Monday, December 2, 2002
Outside the Lines: Page's Attempted Comeback
Here's the transcript from Show 140 of weekly Outside The Lines - Page's Attempted Comeback
SUN., DEC. 1, 2002
Host: Jeremy Schaap Guests: Dale Crowe, who fought Page, and Steve Wyche of the Washington Post to discuss Michael Jordan
ANNOUNCER: December 1, 2002.
JEREMY SCHAAP, GUEST HOST- It's a sport rooted in violence. And the results can be catastrophic. With one punch, Dale Crowe nearly killed former champion Greg Page.
DALE CROWE, BOXER- I seen his head snap and he fell on me, instead of backwards.
GREG PAGE, BOXER- They said I stopped breathing twice.
SCHAAP- Racked by guilt, Crowe reached out to Page, and now they're friends.
CROWE- I don't fight unless Greg's going to be in the corner.
SCHAAP- Also this week, Michael Jordan announced his retirement, again.
MICHAEL JORDAN- It's about that time. That itch is about to be completed.
SCHAAP- Will he be remembered for moments like this...
ANNOUNCER- A shot on (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The Bulls win it.
SCHAAP- ... or as a Wizard, has he diminished his magical legacy?
This week on OUTSIDE THE LINES -- Michael Jordan, and the tale of two fighters whose friendship was forged by tragedy.
Welcome to another addition of OUTSIDE THE LINES. I am Jeremy Schaap, filling in for Bob Ley.
Not since George Steinbrenner serially fired and rehired Billy Martin has a sports figure changed his mind as frequently as Michael Jordan. Now Jordan says he means it. When he retired the first two times, he went out near the top of his game and as a reigning champion. But has more Michael been less? That discussion is coming up.
But first, the unlikely friendship of Dale Crowe and former heavyweight champion Greg Page. As OUTSIDE THE LINES first reported last year, Page was nearly killed in the ring in his 76th pro fight by Crowe. Twenty-four years ago Raiders safety Jack Tatum paralyzed Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley with one vicious, albeit legal, tackle. Tatum never visited Stingley in the hospital or expressed any remorse. To this day, Stingley, who has never regained use of his legs, and Tatum, who would go on to write a book titled "They Call Me Assassin," haven't spoken since the accident. Like Tatum and Stingley, Dale Crowe and Greg Page are linked by tragedy. But their shared experience has produced a very different story.
SCHAAP- With his shaved head, tattoos and chiseled physic, Dale Crowe can scare just about anyone. A feared competitor on the tough-man circuit, Crowe had graduated to the pro boxing ranks and was 22-4 when he agreed to fight former heavyweight champion Greg Page in March 2001.
CROWE- Well, I was up and coming, definitely, in the pros, and...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE- ... Greg Page has nothing in the tank right now.
SCHAAP- Page, on the other hand, was down and nearly out. His career in ruins, his reign as heavyweight champion a lifetime removed. At 42, he gained significant girth and lost a small fortune. For $1,500, he'd fight Crowe in a Kentucky roadhouse called "Peel's Palace." It was anything but.
CROWE- The venue there was smoky, was a dump. And I said to myself, why are we fighting here?
SCHAAP- But Crowe figured that fighting a former champion would be an important step, despite Page's age and conditioning.
CROWE- There was no shame in fighting Greg Page. I mean, Greg Page was a hell of a champion and he was a hell of a fighter. You meet a lot of good guys.
SCHAAP- Still, the upside was small.
CROWE- I knew if I lost, they are going to say he got beat by an old man. I just never forget that he is (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I had 10 seconds left. And I just remember I just threw a straight left hand, and I seen his head snap and he fell on me instead of backwards. And I tried to push off for a little room just to punch, and you know, and that's when he went down.
SCHAAP- Page lay motionless on the canvas as Crowe celebrated and the ringside doctor deliberated.
DR. MANUEL MEDIODIA, RINGSIDE DOCTOR- He looked OK. And I then remarked to my friends, looks like he is going be all right.
PATRICIA LOVE-PAGE, GREG PAGE'S WIFE- Oh yeah, great guy. Greg was laying in a coma and he said he is fine.
