National | sports

Issue: "Iraq: The WMD debate," Feb. 21, 2004

Around the horn

Maurice Clarett has defeated the NFL in court thus far, but the league has promised to fight on. Mr. Clarett won the right to jump to the NFL as an underclassman. Before the ruling by a federal judge, the NFL barred football players from entering the league draft until three years after high school. But the NFL has asked the judge for a stay in the ruling until an appellate court can review the matter. If the judge decides not to stay the order, any underclassman or even graduating high-school senior will be eligible for the April draft.

After weeks of subtle pressure, it was the NFL, not Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna, who recanted on Mr. Kitna's display of a cross. During the NFL regular season, the league fined Mr. Kitna $5,000 for wearing a red baseball cap with a white Christian cross insignia, instead of official NFL-approved merchandise. But earlier this month, the NFL quietly rescinded the fine it had imposed to protect its sponsorship agreements.

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The Washington Redskins' courtship of veteran quarterback Mark Brunell took an improbable turn when Mr. Brunell, met by new head coach Joe Gibbs at the airport, had to drive the coach to the hospital after Mr. Gibbs suffered a diabetic reaction. Several teams are trying to pry the veteran quarterback from Jacksonville.

Thin ice

Mark September 15 as the day that hockey will-at least in its current incarnation-die. Barring some miraculous renegotiations, the NHL's collective-bargaining agreement will expire in mid-September and the team owners will initiate the much-anticipated lockout. Considering the financial woes of key NHL teams, including two bankruptcies and several near misses, hockey's hiatus could be substantial-some say up to two seasons without play. The NHL's future is dire, as even the sport's commissioner admits. "If we don't properly address our issues, people will look back at this moment and say it was critical to this league," Gary Bettman told the Chicago Tribune. "We can't continue this way."

Mr. Bettman said he'd resist drastic changes in game play, but he wouldn't rule out enlarging the goals to increase scoring. That admission is emblematic of the NHL's larger problem-one that dwarfs the looming labor dispute. After stagnating for 20 years off of America's television airwaves, the NHL is only now reaching through TV boxes and into homes. And hockey's golden age-before game-slowing neutral-zone traps-passed with hardly a notice from many American sports fans. Now that the American public is starting to tune in, this version of hockey is hardly its best skate forward.

Miami vice

Oftentimes college football recruiting turns into messy business. Consider the cautionary tale of Willie Williams. As a Miami-area high-school senior, Mr. Williams became the most highly touted prep football player in the state. In a series of interviews with The Miami Herald, Mr. Williams told how football programs go to extraordinary lengths to woo prospective football players.

Mr. Williams described in the Herald an official recruiting visit to Florida State. The senior said he was hungry after he stepped off the chartered flight that carried him to Tallahassee. A coach who picked him up and took him to the Radisson gave him a few chicken wings, but Mr. Williams was hungry for more. "Dinner was tight," Mr. Williams told the paper. "We had our own section in the restaurant, but the only thing that bugged me was that I sat all the way in the back-so I was the last one to get my food. I ordered a steak and a lobster tail. But then I saw what the other guys were ordering, I was like, 'Forget this.' I called the waiter back and told him to bring me four lobster tails, two steaks, and a shrimp scampi."

But the recruit's excesses have caught up with him. After committing to Miami, he surrendered to police on charges of misdemeanor criminal mischief and the discharge of fire extinguishers, which is a felony. It was his 11th arrest since 1999.


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