TURN 'EM LOOSE
The Big Ten rule that will doubtless keep the nation's best football team from playing in a bowl game obviously is absurd. But so is the whole system of bowl-conference alignments that almost always prevents the best teams in the country from meeting in postseason showdowns. To have such unbeaten powers as Ohio State and Texas glaring at each other at the top of the heap and not to match them is to stand in the way of nature. The NCAA should reorganize the whole bowl system so that it will determine the nation's No. 1 team before any more dream games slip away.
DAVY JONES' CODFISH
Whatever became of the Andrea Doria? She is now hostess to 60-pound codfish. Anglers aboard Captain Les Behan's Peconic Queen II took a 100-mile jaunt recently from Montauk, Long Island to the site of the 29,000-ton liner's famous sinking in 1956. The seas were so rough the Queen's anchor broke loose while two teams of skin divers were working their way down the anchor line in hopes of photographing the wreckage—so the divers had to turn and inch back up the line as the ship drifted. But the fishing was extremely good while the anchor held, with 30- to 35-pound pollack being brought up from 230 feet of water, in addition to the monstrous cod.
Occasionally denunciations of landscape littering end on a whimsical note. Like, if we don't watch out we may fill the Grand Canyon with beer cans. It doesn't sound funny to the Navajos. They own some beautiful real estate along the Canyon. On their awesomely empty desert landscape, a popcorn box stands out like General Custer.
Other Western tribes have taken stern steps to keep returnable tourists from leaving behind nonreturnable trash. The Lummi and Quinault Indians of Washington state have closed thousands of acres of reservation land, including one of the richest duck and goose hunting areas in the Puget Sound area, and 50 miles of Pacific beaches to all non-Indians. The "white-eye" visitors have been strewing beer cans and other refuse, decorating rocks with spray paint, destroying clam beds by racing cars on the sand flats, and sometimes even ordering outraged red men off their own beaches. Taos Pueblo has not declared its reservation off limits yet, but does periodically post a ban against littering, signed by the tribe's "War Chief." It's an ancient title that never got changed, but it has a ring of authority.
The Navajos are still using a less militant approach. They are trying to create respect for their vast New Mexico reservation (as large as the state of West Virginia) with their own museums and park rangers. And now their Plateau Sciences Society is raising money for a museum on wheels to spread the word.
Anyone (Indian or paleface) who donates a dollar to the museumobile fund at Window Rock, Ariz. will receive a bumper sticker that says: Ts'iilzéí Doo'da! That is Navajo for "Don't Litter!" Not only does it have a nice lilt, it has received the all-important negative imprimatur of the Chicago police. According to a story now going the Navajo rounds, a Windy City cop recently stopped a young bearded non-Indian whose bumper wore the new sticker. The officer was inclined to believe the slogan was some kind of secret hippie code signal.
Never mind that business about their spaceships—look at what's happening in Soviet science back on earth, the village of Zalesny, to be exact. There is Y. Valentinov, who teaches at the local aviation institute, flying his scale-model, radio-powered hydroplane for a new world record. It covered 19.4 kilometers, taking off from a small lake and landing in the Volga 30 minutes, 20 seconds later, says Novosti, the Russian news agency. And not only that, Lithuanian Pyatras Moteikaitis has set another world record, his 10th, with a model helicopter, winding it up to a speed of 93.898 kilometers per hour. He did it all with a rubber band which, as we always say about these press releases, is really stretching it.
On a recent Thursday night Mr. and Mrs. Paul Cilek of Iowa City, Iowa watched their 13-year-old son Dan, a quarterback, lead Central Junior High's seventh-grade team to victory. On Friday night they saw their 16-year-old son Nick, also a quarterback, pace University High to a win, and on Saturday morning they got out to see 14-year-old Greg—yes, a quarterback—play a key role as Central's ninth-grade team won.
After a quick lunch it was out to the University of Iowa's stadium for the homecoming game with Michigan State, though the Cileks really did not expect to see too much there, since their 21-year-old Mike was only second string behind Quarterback Larry Lawrence. But with less than three minutes to go and Iowa behind 18-12, Lawrence was injured on a third-down play, and Mike was called into action. He picked up the first down with a fourth-down, five-yard pass, followed a few minutes later with a 22-yard pass to the six and then threw a touchdown pass to tie the game. The extra point was good, and Iowa won 19-18.
Said Mike afterward, "Now I don't have to listen in silence to those other three quarterbacks telling me how they won their games."
The Chicago and North Western Railway has equipped its commuter stations near Chicago with bicycle racks to accommodate businessmen who, in search of fitness or in flight from fatness, have resolved to pedal partway to work. The idea should, pardon the expression, spread. Not only would it relieve urban congestion by reducing per-businessman volume, it might even aid certain commuter railroads in their own struggle to get in shape—provided, of course, that some of their customers, once exposed to cycling, might prefer to pedal all the way to work. And beat the train.