SCHAAP- There was no stretcher on site. No ambulance. After nine minutes, some fans finally called 911.
911 DISPATCHER- Erlanger 911.
CALLER- We need an ambulance here as soon as possible.
MEDIODIA- The most I thought was, this guy had a concussion.
CALLER- Tell that squad to step it up.
911 DISPATCHER- OK.
CALLER- I got 'em. Tell 'em to step it up. This place is mass chaos up here.
PAGE- On the operating table, they said I stopped breathing twice.
SCHAAP- With Page's brain swelling, surgeons were forced to remove a section of his skull.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE- Get that head up. Come on. Come on.
SCHAAP- He survived and his skull is now intact. But Page suffered a stroke and he can no longer walk or use his left arm.
LOVE-PAGE- Whenever we take Greg anywhere, people always -- I mean, Greg Page, he's the former heavyweight champ. Why no, he is just Greg to us. But he's a champ is what counts. I mean, he struggles every day just to do the things that you and I take for granted. To brush his teeth is a major struggle for him, but he never quits. And I admire him so much for that.
SCHAAP- Page, who hasn't lost his sense of humor, calls his left arm "lazy bastard." As for his right arm...
PAGE- It is just my (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
SCHAAP- Page is now fighting his battles in court. He has filed a multi million-dollar lawsuit. The defendants include the ringside doctor, members of the Kentucky Athletic Commission, and Peel's Palace, which since the ill-fated fight, was condemned. Dale Crowe is fighting too. His demons.
CROWE- I destroyed a guy's life, and you know, I feel like a piece a crap. You know, I mean, I don't want to do this anymore.
JEN MONTGOMERY, CROWE'S FIANCEE- This was not your fault. It's not your fault. This could have happened to anybody...
SCHAAP- That's what Crowe's fiancee, Jen Montgomery, kept telling him.
MONTGOMERY- Dale is such a big-hearted guy. You know, I mean, of course, he takes full responsibility for this. You know, what have I done. He just said it was the worst feeling in the world to look over after Greg was laying there. From that point on -- I mean, Dale -- he was just never the same person.
SCHAAP- Nor was he the same boxer. Replaying the fight in his mind, focusing on the damage he'd inflicted, Crowe lost his aggressiveness.
CROWE- I had such a low esteem about myself, and hated myself so much, I just wished I was dead.
SCHAAP- In his first three fights after defeating Page, Crowe lost once and drew twice. He fought tentatively, ignoring his corner men, but was never knocked down. In his fourth post-Page fight, he was finally felt.
ANNOUNCER- ... down in his career. Oh, one right hand.
CROWE- I got knocked down five times in three rounds. In the 10 years I had been fighting, I had never been knocked down. Never had a standing eight-count.
ANNOUNCER- Now the right hand, and Crowe's dropped again. Crowe is just a stationary target, down he goes again. That's it. That's it.
CROWE- I was done after the fight. I was definitely done.
SCHAAP- But there was one thing left undone.
MONTGOMERY- He was constantly asking me, should -- do you think it would be wrong if I mailed him a letter or if I -- what if I call, you know. Would he be mad, would he hang up on me?
CROWE- I was just scared, you know. I didn't have the guts to call.
SCHAAP- A friend set up the meeting.
LOVE-PAGE- We were all nervous. What's it really going to be like? Is this really for real? Is he really going to show up? How's Greg going to act when he sees him?
CROWE- Champ, what's up, bud.
SCHAAP- Following their initial meeting several months ago, Crowe and Page have grown as close as brothers.
MONTGOMERY- They are such big people to forgive. You know, that is because I think if that was -- if that had happened to Dale, it would be so hard to want to forgive somebody for doing that to your husband.
CROWE- How you been, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You look nice.
TEISHA LOVE, PAGE'S NIECE- At first, I don't know how to deal with him. And I told, I was like -- look, I do -- I have nothing really to say to you. Even though I know it is not your fault, but I had to blame it on someone. He just started spilling the beans, talking about how he was so seriously depressed, was on Zoloft, this and that, and I was like, wow. You know, this man's life was changed upside down in a matter of seconds, just like ours was.
