Anthology of Leads

In an era incongruously called The Information Age, video annexes the written word from all sides. Few people want information; more want to see something. 

Thus those who toil in the trenches of print journalism have a tough task: Draw the reader in and keep him or her there. Make readers say, Wait a minute, what's this? But do it in a way that isn't cheesy, sensationalistic, or sells out -- make it meaningful. Here is a collection of successes in this Herculean labor.

Leigh Montville. "Triumph on Sacred Ground. Sports Illustrated, October 18, 1993. 

You start with the graves. You have to start with the graves. You stand in the middle of the arid African landscape on a warm afternoon, surrounded by the thirty mounds of earth, not knowing where to look first. The dust blows into your face. The sun beats onto your head. You try to catalog all of the feelings, try to capture the sight and the emotions in words, but how can you do that? You stand and mostly you gape. 

"This was the goaltender," a security guard says. "Efford Chabala. Oh, Chabala, he was very good. Very, very good."... 

Steve Rushin. "The Caddie was a Reindeer." Sports Illustrated. August 4, 1997. 

If you should ignore this cautionary tale and fly to Helsinki anyway, and from there clatter eight hours north by train, and from there drive 1,251 miles, deep into the Arctic Circle, in search of the northernmost golf course in the world, 3 a.m. tee times, caddying reindeer, tee boxes built atop saunas, the Swedish Loch Ness Monster, Santa Claus (jolly old St. Nicklaus) and an effective mosquito repellant, then at least promise me this: On the odd chance that you make it home alive, confirm to you friends that this story is true. Every word of it. Even the part about the Spice Girls. Tell them that there really is a place where a man can snap-hook his tee shot into another country--and play it from where it lays. Verify that one can indeed banana-slice a ball so badly that it not only travels backward but also travels back in time. There is no need to corroborate my claim that the yeti exists, for I have unimpeachable evidence on that count: scorecards full of abominable snowmen... 

Steve Rushin. "1954-1994: How We Got Here." Sports Illustrated. April 16, 1994 (fifth of a five-part series). 

In a painting, there's a spot at which the parallel lines--a river or a ribbon of road--appear to converge. Artists call this the vanishing point, that place in a drawing where things seem to disappear into the distance, often creating the illusion of a horizon. And so I find myself at the vanishing point of this story: I am standing, atremble, before the largest shopping mall in America. This is the horizon. All lines converge here. 

So vast is the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, that the area in which I've parked is labeled P5-WEST-BLUE-NEVADA-D-6, a mantra I have desperately repeated since abandoning my rental car in the world's largest parking complex. Even by itself this would be the consummate postwar American dream: the 13,000-car garage. But the aptly named Mall of America says so much more than that about the desires of modern society... 

For weeks I've been wondering how we got here in sports--from primitive to prime time, from the invention of the wheel to the invention of Shaquille--without pausing to ask, "Where are we, anyway?" But the information kiosks at the Mall of America make it perfectly clear. "You Are Here," all the map arrows say. "You Are Here." 

Rick Reilly. "Shaq's World." Sports Illustrated. April 21, 1997. 

Beverly and Robertson, West Hollywood 

We are stopped, yet the can of Mountain Dew in the cup holder is doing the watusi. The windows are closed, yet my hair is doing a scene from Twister. The truck roof is bouncing up and down like popcorn in a pan. 

Poltergeist? No, just Shaquille O'Neal turning up the 3,700-watt stereo system in his blue Ford Expedition until the sound is akin to what you would hear if you lived in a small compartment inside the engine of a DC-10... 


"WHAAAT?" he replies. 



Sigh. This is going to be a very tough interview... 

My House, Denver 

There is this ringing in my ears. No, hold on. That's the phone. It's my editor in New York. 

"You're late on the Shaq piece," he says. 

"WHAAAT?" I inquire. 



This could get very convenient. 

Mitch Albom. "A Tragedy Too Easy to Ignore." The Detroit Free Press. 1992. 

The instructions are taped to the wall above his bed. They show diagrams of hands and feet, with arrows pointing left and right. His mothers pulls on his limp right arm, forward and backward, forward and backward, as if rowing a boat. 

"He couldn't move nothing at first," she says. "Now he can do some on his own. Show him, Damon." 

The young man in the blue pajamas turns his head and squints. He is nearly blind now. The room is dark, the air stale, the one window closed. The rails along his single bed keep him from falling out. 

