Topics in the News
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Major League Baseball in the 1980s is that it survived. Although the decade witnessed superb individual and team performances on the field, it was probably more notable for its labor disputes, strikes, threats of strikes, owner-collusion scandals, many substance abuse revelations, the Pete Rose betting affair, and, in general, the shortsightedness of those who ran the game. But despite these and other serious problems, baseball somehow remained vibrant and popular. In 1980, for instance, a record forty-three million people paid to see Major League Baseball games, income from baseball television contracts accounted for a record 30 percent of the game's $500 million revenue, and television ratings for the World Series had never been higher. Over the course of the decade all of these leading indicators would continue to improve, which suggests that baseball's place as the national pastime was not as diminished as some critics maintained. "In the coming decade, profits, salaries, attendance, and general excitement over things baseball would be greater than ever," observed historian Charles Alexander, "but it would be an unprecedentedly strifefilled period. If baseball's best of times, the 1980s, in some ways, would also be its worst."
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As the National Basketball Association (NBA) staggered toward the close of the 1970s, attendance was down in almost every market and television ratings were declining. The public was disenchanted with players' bouts with alcohol and drug abuse and uninspired by the parity which left the league without any dominant teams or captivating new superstars. Revenues fell and interest waned. In what many now regard as the low point in NBA history, game six of the 1980 league finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers was televised late at night on taped delay. NBA commissioner David Stern would later call it "our biggest public relations disaster of the decade." At this moment, however, the league began its return to public popularity. Game six showcased the talents of Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the Laker rookie who, along with the Boston Celtics' Larry Bird, had riveted public attention in the NCAA finals a year earlier. Johnson, filling in for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, put on a tremendous show. He collected 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists. It was a performance that foreshadowed the Lakers' nearly decade-long stranglehold on the championship. From 1980 to 1989 the Lakers played for the title eight times and won five of them. "Never fear," Johnson told his teammates as they boarded a flight for game six without their captain and star player, "E.J. is here."...
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College basketball became a national obsession in the 1980s. Once a regionalized pastime, the college game became virtually omnipresent due to expanding cable television networks (particularly ESPN) and the media's rigorous marketing of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship tournament; even the phrase for the championship tournament, "March Madness," is a registered trademark. The major network covering the monthlong men's tournament, CBS, bid $16 million for exclusive rights to the Final Four in 1982, and then renegotiated its pact with the NCAA every few years until in November 1989, when it reached an agreement on a seven-year, $1 billion contract. Capitalizing on the phenomenal popularity of the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird matchup in the title game in 1979, network television poured money into the sport like never before and promoted the Final Four as a media spectacle to rival the Super Bowl. The NCAA responded by enlarging the tournament field from forty-eight to sixty-four teams (beginning with the 1985 tourney), establishing a 45-second shot clock to eliminate stalling (1986), and introducing a three-point shot at 19 feet 9 inches (1987), changes designed to increase scoring, competitiveness, and fan appeal. The title games were close throughout the decade, each contest seemingly undetermined until the final nerve-wracking moments. Only then...
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Although no single boxing champion dominated the 1980s as Muhammad Ali did the 1970s, the era witnessed the emergence of several extraordinarily talented and charismatic fighters and many noteworthy bouts. In retrospect, professional boxing in the decade appears to have experienced one of its periodic heroic cycles. Larry Holmes, Roberto Duran, Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and Mike Tyson provided fight fans with many inspired and courageous displays of boxing prowess. Yet in surveying the boxing world of the 1980s, one fighter stands apart for his skill, style, and longevity: Sugar Ray Leonard. Three years after winning a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics, the twenty-three-year-old Leonard relieved Wilfred Benkez of the World Boxing Council (WBC) welter-weight title. On 20 June 1980, however, Leonard lost a fifteen-round decision and his title to the hard-hitting Duran in Montreal. It would be Leonard's only defeat in the decade. Five months later, on 25 November, Leonard avenged his loss to Duran with "flashing combinations, glorious boxing skills and audacious courage," in Thomas Boswell's words. With sixteen seconds left in the eighth round, Duran gave up his hard-won title when he turned his back on Leonard and said, "No mas." In June of the following year Leonard temporarily moved up a weight class, and knocked out Ayub Kalule in the ninth round, thus...