When Jack Ramsay coached St. Joseph's College, defeat often sent him on long walks into snowy nights. Now steering the Philadelphia 76ers, Ramsay is walking again, and things are going so badly for him he can't even make up for the absence of snow by getting mugged.
The 76ers flew into Detroit last week following their fourth straight home-court defeat, a club record. After a 90-minute workout in Cobo Arena, Ramsay was hoofing it back to his hotel when an accompanying radio announcer noticed a bus-stop sign that read BOARD COACH HERE.
"This is where we jump on you," the announcer said to Ramsay. In a flash Ramsay flung himself to the pavement and stretched out supine in the middle of the roadway. "O.K.," he said, and then he lay silent. A group of pedestrians glared at Ramsay and moved on shaking their heads.
The same response was even more appropriate the next night, when the 76ers lost to the Pistons. At 104-104 in regulation, Philadelphia had possession for the last 41 seconds without taking a legal shot. Guard Archie Clark missed everything with a corner jumper just as the 24-second clock expired, Matty Guokas got the nonrebound, Philadelphia was improperly allowed to keep the ball, but the 76ers couldn't get a shot in the 17 seconds before the buzzer—Hal Greer dribbled the time away. In the first overtime, the score tied again, the Pistons doubled-teamed Clark and the 24-second clock expired with three seconds remaining. In the second overtime the Pistons won.
So Ramsay went for a long walk, looking for mortification. "I tried to get mugged for two hours." he said, "and nobody would handle me. I walked the worst street in Detroit waving a roll of bills and nothing happened."
THE SPORTING LOOK
Many of the greatest athletes seem to have eyes in the back of their heads. They notice tacklers coming in from nowhere, or pick up teammates to pass to on the other side of the court, or get a fix on the passing sideline shot in a way that is almost miraculous. Such highly developed peripheral vision, suggests a psycho-biologist in California, makes sports stars closer than ordinary men to the snakes and birds.
Dr. Colwyn Trevarthen of the California Institute of Technology reports that his studies on brain-surgery patients have revealed peripheral vision to be controlled by a second sight system in the human brain. This system, he says, very likely evolved from the primitive form of visual awareness enjoyed by reptiles, birds and other lower animal forms.
Trevarthen postulates that this "so-called unconscious" sight travels through different nerve channels to the cortex before it interacts with the primary visual system to form the full picture. "The primitive optic system allows you to respond automatically to what's going on in the space around you as a whole," Trevarthen explains. "If something unexpected moves outside the central field of attention, it registers first through this second, more primitive system before the classical visual system becomes aware of it."
Trevarthen, whose own athletic endeavors are limited to mountain climbing and hiking, says, "We are only at the beginning of a true understanding of how this second sight works—perhaps we should ask athletes more about it."
And when we ask them, perhaps we should address them as "Snake Eyes."
PANNED IN BOSTON
In Boston, where the battles of Bunker Hill and Ted Williams were fought in days gone by, the sports pages are locked in a titanic struggle with Clive Rush, in his first year as head coach of the Boston Patriots. Rush has reacted to stories he dislikes by banning various scribes from practice and dressing room.
When the Pats opened their season in Denver with a 35-7 loss, he insisted that writers should have said the team had been "edged." Rush's postgame press conferences, charge the Boston writers, consist largely of grunts, one-word replies or "No comment." When someone asked about the draft status of rookie Running Back Carl Garrett, Rush did go so far as to say, "Why make a federal case of a federal case?"
One way or another, Rush has given the press something to chew on. Most recently he insulted Boston College, which is rather reluctantly sharing its stadium with the Patriots this year. When several inebriated fans paraded down the devastated field through the rain at half-time of the Boston-Miami game Sunday before last. Rush took offense. "Boston College may permit that sort of thing," he said, "but it's beneath the dignity of professional football."
Since no one can recall such a procession at a BC game, that school's hierarchy may well be in sympathy with the standard gag among Beantown writers lately: "It's spelled 'Clive' Rush, but it's pronounced 'Cleave'—as in 'leave.' "
But the Boston papers may not insist on crowding Rush out of town entirely. After all, former Red Sox Manager Dick Williams, who had troubles himself with the Fourth Estate before being fired last September, is currently appearing in local newspaper ads. "Hi, I'm Dick Williams," goes the text in part, "and when you find yourself suddenly out of work, that's when you really appreciate the comfort of a savings account at...."
THEY SAID IT
•Al Denson, Denver wide receiver, explaining what it's like to be tackled at the same moment you catch the ball: "It's like walking out of a store with a bag of groceries and getting hit by a car. Sometimes you don't care what happens to the bag."
•Ottis Mooney, defensive coach at the University of Miami, on recruiting: "I had one real good one in Florida to recruit. I really worked on the parents, believing it to be the way. Coach Paul Bryant of Alabama worked on the boy. I dined and danced with the boy's mother. The boy went to Alabama. The mother enrolled at Miami."