Now he looks at his arm and concentrates. It does nothing at first. Then, finally, it jerks in the air as if yanked by a puppeteer's string. It stays up for one second, two seconds, Damon Bailes, the most tragic currency in the city of Detroit, a young black male with a bullet hole in his head, smiles briefly, then lets go. 

His arm drops, dead as air... 

What are we supposed to do? The future of our city is being taken down, gangland style, one ambulance after another. We have to do something. Tonight is Christmas Eve, they are talking flurries, and that should make our suburbs pretty and white. But try to remember, while you open your presents, that somewhere, not far away, Damon Bailes is struggling to see the drawings on the wall, the ones teaching him how to walk again. For what, you keep asking yourself? For what? For what? For what? 

For nothing. 

And the snow falls. 

Michael Farber. "Scotty's Icecapade." Sports Illustrated. December 29, 1997. 

If the games can't make kids of us all, if under the layers of contracts and endorsements and other junk we no longer can locate the sweet core that got us to choose up sides and play in the first place, sports lose their meaning. In one incandescent moment, 63-year-old Scotty Bowman touched the heart of the matter... 

Although Bowman has done it only once--and odds are he will not get another chance--his Stanley Cup skate late on a Saturday night can serve not only as a splendid shorthand for his career but also as a reminder to us all: In sports, our inner child should be allowed to stay up way past bedtime. 

E.M. Swift. "Spin City." Sports Illustrated. February 23, 1998. 

From a distance the White Ring, Nagano's skating venue, looks silver and plump and liquid, like a water droplet beading up on the broad, flat landscape. It's an apt image for figure skating, a sport of sweat, meltdowns and tears. Last Saturday night all these were in evidence in a men's competition that in the end will be remembered as the flight to stardom of a 20-year-old Russian bumblebee named Ilia Kulik... 

Rick Reilly. "Driven Mad." Sports Illustrated. February 23, 1998. 

You sure you want to read this? You sure you don't want to stop right now? Don't kid yourself--if you play golf, this could happen to you. If it could happen to a guy as talented and handsome and decent as Ian Baker-Finch, it could happen to you. 

Seven years ago this July, Baker-Finch hit every fairway and every green, shot 66 and won the British Open at Royal Birkdale. He was handed the silver-claret jug. He kissed his gorgeous blonde wife and their two-year-old daughter, who though the microphone was an ice-cream cone and licked it. He was so overcome he couldn't speak. It was the day all his dreams came true. 

It was the cruelest thing that ever happened to him... 

Pico Iver. "Second Wind." Time. March 2, 1998. 

The Olympics, to invoke a perhaps too-available and all-encompassing analogy, are much like the Titanic, both the movie and the ship. In other words, it's a grand, old-fashioned blockbuster that stirs you in some primal, half-forgotten place, however vigilant your defenses, throwing up simple human images of panic and delight and loss and a huge, showy, zillion-dollar model of the family of man that, for all its state-of-the-art grandeur and planning, cannot outswerve a block of ice... 

Steve Rushin. "1997 Moments of Truth." Sports Illustrated. December 29, 1997. 

If your memories of 1997 are neither warm nor fuzzy, blame it one sports, which were seldom warm and rarely fuzzy in the last 12 months. Ninety-seven was a bear. Ninety-seven had no hair (see Marv Albert). Fuzzy Zoeller wasn't fuzzy, was he? So rather than choose a favorite Moment of the Year, as other SI writers have done in the following pages, I have selected a Letter of the Year. Is that cheating--picking a unit of type, not a unit of time? I think not. In sports one small letter can make all the difference. Ask Johnnie Cochran: He defended O.J. but offended P.J. Of all the letter from A to Z (AZ being the postal abbreviation for Arizona, which won the NCAA basketball title), one clearly emerged as the winner in 1997. It was not L. L almost got the W. L had one 'elluva year, what with all the L's in Latrell Sprewell and Ernie Els's winning the U.S. Open and El Niño's elevating sales of L.L. Bean outerwear. But in the end 1997 belonged to E. E for E-4 (as Tony Fernandez will attest). Or E-vander. Without E, you can't get to F (which the Florida Marlins wore on their caps) or G (which the Green Bay Packers wore on their helmets). Ninety-seven gave us some remarkable champions, and '98 will have some size 15EEE shoes to fill. Indeed, the best E of the year was one that never even appeared. After Holyfield retained his heavyweight boxing title in June, this magazine ran a story on the bout's referee, Nevada judge Mills Lane. The headline read THE ULTIMATE ARBITER. Now put an E in front of arbiter. You have the headline for our next Mike Tyson story. 

