The Joint Was Jumpin'
Five years ago, the Unique Stylists, one of the premiere double dutch teams in the United States, flew to Japan to teach the locals how to jump rope. "They're quick learners," Stephon Webb, the team coach, remembers thinking. His analysis proved correct: On Sunday, for the fifth year in a row, a Japanese team won first place in the annual Double Dutch Holiday Classic held at the Apollo Theatre.
The weekend scene in Harlem was pure bedlam. In addition to a few dozen Japanese, several hundred African American and Latino contestants and thousands of supporters jammed the aisles and screamed at the top of their lungs as teams with names like No Diggity and Hot Steppers fought it out on stage.
The Japanese teams, all hailing from Tokyo's Nippon Physical Science University, were mostly maleaverage age about 21and displayed a fondness for Tupac Shakur bandannas and Latrell Sprewell cornrows. In the Speed Event, the all-female American teens took the Japanese's lunch money. The ropes flew so fast they blurred into white ellipses, and the tap, tap, tap of the rope on the floor resembled a Philly Jo Jones drum solo.
But the Japanese came into their own in the "Best of Show Award-Advanced Fusion Doubles Freestyle Event." The R&R team, made up of four men and two women, came out to a chest-thumping hip-hop soundtrack and proceeded to shred the floor with tumbles, windmills, and splits. They jumped on their hands, they jumped sitting down, and they jumped with teammates on their shoulders. The crowd went wild, and R&R walked away with first place.
Interestingly, there was no evidence of resentment in the crowd; everyone present seemed thrilled to have the Asians contributing to the sport. "God gave me a sign," said David Walker, the NYC police detective who made double dutch an official sport in 1974. "He told me to take it to Japan."
A Strange Turn for the Bettor
What are the real costs of Indecision 2000? Nervous financial markets? International embarrassment? A divided political culture consumed by acrimony? Well, forget that hyper-analyzed tumult and consider the people who are really at wit's end and in desperate need of "finality" (as the Republicans like to say): the bettors and bookies that wagered on this nightmare. Here is a quick look at the betting action, in all of its manifestations worldwide:
- One of England's largest bookmakers, William Hill, took in about $500,000 worth of bets on the presidential race, 30 percent of which came from Americans. The payouts on those wagers are still pending. But while the outcome remains in doubt, Hill has stopped accepting bets. Says a Hill spokesperson, "We would have no idea how to handicap a contest that involves so many variables."
- There are hundreds of offshore casinos that made book on the election. Apparently, a few of them made the embarrassing decision to pay out on election night. Eventually, they would have to ask for the money back.
- Betting on presidential elections is illegal in the U.S., so the Las Vegas casinos were left out in the cold.
- The closest thing to sanctioned political wagering in this country is in the form of something called the Iowa Electronic Market, a unique "futures" market that's run out of the University of Iowa. You may purchase any number of $1 shares in the candidate of your choosing, and those shares are then traded, stock-market style. To date, this year's election generated close to $200,000.
- There was chaos at an office pool at a large media group (which asked to remain anonymous), where bets were made on the margin of electoral votes. The resulting interoffice imbroglio resembled the events in Florida, with name calling, endless bickering, and premature claims of victory.
This just in: The Yankees have agreed to finance a new stadium for the Red Sox in return for Pedro Martinez. . . . Bucking the increasingly crowded path athletes are following into politics is a New York Jets club that appears to have given little thought to owner Woody Johnson's proposal for a Manhattan palace for his charges. Punter Tom Tupa offered the most far-reaching thought on the matter: "By the time it happens I doubt any of us will be here anyway." Financing of a Jets-specific site was an even less popular topic. Tax money? Corporate money? Mayoral bake-sale money? "I have no idea about that stuff; all I do is go out there and throw the football," said quarterback Ray Lucas. Since he's one of the headier members of Gang Green, we were not encouraged. Cornerback Aaron Glenn summed up the general feeling among players in proclaiming, "I don't think about stuff like that." It's a good thing these guys aren't in charge of Social Security. . . . Wouldja believe it? Those enterprising Yankees just agreed to purchase TNT and TBS from Braves owner Ted Turner and got Greg Maddux as part of the deal! . . . Is John Franco bewildering or just bewildered? During the course of a 15-minute WFAN radio interview last week, Franco first said the key factor in his choice to sign with the Mets instead of the Phillies was the chance to stay with a winning team, then said the most important development was "definitely" when the Mets trumped the Phillies' two-year offer with a three-year deal, and then concluded by saying it all came down to money. Whatever Franco's true motivation, one thing's certain: If he can continue to confuse hitters the way he's confused the issue here, he'll have no trouble fulfilling all three years of his new deal. . . . Jockbeat has learned that the 2001 baseball schedule has been canceled and the Yankees will simply have a season-long champagne victory party for anyone who wants to stop by.
Contributors: Mike Kamber, Sinclair Rankin, Nicolas Locke, Paul Lukas, Paul Forrester
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman
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