says Timonium's Pat Cahill, who has spent a lifetime in the sport as competitor, judge, mother of three daughters who competed (one of whom, Denise, coached Nancy Kerrigan) and now grandmother of a competitor.

"I came up at a time when skaters were ladies and gentlemen. You behaved. If you didn't, word got around and people didn't want you to represent the sport."

I know this much: The attack was intended to ruin Nancy Kerrigan. What it did was ruin Tonya Harding.

Crazy. Look at Michael Jordan. He's the greatest basketball player in the history of the planet. He retires at 29 at the peak of his career after leading his team to three straight NBA titles.

Well, it sure didn't take him long to get bored with family life. Five months later and he's ready to go to spring training with the Chicago White Sox.

What chance does Michael have to make the majors? None, I say.

Those who attended the All-Star workout here last July saw Jordan hit a baseball. He doesn't have a good swing. At 6-6, he's probably too tall. He even looks scrawny in a baseball uniform. The batting practice pitches he hit didn't come close to the wall.

Johns Hopkins baseball coach Bob Babb, who works all the time with developing players, doesn't go as far as I do in dismissing Jordan.

"Michael's chances are slim," Babb said. "He played baseball as a kid. Plus he has more going for him than most people. But money is no problem with him. If he needs to take batting `D practice 10 hours a day, he can do it."

Batting practice 10 hours a day? Crazy stuff like this didn't used to happen.

Look at pro football in Baltimore.

The Colts have been gone 10 years and now they may be coming back. Not the Colts of the NFL. The Baltimore Colts as a Canadian Football League team, if you can imagine.

Of course there remains the possibility we can lure an existing team here. And which owner appears most interested?

Why, Georgia Frontiere, who left in 1971 when her late husband, Carroll Rosenbloom, swapped the Colts for the Rams. Georgia hasn't set foot here since.

As we all know by now, pro sports salaries are absolutely insane.

One day this week I said to a man who does business with some Orioles players: "Did you ever think you'd see the day when ballplayers would make $1 million a year?"

"A million is not enough for some of them," he said. "Some of them see other players making $3 million and $4 million and they think they should be making that."

I'll tell you one that got me -- Brady Anderson's signing of a three-year, $10 million contract.

Brady's a pretty decent player. Hit .263 last year. Had 13 homers. Drove in 66 runs. Seems like a nice enough guy. But two years ago people wondered if Brady would ever make it. He's made it, all right -- $10 million worth.

Fifteen years ago Edward Bennett Williams bought the Orioles for $12 million, but there was $2 million in the till. What he really paid was $10 million for the whole shebang -- the same money Brady Anderson will be paid.

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