Publish date:




The troubles the press has from time to time with various athletes or teams is usually of only parochial interest, something to be reported and commented on in Editor and Publisher or (MORE), journals read almost exclusively by journalists. But a contretemps that occurred recently at the National Indoor Open Tennis Championships in Salisbury, Md. seems worthy of somewhat wider report.

The room usually reserved for reporters was not available, and a press section was set up in the front rows of the grandstand. Several reporters facing deadlines were typing their stories during play, and the clacking of typewriter keys upset the sacrosanct silence usually observed during tennis matches. One of the competitors asked that the typing stop or else be done only between points. Fans around the press section picked up the request and began shouting at the reporters, particularly Mark Asher of the Washington Post, who was still typing his copy. According to tournament director Bill Riordan, "The players asked Asher to stop typing, that he was bothering them. Then the crowd got on him. I've never seen anything like that—several hundred fans screaming, pointing fingers at him."

Asher said, "If I can't type on deadline during a match, there's no sense in my paper sending me to cover it. I called the tournament office twice and they said go on typing, that they would send a message to the players telling them I couldn't stop." Finally, a fan came into the press section, grabbed Asher's typewriter and tried to carry it away. "I don't know who he was," Asher said. "He was a skinny, well-dressed executive type. I asked Riordan to have him arrested. Riordan said, 'Sorry, we gave you your chance to stop typing.' Then he had me thrown out."

Riordan said, "I suggested that Mark leave. I told him he was creating a disturbance and asked a policeman to escort him out. There's a point when the press has a responsibility to the public, and Mark went well beyond that point. If you're on the scene and the crowd is rioting, public opinion takes over. That's the American way."


The new foul rule in high school and colege basketball, which was designed to speed play by reducing the number of free-throw attempts, reached an apogee in a game in Rockville, Md. between Rockville and Paint Branch high schools. Over the previous five seasons, Rockville High and its opponents had an average of 37 free throws a game. But in the Paint Branch game, which Rockville won 60-44, there were none. None at all. No player was fouled in the act of shooting and neither team committed enough non-shooting fouls to create a bonus free-throw situation.

No one around Rockville could remember a basketball game in which not a single free throw was attempted. It was kind of fun. The game, starting promptly at 8 p.m., was lively all the way through and was over by three minutes to nine. But no free throws? What's the world coming to?


A 4-year-old mare named Pretty Daffidel (no one ever claimed people around racetracks know how to spell) looked rather dismal as she finished last in a race at Charles Town recently, but the next day she produced a pretty good excuse. She gave birth to a colt. "It was a complete surprise to me," said Trainer Howard (Buck) Townsley. "I came out at the usual feeding time and there it was. I thought it was a dog in the stall. He was curled up in a corner, not moving a muscle." Townsley said the sire was Watch Tiger, a 7-year-old stallion Owner Carlos McDaniel bought at the same time he bought Pretty Daffidel. "We had no idea she was in foal," Townsley added. "We assumed they were both ready for racing."

The incident recalls a story told years ago by Joe H. Palmer, the renowned racing writer. Some trainers were talking about courageous horses and one mentioned a mare he had once owned who paused in the backstretch, gave birth to a foal, resumed racing, caught up to the field and won going away. "And talk about heart," the man said, "her foal finished second."

The junior varsity basketball teams of Washburn University in Topeka, Kans. and Fort Hays State of Hays, Kans. have played each other twice this year and still are unable to determine which is better. The first time they met, the teams had to finish their game by seven o'clock so that a scheduled telecast of the varsity game could start on time. The jayvee game ended with the score 75-75. Everyone assumed the issue would be settled when the schools met again in February. But again there was a television commitment, again the jayvees had to be off the court by seven o'clock, and again, even after an overtime period that they managed to squeeze in, the score was tied 90-90. Wait till next year.

In Oregon, 4,961 students at Portland State University responded to an inquiry on how the money they paid in student fees should be spent. Despite a budding athletic program, 57% said they wanted less or no funding of football; 44% opposed student-fee money being used for basketball; 41% were anti-wrestling. But lest you think Portland State students are simply anti-sport, know that 45% opposed funding student government, 20% did not want their money going to academic activities and 16% were against using it for child care. Portland State students, apparently, don't like paying student fees.


Jack Eskridge, retiring equipment manager of the Dallas Cowboys, leaves behind two noteworthy comments on football shoes. "When I came here in 1960," he said, "the average football shoe was about 9½ or 10. Now it's more like 12½. And not only are shoes bigger, there are more of them. A player used to have maybe one pair. Not any more. It's become a matter of prestige to see how many pairs you can pile up in your locker. Of course, when your team is successful the manufacturers are always gifting the players with samples."

