Milwaukee Bucks’ guard Ray Allen and Bucks’ head coach George Karl learned that freedom of speech may be guaranteed by the Bill of Rights but apparently it does not exist when it comes to voicing an opinion on the business affairs of the National Basketball Association. Allen and Karl were fined a combined $85,000 for stating that they believed that NBA Commissioner David Stern was praying for an NBA Finals which pitted the Los Angeles Lakers against the Philadelphia ‘76ers. The Bucks were defeated by the ‘76ers in a tense seven-game series in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
Of course Allen and Karl are right. The talented Bucks play in a small television market, and to make matters worse, they do not have a single player who is a household name who can make marginal fans tune into the NBA Finals. Compare that with the Philadelphia ‘76ers who play in the nation’s fourth biggest market and have a controversial superstar player named Allen Iverson who has adorned the cover of countless magazines. Iverson singlehandedly sells more NBA merchandise in one year than the entire Bucks team could do in 10.
A good chunk of ink on the sports pages was spent on the alleged feud between fellow Lakers superstars Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. I always thought that the whole thing was media hype and O’Neal confirms my suspicion in his recently published autobiography entitled “Shaq Talks Back” (St. Martin’s Press). Throughout the book O’Neal compliments Bryant on his maturity. Shaq is particularly impressed with the fact that Bryant scored 1,420 on his SATs.
The annual NFL Cadillac Golf Classic was held in Clifton last week and it brought out a number of star NFL players and luminaries from the Senior PGA Tour. Players on the Senior Tour are allowed to use golf carts when playing and the number one topic around the Upper Montclair Country Club was the 7-2 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which granted permission to Casey Martin to use such a cart when he competes on the regular PGA Tour. Martin has a leg circulatory problem and he sued the PGA claiming that they were not complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
While golf legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus foolishly lost public relations points by speaking out against Martin, most of the members of the Senior Tour who I spoke with were glad that the nation’s highest court ruled in Martin’s favor.
Dana Quigley, one of the biggest money winners on the Senior Tour, said that while he believes walking the 18 holes is an integral part of golf, he felt that it would be a tragedy if Martin were not allowed to compete on the main PGA Tour. “I can’t wait until he hits 50 so I can play against him here” Quigley said. Another Senior Tour veteran, Roy Vucinich, stated that having a cart can occasionally be a disadvantage. “Sometimes when you hit a bad shot you want to take your time walking so you can set up the next shot in your mind better. When you rush to the ball it can throw your game off.”
Members of the Jets and Giants could not attend this year’s NFL Cadillac Golf Tournament because both teams held mini training camps last week. Giants All-Pro defensive end Jessie Armstead boycotted the Giants workout because he wants to renegotiate his contract which has five years remaining on it. Before one takes Armstead to task you have to keep in mind that NFL contracts are not guaranteed. A team can cut a player and not have to pay him a penny despite an alleged “contract.”