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The International Olympic Committee's decision to pick Innsbruck as the site of the kicked-around 1976 Winter Games was safe and practical. Since Innsbruck was host in 1964, the facilities are all there; because winter sports, especially Alpine skiing, are helpful to Austria's economic well-being, there is no doubt about financial support for the snowy extravaganza. Returning to a site used only a few Olympiads ago flies in the face of the IOC's professed desire to spread things around, but the committee really had no choice. Denver, its first and worst selection, died when Colorado voters refused to pony up the funds. Salt Lake City only got up the beginners' slope in its financial efforts. Lake Placid, which the U.S. Olympic Committee finally named as its designated pinch hitter, was a better choice and made an able presentation to the IOC's Executive Board in Lausanne, Switzerland last Sunday. But it is hard to blame the IOC in shying away from a U.S. city at this point, and Lake Placid probably did not help its bid by plastering orange stickers reading FOLLOW ME TO LAKE PLACID on storefronts in immaculate Lausanne. Of the other bidders France's Mont Blanc region was too scattershot in organization, and Finland's Tampere was hurt by the flat terrain.

So the 1976 Winter Games are still alive, but the selection mess has drawn attention to the haphazard way the Olympics are run. Why did the IOC pick Denver in the first place? Why did the USOC make Denver and then Salt Lake City its standard-bearer? Doesn't anyone in the Olympic movement believe in looking up and down before crossing the street?


The unique way in which the Dallas Cowboys financed the building of Texas Stadium has inspired local residents to propose the same formula for their Central Christian Church. "The church would sell bonds at $250 each," says Sam L. Catter, a member of the congregation. "Each bondholder then gets an option to one pew at $7 each Sunday, and will also be required to buy tickets to attend at least three exhibition sermons during the year. The bonds are redeemable 35 years from the day of issue or at the Second Coming.

"The last eight pews in the back will be designated the Sinners' Circle, and bonds for these seats will go for $1,000 each. We even have a catchy slogan to work with: 'Thank Heaven for 4711.' " Central Christian Church is located at 4711 Westside, and there's a service every Sunday.


A couple of unusual shortages have put sportsmen and hobbyists in something of a bind. For one, fishermen are faced with a shortage of bucktails used in tying jigs and streamers. According to Richard Reid Miller of Reed Tackle in Caldwell, N.J., raw bucktails could be had three years ago for the price of $1.30 each retail. Now bucktails of good quality sell for as much as $2.25 apiece. Miller attributes the decline in supply not to a drop in the number of white-tailed deer but to two successive warm winters in the northern states. "The lack of snow doesn't allow hunters to track," Miller says, "and so the number of deer killed is down."

On the philatelic front, stamp collectors are faced with what the international auction firm of H.R. Harmer calls "a conspicuous shortage of better-class" stamps. In a signed report to clients by the managing directors of the New York, London and Sydney offices, Harmer's says that it ordinarily gets a third of its stock from the estates of deceased collectors. "The Grim Reaper seems to have taken his usual toll, but where are the stamps?" the report asks. The answer is that instead of putting "Father's Folly" up for auction, heirs are now keeping the stamps and selling the securities. In addition Harmer's notes another trend: an increase in buyers "who are utterly disinterested in stamp collecting, but who have become interested in 'an investment portfolio' of stamps." These holdings might be coaxed out of bank vaults as prices rise, but, as Harmer's notes, "Meanwhile the stamps are out of circulation."


Boris Spassky seems to have become something of a nonperson in the Soviet Union since his defeat by Bobby Fischer. He was supposed to appear at an international chess tournament on Majorca in December but did not show. No explanation was given, but an article in Pravda criticized Spassky for his performance against Fischer, saying, "He made vexatious miscalculations of both a practical and theoretical nature." One European chess expert suggests that even though the Russians realized ahead of time that a Spassky defeat was likely, even probable, when it "became reality they found it too bitter a pill to swallow."

So long, Boris. And hello, Oscar Alejandro Mass of Juarez, Mexico, who made a deep impression on chessophiles recently when he lost four straight games. When he lost? Yes. Oscar is only seven and his opponents were as much as 50 years older. Bent Larsen, the Danish grand master, calls him brilliant and predicts a great future. His teacher, Filberto Terrazas, explained the defeats by pointing out, "He is a little innocent of the traps."

New York City also has a prodigy, even younger than Oscar, in 5-year-old Robert LeDonne, whose talents, according to Shelby Lyman, the TV chess commentator, are extraordinary. Lyman compared him to Paul Morphy, Jose Capablanca and Samuel Reshevsky, all of whom were world-class players before they were in their teens.

Well, now. How soon shall we see the first Mass-LeDonne match? And where will it be held? Juarez? New York? Reykjavik?


