Yankees' achievement a ray of sunshine on a bleak landscape

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 October, 1998, 12:00am

Thank heaven for the New York Yankees and the feel-good factor they brought to an otherwise wicked week for American sport.

While the money and marketing men were doubtless wringing their hands in glee at the extra millions the World Series win will mean, the Yankees players were talking team spirit and camaraderie, not cash motivation.

And in Joe Torre, they have a coach who explodes the myth that nice guys don't win. He's lifted the World Series twice in three years and does not have an ego problem - now that is special.

For ego, attitude, sickening public relations stunts and greed on speed you had to look no further than the gambling mecca of Las Vegas.

The biggest congregation of NBA stars ever, more than 200 in all, were in town to support their claims against the owners which has led to a lockout and the postponement of the new season.

Michael Jordan made a cameo appearance, even though he's not yet committed himself to the Chicago Bulls, but could not really plead poverty considering his pay packet alone came to US$33 million last year.

The players, fast earning a reputation as greedheads to match that of their bosses, have come out strongly against a salary cap - even though that figure would be in the millions.

They put on a united front and revealed plans to hold fund-raising matches for players who are, supposedly, feeling the pinch. Who do they think will attend such games? American sports fans may be gullible but surely they are not stupid enough to believe that guys who are paid inflated salaries need them to spare a dime as their income has been stopped for just a few weeks.

The NBA dispute centres around an almost evil pursuit of money with sport the unfortunate victim. The damage being done to basketball, which has carefully cultivated its image and global appeal, will take a long time to repair.

Across Las Vegas, a former NBA star was indulging in a cynical piece of mind manipulation.

The hugely popular Earvin 'Magic' Johnson materialised as mentor, confidant and adviser to the troubled Mike Tyson, who was bidding to have his boxing licence restored.

Johnson is everything that Tyson is not - clean-cut, articulate and respected - and his appearance along with boxing legend Muhammad Ali in Tyson's corner probably tipped the balance in favour of the former world heavyweight champion.

Johnson told the Nevada State Athletic Commission that he hoped to fill the role of the late boxing trainer Cus D'Amato, who discovered Tyson on the mean streets of New York and became a father figure to him.

That's the sort of thing the public wanted to hear and it gave the commission a valid reason to offer Tyson another chance. Boxing needs Tyson to bring in the millions and recruiting Johnson and Ali to vouch for him was, at once, masterful and cynical.

Tyson stained sport with his biting of Evander Holyfield's ears and has shown often that he is unstable and wilful - a boxing ring is no place for such a character.

Johnson cannot hold his hand during a bout and that's when the next eruption will come.