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This Proved to Be a Victory for Diversity

July 14, 1998|MARK HEISLER

Fifty years after Jackie Robinson broke in, integration has become a way of life in American sports, at least on the field, but in Western Europe, it still seems to be an issue.

The French team that won the World Cup included immigrants from New Caledonia and Senegal and sons of immigrants from Spain, Armenia and Algeria.

"To anyone who thinks all Frenchmen are named Marcel and Pascal and eat croissants for breakfast," writes Anne Swardson of the Washington Post, "the French team is a lesson in diversity. Black, brown and white, the players of the 'Blues'--in the World Cup for the first time since 1986--have brought a new appreciation in a country where racial tolerance sometimes wavers."

Anti-immigrant feeling still runs high in France.

As recently as 1996, Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose National Front regularly receives 15% of the vote, said it was "artificial to have players come from abroad and to baptize them the team of France."

Meanwhile, Swardson notes, the disappointing German team "could have been a victim of Germany's rigid laws that restrict citizenship to those with German blood; even the best players among the millions of immigrants living legally in Germany cannot play on the national soccer team."


Love ya, Blues: Not that fans or mainstream politicians had trouble embracing this team.

"Jacques Chirac, the center-right President and his rival, the Socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, have engaged in a cat-and-mouse game about who should be present at which match and who gets into the dressing room first to congratulate the players," reported the New York Times.

". . . Already Mr. Jospin has portrayed himself as 'a mixture of the Coach Aime Jacquet and the midfielder Zinedine Zindane.' "


Trivia question: In 1927, when Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, how many other American League batters hit more than 20?


Intellectual pursuit: Stan Hochman, a veteran Philadelphia Daily News columnist, has little use for political pundit George Will's enlightened-dilettante approach in odes to baseball like "Men at Work" and his latest book, "Bunts."

Will is given to classical allusions, as when he calls Dallas Green, "an executive with the breezy eloquence of the Wife of Bath and the administrative flair of Lady Macbeth."

In fact, Hochman has known Green for years and has never been reminded of either the Wife of Bath or Lady MacBeth.

Panning "Bunts," Hochman notes that Will devotes 23 pages to rebut Donald Kagan, a Yale classics professor and author of a four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War, who critiqued "Men at Work."

"Aaargh," writes Hochman, reeling from the debate. "Heaven knows scholars need a break from Peloponnesian War research."


Trivia answer: One, Lou Gehrig with 47.


And finally: So far, all of the Chicago Bulls' known coaching candidates are favorites of General Manager Jerry Krause, not Michael Jordan.

"Makes sense, you suppose," writes the Chicago Tribune's Skip Bayless. "Michael is just a player. Krause is the dynasty's Michelangelo.

"Do you ever feel as if we're all trapped in one long 'Saturday Night Live' sketch?"

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