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Few would have thought that when the Los Angeles Raiders defeated the Washington Redskins 38-9 in Super Bowl XVIII on 22 January 1984 the game would signal the end of the era of American Football Conference (AFC) dominance. The mighty Pittsburgh Steeler dynasty last won the title in the 1980 Super Bowl and the nucleus of players that made up their championship teams had retired by 1984, but the future was apparently bright for the AFC. Marcus Allen, the Raiders' catalyst that January evening, had run wild, including a breath-taking change-of-direction touchdown gallop of 74 yards that seemed like a bit of playground mischief. Mean-while, the pretenders to the Raiders' AFC crown had armed themselves with a cluster of strong-armed and strong-willed quarterbacks in the 1983 National Football League (NFL) draft. Yet the rest of the 1980s and half of the 1990s would pass without an AFC victory in the title game; moreover, the National Football Conference (NFC) representative typically won with remarkable ease (a 26-point average margin of victory from 1985 to 1990), thus turning every season's anticipated spectacle into a predictable, often unwatchable, affair. San Francisco, Washington, Chicago, and the New York Giants, each bolstered by an aggressive defense and methodical, ball-control offense, showcased their talents by crushing their AFC rivals before millions of television...
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"Numerous and Major."
"There is a firm feeling that we have turned the corner when it comes to major violations. We are getting on top of this integrity issue.…Ninety-nine percent of everything that is going on in intercollegiate athletics today is exceptionally positive." Such was the summation of NCAA, executive director Dick Schultz at the 1988 national convention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). But given the sequence of events that unfolded in Norman, Oklahoma, in January 1989, it became difficult to credit Schultz's confident assertion. The University of Oklahoma finished atop the polls following the 1985 season, thus winning the mythical national championship, and narrowly missed winning another crown in 1987 when they lost the 1988 Orange Bowl to the University of Miami, 20-16 on New Year's Day. The winningest college football program in the 1950s and the 1970s, the Sooners of the 1980s were a brash, flamboyant, and talented lot, shaped in the image of their carefree and confident head coach, Barry Switzer. But Oklahoma was soon to become an unhappy example of the dangers of success. In December 1988 the football program was placed on three years probation by the NCAA Committee on Infractions for "numerous and major" recruiting violations. The NCAA declared that "for at least several years, the university has failed to exercise appropriate institutional...
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Jack is Back.
"These are interesting times," Jack Nicklaus mused. In the 1980s the Golden Bear was, by many accounts, growing old and losing his competitive edge. At forty his drives were not as prodigious as they once were, his legendary concentration often seemed to wane at critical junctures, and even his fans feared that their hero invested too much of his time and passion into the business and architectural ventures that cluttered his schedule. Furthermore, critics of the game described a professional tour overrun by country-club clones with mechanical swings and little imagination. Even golf's veterans shook their heads: "Pro golf is dull," grumbled Tommy Bolt, "It's a chorus line of blond towheads you can't even tell apart." Ironically, the blond Nicklaus himself had once been condemned as a talented player with few charms, especially when he dared to challenge golf's reigning demigod, Arnold Palmer, in the early 1960s, Now, the tour looked to Nicklaus for an infusion of character, and during the summer of 1980 he gave the game what it yearned for. After a two-year winless streak and endless tinkering with his swing mechanics and short game, Nicklaus unexpectedly seized control of the U.S. Open at Baltusrol Country Club with an Open-record 63 in the first round. He went on to lead the tournament from start to finish, wrapping up his fourth Open championship with birdies on the...
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1980 Olympic Attention.