Tom Friend. "The Decision." ESPN The Magazine. June 29, 1998. 

His jersey is on a hanger now, and his body has been through the wringer now, and he needs a minute -- okay, a summer -- to think this over. 

His is the real Truman Show. 

That's him on prime time every June, and that's a statue of him dunking, and that's his restaurant with the hour-long wait, and that's him shooting the money ball, and those are his fingerprints on the trophy, and maybe that's all, folks. 

He has just spent the past 13 years eating room service, and carrying a league, and hiding his children and chewing his gum, and not one defender got close enough to know his flavor. 

"Well, it's not Dentyne," he says. 

That is not a bad legacy... 

Edna Buchanan. The Miami Herald. 

Gary Robinson died hungry. He wanted fried chicken, the three-piece box for $2.19. Drunk, loud, and obnoxious, he pushed ahead of seven customers on line at a fast-food chicken outlet. The counter girl told him that his behavior was impolite. She calmed him down with sweet talk and he agreed to step to the end of the line. His turn came just before closing time, just after the fried chicken ran out. He punched the counter girl so hard her ears rang, and the security guard shot him -- three times. 

Gore Vidal. 

Should the human race survive the twentieth of those wondrous centuries since shepherds quaked at the sight of God's birth in a Middle Eastern stable (all in all, a bad career move), our century will be noted more for what we managed to lose along the way than for what we acquired... 

Andrew Ferguson. “The Art of Presidential Prevarication. Time, August 10, 1998. 

“He’s just pleased that things are working out for her.”

-White House spokesman Mike McCurry on the President’s reaction to Monica Lewinsky’s immunity deal. 

OK, just humor me now. Stick with me a second. I want to perform what eggheads call a “thought experiment.” Let’s supposed that Mike McCurry’s statement is not, technically speaking, accurate. Let’s suppose that the President was not really, truly pleased that “things are working out” for Monica Lewinsky, especially when “working out” in this instance means that she’s apparently about to tell the world that he’s a perjurer. Let’s suppose, by contrast, that the President was just the slightest bit depressed by the news. Let’s suppose, in other words, that McCurry’s statement is a lie. 

The question then becomes, What kind of chumps do they take us for? And the answer is, World-class. 

And not without reason... 

Rick Reilly. “Yo, Please Pass the Truth Serum.” Sports Illustrated, February 1999. 

I’m 6'5" with blue eyes, bench 425 and often win prizes for my coq au vin. I was a valedictorian at Yale, can barrel roll an F/A-18 Hornet and dumped Elle Macpherson for hogging the covers. 

True, I’m lying like Sam Donaldson’s rug, but I don’t care anymore. Lying is in. Lying is sweeping the nation. Everybody in America lied last week. Twice... 

Mark Kriedler. "Memo to Kings fans -- just wait till next year." Sacramento Bee, February 7, 1999. 

Let's see: At Phoenix, at Houston, at Utah, home to Boston, at Seattle, home to Charlotte, then a five-games-in-seven-nights road swing through Minnesota, Orlando, Philly, Washington, and Dallas. That's the rest of the month, beginning Tuesday. 

Tell me again the part about the Kings in the playoffs. 

Tell me again that improvement in the NBA occurs in a vacuum. 

That the scheduling evens out. 

That personality and chemistry are the same thing. 

This is to say: Tell me what I want to hear. 

Because the reality, it doesn't look so hot. ... 

George Will. “A Man of Feeling.” Washington Post, March 4, 1999. 

‘Poets,’ noted G.K.Chesterton, ‘have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.’ His point was that this was not mysterious: Chess is not the sort of subject that summons poetic thoughts. 

Presidents have hitherto been mysteriously silent about child-safety seats. However, last Saturday President Clinton’s radio address concerned an improved fastening mechanism for child-safety seats in automobiles... 

Mark Kriedler. “Hey, college fans, look in the mirror.” Sacramento Bee, March 14, 1999. 

This is perfect. It's irritating, but it's perfect. It detonates the illusion, but it's perfect. It illustrates the hypocrisy, it illuminates the darkest corners of the NCAA's black-lit rooms, it's depressing as hell, and timing is everything. 

Also, it's perfect. ... 

