Days of Cooke's life seem to bubble over with stuff of soap operas


Move over, J. T. Make room for J. K. C.

Now that the nation has grown tired of J. R. Ewing, it's time for a new prime-time soap opera based on the life and times of a colorful tycoon.

Let's call it Middleburg, the home of Jack Kent Cooke's Virginia estate.

Cooke, the billionaire owner of the Washington Redskins, is a larger-than-life character whose rise from door-to-door encyclopedia salesman to tycoon seems made for the tube.

After all, his first divorce was granted by Judge Wapner. Yesthat Judge Wapner. He awarded Cooke's first wife a then-record $41 million before he was a TV judge.

Cooke never looked back.

The strong-willed Cooke put on one of his typical shows of bravado when he showed up at Potomac Yard in Alexandria, Va., to make a grand announcement with Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder last Thursday.

It wasn't Cooke's style to simply announce what had happened: Cooke made a deal with Wilder for Virginia to kick in $130 million of the $280 stadium project and now they would attempt to get the Virginia legislature to approve the deal.

Tycoons don't work that way. Cooke simply announced the stadium as a reality. "Nothing will stop it," he said.

Well, the legislature can, but Cooke treated that as a mere formality. He didn't try to lobby the legislature. He simply called Wilder a "doer" and left it in his hands.

Wilder will have to be quite a doer to go back to Richmond and persuade the legislature to give one of the nation's richest men $130 million.

Can the governor and Cooke pull it off? If nothing else, this stadium effort is just the latest chapter in Cooke's fascinating life.

Meanwhile, any good soap opera needs a good subplot.

Enter Cooke's fourth wife, Marlene Chalmers Cooke, who was at the stadium news conference wearing a large hat and an off-the-shoulder dress. She also keeps in the news.

Earlier this year, she showed up at a hospital with Cooke with a bullet wound in one of her fingers.

The police, who are supposed to be notified of gunshot incidents, found out about it watching television. A mere oversight, hospital officials said of their failure to call.

Meanwhile, there were two versions about what happened. One was that she found the gun in a bureau at their Washington home and it went off accidentally. Another was that she was trying to wrestle it away from one of Cooke's sons when it went off. And then there was the matter about whether it was registered in the District of Columbia, which has strict gun-control laws. Police investigated, but no charges were filed.

That wasn't the end of her problems. Now the Immigration and Naturalization Service has begun deportation proceedings against her. She was born in Bolivia and pleaded guilty in 1986 to a charge of conspiracy to import cocaine. After that conviction -- she served four months in a federal prison before she met Cooke -- she became what is known as a "deportable alien."

Can Cooke prevent the INS from deporting her? Stay tuned.

Then there is the matter of Mark Rypien, the most prominent of the unsigned Redskins with training camp just a week away.

Last year, Cooke called Rypien a "bloody idiot" before he ended a holdout.

Cooke couldn't resist needling Rypien during his news conference about his threat to play in Canada.

"I even thought about moving it [the stadium] to Canada to satisfy Mark Rypien," he said.

Just another day in the life of J. K. C.

About the only thing Cooke won't do is copy another tycoon (Ross Perot) and lay the groundwork for a run at the presidency. Cooke isn't eligible because he was born in Canada, but he'd probably consider it a step down anyway.

Time for recess

After four weeks of testimony, the antitrust trial in Minneapolis will be recessed for two weeks until June 27 while Judge David Doty attends a judicial conference. You get the idea that Judge Doty thinks he has better things to do than listen to the players or owners argue about their millions.

Anyway, this break gives the two sides a chance to hold settlement talks, but don't expect a break in the impasse. No talks have been scheduled and even if they do meet, they seem too far apart to settle.

The players are almost finished presenting their case and then the owners are likely to spend the month of August presenting their side.

The players seem to be doing well, but it's difficult to tell how eight Minneapolis women who have little or no interest in football are reacting to this battle of the big money numbers on both sides.

Problems at the top

One thing that's obvious during the trial is that the leaders of both sides -- Gene Upshaw, the head of the NFL Players Association, and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue -- aren't coming off well.

Upshaw testified last week that ex-Dallas Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm said during the 1987 strike that "the players are like cattle and the owners are like ranchers."

A check of the files showed it was Upshaw who made that statement after quoting Schramm as saying, "The owners are the stewards of the game and the players are only transients." Upshaw had apparently forgotten the line was his sound bite.

Meanwhile, Tagliabue was the architect of the Plan B system when he was the league's top lawyer. It was supposed to help the NFL in the trial by creating a lot of player movement among the backup players so the NFL could argue it had more movement than any other sport.

Instead, it's appeared to hurt the NFL's case because some of the players have been able to point out the Plan B players got more money than they did when they were protected.

Waiting for an offer

With the start of training camp a week away, Rypien is waiting for the second Redskins offer, which is supposed to come this week.

"I guess I'm encouraged that they're diligently working on a proposal," his agent, Ken Staninger, said. "They told me they're going to make their best offer. Whether it's their best offer ever or their best offer before camp, I don't know."

Staninger hopes it's a big improvement on their first offer, which upset Rypien so much that he crumpled it up and threw it out.

Staninger also said Rypien won't have a long holdout, but will sign with Canada before it gets that far.

"Mark doesn't want to get into an ugly name-calling thing."

