Today Is November 29th 2007

Today is Thursday, Nov. 29, the 333rd day of 2007. There are 32 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Nov. 29, 1963, President Johnson named a commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy.

On this date:

In 1530, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, one-time adviser to England's King Henry VIII, died.

In 1864, a Colorado militia killed at least 150 peaceful Cheyenne Indians in the Sand Creek Massacre.

In 1924, Italian composer Giacomo Puccini died in Brussels before he could complete his opera "Turandot." (It was finished by Franco Alfano.)

In 1947, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the partitioning of the British-mandated territory of Palestine between Arabs and Jews.

In 1961, Enos the chimp was launched from Cape Canaveral aboard the Mercury-Atlas V spacecraft, which orbited Earth twice before returning.

In 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara announced he was leaving the Johnson administration to become president of the World Bank.

In 1981, actress Natalie Wood drowned in a boating accident off Santa Catalina Island, Calif., at age 43.

In 1986, actor Cary Grant died in Davenport, Iowa, at age 82.

In 1987, a Korean Air jetliner disappeared off Burma, with the loss of all 115 people aboard; South Korean authorities charged North Korean agents had planted a bomb aboard the aircraft.

In 2001, George Harrison, the "quiet Beatle," died in Los Angeles following a battle with cancer; he was 58.

Ten years ago: Former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young, the city's first black mayor who held office for an unprecedented five terms, died at age 79.

Five years ago: The White House quietly announced that federal workers would get a smaller pay raise the following month because President Bush was freezing part of the increase, citing the fight against terrorism. Celebrity publicist Lizzie Grubman left the Suffolk County, N.Y., jail after serving 37 days of a 60-day sentence for backing her sport utility vehicle into a crowd outside a trendy Hamptons nightclub and fleeing.

One year ago: The first of two high-profile meetings in Jordan between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was abruptly canceled amid conflicting explanations. (Bush met al-Maliki the next day.) Still losing money after job and factory cuts, Ford Motor Co. said 38,000 workers, almost half of its hourly production force, had accepted buyouts or early retirement offers.

Today's Birthdays: Hall-of-Fame sportscaster Vin Scully is 80. Blues singer-musician John Mayall is 74. Composer-musician Chuck Mangione is 67. Country singer Jody Miller is 66. Actress Diane Ladd is 64. Pop singer-musician Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals) is 63. Olympic skier Suzy Chaffee is 61. Comedian Garry Shandling is 58. Movie director Joel Coen is 53. Actor-comedian-game show host Howie Mandel is 52. Actress Cathy Moriarty is 47. Actress Kim Delaney is 46. Actor Tom Sizemore is 46. Actor Andrew McCarthy is 45. Actor Don Cheadle is 43. Actor-producer Neill Barry is 42. Musician Wallis Buchanan (Jamiroquai) is 42. Pop singer Jonathan Knight (New Kids on the Block) is 39. Rock musician Martin Carr (Boo Radleys) is 39. Actor Larry Joe Campbell is 37. Actress Gena Lee Nolin is 36. Actor Brian Baumgartner is 35. Actress Anna Faris is 31. Actor Julian Ovenden is 31. Rapper The Game is 28. Rock musician Ringo Garza is 26. Actor Lucas Black is 25.

Thought for Today: "A conference is a meeting to decide where the next meeting will take place." — Anonymous.

Sphere: Related Content

Is Sean Taylor's Death A Curse Of The Canes?


This week's murder of pro football star Sean Taylor by still unknown assailants was tragic. But for residents of Miami, where Taylor was shot early Monday morning in his suburban home during an apparent break-in, it also felt tragically familiar. Taylor, 24, a standout safety for the Washington Redskins, was an equally stellar defensive back for the University of Miami Hurricanes. And his untimely death was just the latest in what has become an unsettling succession of violent ends for active and former UM players.

Some are even starting to consider it the Curse of the 'Canes — an ominous karma hanging over one of the nation's most brashly successful (five national championships since 1983) but controversial big-time college football programs, one that has long seemed a magnet for guns and trouble. "Miami's problems are hardly isolated among large college football programs, but unfortunately these incidents do seem a reflection of [the UM football] legacy," says noted sports sociologist Richard Lapchick of the University of Central Florida in Orlando and author of the just published The 100 Pioneers: African-Americans Who Broke Color Barriers in Sport. "It's a reminder that their goal now has to be to build a new legacy."

