Sports

A Golden Bear in the Woods

Is there a double standard on the PGA Tour? You'll recall the catty whispers that followed Tiger Woods when he headed to the practice tee instead of participating in the rather silly and ecologically incorrect 21-Titleist salute to the late Payne Stewart at this year's U.S. Open. And those whispers, no doubt, would have turned into full-fledged grumblings if Tiger hadn't played Pebble Beach like it was a pitch and putt. But what was the buzz after Jack Nicklaus decided to play the PGA the day after his mother died? Nothing but sympathy for St. Nick.

In a way, the tour's subtle anti-Tiger backlash makes sense. Sure, he's the game's biggest draw. But his dominance threatens to turn an inane game played by fat, old, cigar-chomping white men—including one pro with an artificial hip—into a full-fledged sport. What would happen if real athletes started playing golf? For example, Giants lineman Michael Strahan and tennis star Pete Sampras, neither of whom picked up a club until his twenties, go 330 yards off the tee—more than most PGA pros. No, it's not an entirely fair comparison, but let's see Craig Stadler hit a 120-mph serve or try to get around a 330-pound offensive lineman. With Tiger's help, golf has begun to move beyond the country club and may start drawing from the same talent pool as other sports, and before long everyone will be playing Augusta and Royal and Ancient like they're pitch-and-putt courses.


Field of Schemes (cont'd)

The Boston Red Sox may be struggling to keep up with Cleveland and Oakland in the wild-card race, but they remain the undisputed leaders in the stadium-related litigation standings. Earlier this month, it was Sox brass who let slip their plans to sue Boston Magazine over an unauthorized cover story on Pedro Martinez—unauthorized because the team refused to cooperate with the publication, which in May printed an article critical of the team's stadium demands. "We're happy to work with any media outlet that treats us fairly, but they've consistently shown that they're not interested in doing that," team spokesperson Kevin Shea told the Boston Herald.

On Thursday, SEIU Local 285 entered the fray, filing a federal civil rights suit against Boston mayor Tom Menino for threatening to fire two City Hall employees who showed up for work wearing anti-new-stadium buttons. The pins, reading "No Contract, No Fenway" and "Millions for Fenway While City Workers Eat Hot Dogs," were issued by the union to protest the city's foot-dragging on a new contract for over a year. (The mayor backed off the next day and wiped clean the workers' disciplinary records.)

Meanwhile, a pair of potential lawsuits by Fenway neighborhood landowners and residents remain on deck, challenging both eminent domain land takings and public expenditures for the new stadium. And last week, Fenway Park defenders issued their own plans to renovate or rebuild the historic structure, which they say would preserve both the park and the surrounding neighborhood while saving the public hundreds of millions of dollars. "Both would satisfy fans in terms of comfort, provide the Red Sox with the revenue they claim they need, and, most importantly, maintain the intimacy that makes Fenway what it is," says Erika Tarlin of Save Fenway Park!, which intends to submit the designs to the Boston City Council before its scheduled hearings next month.


Thirty-Nine and Holding

As a semi-joke earlier this season, the Mets surprised reliever John Franco, who turns 40 in mid September, with a big, comfy, padded chair to relax in at his locker in Shea Stadium. And while it may have surprised some beat reporters when manager Bobby Valentine said he thought that, with 420 saves, Franco still might have a shot at passing Lee Smith's all-time record of 478 (albeit probably not with the Mets; Franco'll be a free agent after 2000), well, all we know is, the way he's been pitching this year, Johnny Boy, like George Jones, sure don't need no rocking chair.

Before heading off on the Mets' West Coast road trip last weekend, Franco had allowed all of one unearned run in his last 20 appearances, dating back to June 21. It gets better: From April 8, when he gave up four runs to L.A. in one inning, through August 17—covering 46 games and 42 innings of work—his ERA was 1.91. It gets even better: In that aforementioned June 21 game, in which he was the losing pitcher when the Phillies beat the Mets 10-5, Franco was charged with four earned runs—three of which came after he left the mound with the bases loaded and Armando Benitez gave up a grand-slam homer to the next batter. That's just about one-fifth of all the earned runs he's been charged with this season (14).

Let's just say it might behoove die-hard Mets fans, who've made the Brooklyn native, St. John's graduate, and Staten Island resident their favorite whipping boy for much of the last decade, to at least stop themselves from booing as soon as he goes 2-0 on any batter—especially since he's not even the closer anymore. By the way, if you are counting, he's been four for four in save opportunities, too.

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