Among the Thugs

While the Giants were outclassed as badly as any team’s ever been on Super Sunday, in the cheap seats at Raymond James Stadium—$325 face value—it was a different story. Ravens fans were certainly out in number—dozens of purple Peter Boulware jerseys, purple camouflage pants, and even purple fright wigs could be seen clustered throughout the nosebleed sections. Giants fans were fewer, quieter, and less logo-centric, even before the rout was on, but they did win a few rhetorical points, despite the larger defeat.

In the men’s room, when a beer-soaked Ravens supporter tried to prod the Giants fan at the front of a urinal line by shouting, “Hey, go back to Jersey,” his victim retorted winningly with, “Hey, go back to Cleveland.” In section 338, a posse of Ravens fans greeted each Baltimore first down with a customized chant: “Moo . . . moo . . . move those sticks. Ugh!”—complete with move-the-chains choreography. After the third such outburst—Trent “three-and-out” Dilfer didn’t give them the excuse until well into the second quarter—a lone Giants fan three rows up countered a stacked-up Jamal Lewis running play with a chant of his own: “Two . . . two . . . two-yard gain. Ugh.” And when a Ravens fan wondered aloud who might be the game’s MVP—”How about Ray Lewis?”—nearby Giants fans double-teamed him more effectively than Big Blue’s secondary: “How about Ray Lewis’s lawyer?” quipped one. “How about Kerry Collins?” snapped another.

Vault Lines

In Sydney, Nick Hysong was the first American man in 32 years to win the Olympic pole-vault gold medal, while Lawrence Johnson added a silver. But the two Yanks, who bring their high-flying act to the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden Friday, are not precisely two peas in a pod. Hysong surfs in California and is building a half-pipe for skateboarding in his Arizona backyard. Johnson, meanwhile, rides motorcycles (he broke his ankle in a 1999 crash) and is a pianist who has produced his own CDs.

Hysong, a track coach’s son, picked up a small pole at age nine and vaulted 7 feet 6 inches. Johnson was a hurdler on a Virginia high school squad too deep in that event; he switched to the vault and rapidly progressed to become the national scholastic champion. In a technical event requiring costly equipment and open spaces, Johnson is the first prominent African American competitor, and swears it “feels great to be spearheading a movement.” Hysong disavows the notion that he and Johnson were any kind of “team” in Sydney. While Hysong is buddies with Jeff Hartwig, a projected Olympic contender until he bonked at the U.S. trials, he finds “Lawrence, when he competes, is really to himself.”

Hysong and Johnson, whose 18-and 19-foot leaps nearly carry them into the Garden mezzanine, will start vaulting at 6 p.m. Friday as a sort of opening act for the women vaulters, including Sydney gold medalist Stacy Dragila. The rest of the Millrose headliners should indeed be female. The dominating Regina Jacobs is up against the legally blind speedster Marla Runyan in the mile, while Hazel Clark battles her sister-in-law Jearl Miles-Clark in the 800 meters to see who’ll carry on the Millrose legacy of Clark’s big sister, seven-time champ Joetta Clark. The smart money is on Hazel.


  • With his team’s Super Bowl loss, Giants owner Wellington Mara now has time on his hands for his other lifelong crusade: stopping abortion. It’s the challenge of our age, he recently told an Athletes for Life breakfast at which he was the keynote speaker—a fact oddly absent from Bill Pennington‘s glowing profile of Mara in Friday’s New York Times. Football players, it seems, have their controversial statements examined under a microscope. Owners, especially a “celebrated patriarch,” are apparently off limits. . . .
  • Word on the street is that Shaquille O’Neal fabricated a foot injury for Sunday’s nationally televised showdown with the Knicks to embarrass Kobe Bryant. Y’know, make Kobe carry an already struggling team by himself against a ‘Bocker squad that’s dominated all the topflight NBA competition of late—and in front of Marv Albert and Co. to boot. But Jockbeat doesn’t buy the line that this is a paw plot planned by “the Big Podiatrist.” Oh no. More likely, Phil Jackson “got in his teepee” as Pat Riley would put it and drew up this backhanded blueprint in order to reel in Bryant. . . .
  • Jockbeat is relieved that the white-hot Meadowlands vs. Canyon of Heroes celebration debate has been moved to the back burner. . . .
  • Our simple rule of thumb for when we start to feel ambivalent about the Baltimore Ravens management: Art Modell = Walter O’Malley.

    Contributors: Allen St. John, Peter Gambaccini, Joanna Cagan, Ramona Debs Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman

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