Jack McCallum. “Sweet 'n Low.” Sports Illustrated, March 15, 1999. 

It is time for the NCAA to extend a lifetime automatic bid to Homer Drew. That way the Valparaiso coach with the pressed white shirt and the beatific smile will be around every March to den-mother us through the tournament, pointing out the potholes and steering us gently to the sunny side of the street. For no matter how many smiley-face story lines emerged after last week's first two rounds -- you gotta love a Sweet 16 that includes five double digit seeds (the most ever), Bing Crosby's alma mater, a father-son coaching team right out of Hoosiers, a wondrous Wally and a concoction from an Alaskan medicine man -- harsh reality nibbled away a bit at the tournament's sweet underbelly. ... 

Richard Hoffer. “Grand Larceny.” Sports Illustrated, March 15, 1999. 

This time it was supposed to be different. That was the whole point of the promotion: Two vigorous heavyweights would step into the ring and, on the basis of their skill and courage alone, decide boxing's most important championship. So this was going to be unlike almost any other bout in recent history. It was without artifice, without intrigue, without any angle that played to our cynicism. No ex-con on the loose, no white hope, no bellowing publicity machine inflating a sorry event -- just two guys whose careers had led them to a logical and much anticipated conflict. ... 

But one thing we've learned is that boxing is never really different. The sport, as it is today, will defeat the best intentions every time. Short of the on-the-spot surgery by Mike Tyson that gave boxing a black ear two years ago, last Saturday's title-unification bout, in which bizarre scoring turned a fairly one-sided fight into a draw, was as definitive a disappointment as is possible to deliver. ... 

Mark Kriedler. “No! Don't! ... Yes! Typical '99 Kings.” Sacramento Bee, April 11, 1999. 

The entire Kings season was congealing now into a single, gnarly, representative shot. Fittingly, it was being launched by Jason Williams. 

Strategically, it was the wrong shot at the wrong instant.

Geographically, it was from a point not altogether on the map. 

Tellingly, the thing went in. 

We'll get to the details, but on a certain level they're almost irrelevant. ... 

Michael Wilbon. “The Revolutionaries.” ESPN The Magazine, April 19, 1999. 

If an old NFL coach had pulled a Rip Van Winkle in the late 1950's, he'd wake up today and barely recognize the game. From the safety to the center, players have gotten stronger, faster, more athletic, and the boundaries of race have disappeared. That is, at every position except one: quarterback. It's as if that position was cast in stone, from Johnny U. to Bradshaw to Montana to Aikman. He's tall, stands straight up, throws from the pocket -- and looks like John Wayne (or Robert Redford). ... That coach could have slept through decades and not seen much of a change at quarterback. Until now. Overnight a trickle has become a flood. All those 300-pound mashers who are as fast as running backs have changed what a QB has to be. And if the guy who can throw on the move is black or short or whatever, fine. ... 

Ric Bucher. “Trail Mix.” ESPN The Magazine, May 3, 1999. 

A single thought balloon suddenly appears above 18,000 latte-quaffing, fleece-jacketed fans in the Rose Garden: "Uh-oh, here it comes." Trail Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy is shepherding Rasheed Wallace back to the bench when Wallace yanks his arm from Dunleavy's grasp and snaps, "Get off me! Don't f---ing touch me!" The oxygen-sucking moment between the thunderclap and the unleashed storm, a nearly daily occurrence of Portlanders outside, has followed them into the arena. Is this the return-to-earth cataclysm that everyone has been wating for, the moment the Blazers' out-of-nowhere flirtation with a league-best record and thereby and NBA title ends in, well, a blaze? 

Mark Kriedler. “Oh, so close! Kings take it to OT, exit with chins high.” Sacramento Bee, May 17, 1999. 

Ask not for whom the cowbell tolls. The answer might just break your heart. 

The Sacramento Kings pushed the Utah Jazz, two-time defending champion of the National Basketball Association's Western Conference, to the wall, and then up the wall, and then over the wall. Incredibly, the Jazz escaped, anyway. 

Utah, which complained of excessive cowbell noise during Friday's victory over the Kings at Arco Arena, made off with a 99-92 overtime victory Sunday that seemed for all the world like a defeat -- and but for a single shot, it would have been. 

Full story

Dan LeBatard. “Get a Life.” ESPN The Magazine, May 17, 1999. 