The new heights of popularity achieved by the National Hockey League (NHL) in the 1980s stems in part from the interest in the sport generated when the United States hockey team shocked the world by upsetting the mighty Soviets and later winning the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The "Miracle on Ice" at Lake Placid "wound up being, quite literally, an icebreaker in terms of the sport's visibility at home and the new stature American hockey attained with the National Hockey League," wrote Robin Finn of The New York Times on the tenth anniversary of the event. "Suddenly hockey gained viability as a career for aspiring athletes who might otherwise have looked to other sports as their launching pads." Moreover, the U.S. hockey team's victory brought the sport to millions of viewers who were caught up in the excitement of the unfolding national drama but who had no previous knowledge of or interest in the game. "Winning the gold medal gave our hockey program some visibility and some credibility"' said Herb Brooks, coach of the U.S. team in 1980, "and it brought the thing into a certain degree of focus, opening doors that had only been partly opened before. It was a catalyst and a springboard," Or as hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky succinctly put it, the 1980 Olympics were "the greatest thing to happen to hockey in twenty years"
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The Olympics: 1980
The Winter Games.
The XIII Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid, New York, from 12 to 24 February and included athletes from thirty-seven nations. It was the second time the Winter Games were held in the tiny upstate New York town, the first time being in 1932. Despite horrendous transportation problems the 1980 Winter Games were, as described by one observer, "a glistening festival in which superb athletes performed their feats in superb surroundings." Fortunately, the United States-led movement to boycott the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan had virtually no effect on the competition. Instead, the most noteworthy political controversy of the games was the absence of the Taiwanese team, who petitioned the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be excused from the games due to the presence of a team from the People's Republic of China. Politics aside, the 150-member U.S. team enjoyed the advantage of hosting the games and did well, finishing third in the final medal standings, behind East Germany (23 total medals) and the Soviet Union (22), with a total of 12 medals (6 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze). Moreover, American athletes provided the Winter Games with two of its most extraordinary, memorable, and historic performances.
America's Golden Boy.
Over the course of eight...
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The Olympics: 1984
The XIV Winter Games, held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, from 6 to 19 February, included 1,437 athletes from forty-nine nations. Though initially hampered by a four-day blizzard with intermittent 80-MPH winds, the Games were a success. As one observer put it, despite the weather "everyone's mood was upbeat." Before the Games began, many thought that the United States was represented by its strongest Winter Olympic team ever. If strength translates into medals, this was not the case. Still, the American team did well, particularly in the alpine events. Bill Johnson became the first American to win a gold medal in the Olympic downhill skiing event. Debbie Armstrong and Christin Cooper finished first and second in the women's giant slalom. Twins Phil and Steve Mahre finished first and second in the men's slalom. The rest of the U.S. medals came in figure skating. Three-time world champion Scott Hamilton won the men's competition and set a new Olympic record in the process. Rosalynn Sumners finished second behind East Germany's Katarina Witt in the women's competition, and Kitty and Peter Carruthers won the silver in the pairs. The Soviet Union won the most medals with 25 (6 gold, 10 silver, and 9 bronze), followed by East Germany (24), Finland (13), and Norway (9), while the United States tied with Sweden for fifth with eight medals (4 gold and 4 silver). Just eight years later, Sarajevo...
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The Olympics: 1988
Calgary Winter Games.
The XV Winter Olympics were held in Calgary, Alberta, from 13 to 28 February. They included 1,793 athletes from a record fifty-seven nations and marked the fourth time in twelve years that the Games were held at a North American venue. Free of political controversy, the Games suffered from high winds and unseasonably warm weather. Nonetheless, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch called the Calgary Games "the best ever." Many of the 180,000 visitors to Calgary no doubt agreed. The American team, however, did not fare well. The U.S. hockey team finished seventh and failed to make it to the medal round. Debi Thomas came up short in her attempt to supplant Katarina Witt of East Germany as the Olympic figure skating champion. After missing a series of jumps and slipping several times during her long program, Thomas ended up taking the bronze, behind Witt and silver medalist Elizabeth Manley of Canada, More disappointing, speed skater Dan Jansen fell in both the 500-meter and 1,000-meter sprints. Jansen, who was world champion in the 500 meters, learned just prior to the first race that his sister had died of leukemia. Following Jansen's first fall, Thomas Boswell wrote that "millions of people all over America, perhaps hundreds of millions around the world, felt a pain of unaccountable sharpness." Although the U.S. team suffered its worst disappointments on the ice, they...
