Passing on a pastime
Baseball may have hit a public-relations home run by averting a major-league strike, but the sport may strike out at the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee is considering cutting baseball from the 2008 games.
Baseball became a full medal event in 1992, but major-league players don't play in the games because it conflicts with the regular season. Now it may become the first sport dropped since the Olympics cut polo back in 1936.
The IOC will vote on baseball's future this November in Mexico City. Softball and modern pentathlon may also be cut, possibly making room for golf and rugby. "We have to look at the sport's political aspects," said IOC president Jacques Rogge. "Definitely it isn't going to be an easy task."
An IOC report said only a handful of countries regularly follow baseball, and finding a proper venue for it is difficult for host countries. That the national pastime's reputation is hurting in America only adds to the negativism.
The IOC's decision would take effect at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The board has already rejected 14 events, including ballroom dancing, surfing, bowling, bridge, chess, billiards, squash, water-skiing, and racquetball. The IOC capped the number of Olympic summer sports at 28, which means one must be dropped for each new one added.
A sorely needed relief pitch
Only a handful of G-rated movies are released each year, most of them animated. So it's surprising when a G-rated, live-action film becomes a breakout hit-as Disney's The Rookie became last spring, earning over $75 million at the box office.
The modestly budgeted $22 million film, now out on video and DVD, tells the true story of Jimmy Morris, a Texas high-school baseball coach who at last gets a shot at the big leagues. Mr. Morris, played by Dennis Quaid, had failed as a young man to make the bigs due primarily to a string of injuries. Married, with three children, and teaching high-school chemistry while coaching a ragtag ball team, Mr. Morris's dreams seem long gone.
Mr. Morris's players have seen him pitch, however, and they strike him a deal: If the team wins the regional championship, then Mr. Morris, at 32, must attend a professional tryout. The team wins, and Mr. Morris follows through with his end of the bargain. It turns out that, despite possessing only an 85-mph fastball as a young man, Mr. Morris now has a 98-mph fastball-and a real shot at the majors.
The Rookie's story is familiar, from the unlikely players that pull together on Mr. Morris's high-school team to the aging athlete's shot at a second chance to Mr. Morris's alienation from and reconciliation with his hardnosed father. That this film is based-at least loosely-on a true story helps to some degree, but very little in The Rookie is surprising.
That said, the film is acted and directed with such simple charm and obvious sincerity that the familiarity of the story doesn't put it at too much of a disadvantage. Director John Lee Hancock clearly loves baseball, and those who also love baseball should be instantly hooked by the film's affectionate approach to the game.
The film's sincerity extends beyond the game, which is likely why it struck such a chord with audiences. There is nothing crass or modern (in the pop-culture sense) about Mr. Morris's commitment to his team and love for his wife and kids. Mr. Morris's faith is also subtly present, seen in his practice of praying with his team before games. (There's also a dubious prologue about a Texas legend involving two nuns, an oil field, and St. Rita, but this is quickly forgotten once the real story begins.)
It's not worth celebrating a film simply because of its rating. But there is a certain thrill that comes from seeing that Hollywood, through a mainstream studio like Disney, can still produce a film this enjoyable, and this truly appropriate for "general" audiences. | Andrew Coffin
The Augusta National golf club has not admitted a woman in its 70-year history-and it is girding for a battle to keep it that way. Every year it hosts the prestigious Masters golf championship, which is now under attack.
Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, is on the warpath over the men-only policy. She says she will not quit until either the Masters loses its reputation or Augusta National admits a woman.
The private club is standing its ground. Augusta National is a hard target because it operates the Masters independently. Chairman Hootie Johnson even dropped the Masters' three national TV sponsors-IBM, Coca-Cola, and Citigroup-to shield them from controversy: "We will not be bullied, threatened, or intimidated. We do not intend to become a trophy in their display case."
But Ms. Burk, whose organization represents groups with about 6 million members, plans to go over Mr. Johnson's head. She wants CBS to drop the tournament, and if the Tiffany Network can't be convinced to do so, then Ms. Burk plans to get personal.
She says she would go after the companies that employ Augusta National's members to see if sponsoring them violates their anti-discrimination policies. Ms. Burk claims she already tried and failed to convince the PGA Tour to stop sanctioning the Masters.
A pol who plays one on TV
Fred Thompson will go from being a real senator to a fictional district attorney. The retiring Tennessee senator is the newest cast member on the NBC franchise crime drama Law & Order. "And you thought I wouldn't find work," Mr. Thompson joked on NBC's Meet The Press about his return to acting.
Mr. Thompson's new role is especially interesting because the character, named Arthur Branch, is supposed to be more conservative. Executive producer Michael Chernuchin admitted that the addition was a reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"His political leanings are a little more to the right than former DAs on the show," he said. "He is a 'strict constructionist,' that is, for him, the Constitution is what it says it is and nothing more."
The 60-year-old politician entered the national scene three decades ago as chief minority counsel on the committee investigating the Watergate scandal. He already has a plum dramatic resumŽ, including movies like The Hunt for Red October, In the Line of Fire, and Die Hard 2. In the early 1990s, he was a familiar screen face playing authority figures.
Mr. Thompson served eight years in the Senate before announcing his retirement last March. The decision came soon after the death of his 38-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Thompson Panici. | Chris Stamper
Money or job
Kathleen Klamut started this school year wondering whether she'd be forced to pay dues to a leftist teachers union. The Ohio public-school psychologist filed a complaint last March with the state Civil Rights Commission, saying that joining the local NEA affiliate would violate her religious freedom. She objects to the union's view of abortion.
Now she's waiting for a response. "I've heard nothing," Ms. Klamut, who works for the Ravenna City School District, told WORLD. "I'm not sure what to expect."
What makes Ms. Klamut unique is that she wants to protect a previous agreement she made with the teachers union. Back in 1999, she was teaching in another Ohio district and took her religious freedom complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She won a settlement that let her direct the $300 annual dues to the American Cancer Society: "The money is a pittance, but it's the principle."
When Ms. Klamut moved to a new district, she was ordered to pay dues to the local Ohio Education Association affiliate. When she informed a local representative of the previous settlement, she was told it wasn't binding on the district.
The union threatened to sue her and her school if she didn't pay. So Ms. Klamut filed a complaint: "I told them, it's ironic that you're pro-choice but I'm choosing to follow my religious faith." | Chris Stamper