O. J. Simpson signed a "total management contract" two weeks ago with an Indianapolis organization called Sports Headliners, Inc., whose president, Charles M. (Chuck) Barnes, says, "O.J. is a million-dollar property. Hopefully, he'll do even better than Jean-Claude Killy."
Barnes was talking about money, not yardage or slaloms. Killy, the triple gold-medal winner from the Winter Olympics, has cashed in big with endorsements, commercials, TV appearances and the like. "O. J. has an advantage that Killy doesn't have," Barnes says. "He'll be playing football every week, and that will keep him in front of the public more."
Every week, eh? Well, now. The Buffalo Bills get first pick in the pro football draft next Tuesday, and their choice almost certainly will be Simpson. O.J. has indicated that Buffalo is not the town nor the AFL the league that he prefers. "O.J. doesn't have anything against Buffalo," Barnes hurried to point out, "but you have to go where there is the best advantage to you and your family. If things don't go as well as we feel they should in our negotiations, the pro draft system might be tested in court. It's very unlikely that it will come to that, but it could happen."
All sorts of rumors have had Buffalo making complex deals to get O.J. to a team that he will accept. But Ralph Wilson, who owns the Bills, says, "We are definitely going to draft Simpson, and we have no intention of using him as trade bait, even if another team were to offer us seven players for him. His alternatives are to skip to the Canadian league and be blacklisted by the AFL and the NFL, or to sit out all playing activity until he makes a contractual arrangement.
"I have very high hopes that he will play for us. I've met Simpson, and he's one of the nicest people you'd ever want to know. He's got a fine sense of humor. He said to me, 'Mr. Wilson, I had a nightmare the other night. I woke up all hot and clammy. I dreamt I had been drafted by Buffalo.' I laughed, but I said, I had a nightmare myself, O.J. I dreamt we drafted you and we signed you, and you were a big flop.' "
One of the recent storms that smothered the Pacific Northwest in heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures left the parking lot outside Portland's Coliseum completely frozen over. Automobiles could not use it, and a Western Hockey League game between Portland and Denver had to be canceled.
Frigid Oregonians reported with some pride that it was the first time ever that a hockey game had to be postponed because of ice.
Pro football fans among American Airlines flying personnel may find their enthusiasm for the sport turning to unbearable boredom. Full-page advertisements run by American in newspapers on Friday, Jan. 17, proclaimed: "...IT'S SUPER BOWL. Everyday, from now until January 28.... On every one of our nonstop flights to California. The Jets over the Colts.... In case you didn't believe your eyes."
One can't help but feel that by the dozenth time the game pops up on airborne screens even the most devoted Joe Namath fan among those pretty stewardesses (or stewardi) is going to be secretly praying for Bubba Smith to break through just one time and spread old Joe all over the Orange Bowl.
Pennants proclaiming National Hockey League championships, Stanley Cup victories and other triumphs used to hang from the rafters of Maple Leaf Gardens, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But the pennants—called dust collectors by one Maple Leaf executive—restricted the view of some paying customers and were taken down. One day recently, painters were doing over the television booth in the upper reaches of the Gardens. Draped across the seats below to catch the paint drips were a dozen or so of the ancient banners.
Commented Syl Apps, who captained three Maple Leaf teams to Stanley Cup victories: "I would think that the pennants could have been put to better use than that. We worked awfully hard to get them. I'm rather shocked that they mean so little."
A psychiatrist in Kansas, who took up jogging a while back, was unable to achieve communication with a schizophrenic patient until he hit on the idea of taking the patient out to jog with him. Now, as they trot along, the patient opens up and, in fact, does most of the talking. The only jarring note is that the patient, only 24, has proved to be an indefatigable runner, whereas the psychiatrist, who is creeping up on middle age, tends to poop out after a few miles. On the brighter side, the psychiatrist feels that if his practice grows large enough in this area—to, say, five or six such patients a day—he can enter the Boston Marathon in a year or two and might even go off as a favorite.
UP AND COMING
Among the many annual lists of Best This and That is the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce selection of the "ten outstanding young men of America." The citation sounds at first like one more empty honor. But since its inception back in the 1930s, the list has spotlighted some genuine comers early in their careers. John Kennedy, for instance, was named for 1946 and Richard Nixon a year later. There have been a few losers over the years, like the notorious Billie Sol Estes, but the good guys have included Dr. Denton Cooley, Nelson Rockefeller, Charles Percy, Carl Rowan, Orson Welles, Howard Hughes and William McChesney Martin.
We are pleased, therefore, to note that four of the 10 men honored for 1968 are from sport: Arthur Ashe, the tennis player; Jim Ryun, the miler; Bart Starr, the quarterback; and Wes Pavalon, chairman of the board of the NB A's Milwaukee Bucks.
TWELFTH MAN THEME
Since the Penn State-Kansas 15-14 game in the Orange Bowl, the following has been making the rounds: Q. What is blue and white and has 24 legs? A. The Kansas football team.