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In the summer of 1980 a single afternoon marked the beginning of a break between one tennis era and another. At the Wimbledon men's singles finals on 5 July, Bjorn Borg of Sweden defeated American John McEnroe. However, Borg's amazing effort during the five-set battle was a closing argument. He played for only two more Grand Slam titles, retired from the tour in 1982, and never again beat McEnroe. McEnroe, on the other hand, had made an opening statement. The Swedish baseliner took the court ranked number one in the world, having won nine Grand Slam titles and four consecutive Wimbledon singles titles. McEnroe brought his crafty left-handed game, well suited to the quick grass-court surface, and a fiery, aggressive disposition. To the British and American media Borg was cool and collected, the possessor of a refined, graceful game, while McEnroe was brash, creative, and unpredictable. Three hours and fifty-three minutes, five sets and fifty-five games later, it was clear that each was perfect for the occasion. The match's momentum shifted repeatedly. McEnroe took the first set 6-1, then Borg managed two straight sets at 7-5 and 6-3. McEnroe won a remarkable fourth-set tiebreaker, 18-16. Finally, Borg won the fifth set, 8-6. It was the greatest Grand Slam match of the 1980s and one of the greatest matches of all time. "It will be almost impossible to deny Borg-McEnroe a place at or near...
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Auto racing of nearly every kind -—Indy, stock car, drag, formula one, and more—enjoyed increased popularity as the 1980s sped to a close. The sport's steadily rising popularity could be indexed by the increase in the number of spectators attending races. Though the Indianapolis 500 routinely drew at least 300,000 fans over the course of the decade, attendance at other Indy car races rose from 654,000 in 1979 to almost 2.5 million in 1988. As for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), prior to the 1980s it was seen primarily as a southern sport. By the end of the decade, however, the sport's venues extended as far north as New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Michigan, and over 3 million people annually attended NASCAR Winston Cup races. In fact, a survey conducted by Goodyear in 1990 indicated that over 25 percent of Americans considered themselves auto racing fans, including 14 million women. All of which led one racing expert to quip that "NASCAR probably is Dixie's rebuttal to the Civil War." Moreover, the sport's increased popularity could also be measured by the increase
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Bird, Larry 1957- and Johnson, Earvin "Magic" 1958-
HEART AND SOUL OF THE NBA
On 26 March 1979 Earvin "Magic" Johnson, a brash and brilliant sophomore from Michigan State, and Larry Bird, the sharpshooting senior leader of Indiana State, held the first of many summit meetings. On that night Johnson's Spartans defeated Bird's Sycamores in front of the largest television audience ever to watch an NCAA title game. It was the beginning of a relationship between the two players which was fiercely competitive, consistently respectful, and always breathtakingly intense. The dramatic encounters between Bird and Johnson would characterize professional basketball at its best for much of the next decade and would permanently link the two in the annals of the game. As the scene changed from college to the professional stage—Johnson performed before the footlights in Los Angeles while Bird roamed the parquet floor of Boston—the association which began at the close of the 1970s was underscored and expanded by a series of memorable mid and postseason head-to-head contests in the 1980s. Their place in history was ensured by a string of individual awards and organizational victories for both players: each was a three-time MVP and led his team to at least three world titles in the 1980s (Johnson's Lakers won five). Their position at the head of the NBA's class was accomplished by way of competition and respect. "Larry and I...
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Gretzky, Wayne 1961-
The Great One.
No individual dominated his or her sport in the 1980s the way Wayne Gretzky dominated professional hockey. Regardless of how greatness is measured, whether in terms of individual accomplishments such as statistics and awards, team championships, or peer respect, Gretzky distanced himself from virtually everyone over the course of the decade. According to Gretzky, "the best players in hockey are the ones who make their teammates look good, the ones who make their teams win." By that standard, too, Gretzky was in extraordinarily select company, including such players as Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, and Gordie Howe. Even such players as these are unstinting in their praise of the "Great One." "No one I have ever seen has been able to think like Wayne Gretzky can on ice. You can hone that talent by studying the game, but believe me, it comes from God," testified Esposito. "No one can do the things he does out there—the back passes, toying with people with the puck right in front of them, and they can't get it from him. It's miraculous," marveled Hull. "There are great players, but no...
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Jordan, Michael 1963-
Michael Jordan's spectacular style of play set the standard for athletic creativity and earned him a special place in basketball history. Jordan had the ability to make the apparently impossible routine and to remain air-borne as long as necessary to score a graceful or explosive basket. Even as a rookie with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, Jordan was compared to such celebrated and legendary basketball acrobats as Elgin Baylor, Connie Hawkins, David Thompson, and Julius Erving. The comparisons proved prophetic, for Jordan dominated professional basketball—offensively, defensively, and aesthetically—during the latter part of the 1980s and into the 1990s. With the guidance of agent David Falk of ProServe, the affable Jordan also made his mark in the advertising world. He served as a spokesperson for Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Wheaties, and Gatorade. Because Jordan was so enthusiastically embraced as an athlete-endorser, Steve Wulf quipped, "Sometimes with Jordan, you don't know where the reality ends and...
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Joyner-Kersee, Jackie 1962-
WORLD'S GREATEST FEMALE ATHLETE
On the day she was born in early March 1962, Jacqueline Joyner was tabbed for greatness by a grandmother who had named her after President Kennedy's wife. "Someday the girl will be the First Lady of something!" That she might one day become part of American "royalty" seemed rather unlikely at the time, however. Jackie and her brother Al were born into the harsh, desolate, sometimes violent world of East St. Louis, Illinois, a far cry from the comparatively prosperous streets of neighboring St. Louis, Missouri, and a seemingly insurmountable distance from the Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, where she would eventually change the standard of women's track-and-field excellence. That she did reach such heights was due in no small part to the determination and will to survive instilled in both her and her brother by their mother, Mary, who worked tirelessly and transferred her own aspirations and desires into her children. She...
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Miller, Cheryl 1964-
SUPERSTAR OF WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
Before she played a minute of college basketball Cheryl Miller was the focus of a Sports Illustrated feature titled "She May Well Be the Best Ever." Such an audacious claim befit the six-foot three-inch Miller, who in four years at River-side Poly High School had already been compared to the finest female players in the history of the game. As Roger Jackson of Sports Illustrated asserted, "she already possesses the deftness and charisma of a Nancy Lieberman, the virtuosity of an Ann Meyers, and the speed and athleticism of a Lynette Woodard." Not only had Miller been the first woman to dunk a basketball during a regulation game—the same game in which she scored a national high-school record of 105 points -—but she also led her team to a 132-4 record from 1979 to 1982, averaging 32.8 points per game throughout her high-school career. An accomplished scorer and rebounder, Miller was equally admired for her tenacious defense and charismatic presence on the court. The prize in a feverish recruiting battle, Miller chose to attend the University of Southern California, a decision that immediately cast USC as the preseason favorite to win the NCAA crown.
USC and the Olympics.
Miller admirably lived up to the expectations generated by her entry into the...
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Montana, Joe 1956-
SUPER BOWL QUARTERBACK
Perhaps it was his only moment of indecision in a career devoted to imposing his will on circumstance. As a high-school senior in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, Joe Montana nearly accepted a basketball scholarship at North Carolina State University. But western Pennsylvania is blue-collar football country, the birthplace of legendary quarterbacks Johnny Lujack, George Blanda, John Unitas, and Joe Namath, and such a tradition ultimately swayed Ringgold High's star quarterback to attend Notre Dame on a football scholarship. However, as a homesick freshman Montana may have had lingering doubts about his decision-making skills when he calculated that he was the Fighting Irish's seventh-string quarterback—barely. Early in his college career Montana made the most of his infrequent appearances: as a sophomore he twice led Notre Dame back from fourth-quarter deficits for improbable wins, including a game against Air Force in which he came off the bench with just twelve minutes remaining to erase the Falcons' twenty-point lead. He inspired two more miraculous rallies as a junior and still two more as a senior. These exploits—what Rick Reilly called the "impossible, get-serious, did-you-hear-what-happened-after-we-left comeback"—quickly became Montana's signature. Still, Montana did not become Notre Dame's first-string quarterback until...
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PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER
If Billie Jean King transformed the business of women's tennis off the court in the 1970s, Martina Navratilova redefined the game on the court the following decade. Noted for her remarkable speed, strength, and power (her left-handed first serve was timed at 93 MPH), Navratilova brought an attack mentality to a sport which had previously been dominated by the precision and patience of Chris Evert's baseline game. For Navratilova tennis was not a game of waiting out your opponent so much as it was a matter of taking what was yours. Her coach, Mike Estep, encouraged her to capitalize upon deep approach shots and rush the net behind them, "Go North!" he shouted during practice sessions and matches, and Navratilova heeded his advice, mounting a relentless assault upon the net and upon the nerves of her more hesitant foes. Her success as a "serve and volley" style player changed the face of the women's game. Having participated in an...
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Rose, Pete 1942-
FALLEN BASEBALL SUPERSTAR
Pete Rose was named Player of the Decade for his exceptional and inspiring play in the 1970s, when he collected more hits (2,045) and scored more runs (1,068) than anyone else in the major leagues. As an integral cog in the famous Cincinnati Big Red Machine, Rose played baseball with unbridled passion and intensity. He ran to first base on walks and slid into bases headfirst. He stretched singles into doubles and challenged his teammates to do likewise. Though the name "Charlie Hustle" was intended to be derisive, Rose embraced it. According to Ron Fimrite of Sports Illustrated, "He seemed to have come from an earlier time when professionals always played hard, and out of joy, not greed." Appearances, however, can be deceptive. Columnist George Will described Rose as "a man utterly defined by his vocation—perhaps too much so. The melancholy example of Rose shows that people with particularly narrow tunnel vision have no peripheral vision for adult responsibilities." By the beginning of the 1980s, advancing age had not significantly diminished Rose's skills, and he continued to play aggressive, intelligent baseball. In 1980, his second season with the Philadelphia Phillies after sixteen with the Reds, the thirty-nine-year-old Rose paced the National League (NL) in doubles (42) and helped the Phillies win their first...
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Tyson, Mike 1966-
HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION BOXER
In 1986 twenty-year-old Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight world champion in history. In doing so he fulfilled the prophecy of legendary boxing trainer Gus D'Amato and captivated the public imagination in a way no prize-fighter had since Muhammad Ali in the 1960s and 1970s. Although a skilled defensive boxer, Tyson was primarily known for his powerful punching ability, his gladiator like demeanor, and his well-deserved aura of invincibility. Unbeaten as a professional in the 1980s, Tyson completely dominated his weight division: all but four of his thirty-six fights ended in knockouts. "For many," wrote novelist Joyce Carol Oates in the mid 1980s, "Mike Tyson has become the latest in a lineage of athletic heroes—a bearer of inchoate, indescribable, emotion—a savior, of sorts, covered in sweat and ready for war." In the beginning of the 1990s, however, Tyson's heroic status was irreparably damaged, done in by the loss of his championship title and a conviction for rape.
Like virtually all prizefighters, Tyson was born into an impoverished family and community. As a child on the streets of Brooklyn he engaged in petty and serious criminal activities. By the age of eleven he was in and out of juvenile detention centers. A few years later Tyson was...
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People in the News
Lev Alburt was the U.S. chess champion during 1984-1985.
Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott, and Cale Yarborough each won the Daytona 500 twice in the 1980s.
In 1985 Les Anderson caught a world-record (97 pounds, 4 ounces) chinook salmon in the Kenai River in Alaska.
Willie "Flipper" Anderson of the Los Angeles Rams gained 336 yards receiving against the New Orleans Saints in 1989 to set an NFL single-game record.
Racquetball player Cindy Baxter won a record four women's open titles in the 1980s.
Mookie Blaylock of the University of Oklahoma set an NCAA record for steals in a basketball season with 150 in 1988.
The 5-foot 3-inch Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, picked by the Washington Bullets in 1987, became the shortest player in NBA history.
The 7-foot 6-inch Manute Bol, picked by the Washington Bullets in 1985, became the tallest player in NBA history.
Dogsled racer Susan Butcher won the Iditarod in 1986, 1987, and 1988.
JoAnne Carner won the LPGA's Vare Trophy for the best annual scoring average three years in a row, beginning in 1981.
In 1982 Tracy Caulkins became the winningest swimmer in U.S. history when she...