SCHAAP- Last month, they were together at Churchill Downs in Louisville, at an auction to benefit Page. On the block -- autographed gloves, glossy photos, pugilistic art.
SCHAAP- Like so many former champs, Page is broke, and his medical bills exceed $300,000. The auction helped, but it wasn't enough. How else to raise money? Dale Crowe had an idea. Crowe went back to the gym. This time to fight not against, but for Greg Page, in a benefit bout.
CROWE- Here Greg is paralyzed. I can raise enough attention for him -- you know, I can get some donations to help him and his family.
SCHAAP- There was one condition.
CROWE- I don't fight unless Greg is in my corner.
SCHAAP- Before the fight last Saturday night, Crowe addressed the crowd.
CROWE- For those who don't know, I am doing this fight for Greg Page, my buddy over there.
CROWE- I was ready to quit boxing four months ago, and his friendship to me has given me more than money can buy, so I just -- I am donating this to him, and I am just asking friends, family, whoever, on your way out, any contributions to Greg would be greatly appreciated. I'll put on a good show for you guys.
SCHAAP- Then Crowe went back stage to work up a sweat, gather his thoughts, and to receive Page's blessing.
PAGE- Say a little prayer with me.
LOVE-PAGE- I mean, his heart was broke. And it was very obvious, and it was very obvious when he was with Greg, how much talking to Greg was easing his fears...
SCHAAP- Crowe won easily, with Page in his corner, shouting encouragement...
SCHAAP- ... offering advise...
PAGE- Keep your hands up.
SCHAAP- ... and throwing his once feared right hand. Two wounded men trying to make each other whole again.
CROWD- Go, go, go!
SCHAAP- Page says Crowe will one day win the heavyweight title he once held.
PAGE- I think so. He beat me, didn't he?
REFEREE- And the winner, Dale Crowe.
CROWE- Greg's living through me now too, you know, and I can please him and I can please myself. Because I know without him, I don't know if I can beat these guys. And with him in my corner, I am not going down.
SCHAAP- Most doctors who have examined Greg Page say he won't ever walk again. But Page says he will. Dale Crowe is next scheduled to fight Sherman Williams in Tampa in February.
And joining us now from his home in Taylor Mill, Kentucky, Dale Crowe.
Dale, how much money were you able to raise to benefit Greg?
CROWE- The fight kind of went a little messed up. I did a promoter round in the Grand Victoria. They didn't set up a table in time for people before they were leaving, to give donations, so I kind of missed the boat there. I have raised a little bit of money. I raised -- I have opened an account for him in Provident Bank, which anyone can go to and donate to the Greg Page Fund. I guess where I am going from here is just the same thing, I am going to leave that open, and I am hoping I can raise more money for him. I am going to businesses and friends of mine, and hoping that people would sincerely care about something like that. We'll step up for the next fight or two that goes down. We don't have pension plans, or benefits, or anything like that, so we need people like that to help us out. I mean, just watching that -- it is sad for me to watch, so...
SCHAAP- What were your thoughts, Dale, when you first realized how seriously Greg was hurt?
CROWE- Quitting boxing. You know, this is the only thing I have ever loved to do, is box. You know, and then I met my baby-doll, Jennifer, and you have seen her. And she is -- that's my baby. That's my whole world, and she gave me more than boxing can give to me, and I said I don't want to lose what I have with her to an injury, or have me go through something like this again, because my heart can't take that again.
And I said, it is a sport I have always loved and -- you know, helping Greg out right now -- it's my whole life right now. I just want to help him out and let him know I am there for him, and that I am sorry for him, and anything that I can do to help him out would be just -- it is redeeming me, you know, I mean for all the bad things I felt like I have done. I just feel like I have done a horrible thing to Greg.
SCHAAP- What strength, Dale, do you draw from Greg and his presence in your corner?