Girls' basketball is a big thing in Tennessee, which is why everybody around Chattanooga is talking about the game between the Ooltewah High Owlettes and the East Ridge High Pioneers. At the end of regulation play (four seven-minute quarters) the game was tied at a brisk 34-34, but in overtime it settled down into a defensive struggle. It was so defensive that neither side scored through 11 consecutive two-minute overtime periods. In the 12th overtime, with seconds remaining (whichever team had possession froze the ball most of each overtime period), Cindy Straussberger of East Ridge broke through and sank a layup. But with two seconds left, the Owlettes' Debbie Goodman took a desperation shot from midcourt and—swoosh—the game was tied again.
There was no more scoring after that until the 16th overtime, when Miss Straussberger again came through with a layup that gave East Ridge an overwhelming 38-36 lead. But wait! Although her basket was allowed, Cindy fell on an opponent as she came down and was called for charging. That sent Jan Hudson to the line with a one-and-one. She sank her first but, mercifully, missed her second, and the game ended with East Ridge winning handily 38-37.
The question now is: Despite the freeze, if they could score only seven points between them in 16 overtime periods, how in the world did the two teams ever manage to get 68 points into the baskets in regulation play? There is no accounting for women.
Last November the University of Arizona confidently expected an invitation to play in the Sun Bowl in El Paso. When it appeared that Sun Bowl officials wanted to put off the invitation until Arizona got past Arizona State in its final game, university officials became annoyed and issued an ultimatum to the Sun Bowl people saying take us now or leave us. The Sun Bowl capitulated, extended the invitation and four days later watched ruefully as Arizona got clobbered by Arizona State 30-7.
With this in mind, it is interesting to read the following statement, which President Richard Harvill of the University of Arizona delivered the other day on the subject of student protests: "Making of demands and issuing ultimatums and attempts at intimidation are improper as methods of voicing views regarding policies and procedures."
Steeplechase races are notoriously precarious, but the Prix des Alpes, run late in December at Cagnes-sur-Mer, near Nice in southern France, is the current proprietor of the disaster trophy. Eleven jumpers started in the Prix des Alpes. Three lost their riders at the first water jump, and four others parted company with their riders farther along. Of the four still in the race, three left the course completely when they took a wrong turn a couple of furlongs from the finish. The lone survivor, a filly named Fanita, grew lonesome for her companions and obstinately refused at the last jump. Her rider was tossed. He remounted and was tossed again. He had to chase Fanita some yards down the course before he could catch her and again climb on. This time he managed to get Fanita over the jump and then he carefully walked her to the finish line.
MANY BRAVE SOULS
Scuba divers in Florida are fascinated by the hundreds of flooded caves that honeycomb the north and central parts of that waterlogged state. The fascination is, too often, a deadly one. More than a dozen divers drowned in the caves last year, and since Jan. 1 three more have died in Suwannee County alone.
The problem, primarily, is the refusal of inexperienced divers to recognize the complexities of water-cave exploration. Even veteran scuba divers can experience fits of panic in the dark, twisting caves; knowing what to do at such frightening moments can be the difference between survival and sudden death.
The situation has become so serious that barbed wire may be installed at cave entrances to keep the divers out.
DIAL A TOOT
Stealing cars is a gamble at best, but the Japanese have devised a keyless car key to make the game more sporting. Standard on many Japanese cars is a combination lock instead of conventional ignition keys. The dial offers 90 two-figure combinations; you dial right to the first digit, left to the second and—presto! The engine starts.
So chances are 89 to 1 that a prospective car thief will dial incorrectly. And the dial can be fixed so that any wrong combination triggers the horn to blow until the cops come. With odds like that, anyone who dials the right combination ought to get to keep the car.
THROW IT, YOU BUM
When not engaged in not electing a new commissioner at its December meetings, major league baseball made a quiet but possibly important decision. The rules committee decided to order the umpires to enforce the "20-second rule," which says that when the bases are empty a pitcher must throw to the batter within 20 seconds after getting the ball.
The rule—not new—has seldom been enforced. But now American League teams are talking about putting in timing devices to count off the 20 seconds, and the National League, while not going to time clocks, is telling its umpires to pack stopwatches, if necessary.
Ed Short, general manager of the Chicago White Sox, says, "Enforcement of the rule should take a lot of wasted time out of the game." Gabe Paul, president of the Cleveland Indians, who says he has already been in touch with a company about installing a time clock, adds, "The fans should get a kick out of it. I can see a pitcher dawdling around out there, and the fans counting down the seconds behind him: 'Ten, nine, eight, seven, six....' "
THEY SAID IT
•Debbie Meyer, 16-year-old winner of three swimming gold medals at the 1968 Olympics, on her future plans: "What I'd like to do is design our swim suits for the '72 Olympics. Ours were so icky this time that none of the other countries would trade uniforms when the Olympics were over."
•Fran Tarkenton, New York Giants quarterback: "A quarterback is paid better, cheered more, often booed more. But a quarterback is not loved. The fans turn on him quicker than they do on a guard or tackle."