JAB AT IBA
The controversial American defeat in Olympic basketball has sent shock waves back and forth across the country. Initial resentment was directed at the way the U.S. was jobbed by Olympic officials, who permitted the Russians to put the ball in play three different times after only three seconds were left to play. But this has been replaced in some areas by criticism of the American coaching, specifically the slow, ball-control style the Olympians were instructed to play by the 68-year-old Henry Iba, long-time coach at Oklahoma State who has directed U.S. basketball fortunes in three successive Olympics.
Lefty Driesell, coach at the University of Maryland and a controversial figure himself, said bluntly, "We should beat the Russians by 20 points. The game we played is not representative of American basketball. We don't play that slowdown game anymore. Our game is fast-break. John Wooden or Dean Smith could have taken any college team in the Top Ten and whipped the Russians by 20 or 25 points."
Less volatile critics echoed Driesell's remarks. One said, "I contend that Henry Iba's coaching was anachronistic, a point that Bill Russell made circumspectly on TV at the time. I have known Iba for 30 years and have always liked him, but in recent years he has struck me as something of a reactionary in his concept of basketball. He has never been able to break out of his own rigid and old-fashioned concept. Three or four years ago he said, 'Defense was never intended to be played all over the court.' Yet playing it all over the court is one of the chief factors in the success of John Wooden at UCLA. As Russell implied, Olympic players were prisoners of Iba's methodical style and were hardly given a chance to express their individual abilities. The only reason we finally caught the Russians in that last game was because Doug Collins broke from Iba's concept of offense and drove half the length of the court for the basket. But if he had done that earlier, Iba would probably have benched him."
The star-crossed love affair between the Orange Bowl and Poly-Turf goes on. You will recall the chagrin last season when the original synthetic turf became faded and powdery and slippery. American Biltrite, the manufacturer, honoring its guarantee, promised a new, improved version. Well, the new rug has been installed and it looks fine, but the football teams that play on it—the University of Miami and the Miami Dolphins—are complaining again. The old surface, for all its slipperiness in dry weather, was excellent in rain. The new is sensational dry but whoopsy when wet. The footballers claim that if it rains as much as six hours before a game, the field is still slick and juicy at kickoff.
American Biltrite, which by now must wish it had never heard of the Orange Bowl, says, "If there is a problem, we certainly want to pinpoint the reason for it. We're not going to run away from the situation. We'll continue to stand behind the product."
ZILCH AND VEECK
It sounded like a novel and possibly rewarding concept when General Manager Charlie Blaney of the Albuquerque Dukes, easternmost team in the Pacific Coast League, announced early this year that one of his promotional stunts for the 1972 season would be—hey, hey, step a little closer—No Promotion Night. Charlie is an ingenious hustler, hyping up interest in baseball with all sorts of extraneous gimmicks, most of which work. Reliable old Bat Night, at which fans were given Little League bats, drew 3,934. Hot Dog Night (eat all the free franks you want) brought 3,618. Ten-Cent Beer night attracted 3,469. A culture night, when Blaney somehow got the Albuquerque Symphony to come out and perform, had 3,084.
After all this, No Promotion Night, featuring nothing but baseball, seemed a refreshing departure, something the real fan would relish. Result? Zilch. Only 1,935 purists showed up. Nor did Blaney use any hype later in the season when his club met Eugene in a PCL pennant playoff. Bill Veeck, whose wisdom has never been questioned, says you use gimmicks only when your team is losing. When it's winning, baseball draws the fans. Zilch for Veeck, too. This time the crowd was only 1,965.
Very disheartening. Especially in view of Blaney's most successful promotions of the year, which were freebie nights. Blaney would sell all the seats in the ball park to a business concern for $1,500 and the business would hand out the complimentary tickets to customers. The six on-the-cuff nights brought crowds ranging from 7,269 all the way up to 10,197. Well, it's an old human trait, isn't it? Give me something for nothing, and I'll love you.
PUCKS ACROSS THE SEA
The Canadian-Russian hockey confrontation may be the harbinger of regular transatlantic hockey competition. Bruce Norris, owner of the Detroit Red Wings, has been working for almost a year to set up a professional hockey league in Europe. The league expects to begin play next year with clubs in Britain, West Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Finland and it hopes to add teams from the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.
Norris will own the British entry and says he will build an arena in London to seat between 18,000 and 20,000. The future—at least the future as envisioned by publicists for the league—is also expected to include an annual showdown between the European champion and the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup winner.
On the grounds that without a qualm TV ratings project national tastes based on a sampling of only 1,200 homes, or roughly 3/100,000 of the population, we give you the Boston report on the sports preferences of the three million people living in and near that fair city. It is based on a telephone survey of 29 bars. The survey took place on a night when local TV stations were showing: 1) the Olympic Games, 2) a first-place battle between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees and 3) Team Canada playing the Soviet Union in hockey. The envelope, please. Ready? One set was tuned into the Olympics, seven the Sawx and Yanks, 21 the hockey game. And in September, with the ponds in Maine hardly frozen at all.
