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Rudy’s New Venue Blues

Mayor Giuliani‘s cancer-induced campaign leave of absence (we think there are better ways to emulate Joe Torre, but hey) prompts a tantalizing question: What does this mean for all those stadiums Rudy wants to build? When last we visited the mayor’s secret planning bunker, the new-venue count was up to nine: nouveau-retro ballparks for the Mets and Yanks, an Olympic/Jets stadium over the ever popular West Side rail yards, a new Madison Square Garden next door to that, new soccer and cricket (yes, cricket) fields at undisclosed locations, and three minor-league ballparks, for two minor-league teams, in Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. No one’s yet affixed a price tag to this wish list, but a reasonable guess would put the city’s tab somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion.

Stadium talk had all but ground to a halt even before Giuliani’s recent woes (the mayor recently announced negotiations are still ongoing, but you could tell his heart wasn’t in it), and it now seems deader than Bill Pulsipher‘s fastball. Even if Rudy should turn his attention back to stadiums in his lame-duck term, the city budget has its own metastasizing problem: While flush with cash, it’s also bumping up against the state-imposed debt limit, which is going to make it tough to repair crumbling bridges, let alone build ballparks. George Steinbrenner, meanwhile, is preoccupied with squeezing cable customers for more YankeeNets dollars, and sticking Christie Whitman with the tab for a new arena in downtown Newark; without Rudy to run the point on a ballpark, the near-septuagenarian owner may not have the stamina for the knock-down-drag-out political war that would likely ensue.

Newly installed Jets bigwig Robert Wood Johnson can still hold out hope that New York will win the 2012 Olympics derby over the likes of Beijing, Rome, and Plant City, Florida (again: yes, Plant City). But that leaves the Mets—who were banking on an “us-too” ballpark once Rudy paid off George—up Flushing Creek without a retractable roof. “Fred Wilpon really screwed himself,” says one veteran stadium-deal watcher, noting that a clause in the Mets’ Shea Stadium lease guaranteed them the next major-league ballpark built with city funds. But with Giuliani on the DL and a mayoral election looming next year, it looks like any stadium dreams will have to wait until 2002—when baseball is likely to be in the middle of its next work stoppage. Maybe the Boss should have taken that new Metro North station when Ed Koch offered it back in 1987.



Batter Up!

By now we’re all used to seeing those annoying rotating ads that are visible behind home plate during televised baseball games. But Jockbeat was surprised to tune in to a recent Pirates game at Three Rivers Stadium and see a big behind-the-plate ad for Viagra. Granted, lots of men watch televised ballgames, and the Viagra craze seems to have confirmed that erectile dysfunction has supplanted baseball as the national pastime, but isn’t the ballpark still an odd place for this kind of ad?

“We don’t discuss advertising strategies,” said Mary Ann Caprino, a spokesperson for Viagra’s manufacturer, Pfizer. “But in general, we’re looking for venues that attract large numbers of men and their partners, so this was a natural extension of what we’ve been doing.”

As for the Pirates, a team spokesperson said the ad hasn’t generated any fan reaction so far. “Frankly,” he added, “I didn’t even know we had a Viagra ad up there.” And is it possible that a pitcher—whose job is to face a big, strapping guy waving a long, hard stick—might be distracted by seeing an ad for an impotence drug looming behind the plate? “Nah, they’re too focused for that,” said the Pirates flack. “Believe me, if you asked all 25 guys on our team what ad is on the left-field wall, I doubt any of them would know.”



The Cousin Also Rises

The best American high-jump mark of the 2000 season, 7 feet 8 1/2 inches, was set last week at the U.S. Amateur Track and Field Pacific Association Championships by the aptly named Nathan Leeper. His closest U.S. rival, the star of the indoor track circuit, is Matt Hemingway, a distant relative of Ernest. At the Sydney Olympics, Leeper and Hemingway, along with Atlanta gold medalist Charles Austin, will give the United States a formidable power trio to face the challenge of, um, Ben Challenger of Great Britain.

This is the event, of course, in which two Olympic silver medals went to Sweden’s long-tressed Patrik Sjoberg (think Bjorn Borg, only 6 foot 7), who acknowledged that his “training regimen” involved chainsmoking, which kept him slim. The event’s personalities don’t end there. The world record and ’92 Barcelona gold medal belong to Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor, who subsequently tested positive for cocaine. No wonder they call it the “high” jump.



Contributors: Neil Demause, Paul Lukas, Peter Gambaccini
Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman