Representative Harley Staggers of West Virginia is chairman of a special House subcommittee looking into ways to make the NFL stop the TV blackout of home games. As part of the investigation, Staggers' subcommittee has mailed a lengthy questionnaire to 8,000 season ticket-holders, and some of the first replies, reported by David Brady in The Washington Post, have not been cheering. As a department-store executive wrote to Staggers: "All I can say on the subject is that it is probably a good thing you are a Representative from the state of West Virginia and I cannot vote against you. With all the pressing problems the U.S. has, it would seem to me that you and your elected fellow Representatives could find more meaningful areas to devote your time and effort to.
"As far as your questionnaire on the NFL tickets that I hold, they were bought strictly for my own pleasure and no other reason, and even if the Government had the audacity to...prevent blackouts of local games, I will continue to buy my season tickets."
It was a memorable week for losers whose names start with "P." While UCLA was soaring upwards on its college basketball winning streak, Piedmont College was disappearing in the opposite direction like a jettisoned fuel tank. Before a home crowd in Georgia, Piedmont lost its 47th straight game, an NAIA record.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers set an NBA record of 18 straight defeats, not without hilarity. After tying the losing record at Houston Tuesday night, the 76ers decided to stay in sunny San Antonio before playing in Portland Friday night. On Thursday, the temperature dropped from 72° to 22°, and driving rain turned to ice. Flights were promised and then vanished. The airport dusted off an ancient deicing machine to thaw frozen planes. The machine groaned, sputtered and blew up. The 76ers returned to their hotel. Full. They found another and got up early Friday for the airport. No planes available. Back to the second hotel. Full. As the 76ers registered at a third hotel, a phone call triggered a dash back to the airport. On the way, two taxicabs carrying players were involved in separate collisions. Finally at 4 p.m., half a country away from 8 p.m. game time, the 76ers took off, so to speak.
Up in Portland officials were having troubles. Amid the hubbub a bus wheeled up outside Memorial Coliseum. "The 76ers!" someone cried, and there was a rush to greet them. From the bus emerged short, stumpy men, the Fort Worth Wings, a hockey team unloading gear for a game the next night. At 9 p.m. the PA man told the crowd the 76ers were in the building and would be out in a minute. Wrong. The 76ers were two miles down the freeway in a traffic jam caused by a motorcycle show. Finally the 76ers arrived and put on uniforms. The PA man was told to tell fans they could exchange tickets for another game if they wished. The message got garbled, and the PA man advised fans that they could get an immediate cash refund. There was a small-scale exodus to the box office and $1,500 walked out the door. Still, 7,000 stayed to watch the 76ers lose 116-105. Said Tom Van Arsdale, who wore a borrowed jersey, "This is the worst day I've ever had. Change that. The worst two days."
Weekend athletes troubled by leg cramps ought to try pinching themselves for relief. That is the word from Milton F. Allen, a sometime tennis player and businessman in Decatur, Ga., who accidentally discovered what he calls the "Acupinch" several years ago when muscle spasms woke him in bed. "At the first sign of a leg-muscle spasm," says Allen, "immediately compress the facial area above the upper lip next to the nose by a sustained broad pinch, not a painful one. For best results, apply this surface pinch promptly with the ball or side of the thumb, and the side of the bent forefinger for a few moments."
Why the Acupinch seems to work no one knows, least of all Allen, who has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to get physicians interested. In the meanwhile Allen has run a couple of newspaper ads asking people to try the technique and then let him know if it works for them. There is no charge involved, and Allen points out that he is a layman not a doctor. According to letters he has received to date, the Acupinch is successful 90% of the time.
The story may be old to you, but it is new to us and true. Three Texans went out fishing on Conchas Dam Reservoir in New Mexico in a splendidly equipped cabin cruiser. As they were zipping along the lake to a favorite fishing hole, they saw something swimming in the water. They stopped and looked. It was a large rattlesnake. One of the fishermen took an oar and poked at the rattler. He poked again. This time the rattler grabbed at the oar. Instead of dropping the oar, the alarmed fisherman yanked it, and the snake came flying aboard. Instantly three Texans jumped into the lake and swam to shore, leaving the rattler in sole possession of their cabin cruiser.
They had to wait a couple of hours before another boat passed by, and even then they refused to board the boat until their rescuers dispatched the snake. If the fishermen learned one thing, it is that they'll think next time before putting an oar in.
RAH, RAH, MAGUIRE U.
The latest hoax in college sports is on page 190 of The 1972-1973 National Directory of College Athletics. There, in company with Lynchburg State and the University of Maine, is Maguire U. of Forest Park, Ill. Maguire U. has a president, Dr. Mel Connolly. Maguire U. has a nickname (the Jollymen), school colors (green and white) and an enrollment of 1,600. In reality Maguire U. is a bar in Forest Park, and the school is named after the owner, John Maguire. President Mel Connolly is a truck driver.
It all started back in 1963 when a bunch of the boys at Maguire's went to the NCAA basketball finals to root for Loyola of Chicago. Bill Shay, then freshman coach at Loyola, hosted his pals from the bar, and they had such a good time they began attending the NCAA finals every year. As a joke, they had T shirts printed with "Maguire U." on them. Last year the chance came—the boys won't say how—to get listed in the directory, and John Maguire sent in a check for $7.50 along with information about the imaginary university. Bill Shay became the "basketball coach," and another patron, Len Tyrrell, the "football coach." An Italian policeman who stopped in occasionally and was known only by his first name, Sal, was listed as Sal De Copper, assistant football coach. Once Maguire U. got into the directory, all sorts of things began to happen. Louisville Slugger wrote to "baseball coach" Ignatius Murphy trying to sell him bats, and recently a real live basketball coach phoned to speak to Coach Shay. Told Coach Shay came in only on Friday nights, the coach asked, "What kind of a school are you running there anyway?" If the coach reads this, now he knows.
Why did Cornell squeal, why did the Big Red rat? That is the question being asked at Boston University, defending NCAA hockey champion, whose record now slumps to six wins and 15 defeats because it must forfeit 11 games. BU suffered the forfeit when the Eastern College Athletic Conference last week upheld its decision declaring sophomore Dick Decloe ineligible for play. Decloe's demise came because the Junior "A" hockey team he played for in London, Ontario paid his high school education tax of $189.33 one year. Decloe denies even knowing the team paid the tax.
The case came up as a result of a complaint by Cornell Athletic Director Jon Anderson after a Cornell player was declared ineligible for accepting room and board, expenses and payment of his high school tax while playing in the same Junior "A" league as Decloe. Anderson knew a lot about Decloe; Cornell had tried and failed to recruit him. In any event, Anderson says he could not understand why his player was ineligible and Decloe was eligible, "so I asked the ECAC to interpret it for me."
BU Athletic Director Warren Schmakel replies: "As an educator I say, "Must you give your boy a fair shake at the expense of a boy from another team? If there was knowledge within Cornell about Decloe, why didn't the athletic director of Cornell communicate with the athletic director at BU?' "
THE GRASS CARP
The introduction of a foreign animal into a new setting usually has disastrous results for native wildlife. The rabbit in Australia is a notorious example, as was the introduction of the carp into U.S. waters a century ago. Now fishery biologists are wrangling over a new alien that has been let loose in this country, the grass carp from Asia. In 1963 the U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife research station in Stuttgart, Ark. began importing grass carp to study their supposed knack for eating aquatic weeds. On the quiet, the bureau also started handing out specimens to such an extent that a bureau biologist recently announced to a startled audience of scientists that the fish now occurs in 40 of the 50 states.
Uproar has ensued. Missouri has banned the fish outright, in part because laboratory tests show that young grass carp prefer juicy freshwater shrimp, a favorite food of desirable game fish, to pondweed. Texas has put the grass carp on the state's restricted list as a potentially dangerous animal. Only in Arkansas are biologists happy, enthusiastically-claiming that the grass carp is "an effective biological weed control when properly used."
Whatever the case, the Sport Fishing Institute in Washington has condemned the grass carp introduction as "an incredible and frightening example of federal 'Big Brotherism' in which a few relatively obscure employees of a minor federal agency undertook in virtual secrecy to make a major ecological decision, probably irreversible, that will affect all Americans directly or indirectly for many decades to come."
A bettor with a statistical bent has come up with the final standings in the Point Spread League for the NFL last season, and the top team is Miami. The Dolphins, 14-0 in regular season games, won 11 and lost three in the PSL. The Steelers were second with 10-3-1 and the Browns third with 10-4. Despite dismal records in regular play, Denver, San Diego, Chicago and New Orleans had winning records in the PSL, while Dallas finished far down with an appalling 5-8-1. Form held for hapless Houston: the Oilers finished dead last in both the NFL and PSL. Never favored in any game, they were at least two-touchdown underdogs half the time. Despite this help from the oddsmakers, the Oilers only beat the spread in three of 14 games.
The Perfect Place Award hereby goes to the ABA Players' Association, which last week held its midwinter gathering in the Claim Jumper Room of the TraveLodge Motel in Salt Lake City.
THEY SAID IT
•Coach Al Attles of the Golden State Warriors, on ways to stop Nate Archibald, the NBA's leading scorer: "We have 44 defenses for him but he has 45 ways to score."
•Randy Miller, now a left wing for the AHL's Baltimore Clippers, on his previous boss, Springfield's Eddie Shore: "He was the most unusual man I've ever known. He had some good ideas and some bad ones. Like he used to have us tap dance on our skates during practice."
•Milt Pappas, Chicago Cub pitcher, on Umpire Bruce Froemming, whose call of ball four accounted for the only base runner in Pappas' 8-0 no-hitter against San Diego: "He had a chance to become famous as the umpire in the 12th perfect game in baseball history, and he blew it."