Tennis elbow, the classic ailment that is becoming almost epidemic as the sport grows, is the result of a weakness in the forearm, says an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Robert P. Nirschl of Arlington, Va., who—as you might suspect—is a tennis player himself, says that all too often the muscle in the forearm is not strong enough to withstand the stress placed upon it, particularly when you hit a backhand and more particularly when you hit a bad backhand. When a ball is poorly hit an acute strain runs along the muscle mass to the elbow joint. Result: scar tissue, painful nerve endings and an elbow that keep you awake at night.
Severe cases of tennis elbow may need injections of novocain, cortisone or Butazolidin, or even casts to ensure immobility. In extreme instances, surgery may be necessary. Generally though, ice and aspirin can relieve much of the pain.
Dr. Nirschl, who likes to measure forearms, says those of world-class tennis players average 11¾ inches around, compared to 11‚⅛ inches for the average male player and 9‚Öú inches for the average female. Grip power is 105 pounds for the star, but only 80 and 50 for the mixed-doubles team on your friendly neighborhood court. "Despite this disparity in muscle mass and power," says Dr. Nirschl, "all players tend to use the same size and weight racket." Because it is often difficult for the average player to find a racket suited to a relatively puny musculature, Dr. Nirschl recommends a series of exercises to strengthen the forearm. He also thinks you should try to improve your backhand but warns, "This generally requires formal professional instruction."
In other words, take two aspirin and call your pro.
IS THE BARK...?
In Lower Paxton Township, a suburb of Harrisburg, Pa., the supervisors consider a dog's bark as worse than its bite. They have issued a stern ukase ordering persons to prevent their dogs and other pets from making "any loud or harsh noise or disturbance which shall interfere with or deprive the peace, quiet, rest or sleep of any person within the township." Owners of barking dogs or roaring lions in Lower Paxton will be fined not more than $50 nor less than $15, and can receive a term of up to 10 days in jail.
Francis R. Mummert, chairman of the board of supervisors, warned his fellow legislators that 90% of the people in the township own dogs. "I'm sure if we are going to arrest everybody whose dog barks, we'll have to arrest everybody in the township, including the members of this board," he added. Jack Hurley, township manager, pointed out: "You can't stop dogs from barking, just like you can't stop people from talking." Or legislators from passing the unenforceable.
Haverford College, the small, educationally prestigious school near Philadelphia, suddenly dropped intercollegiate football last week, even though it had been playing the gridiron sport since 1879. Dana Swan, head coach and athletic director, said only 17 men had turned out for practice, five of them freshmen. Of the 30 veterans expected to return from last year's team, 10 decided not to attend school during the fall semester and eight more (five of whom had injury problems from last season) chose not to report. The players who did come out roamed the campus and recruited seven more "right out of the lunch line," according to Swan, and practice went on. But after a preseason scrimmage produced two twisted knees and a sprained ankle, it was decided to cancel the eight-game schedule.
"It was a very painful decision," Swan said, "but it would have been more painful to play. There simply are not enough troops around here to play two-platoon football without getting killed."
Jon Sprogell, a junior, said veteran team members were bitter because "the cancellation of football removes their chance to excel at something they were good at." John Evans, a senior, said, "The football team was the only place on campus where you had a true feeling of togetherness. It was a very happy time." But Garry Gasper, a junior who did not return to the squad because of an injury, had a different view: "Haverford's sports program is beautiful, but they don't have enough coaches. I know 11 players who had no prior experience, and they needed a lot of help. If you don't have the coaching, it's murder. And once these new guys see how you get hurt, they don't come out again."
Even so, Swan hopes to field a team again in 1973, although this depends on an evaluation by the college community. "There's a trend in the thinking of today's youth that interferes with football," he said. "This business of taking leave from college for awhile is a thing of the 1970s." Still, he pointed out optimistically, "We have 12 other intercollegiate sports this year, and our soccer team will be very good."
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Hickman, Chicago Cub first baseman, asked what he was thinking as he circled the bases after hitting an 11 thinning, game-winning home run against the Dodgers: "As usual—nothing."
•Jim Gudger, East Texas State basketball coach, who was a Munich spectator: "I saw every team in the Olympic tournament play at least three times. Ten or 12 years ago there was only one team in the world that had a chance to beat the U.S. in basketball. That was Russia. Four years ago there were two: Russia and Yugoslavia. This year there were only four teams out of the 16 entered who had no chance of beating us. The other 12 had the talent and the coaching to do it."
•Doug Russell, who beat the then unpopular Mark Spitz in the 100-meter butterfly at Mexico City in 1968, on Spitz' seven gold medals at Munich: "It could have happened to a nicer guy."