It happened in the church, by the coffin. That's where Jimmy Johnson says he found perspective. he was ther to bury his mother, but before he started the eulogy, before his voice gave and the tears came again, he saw his own boys in the audience and a lifetime of guilt swept over him. By the time Johnson walked over to his two grown sons, they weren't hugging him as much as holding him up. Jimmy Johnson, sobbing, said he loved them. ..."That's probably the first time he ever needed us -- or needed anybody ... It was like an emotional valve opened." 

Dan LeBatard. ESPN The Magazine, May 17, 1999. 
He would weep alone in his hotel room. He even thought about killing himself. A year of therapy only bandaged some of the wounds. Jose Canseco wears all this muscled armor, and once talking about hitting a baseball so hard it would dissolve into powder over the shortstop's head. But he hasn't always been quite that strong after leaving the chalked confines of the batter's box. 

Ginia Bellafante. “Love, Money, Witches, and Beach Grass.” Time Magazine, July 5, 1999. 
With hope and a dash of contrarian good sense, this writer recently revisited the world of daytime soap opera, reasoning that like so much else in our postmodern culture -- Las Vegas, fondue, Rob Lowe -- afternoon dramas might ahve transitioned into hip. Little research was needed to prove this theory false. Sets still seem to draw their inspiration from the simulated Americana of a Holiday inn lobby in Colonial Williamsburg. And on almost any given day, the chance of making it through the afternoon without hearing someone say, "I don't need any DNA test to prove that you're my son" or, maybe, "You slept with your daughter's husband, Olivia, so don't give me that I'm-so-devoted-to-my-children routine," remains as alarmingly low as the chance of making it through a whole episode of Friends without ever seeing Jennifer Aniston's navel. 

Sharon Waxman. “In Pasadena, the Mars Crew Stares Into Space." Washington Post. December 7, 1999.
At 1 a.m. failure just feels like fatigue. Nerves shot. Adrenaline spent. Effort wasted. The sound of air rushing out of your lungs when you didn't realize you were holding your breath. The hole in the pit of your stomach – disappointment. Or hunger, maybe, since you haven't eaten in hours. 

The history of science is a history of failure. But most of it wasn't televised. And most of it wasn't a target for David Letterman and Jay Leno. NASA's failure, its failure to make contact with the Mars Polar Lander early this morning, is abject and public. And it falls on a group of about 15 scientists who don't like losing much. Even when it is to the Great Beyond. 
Full story

Miro Cernetig. Globe and Mail. March 30, 2000
In China’s capital, where 50 years of environmental sins abound, it’s grey, grey, everywhere.

There’s the drab concrete skyline dreamed up by state planners who seemed to dislike trees. The sky, gloriously blue 20 years ago, is now often the hue of dirty pewter. Beijing’s smog-filled air can now be as opaque as an 18th-century London fog, with an alarmingly acrid taste blowing in from the again steel mills on the city’s edge. 

When it rains, hardly a frequent event in bone-dry Beijing, yellow and grey mud sometimes falls from the sky. Rampant deforestation now means winds kick much of the Gobi Desert into the air, the dust then mixing with water droplets to create the phenomenon of raining mud.

Alexandra Robbins. "Substance Abuse." Washington Monthly. June 2000. 
It's a drill that veterans of the Washington press corps know all too well. The booker from a highly-regarded talk show calls you four hours before air time. They're doing a story on the turmoil in Zimbabwe. Could you help them out? You're not 100 percent sure where Zimbabwe is but, what the hell, it's a chance to be on TV. You tell her you'll do it, grab the Times, reach for the Atlas, and start to cram.

And what if you don't get it all sorted out before your views are broadcast into 20 million homes? You won't be the first. "I don't want to embarass anybody, but sometimes people come in here and they're not quite ready," talk-show host Diane Rehm says carefully ... 

Tom Verducci. "Expo 2000." Sports Illustrated, May 1, 2000
Think back to a time when baseball heroes came unadorned by batting gloves, wristbands, jewelry, tattoos, endorsements and ego. Go back to the days without televised games, when a box score and a picture in the morning paper left wide berth for imaginations to fill in the rest of the majesty of a player. Go back to when hitters were defined by how often they made solid contact with the baseball, not by how far they mashed it every once in a while between strings of strikeouts. Go all the way back to last Friday. Go back to Vladimir Guerrero, the 24-year old Montreal Expos right fielder who seems as likely to have been discovered in amber as on the rural sandlot of the Dominican Republic.