The roll call of the past couple of decades is mournfully striking. A year ago this month senior Hurricane defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot in the head and killed outside his apartment near UM's Coral Gables campus shortly after a practice. Four months earlier safety Willie Cooper was shot in the buttocks outside his Miami home. A year before that, former defensive end Jerome McDougal was shot in the abdomen in Miami in his new Mercedes just weeks before reporting to training camp for the Philadelphia Eagles. (Cooper and McDougal survived.) In 1996, linebacker Marlin Barnes was bludgeoned to death in his campus apartment. Four years earlier Shane Curry, an Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman and former UM star, was shot in the head and killed during an argument in a Cincinnati lounge parking lot.

In 2003 Al Blades, 26, a former UM safety, was killed when the car he was riding in — and which witnesses say was racing another at high speeds — crashed into a Miami canal. A year before that 'Canes linebacker Chris Campbell, who had just finished his last UM season, was killed when his speeding car struck a tree in Coral Gables.

UM boosters are quick to point out that theirs is hardly the only football team to suffer such losses, which is true. But because this is the University of Miami — whose football team's outlaw reputation prompted Sports Illustrated 12 years ago to call for the program to be shut down amidst a corruption scandal totaling more than $600,000 — it's hard not to ask if the tragedies somehow stem from the reckless culture that coaches and administrators have too often indulged. The team rocketed to prominence in the 1980s by showcasing what fans and critics alike called thug-ball, a smash-mouth gridiron style that seemed to reflect the city the Hurricanes played for: Miami in the era of Vice, of violent cocaine cowboys and shamelessly venal politicians. Controversial rap music star Luther Campbell of the Miami group 2 Live Crew offered "bounties" to UM players who could knock opposing players out of a game with an injury. Whenever Notre Dame played UM, the game was billed as Catholics vs. Convicts.

That aura often followed Hurricanes players off the field and into the NFL. Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Irvin (UM Class of 1988) almost had his brilliant career derailed with the Dallas Cowboys when he was arrested in 1996 for cocaine possession, busted in a motel suite while sharing the coke with women he called "self-employed models." (He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation.) Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis (who left UM in 1996) was arrested in 2000 for alleged involvement in the murder of two men outside an Atlanta nightclub. The murder charges against Lewis were eventually dropped. But such incidents highlight how Hurricanes alumni pioneered the kind of off-field legal trouble so many NFL players are known for today. Taylor, who in his short NFL career was fined at least seven times for infractions like late hits during games (once spitting in an opponent's face), was arrested in 2005 for threatening with a gun a group of people he accused of stealing his all-terrain vehicle. He later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault charges. Shortly after the altercation, Taylor's SUV was sprayed by bullets in a drive-by shooting, although no one was injured.

Miami Herald sports columnist Linda Robertson wrote this week that Taylor's shooting death "will reinforce negative opinions of football fans and recruits who were wary of UM and Miami." To their credit, the university and its president, Donna Shalala, are trying to clean things up. The recruiting standards of most major college football programs are a cynical joke when it comes to scholarship and character; UM football is known for being less scrutinizing than most 17th-century pirate vessels. But when former Hurricanes coach Larry Coker in 2004 recruited a Miami teen, linebacker Willie Williams, whose arrest record was longer than his high school transcript, Shalala intervened and demanded the high school All-American meet certain academic and behavioral standards before stepping on the field. Williams eventually transferred to another school. "All big-time football schools have to start creating better programs to make sure the student athletes they recruit can be competitive academically," says Lapchick. "And if it's clear they can't compete, they shouldn't be recruited at all."

Still, the troubles continue. In 2006, 13 Hurricanes players were suspended after a vicious on-field brawl and Coker actually had to set a team policy that players not own or carry firearms. Coker (who arrived at UM in 2001) has since been fired, replaced by former UM linebacker Randy Shannon. Under Shannon, whose hiring has been widely applauded by observers like Lapchick, there have so far been no embarrassing incidents. Unfortunately, there haven't been as many wins either: the 'Canes had a losing season this fall, look unlikely to receive a bowl invitation and haven't won a National Championship since 2001.

Sphere: Related Content