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Major League Baseball World Series—Philadelphia Phillies (National League), 4 vs. Kansas City Royals (American League), 2
Super Bowl XIV—Pittsburgh Steelers, 31 vs. Los Angeles Rams, 19
National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Champion—Georgia
Heisman Trophy, Collegiate Football—George Rogers (South Carolina)
Indianapolis 500, Automobile Racing—Johnny Rutherford
Daytona 500, Automobile Racing—Buddy Baker
National Basketball Association Championship—Los Angeles Lakers, 4 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 2
National Collegiate Athletic Association Men's Basketball—Louisville, 59 vs. UCLA, 54
Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Basketball—Old Dominion, 68 vs. Tennessee, 53
National Hockey League Stanley Cup—New York Islanders, 4 vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 2
Kentucky Derby, Horse Racing—Genuine Risk (Jacinto Vasquez, jockey)
Ladies' Professional Golf Association Championship—Sally Little
U.S. Open Golf Championship—Jack Nicklaus
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Walter Alston, 72, Hall of Fame manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, 1 October 1984.
Alan Ameche, 55, 1954 Heisman Trophy-winning running back at the University of Wisconsin who as a professional player with the Baltimore Colts scored the winning touchdown in the 1958 NFL championship game against the New York Giants, 8 August 1988.
Henry Armstrong, 75, legendary professional boxer who simultaneously held titles to three different weight divisions, 22 October 1988.
Emett Ashford, 66, first African American major-league umpire, 1 March 1980.
Earl Averill, 81, Hall of Fame outfielder and the first player to hit a home run in his first major-league at-bat, 16 August 1983.
Ricky Barry, 24, professional basketball player with the Sacramento Kings, 14 August 1989.
Cliff Battles, 70, Hall of Fame halfback with the Washington Redskins (1932-1938), 28 April 1981.
Clair Bee, 87, the second-winningest college basketball coach in history, he pioneered the 3-second rule in college basketball and the 24-second shot clock in the NBA, 20 May 1983.
Ricky Bell, 29, University of Southern California running back in the 1970s, played six years in the NFL, 28 November 1984....
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Ira Berkow, Pitchers Do Get Lonely and Other Sports Stories (New York: Penguin Books, 1988);
Thomas Boswell, Game Day: Sports Writings 1970-1990 (New York: Doubleday, 1990);
John Feinstein, A Season on the Brink: A Year With Bob Knight and the Indiana Ho osiers (New York: Macmillan, 1986);
Peter Golenbock, Personal Fouls (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1989);
Jay Greenberg, NHL: The World of Professional Hockey (New York: Rutledge Press, 1981);
Allen Guttmann, The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games (Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992);
Guttmann, A Whole New Ball Game: An Interpretation of American Sports (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988);
David Halberstam, The Breaks of the Game (New York: Ballantine, 1981);
Thomas Hauser, The Black Lights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986);
John Hoberman, The Olympic Crisis: Sport, Politics and the Moral Order (New York: Caratzas, 1986);
Philip M. Hoose, Necessities: Racial Barriers in American Sports (New York: Random House, 1989);
Dan Jenkins, 'You Call It...
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Important Events in Sports, 1980–1989
- On January 1, Alabama defeats Arkansas, 24-9, in the Sugar Bowl and is later voted the national champion of college football for 1979.
- On January 7, the Philadelphia Flyers' National Hockey League (NHL) record-setting streak of thirty-five games without a loss comes to an end when they are beaten by the Minnesota North Stars, 7-1.
- On January 20, the Pittsburgh Steelers win their fourth Super Bowl in six years with a 31-19 victory over the Los Angeles Rams; also, the United States announces that it will not participate in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
- On February 12, the XXIII Winter Olympic Games open in Lake Placid, New York. Bobsledders Willie Davenport and Jeff Gadley become the first African American athletes to represent the United States in the Winter Olympics.
- On February 22, the United States Olympic ice hockey team upsets the Soviet Union, 4-3. Two days later the U.S. team wins the gold medal by defeating Finland, 4-2.
- On February 23, American speed skater Eric Heiden wins the gold medal in the 10,000-meter event in a world-record-setting time of 14 minutes, 28.13 seconds. It is his fifth gold medal in five events.
- On March 24, Louisville defeats UCLA, 59-54, to win their first...
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