Off Limits

The Beat goes on:
Over the past several years, the estate of writer Jack Kerouac, whose experiences -- both real and, uh, imaginary -- in Denver during the late Forties are documented in landmark Beat works such as On the Road, has been the subject of a peevish lawsuit, with Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia, the literary representative of Kerouac's late daughter Jan, trying to wrest control of it from the family of the equally late Stella Sampas, Kerouac's third wife ("The Howls That Jack Built," August 13, 1998). Last month, however, the New Mexico Supreme Court declined to get involved in this most un-hip scrap, essentially killing Nicosia's suit.

As a result, Nicosia, who lives in Corte Madera, California, is afraid that historically important manuscripts and other such items will wind up in the hands of the highest bidder -- and his fears were underlined on October 7, when Sotheby's in New York auctioned off several of the Sampas family's Kerouac curios in what was advertised as the largest-ever sale of Beat author collectibles. Titled "Allen Ginsberg and Friends" after another Beat figure with Colorado connections, the auction grossed a cool $674,000, with a 1953 photo of Kerouac taken by Ginsberg going for $17,250 and letters to Ginsberg from Neal Cassady, the role model for one of On the Road's main characters, attracting $28,750. Also put on the block were Kerouac's conga drum and the varsity letter he earned playing football, as well as Ginsberg's Medic-alert bracelet.

But according to The Guardian (London), some fans were disappointed that they weren't able to bid on Ginsberg's North American Man-Boy Love Association membership card (no documents were sold at the auction). Just prior to his 1997 death, the poet told staffers, "Don't make a museum out of me." Apparently, he didn't say anything about turning him into a flea market.

Bad policy:
They insure the team bus, they insure the players' uniforms -- heck, the Denver Broncos even insure the practice footballs against loss or theft.

So why doesn't the team insure its most valuable possessions of all?

On September 19, linebacker John Mobley went down for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. Mobley reportedly makes about $650,000 a year. On October 3, star running back Terrell Davis was lost for the season when he tore all kinds of ligaments and cartilage in his knee. Davis has a nine-year contract worth a reported $56 million. And on Sunday, tight-end Shannon Sharpe's collarbone was broken, sacking him for at least six to eight weeks and possibly for the entire season. Sharpe is in the last year of a three-year, $7.5 million deal.

That's somewhere around $8 million worth of benchwarmers, or about 13 percent of the Broncos' estimated $63 million payroll this year.

In other pro sports, where contracts are guaranteed no matter what, teams are forced to buy expensive insurance to cover players' multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts so that they aren't stuck paying, say, $75 million over six years for a guy like Colorado Rockies right-fielder Larry Walker. "The larger contracts are normally insured," confirms Rockies spokesman Jay Alves. "We have had some guaranteed in the past, and we certainly will in the future. We just don't announce who." Alves says the Rockies haven't cashed in on a policy yet -- but the team's management obviously feels the potential risk is worth the cost of the premiums.

Are you listening, Pat Bowlen?

"Customarily, we have not been a club that has taken out one of those policies on our players," says Broncos spokesman Jim Saccomano. "We might have had one with John Elway at one time, earlier in his career, but generally speaking, we don't do that."

The Broncos and most other football teams don't cover their valuable property -- er, players -- with disability insurance, because football salaries are not guaranteed like they are in baseball, basketball and hockey. "If a guy signs a five-year, $10 million contract, and at the end of the first year, he's a flop, he never gets the other $8 million," Saccomano says. "If you cut him, then you only owe him what you've contracted for at that point."

The team doesn't even have to pay its injured players, but Saccomano says the Broncos do. The team just sucks it up for the year because, theoretically, Terrell Davis can always be cut next year or, if he's healthy, play again.

But at 1-4, maybe the Broncos could just file a claim for the whole season.

If you have a tip, call Jonathan Shikes at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail [email protected].

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