On shoes best suited for artificial surfaces, he said, "After we moved to Texas Stadium in 1971 we had trouble with the footing on the new Tartan Turf when it was wet. We tested some shoes and finally took a nylon cleat with a stainless-steel tip. We found looking at films that our players had 35% to 40% better traction than visiting teams did. Our players had much better footing."

Football, obviously, is still a game of feet.


An iconoclastic, anti-hunting resident of Maine wrote to newspaper columnist Gene Letourneau about the drive to control deer-killing coyotes: "I must confess I am unable to understand why a human has more right to kill a deer than does a coyote. It seems to me a coyote who kills to survive is more than a hunter who kills for pleasure.

"I realize hunters will object to my saying they kill only for pleasure. They will claim there is more to hunting than killing, such as being in the woods on a fall day, the comradeship of fellow hunters and the thrill of matching wits with a wild animal. Some will say hunting is good for the economy of the state.

"Well, I believe I have devised a plan that will allow hunters to enjoy their hunting without having to destroy either coyotes or deer. I propose that instead of going after deer, the hunters stalk each other. Instead of live ammunition, they would be provided with rubber bullets that might sting a little but not kill. Each hunter would keep count of how many of his fellows he bagged. There would be no limit. At the end of the season the hunter who has the most would be awarded a trophy acclaiming him Hunter of the Year. Nature would work out a proper balance between deer and coyotes, and the whole thing would prove a boon to the state's economy. The publicity alone would be worth almost as much as is now brought in by the hunting season, and this is not even considering the television rights."


Protests go on that the Superstar decathlon in Florida (SI, March 5) was an inadequate test of an inadequate field, and Jim Palmer, the Baltimore Oriole pitcher, leads the chorus. Palmer, three times a 20-game winner, is one of the best all-round athletes in baseball. He won seven games last year with his own hitting, is probably the best basketball player on the Orioles' off-season court team, is always near the top in baseball players' golf tournaments and was an all-state football, basketball, and baseball player in high school. "I would have put up $5,000 just to be allowed to compete," he says. Palmer says his remarks could be considered a challenge "from me and 100 other guys I could name," although the hundred diminishes to four or five when Palmer is pressed to name them. He picks John Havlicek for one. "He was a good baseball player, was seventh-round NFL draft choice and can run faster than Elvin Hayes, who won the Superstar dash." And Jim Brown. "Great all-round athlete. Good tennis player, All-America lacrosse player in college." And the Dodgers' Willie Davis. "A five-or six-handicap golfer, and fast. He'd win the dash if Havlicek didn't." And Merv Rettenmund. "I've seen him lift more than 170 pounds. He's better in tennis than I am and he might beat Laver in table tennis."

And Jim Palmer? Unabashed, the Oriole star says of golf, which was won in the Superstar contest with a score of 41 for nine holes: "I could handle that. I regularly shoot 38, 39." Bowling, with 131? "In my first game in 10 years, at a benefit in Atlanta, I had a 191." The 100-yard dash, won in 11.5? "I ran 10-flat in high school in baseball shoes." Tennis: "It's impossible to determine the caliber of play from scores, but I know I'm better than Johnny Bench." Half-mile run: "I used to run the 440 in the 50s. It's a matter of conditioning. I'm in good condition." The 100-meter swim, won in 1:18.2? "I've never been timed, but I'm probably faster than that. I used to win everything as a kid." Table tennis, won by Rod Laver? "I'd like to go head-to-head with Laver. I played in a lot of Los Angeles County tournaments, and when I was an Oriole minor-leaguer I was the champion of Thomasville, Ga. I mean, what else is there to do in Thomasville?"

Palmer says he would pass on weight lifting but, even so, by his reckoning he and not Seagren would have walked off with the winner's share of the $122,000 prize money.



•Dwayne Roe, assistant basketball coach at Oral Roberts University, asked what he said when he realized the man helping him break up a fight in the ORU-Southwestern Louisiana game was evangelist Oral Roberts: " 'Mr. Roberts, I'm afraid you might get hurt if you don't leave.' At least, I hope that's what I said."

•Al Fleming, Arizona's freshman center, after the Wildcats beat Utah in triple overtime (101-95): "I'm too old for games like that."

•Anne, equestrienne princess of the United Kingdom, to the persistent press, as quoted by London's Daily Mail: "The horse I'm riding today is the same one I was riding on Monday. His name is Columbus, and he's a grey. He belongs to the Queen—got that? I read in the papers I had been riding a horse called Red Passion. No horse of that name is stabled here. You're getting on my goat. Horses are very sensitive. They're not like humans. They don't understand what all the fuss is about."