Nancy Gibbs. "Life along the river." Time, July 10, 2000.
Unless you are driving across it or flying over it or floating down it, it is hard to see the actual Mississippi. Anyone who had anything to do with the river discovered long ago that it was too powerful to leave alone, this huge continental drainpipe, and so the great engineers engineered the levees and locks and dams that reduced the number of ships that sank and towns that vanished – but also had the effect of hiding the river behind its walls and leaving the rest to the imagination.... It was worth remembering Huck Finn’s lesson: the river is the sanctuary; the shore is where you get into trouble.This may be especially true in an election year....

Bernie Lincicome.“Legend’s last effort passes nearly unnoticed.” Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2000.
The ego is the last to go. Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s legs went long ago, long before her one last kiss goodbye to track, field, and the American heart. She passed on her next-to-last long jump Sunday and ran through her final leap, prancing the length of the pit, each footprint soon to be erased for the future, in this case Marion Jones. 

“I hate going out like that,” Joyner-Kersee said. 

No more than we hate seeing her do it, no more than having the end defy all that preceeded it, no more than placing not an exclamation point on a career but a smudge... 

Steve Wulf. "Games On." ESPN The Magazine, Sept 18 2000.
Citius. Altius Fortius. Quodlibet. 
As Maximus could tell you, that last bit is Latin for “whatever.” In these Games, the first Olympics of the new millennium, that Greek and Latin stuff, as well as the Baron de Coubertin ideology and Juan Antonio Samaranch pomposity, seem hopelessly out of touch with modern sports. Citius has given way to “Let’s ride,” altius to “I rule,” fortius to “Talk to my agent.” To get to the essence of athleticism every four years, we have to wade through jingoism, elitism, terrorism, pharmacism, racism, nepotism, commercialism. This time, for Sydney, we have transvestism. But this time, we also have a vision of a truly modern Olympics.... 

Tom Friend. "Ringmaster." ESPN The Magazine, October 2000.
This is about a defenseman and a psych major and a Buddhist, and what they all did for Mark Messier. This is about Elvis and Wayne Gretzky and Phil Jackson, and what they all did for Mark Messier. It's about weddings and Stanley Cups and dark locker rooms. It's about Edmonton and New York and turning 40. It's about hospitals and the Upper West Side and a Green Room. It's about yoga and meditation and marlin fishing. It's about a man who can cry. 

Being Mark Messier means they always think they know you. He walks down West 78th street ...

Nancy Gibbs. "Two Men, Two Visions."  Time Magazine, November 6, 2000.
In a normal election, if there is such a thing, it ought to be clear by the end what the race is about - whether the candidates are promising continuity or change, bright contrasts or fine distinctions; whether it is about character or competence; whether the results will actually matter in most people's lives or just change the background music on the evening news while they go about multitasking and instant messaging and sorting the laundry and paying the bills.

But this election, this confoundingly close race, just dares wavering voters to make a decision and stick with it. It's even hard to choose whom to blame for its being so hard to choose. Could they be more alike, the two political princes, Texas and Tennessee, Harvard and Yale, the compassionate conservative against the pragmatic idealist? Could they be more different, one so unpolished it's hard to imagine, the other so shiny it hurts to look. Vice President Al Gore runs as a populist who doesn't talk much about the poor; George W. Bush, backed by more G.O.P. fat cats than any other Republican in memory, delivers the best "New Democrat speech ever given in prime time," says a former Clinton adviser....

Phil Taylor, "What Am I Doing Here?" Sports Illustrated, November 6, 2000.
A couple of mischievous youngsters were on the loose at the Los Angeles Clippers’ media day in early October. They ran around with squirt guns, spraying each other and any unfortunate soul who wandered into their crossfire. Security probably would have chased the pair away – if they hadn’t been two of the Clippers’ 2000 draft picks, 19-year-old forward Darius Miles and 20-year-old guard Quentin Richardson. With five players under 21, the Clippers have a roster that’s younger than the cast of Dawson’s Creek, and coach Alvin Gentry knows that he’s likely to witness more kid stuff than almost any coach in the league….

