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Amid blowouts, big bucks, 1990 was missing something


Twenty reasons why 1990 was one of the more complicated, compelling, yet least fulfilling years in sports.

1. Blowouts. The Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Pistons, Edmonton Oilers and San Francisco 49ers hardly broke a sweat to win titles. UNLV cut a probation deal with the National Collegiate Athletic Association after routing Duke in the Final Four.

2. George Steinbrenner. He walked into baseball commissioner Fay Vincent's office facing a two-year suspension for associating with a known gambler, and ended up with life. The New York Yankees now are run by a Broadway producer.

3. Martina Navratilova. Overshadowed by teeny-bopper tennis stars Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati, Navratilova won a ninth Wimbledon singles title that hardly anyone remembers. Strange.

4. Andre Agassi. Wore lame clothes, made a lame commercial, played two lame matches in Grand Slam finals and came up with a lame excuse after pulling out of the Davis Cup with an alleged injury. He's right. Image is everything.

5. Money. If America is on the verge of recession, then someone forgot to tell the baseball owners, who handed out more than $300 million worth of contracts in the off-season. By the way, who is Larry Andersen, and why are the San Diego Padres paying him $4.4 million for two years?

6. George Foreman. He's bald. He's fat. He's old. He's back. The next heavyweight champion of the world?

7. The New England Patriots. Did not win a football game after five of their players, sans towels, surrounded and taunted Boston Herald sports reporter Lisa Olson.

8. Roseanne Barr. The fat lady sang the national anthem between games of a doubleheader in San Diego. Nobody laughed.

9. No-hitters. Nine of them. In one baseball season. Ranging from the bad (Andy Hawkins of the Yankees losing to the Chicago White Sox) to the beautiful (Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers adding a sixth no-hitter to a 300-win collection).

10. The World Cup. Argentine star Diego Maradona blamed the Mafia for his country's 1-0 loss to West Germany in the final. And this event actually is coming to the United States in 1994?

11. Cecil Fielder. Good things happen to good people. Came home from Japan and hit 51 home runs for the Detroit Tigers.

12. Track and field. The only sport with a parole board. Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson's two-year suspension for drug use ended, and he is poised to earn millions of dollars before the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Butch Reynolds (world-record holder, 400 meters) and Randy Barnes (world-record holder, shot put) are the latest to face drug-related suspensions.

13. Greg LeMond. The dollar may be down, but this American cyclist is golden in Paris after winning a third Tour de France.

14. The National Basketball Association. Blessed by the peerless talents of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird, but cursed by the bullying style of its champion Pistons.

15. Paul Tagliabue. The National Football League's Player of the Year. Lengthened the regular season to 17 weeks, added two wild-card playoff games, moved tentatively to strike a collective-bargaining agreement with the players and helped create a $3.6 billion television deal.

16. Hockey expansion. For $50 million, you too can own a hockey franchise. San Jose, Calif., will join the National Hockey League in 1991, and Ottawa, Ontario, and Tampa, Fla., will join in 1992.

17. Wayne Levi. Golfer of the Year. Honest.

18. George Seifert. The coach of the San Francisco 49ers quietly but effectively has retooled his team for the 1990s. Genius without arrogance.

19. Sportsmanship. Colorado, aided by an illegal fifth down, defeated Missouri, refused to give back the victory and will play for the mythical national college football championship New Year's night.

20. Joe Montana. Why argue with Sports Illustrated? The Sportsman of the Year, and of the age.

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