NBA Olympic 'tryout' shaping up as TV event


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It seems to me there's something seamy about the U.S. Olympic Basketball Selection Committee going to a bunch of hardened NBA types (hat in hand) and asking them if they'd please, please represent us in hoops in Barcelona next summer. "Trying out" has always been one of the finest and fairest traditions in sports.

The best part of this rotten process so far has been the William Tecumseh Sherman-like replies forthcoming from Larry Bird and Michael Jordan: If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve. No doubt NBC will make a mini-Miss America Pageant out of the selection on a Sept. 21 show.

* Folks in the U.S. Tennis Association are often heard congratulating themselves for the way young Americans are performing on the courts these days, supposedly the result of a suddenly effective junior program. But the fact is, the number of bTC players we put in the world's top 100 has been going down for the last five years. The current number is just 19.

* Olympic gold medalist Andrew Maynard, no longer under contract to the Sugar Ray Leonard-Mike Trainer combine, is looking around for management and one of the possibilities is Bob Arum and a fight with Tommy Hearns.

* Next time you're in the presence of one of those International Olympic Committee bigwigs, ask him how come Nagano, Japan, ended up landing the 1998 Winter Olympics when it didn't even get a vote on the second of five ballots. Think there was some wheeling and dealing going on to keep it away from Salt Lake City?

* A couple of years after crushing the field in the Olympics, Ben Johnson is miles outside the top 10 heading into the World Championships in Tokyo this weekend. Unfortunately, that does tell us that steroids played a huge part in Ben's success, doesn't it? Question is, what does Ben have to look forward to in the future?

* It turns out that probably the reason Monica Seles bypassed the Virginia Slims tennis tourney and an assured $75,000 or so in Washington this week is she's got a date with David Letterman Friday night and sponsors move mountains to land such exposures for their spokespersons.

* Darryl Tyson ran his record to 36-4 with an easy decision over Lupe Suarez the other night and figures to be one of those selected to fight for Pernell Whitaker's title when "Sweetpea" goes up a division.

* Fat people's favorite pitcher to watch, despite the continued presence of Nolan Ryan, is Sid Fernandez of the Mets. You gotta love a guy who looks like a two-car garage. Anyway, they tell the story of the lefty showing up in a minor-league town in a stretch limousine while on rehab assignment. Oops, Sid forgot you gotta carry your own luggage in the bushes, so he sheepishly skulked back out to the airport.

* Lunchpail America has to feel good about the fortunes of Greg Kite. Greg's the building-sized backup center who toiled selflessly for years, never asking quarter, nor giving none. He was recently rewarded with a $1 million-a-year contract which, when it is done, will make him a 12-year man in the NBA. Let's hear it for the good old-fashioned work ethic.

* On the occasion of sportswriter Jim Murray's Pulitzer Prize, Hollywood Park named a handicap race after him. And darned if the man noted for poking fun at cities in print (e.g. "St. Louis is a city loved by millions -- of flies.") didn't pick the winner. He told the Thoroughbred Racing News, "Just so I could say I had him [the winner] and could wave the winning ticket at everyone, I bet on everyone in the field."

* The prices some of the junk from old Comiskey Park brought at auction -- a burned-out light bulb fetched $150 -- makes one wonder if the Orioles will be putting a bunch of stuff up for bid to benefit a charity shortly after playing their final game on 33rd Street.

* Magic Johnson has a gang of hotshots lined up for his "Magic for the Dreamers" benefit hoops display at the Capital Centre Friday (8 p.m.) and he explains how you set up one of these things: "You're going to have guys not show up. You have to prepare for that. You just have to get 22, 24 guys and hope for 16 to show up." Frank Robinson is coaching Magic's team (with Al Jackson and Tom McCraw as assistants in absentia) while Wes Unseld is working Bernard King's cast.

* Remember Dickie Noles, the relief chucker who spent some time with the O's in 1988? At 34, he insists he still could help some major-league team with his rubber arm and, besides speaking to kids about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, he has been pitching semi-pro ball all summer in Delaware to stay ready.

* A Washington Post story has Gov. Schaefer favoring Camden Yards and owner Eli Jacobs holding out for Orioles Park in the Great Park With No Name Debate. Such situations usually lead to compromises, so why not the "William [for Schaefer and EBW] Babe Robinson Dunn Memorial Oriole Park at Camden Yards/Inner Harbor/Chesapeake Bay Stadium Paid for by the Taxpayers?"

* The tennis people talk about what great depth they have in their game on both the men's and women's sides, but it's the golfers who go out and prove it. Six of the last eight weekly stops on the PGA Tour have been captured by first-time winners and 30 different pros (one amateur) have won the 34 tournaments this year.

* It's hard to believe John McEnroe has lost 29 tournament finals . . . until you stop and consider he's won 77 times. A .725 win percentage ain't bad.

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