Jeff Bradley, "The Thing." ESPN The Magazine, January 2001. 
You are a carpenter - and one day you cannot drive a nail in straight. You are a lawyer - and one day you stand up in court and cannot remember the difference between a plaintiff and a defendant. You are you - and one day you forget your PIN while at the ATM, or drive past the freewar exist you take every day, or put the coffeepot in the refrigerator.
Maybe you think you understand how it feels to be Rick Ankiel. You don't. You can begin to understand that there is something inside each of us that could make us momentairly lose the ability to perform a basic task. But unless you've stood exactly where Ankiel stood three times during the postseason - on the mound in front of a sellout crowd and millions of television viewers, unable to throw the ball where the catcher could even get leather on it, with beer-bellied goobers laughing at him and analysts in the booth guessing what he might be thinking - you can't understand. How could you? How many os us have had to live through personal hell in public?

Elisabeth Bont, “Refugees seek security, education in Grand Rapids,” Chimes, 
February 9, 2001.
They saw their breath for the first time last Wednesday night. Stepping off the plane, the Sudanese young men were overwhelmed by their countrymen who had arrived over the last two months, some old friends, some new faces with familiar tribal marks and familiar stories. 
Natives of Sudan who spent their last seven to eight years at a refugee camp in Kenya, the young men – between 16 and 24 years old – are looking to make a home in the United States. 

Nancy Gibbs, Time, February 19, 2001.
Before we assume that the market for human clones consists mainly of narcissists who think the world deserves more of them or neo-Nazis who dream of cloning Hitler or crackpots and mavericks and mischief makers of all kinds, it is worth taking a tour of the marketplace. We just might meet ourselves there. Imagine for a moment that your daughter needs a bone-marrow transplant and no one can provide a match; that your wife’s early menopause had made her infertile; or that your five-year-old has drowned in a lake and your grief has made it impossible to get your mind around the fact that he is gone forever. Would the news then really be so easy to dismiss that around the world, there are scientists in labs pressing ahead with plans to duplicate a human being, deploying the same technology that allowed Scottish scientists to clone Dolly the sheep four years ago? 

Rene Sanchez. "New Calif. Water Law Seeks to Curb Runaway Sprawl." LA Times, December 23, 2001.
One day this rural valley may become home to a suburb built from scratch, with houses for 70,000 residents, shopping centers and a golf course. Plans are set, bulldozers are ready. There is just one thing holding up the development colossus called Newhall Ranch: It may lack water.... 

Andrew Jacobs. “Downtown is Slower to Embrace City’s Optimism.”NY Times, December 23, 2001.
The subterranean fires have subsided and the breeze no longer carries a sickly odor, but in the shadowed canyons of Wall Street and the lazy side streets of TriBeCa, the veneer of normalcy is not what it seems. There is a stubborn malaise afflicting Chinatown’s sidewalk vendors, worried about lackluster sales, and the black-jacketed barkers of Little Italy, frantically trying to fill empty restaurants. In Battery Park City, it is the unnerving sight of yet another moving van or the silence of once-teeming playgrounds. It is visible in the jittery knot of office workers smoking outside 40 Broad Street, flinching when a crate loudly crashes off the back of a truck. It can be felt in the desperate solicitations of a downtown day care center, forced to lay off half its teachers, begging the public for donations. With holiday crowds mobbing Times Square and Rockefeller Center, it sometimes feels as if the rest of the city has moved on in its quest for closure. For many New Yorkers, the scar tissue has already begun to form. But here on streets that abruptly end at ground zero, a place still piled high with debris and human remains, the laughter is more subdued, the atmosphere almost funereal.... 

Paul Salopek. “Leftover arms fuel continent’s ruinous wars.” Chicago Tribune, December 23, 2001.
BENI, Congo - Grace Ikombi’s gun is much like 35 million other Kalashnikov rifles in circulation around the world. For all its deadliness, it is an oddly toy-like weapon. Brute simple, with only nine moving parts, it weighs just 10 ½ pounds. Yet it can empty a 30-round magazine in three seconds, and is powerful enough to punch holes through a man’s chest from 1,000 yards away. Ikombi’s gun was built for use against NATO troops in Europe. But life countless other items of Cold War surplus, it has turned up here, at the end of a long and ruinous pipeline of cheap arms that fuels the unquenchable wars of Africa. … 

Peter Carlson. “The U.S.A. Account.” Washington Post, December 31, 2001.

Charlotte Beers knocked over the fishbowl, just as planned, and the goldfish started flipping and flopping on the wet tabletop. Then she reached for the vacuum cleaner. 

This was back in 1989, long before Colin Powell chose Beers as his undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. Beers was the CEO of Tatham-Laird & Kudner, a Chicago advertising agency that created ad campaigns for Procter&Gamble, Ralston Purina and R. J. Reynolds. 