CROWE- He just has got such a sense of humor to him, and I mean, such encouragement to him, just like he was when he was champion. For somebody to still have that, man, after that happens to you. I mean, it takes a stronger person than me, because I know that I -- I mean, I don't know that I could be like that. I really wouldn't want to face the world. And Greg is such a great guy, and his friendship and his family, Patricia, and daughter Teisha, and all, I mean, they are like my family now. All I want to do is make them part of my family and help them -- really help them people out.
SCHAAP- You know, I ...
CROWE- They have given me a second chance at my career, and like I said, I mean it just -- it really revived me and it is just -- it means the world having him in my corner. I will never let him down. Never.
SCHAAP- I know this has been hard for you, Dale. Thank you very much for joining us.
SCHAAP- When we return, he unretired a second time to revive the woeful Wizards. Now Michael Jordan says "mission accomplished" and that he will once more re-retire.
JORDAN- This is my contract. There is no reason to extend my contract. You know, if that was the case, I would extend it myself before I even came back, so I mean, everybody is making a big thing out of it and I want to fulfill my year, enjoy it and from that point on just move on.
PATRICK EWING- Michael's done a lot for the league. He was definitely the best player in my era, and I am sure that if it is time -- if he feels it is time for him to go, then I guess it is time.
SCHAAP- But has the man who was voted the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century done permanent damage to his reputation by playing in the 21st century? We will discuss.
JORDAN- No regrets at all. None at all. I am very happy with everything that I have done, and I think that with this franchise, we have changed things and moving it in the right direction, and you know, that was my soul purpose.
SCHAAP- As the first citizen of the second city, Michael Jordan won six NBA titles in an eight-season span. He built a career that most considered the greatest ever in the NBA. When he moved to the capital city, Jordan, as always, sold plenty of tickets. But the magic was gone. Now he has announced that he will retire for a third time at the conclusion of this season, when he will be 40 years old.
Here to discuss Jordan's legacy, the man who has covered virtually every moment of Jordan's career as a Wizard, Steve Wyche of the "Washington Post," who joins us from Washington. And Kenny Smith who played 10 seasons in the NBA, won two championships with the Rockets, and was Michael Jordan's teammate at the University of North Carolina. He is now a commentator with TNT and he is at his home in Sugarland, Texas.
Kenny, nice pass to Michael. Kenny, you have known Michael Jordan for 20 years. Was it a mistake coming back this time?
KENNY SMITH, MICHAEL JORDAN'S UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA TEAMMATE- I don't think it was at all. I think if -- what he tried to accomplish was, if you looked at the state of the Washington Wizards before he got there. They were viewed as unprofessional, they were viewed as a bunch of players who were always late, guys who didn't really take the game seriously, who didn't appreciate the game, and that's the exact opposite. They are professional, the players on the team. They have a direction now. So I think he has accomplished what he has tried to do in a short period of time.
SCHAAP- Steve, Michael has been dealing this season with a lawsuit -- an extortion lawsuit, and a counter-suit, filed by a woman who charges that he had an affair with her a long time ago. How much is that suit tried on him this season?
STEVE WYCHE, WASHINGTON POST- I don't think it is bothering him much at all. One thing about Michael Jordan is that no matter what has happened in his life, personally -- I mean, he lost his father in a tragic incident. That basketball court has been a sanctuary, so no matter what has happened, he has been able to divide everything that's gone on. And once he is on the court, he has been able to go about his work professionally, do it well. I don't see any signs of anything that has happened off the court bothering his performance at all.
SCHAAP- Kenny, when he retired the first time and the second time, he went out on top, like Jim Brown, like Sandy Koufax. Retiring this time as a man clearly not with the same skills he once had, does it diminish his legacy in your view?
SMITH- I don't think it does at all. I think a lot of us have taken what makes Michael great to watch and what's made him great, and not been able to separate the two.
We made him great whether his instincts -- he was really the first athlete with superior athletic skills to have fundamental skills. He still has all of those fundamental skills. That's why he is able to get 27 points some nights, in 28 minutes in certain times, coming off the bench. So I don't think his individual fundamentals have diminished at all. What has made him great to watch, flying through the air? Those things are gone. But what made him a great player, those things are still there in my estimation.