The two sides are about $2 million apart. Rypien wants more than $4 million, and the Redskins are offering slightly more than $2 million.

Lowered expectations

There appears to be some movement in the Redskins talks with top draft pick Desmond Howard. His agent, Leigh Steinberg, said the talks have been stalled, but a source close to the negotiations said Howard is no longer asking to top the $2.25 million-a-year contract signed by the first draft pick Steve Emtman or the $2.15 million-a-year deal signed by the second pick, Quentin Coryatt. Both signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

But Howard appears to feel he should get more than the $1.5 million-a-year deal signed by the third pick, Sean Gilbert of the Los Angeles Rams. Although he was the fourth player picked, Howard was the first offensive player selected.

Steinberg, who lives in Newport Beach, Calif., said he'd like to come to Washington to complete the deal when the Orioles are home because his son is an Orioles fan and wants to see Camden Yards.

The problem is that the Orioles go on the road after the All-Star break and won't be back until July 23 -- four days after training camp opens.

Steinberg may get another chance for a visit because he and his associate, Jeff Moorad, are advising the Orioles' top draft pick, Jeffrey Hammonds. Moorad was in Baltimore this weekend and attended Friday night's game with another unsigned Redskin client, veteran offensive lineman Jim Lachey.

In honor of J. B.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who had already decided to wear a patch in honor of the late Jerome Brown, have decided to leave his locker undisturbed this year.

Eagles coach Rich Kotite said Reggie White made the suggestion when the team started a voluntary camp last week and he liked the idea.

"He was a big part of this football team and I don't ever want TTC them to forget that," Kotite said.

The next Simms?

When George Young became the New York Giants general manager in 1979, the first player he drafted was Phil Simms. He was so successful that Young didn't draft another quarterback on the first round until he took Duke's Dave Brown in last week's supplemental draft.

The Giants spent their 1993 first-round pick -- assuming there is a 1993 draft -- on Brown, and he now becomes the Giants' quarterback of the future. They can only hope he's another Simms.

Since Brown is a native of Westfield, N.J., he was thrilled to be picked by the Giants.

"It's a dream," he said.

Saturday, Aug. 1

N.Y. Jets vs. Philadelphia at Canton, Ohio, 3 p.m. (ABC)

Miami vs. Washington at Orlando, Fla., 8 p.m.

Houston vs. Dallas at Tokyo, 10 p.m. (ESPN)

Monday, Aug. 3

Denver at San Francisco, 8 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 6

L.A. Rams at Seattle, 9 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 7

Dallas at Miami, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 8

Tampa Bay at Denver, 6 p.m.

New England at Indianapolis, 6:30 p.m.

Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.

Atlanta at Cleveland, 7 p.m.

Houston at Detroit, 7 p.m.

Buffalo at Minnesota, 8 p.m.

Kansas City at Green Bay, 8 p.m.

L.A. Raiders at San Francisco, 8 p.m.

Washington at N.Y. Jets, 8 p.m.

San Diego at Phoenix, 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 9

Cincinnati at N.Y. Giants, 7 p.m. (TNT)

Monday, Aug. 10

New Orleans at Chicago, (ABC), 8 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 14

San Diego at New England, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 15

Denver vs. Miami at Berlin, 1 p.m. (NBC)

Atlanta at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.

Cincinnati at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Seattle at Indianapolis, 7:30 p.m.

Chicago at Phoenix, 8 p.m.

Cleveland at N.Y. Giants, 8 p.m. (CBS)

Kansas City at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m.

Houston at Dallas, 9 p.m.

L.A. Raiders at L.A. Rams, 10 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 16

San Francisco vs. Washington at Wembley, England, 1 p.m. (NBC)

4 N.Y. Jets vs. Green Bay at Madison, Wis., 4 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 17

Detroit at Buffalo, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Pittsburgh at New Orleans, 8 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 21

San Francisco at San Diego, 8 p.m. (TNT)

Saturday, Aug. 22

Houston at New Orleans, 12:30 p.m. (CBS)

Washington at L.A. Raiders, 4 p.m.

New England at Detroit, 7 p.m.

Indianapolis at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

N.Y. Giants at N.Y. Jets, 8 p.m.

Tampa Bay at Miami, 8 p.m.

Denver at Dallas, 9 p.m.

Green Bay at L.A. Rams, 9 p.m.

Phoenix at Seattle, 10 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 23

Philadelphia at Atlanta, 1:30 p.m. (ABC)

Pittsburgh at Chicago, 8 p.m. (TNT)

Monday, Aug. 24

Minnesota at Cleveland, 6 p.m.

Buffalo at Kansas City, 8 p.m. (ABC)

Thursday, Aug. 27

N.Y. Jets at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

New Orleans vs. Miami at Baltimore, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

L.A. Rams at San Diego, 10 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 28

Cleveland at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.

Buffalo at Atlanta, 8 p.m. (NBC)

Chicago at Dallas, 8 p.m.

Detroit at Cincinnati, 8 p.m.

Indianapolis at Kansas City, 8 p.m.

Seattle at San Francisco, 8 p.m.

Phoenix at Denver, 9 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 29

Houston at L.A. Raiders, 4 p.m.

N.Y. Giants at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.

Minnesota at Washington, 8 p.m. (CBS)

New England vs. Green Bay at Milwaukee, 8 p.m.

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