On the day the goldfish danced on the tabletop, Beers was doing a pitch to the honchos at Hoover, hoping to win the ad contract for a new vacuum cleaner—a hand-held job that could suck up both dirt and liquids. She and her creative director, Ralph Rydhom, decided that Beers would “accidentally” knock over the goldfish bowl and then use the vacuum to suck up the resulting mess, fish and all, for dramatic effect….

The fish lived. They won the account. And they produced a TV commercial that showed, yes, the vacuum sucking up a goldfish. Brilliant!
Beers had been rising in the ad business since the 60’s when she was promoting Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice…

Sewell Chan. “More Families Relying on D.C. Shelter.” 
Washington. Post, December 31, 2001

The youngest person living at D.C. Village, the District’s shelter for homeless families, is Vernon Penamon. But he hardly seems aware. Born Thursday at Washington Hospital Center, he went home to the brightly lit, excessively heated cinder block room in which his 18-month-old sister, mother, uncle and grandparents have lived for more than a month…

Eric Adelson. “The Full Amonte." ESPN The Magazine, January 2002.
In the sparkling lobby of a beachfront hotel in sunny Florida, Tony Amonte kneels down on the carpeted floor, drawing outlines of graves. His Chicago teammates strut by—wearing their leather jackets, their slip-on shoes and the slightly bothered look of today’s NHL multimillionaire. But Amonte keeps his head down, laying out imaginary gravesites with his index finger. A smile appears as he remembers those perfect afternoons in the cemetery with Dad. Tony’s first pair of skates was paid for with money Lewis Amonte earned with his backhoe. Dad would rumble out to the graveyard to clear space for a coffin or two; 10-year-old Tony loved to come along. Sometimes, Dad would let Tony dig. The little boy dropped the big machine’s claw into somebody’s final resting spot and scooped until the grave looked big enough for an oversize refrigerator. Tony remembers how quite those cemeteries were, and how Lewis would occasionally deal with an excess of dirt—he’d dump it into his truck and drive it back to the Cape Cod house he built himself. Tony grew up with two things in his yard: a frozen hockey pond and a pile of cemetery dirt.... 

Douglas Waller. “Looking For The Loopholes." Time, February 18, 2002
Like the hero of a paperback thriller, campaign-finance reform keeps dodging bullets. Legislation meant to clean up the political-money game was almost left for dead last summer, but the Enron scandal revived it again. And last Wednesday evening the bill survived yet another near-death experience, when its backers in the House went head-to-head with one of their most powerful opponents, the National Rifle Association. Republicans, led by Tom DeLay, the majority whip from Sugarland, Texas, offered a clever “poison pill” amendment that would have exempted gun-rights groups from the bill’s limits on paid issues advertising. If the amendment passed, it could have killed the entire bill …

Neil MacFarquhar. “Hundreds Die as Fire Engulfs an Egyptian Train.” NY Times, February 21, 2002.
A blazing train crammed with holiday travelers sped through the darkness early today with flames engulfing car after car. More than 370 passengers were killed, some of whom leaped to their deaths on the tracks in an effort to escape the flames. The fire is thought to have been ignited by the explosion of a small stove used to make tea or heat or food. Some of the 61 injured passengers described the pandemonium on board as the flames and thick smoke raced through the train, which rocked on for some four miles….

Phil Rogers. “Revenue sharing key labor sticking point.” Chicago Tribune, March 12, 2002.
Donald Fehr says players and owners aren’t as far apart in labor talks as Commissioner Bud Selig would like you to believe. But that depends on which owner he was talking about. If the players union’s executive director was referring to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, he’s probably right. But if he’s talking about owners who do not receive $100 million a year in television money—that is, everyone else—then he might want to put another poll in the field....

Joseph Skibell. “Peachtree Street.” New York Times: The Savvy Traveler. April 2002.
In his exploration of dreams, Freud compared the mind to an ancient city, its many layers, one buried beneath the next, revealed only by the archaeological investigations of a pscyhotherapist. Now, however, it’s not our dreaming mind that resembles a city; rather, our cities have to come to resemble our dreaming minds—jumbled, chaotic, built upon an obscure system of nonlogical associations. Stand on the corner of Peachtree and 15th in Atlanta’s vibrant midtown and you’ll see a crazy salad of architectural styles as dizzying as any Surrealist convention….
Back to Top


© Copyright 2002 Nathan Bierma