SCHAAP- Steve, Michael had this rare opportunity to leave behind us this indelible image, the victory over the Jazz. He's clearly someone who is image conscious. Do you think it troubles him in any way knowing that he has left behind an image that is perhaps slightly clouded by his tenure with the Wizards?
WYCHE- I don't think it is clouded at all, and I don't think it bothers him. I mean, he knew what he was getting into, and in a way this is somewhat -- to me it somewhat enhances it, because as Kenny said earlier, nobody really knew about the Washington Bullets, the Washington Wizards.
Once the 1978 championship title was won, now there are probably one of the most newsworthy teams in sports. Everybody follows everything that goes on with the Wizards. They have sold out 50 straight home games. They sell out on the road, so I don't think he is really going to feel like, 'Ohh, gee. I didn't win a championship here. My career is a failure. Everything that I have done is a failure.' He is going to say, 'Look, I took a team that was nowhere. I almost got them to the playoffs last year before I got hurt. I could get them to the playoffs this year.'
He has changed the whole atmosphere and environment with his franchise, and I think the only blemish that could happen to his career is for people to say he didn't finish it as a Chicago Bull.
SCHAAP- I saw your story the other day, Steve. Jerry Stack has said he wouldn't be surprised if Michael changed his mind again. Kenny, would you be surprised if he changed his mind again?
SMITH- I would probably be surprised. I think that -- I think he has accomplished what he really set out to come do. And going back to tarnishing his image, I can remember growing up as a kid and hearing about Bob Couzy coaching for the Cleveland Cavaliers, being a player-coach. No one remembers that. I can remember Walt Frazier. I cried when he got traded to the Cavaliers again. No one remembers that. They don't even remember him as a New York Knick. I mean, 20 years from now...
SCHAAP- So as long as he doesn't end up in Cleveland, it's OK?
SMITH- He's OK. If he doesn't go to the Cavs, I am fine with that.
SCHAAP- Steve, your thoughts? Will he come back?
WYCHE- Well, you know. I'll tell you. I am not going to be surprised if does. It is still so early in the season. If the Wizards somehow get on a roll, win 40 games, 45 games, 50 games, go deep in the playoffs. He plays well. He's healthy. It wouldn't shock me. I think, at 40 this is it for him, but one thing I have learned in dealing with Michael Jordan -- never be surprised if he decides to want to come back and play again.
SCHAAP- Steve Wyche, Kenny Smith, gentlemen thanks very much for joining us.
SMITH- Thank you.
SCHAAP- Last week on OUTSIDE THE LINES, we brought you a story on the controversy over the drug ephedrine, which has sparked heated debate.
GENE UPSHAW, NFLPA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR- When we looked at supplements, we knew the dangers that were involved, we also understood there was performance enhancing. So anything that is performance enhancing we would treat as a steroid.
MARK SCHLERETH, FORMER NFL LINEMAN- To take a cough syrup, you feel a little bit sick. You tested positive for ephedrine use is absolutely ludicrous.
SCHAAP- Last week, our topic was ephedrine, a drug that can be found in over-the-counter cold remedies, and is now banned by the NFL. Viewers had these thoughts on the subject.
A viewer in Florida wrote "Sure, ephedra enhances performance. But so does everything from innovative surgeries that prolong careers to better designed cleats and equipment. If it is legal and accepted by the public, athletes should be allowed to utilize it."
Another viewer from Cherry Hill, New Jersey wrote "The NFL refused to have its players look bad. While they may have the most comprehensive drug testing policy of any professional sport, their consistent back-turning towards "luxury drugs" is purely self-serving. They ARE doing the right thing by testing regularly for performance enhancers."
Those letters came to us online where the keyword is email@example.com. We look forward to your thoughts on Greg Page and Dale Crowe, and Michael Jordan. Our address, once again, firstname.lastname@example.org.
SCHAAP- It's bloody, it's brutal. It's ultimate fighting. Some say it's barbaric. Others say it's a sport of the new millennium. OUTSIDE THE LINES, ultimate fighting, spectacle or sport? Thursday at 7 p.m.