Some NFL insiders say that the Houston Oilers fumbled their No. 1 pick in last week's draft. The Baltimore Colts (page 20) desperately wanted LSU Quarterback Bert Jones, and they mentioned Bubba Smith to the Oilers in exchange for the right to draft first. But when the Oilers held out for more, the Colts traded Defensive Lineman Billy Newsome, a durable player but no Bubba, to New Orleans for the second pick on the first round.

That left the Oilers in a quandary. If they took Jones, they would have three young and possibly unhappy quarterbacks—Jones, Dan Pastorini and Lynn Dickey—with 25 clubs waiting for one to be discarded sometime next August or September. Houston's indecision was obvious when the actual drafting began. Instead of announcing the No. 1 pick immediately, as is customary, Coach Bill Peterson fidgeted for more than half of the allotted 15 minutes before naming Defensive Tackle John Matuszak of Tampa. Scouts strongly doubt that Matuszak is any Bubba Smith. The Colts, drafting next, got the man they wanted, Bert Jones.


The controversial designated-pinch-hitter idea is no Johnny-come-lately. According to Fred Lieb, 82, the noted baseball historian who writes a column in the St. Petersburg Times, such a rule change was first proposed in the winter of 1929, and the man who conceived it was John Arnold Heydler, then president of the National League.

Lieb quotes Heydler as explaining: "My thought in offering this rule change is to make baseball a better and livelier game. As far back as my years as an NL umpire, I used to think that one of the dullest things in baseball was a team having a good batting rally stopped by the pitcher coming up with one or two out. So often he strikes out or hits into a double play."

Fans, writers and many members of the National League were against Heydler's radical rule. "However," Lieb writes, "it was in the American League, then No. 1, that the idea met its stiffest opposition. They called it 'damnfoolery' and even tried to have it laughed off the sports pages.... One spokesman for the league said: 'It's silly, if not stupid. We are surprised that a man such as John Heydler would sponsor it. We have a great game; let us keep it that way. Nine players make up a baseball team just as surely as 12 eggs make up a dozen.' "

The truth is out about that TV commercial showing the herd of cattle stampeding across the plains while a voice intones that Merrill Lynch is "bullish on America." It was filmed in Mexico.


In all likelihood Maryland is going to become the first state to order waterfowl hunters to get the lead out of their shotgun shells. This week the state Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Administration will hold a public hearing on a change in regulations that would outlaw lead shot in waterfowl hunting, and since the change requires no legislative vote adoption is just about certain.

The move makes sense. Biologists long have known that ducks and geese can ingest spent lead shot when feeding, and ingestion of just two or three lead pellets can be fatal. Maryland drafted its new regulation following the deaths in the 1971-72 season of more than 6,000 Canada geese in that state alone from lead poisoning. Instead of lead, "soft iron" will be used. A spokesman for the department says that ammunition makers can supply three million soft-iron shells in time for next fall, twice the amount ordinarily used by Maryland shooters in one season.


Kansas City would like nothing better than to shed its reputation as an overgrown cow town. Boosters wistfully wish their city were recognized as a citadel of culture and as a major league metropolis, what with its art gallery, university, symphony orchestra, active little theater movement, the newest major airport in the country, football's Chiefs, baseball's Royals and half of basketball's Kings.

Last week Kansas City finally got a National Hockey League franchise after much discussion and controversy about the location of a new arena for the team. After discarding various sites as impractical or impossible, where did the city fathers decide to build the $15 million arena? Why, right down in the good old stockyards. There the hockey team will share the premises with the annual American Royal Livestock and Horse Show. Holy cow.


For Basketball Coach Don Haskins of the University of Texas at El Paso, it was not a good night. With 10 minutes to play against Wyoming at Laramie, Haskins was thrown out of Memorial Fieldhouse for something he did not say.

There was a hush in the crowd when another member of the UTEP bench yelled at one of the refs, "I'd rather have you at home than 10 points!" The ref thought Haskins had shouted the insult, and since this was the coach's third technical foul, banishment was automatic. The game was close, and Haskins, eager to keep up with the scoring, gave three Laramie lads a dollar each to relay the scores to him outside. When the final buzzer sounded, with Wyoming winning 61-58, one of the youngsters ran to Haskins and said, "It's over, and you lost, ha, ha, ha."



•Al Conover, Rice football coach, asked his impression of Amarillo on his first visit to the Texas plains: "You sure aren't bothered with woodpeckers out here, are you?"

•Bob Hope on Jack Kent Cooke's rights to the Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali rematch: "It's hard to make money on closed-circuit radio."

•Johnny Logan, ex-major league shortstop and new color announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers: "I'd like to be sort of like Lou Boudreau. He does a good job of recapping the play before it happens."

•Kresimir Cosic, Brigham Young University's Yugoslav center, after a reporter wrote, "Cosic moves like Ichabod Crane": "Who is this Crane fellow? Who does he play for?"