Rip and Plead

Some 13,000 Baptist Foundation of Arizona investors were shocked last month to learn that the financially troubled BFA froze more than $500 million of investors' money to prevent a "run on the bank."

BFA's unexpected freeze on funds left in a lurch hundreds of elderly investors who'd entrusted their life savings to BFA. Deprived of money to pay mortgages and grocery bills, the oldsters wondered how they'd survive.

Now the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, which has long promoted BFA and its foolish investment schemes to ministers and churchgoers alike, has stepped in to help with the "Arizona Southern Baptist Convention Jerusalem Fund."

The name comes from the Apostle Paul's "experience raising money in Macedonia for financially burdened Christians in Jerusalem," according to a September 7 letter sent by the Convention to investors.

"Our focus will be on those who cannot pay for their housing, utilities, food and medical expenses, and who have exhausted all other possible resources before submitting a grant application. You are encouraged to negotiate with your creditors regarding debts that can be deferred, such as certain types of credit and tax payments. Proof of your urgent need must be submitted with all applications," the letter says.

"How much can be granted? Just what is absolutely necessary, subject to availability of funds. We can't be more specific at this time," the letter says, adding a thinly veiled solicitation: "The Jerusalem Fund needs your help to make this effort successful."

So what's the response of the Southern Baptist community?

BFA investor David Mullins fired off an angry email to the Southern Baptist Convention: "Your audacity to solicit your former victims is an insult to our intelligence. I'd like to see the personal financial portfolios of your cronies who fleeced the Christian community via the BFA. What contributions have you received from them? . . . May God forgive me if I'm mistaken about you, but my support now goes directly to those in need."

An Item About Baseball

Tuesday, a day after the Arizona Diamondbanks set a major league record for the most wins by a second-year franchise, the organization was hit with a federal lawsuit filed by a magazine publisher who claims the D-Banks are trying to knock his struggling baseball publication out of the park.

Scott Fader, owner of the Beat on Baseball, filed the lawsuit September 14 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, alleging the Diamondbanks are violating federal and state antitrust laws by engaging in a lengthy and slanderous campaign to drive him out of business.

Fader alleges the Diamondbanks have orchestrated a media campaign to discredit his publication by labeling it pornographic. The Beat on Baseball contains an advertisement for a topless bar; however, the photograph shows only the dancer's head.

Fader also charges that the Diamondbanks are illegally preventing him from selling his magazine on the plazas leading into the entrance of the stadium. The plazas are owned by the Maricopa County Stadium District, which has leased the space to the Diamondbanks.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Diamondbanks cut the price of the souvenir program they sell at the ballpark from $5 to $1 to match the Beat on Baseball's price. Meanwhile, the Diamondbanks continue to sell their own magazine for $5 at newsstands away from the ballpark, the complaint alleges.

The Diamondbanks' "price discrimination is and was part of a predatory pricing scheme designed to lessen competition," the lawsuit states.

Diamondbank officials declined to comment on the lawsuit. They were too busy enjoying their decimation of the National League West.

And Two About Softballs

Sometimes, interesting things are going on behind the scenes at New Times. Let the shameless self-referencing begin. (Actually, both of these NT writers had to be seriously cajoled to agree to cooperate with the Flash.) To wit:

• ABC's 20/20 aired the latest in what is becoming a flood of puff pieces on John McCain on September 8.

Conspicuously absent from Sam Donaldson's piece -- at least from the Flash's perspective -- was New Times' own Amy Silverman, who is rapidly becoming recognized as one of the few journalists in America who is attempting to maintain a sense of objectivity toward our Snowy-Haired Senator. The rest of them -- particularly the liberaleastcoastmediaelite -- openly pimp for Humble John.

Silverman got involved after a 20/20 producer called to say that Donaldson's profile of McCain would be keyed to publication of McCain's memoir, Faith of My Fathers. The producer acknowledged it would be a positive piece, but wanted to make it balanced. The producer said Donaldson had read about Silverman in a New Republic piece. (Ironically, she made the NR story in an anecdote about how a number of Arizonans -- including Grant Woods -- were annoyed when, after spending a lot of time with 60 Minutes producers, their comments were cut. Instead, Mike Wallace did a PR piece for McCain and then announced he wanted to be McCain's press secretary.

Silverman agreed to do 20/20, and flew round-trip in a day to Washington, D.C.

"Donaldson was very gracious," Silverman tells the Flash. "He acknowledged it would be an 'adulatory' piece, but wanted me to balance it out. We talked about everything from Cindy McCain's drug addiction to McCain's scant appearances in Arizona to his flip-flops on tobacco and gun rights and campaign-finance reform."

After the interview, she got a club soda at the Mayflower Hotel and a ride to the airport in a limo with a leather-encased Kleenex box.

"See you on television," the producer said as he shut the limo door.

It wasn't to be.

The producer called the night before the show aired to say a breaking 20/20 story on infected sutures was running long. Silverman was cut out of the McCain piece entirely.

Which left Donaldson on the TV, asking the senator's mother such softball questions as, "Are you proud of your son?"

• And speaking of softball: The Flash is a huge fan of fast-pitch. With pitchers flamethrowing 80 mph rise balls with their underhanded windmill motions, it takes a true athlete to subsist in this small but intensely gritty (literally) subculture.

New Times scribe Paul Rubin has long been considered one of the scrappiest fast-pitch players in the Southwest. Great stick. Okay glove. Never say die.

Those who know Rubin -- Paulie, in the fast-pitch world -- might be surprised to learn he qualified to play in the Over-45 National Tournament, held right here in Phoenix over the weekend.

Rubin and fellow Phoenician, legendary pitcher Dennis "Stump" Stilwell, played for the Southern California Eagles, the defending Over-45 champs. Californians comprised the remainder of the squad.

The Flash attended the tourney's first game, which, thanks to several first-inning errors, including two real boners by right fielder Rubin himself, saw Stilwell give up six runs. The Eagles battled back and, quite improbably, won that game 8-7.

Any over-45 endeavor is bound to induce grimaces. An Eagle base runner stumbled 10 feet from the plate and scrambled pathetically but determinedly on his belly like a spastic Kimodo dragon to touch the plate safely before the throw. One spectator dubbed it a Crawl Batted In.

On Saturday night, after a couple of controversial calls, sheriff's deputies had to be summoned to quell the riotous -- but not necessarily righteous -- Colt 45s from Clearwater, Florida.

In the finals, played under a scorching sun at midday on Sunday, players from both teams were pulling up lame with regularity -- a quadricep strain here, a hamstring pull there. One player suffered hamstring and quad strains on the same play. A player for the Legends of Washington (state) team had to quit because of heat prostration.

In the end, the Eagles subdued the graybeards from Washington, winning the double-elimination tournament with an unblemished 6-0 record. Rubin hit .450 in the tournament, and made first-team all-America. Stilwell made second team.

Not long after claiming their trophy, the Eagles players retreated to their aerie at a nearby hotel. There, Peter Brown, a microbrew salesman from Stockton and the winning pitcher in the final game, stood in the pool, set his false teeth on the deck, hoisted a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other and proclaimed:

"It doesn't get any better than this. I can drink beer, smoke, stand in the pool and pee all at the same time."

The pool emptied rather quickly.

Hey, don't they make Depends for swimmers?

Feed the Flash: voice, 602-2298486; fax, 602-340-8806; online, flash@newtimes.com


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