BETTER FOR THE BETTER HALF
The chances are that not many girls will want to play Little League baseball, but that is wholly beside the point of the recent court litigations that ended happily last week with LLB, Inc.'s decision to "defer to the changing social climate" and permit girls to join their teams. For too long in this supposed century of enlightenment, women have had to do with second best. This has been distressingly true in sport where, until the last few years funds and facilities were almost the exclusive right and province of males. The effect of such treatment on most girls growing up was to inhibit them, physically and psychologically, where athletics were concerned.
It is a vain misuse of good time to attempt to predict where this trend toward equality in sport, of which the Little League's action is only a passing part, will lead. A safe guess, though, is that at least in their formative years far more girls than before will play with and against boys and do quite well, thank you. By their teens, with many of the boys running faster, throwing farther and jumping higher, all but the most gifted girls will want to play on their own teams. And, grown confident in their rights and abilities, they will do so, asking for and receiving equal time—and comparable starting times—on the previously forbidden playing fields. And that is as it should be.
SLIDE RULE, SLIDE
Charles Maher, Los Angeles Times staff writer, is playing a game, translating everyday life into the metric system. For example, it's first down and 9.144 meters to go, or the winning run is just 27.4320 meters away on third. But there are subtler examples that he explores, like describing an inchworm. It becomes a 2.54-centimeter worm; a footnote, an 0.3048-meter note. Parents will give children 2.54 centimeters and the kids will take 1.6093 kilometers before settling down with Erskine Caldwell's "God's Little 0.4047 Hectare." The Kentucky Derby will be run at the classic 2.0116-kilometer distance, the National Hot Rod Association will turn into the 5.029-Meter Association but will not, of course, be represented in the famous old Indianapolis 804.65 Kilometers. Maher almost makes a foot fault sound desirable.
Tax writeoffs, amortization and other such arcane arts of finance are popularly believed responsible for the investment mania that is sustaining so many of the new teams and leagues in professional sport. Well, it ain't necessarily so says Sam Battistone, who knows about this sort of thing. Using several of the millions he made with his restaurant chain, Sambo's, the 34-year-old West Coast entrepreneur organized a mini-sports conglomerate early last year called Invest West Sports. It now owns 50% of the Hawaii team in the World Football League, a small slice of the Hawaii club in World Team Tennis, big pieces of pro track, the new National Basketball Association team in New Orleans and flourishing sports camps. Battistone thinks he has made a discovery from all this activity. The hardheaded moneymen turn to goo inside when given a chance to invest in sports.
"You can talk about business standards and depreciation and so forth," Battistone says, "but there is a glamorous part of sports that just has no relationship to whether you're going to make money, no basis in economic analysis. There's glamour in associating with people who excel in areas you would have liked to excel in.
"If you want to sell an apartment package, they're going to say, "Now let's see. How do I get my money back? What's the cash flow and depreciation?' But I call a guy on the sports thing—in fact they call me and say they'd like to put some money in—and I say, 'Would you like me to tell you exactly what it is?' and they say, 'No, where do I send the check?' I can't believe it. Substantial, dignified businessmen and they just say, 'I want to own part of the team and will you take my money?' "
Like a lot of San Franciscans, Mike King has this thing about heights. He loves to jump from them, but there the similarity ends. King has no yearnings to self-destruct. He just wants to fall farther than most people without a parachute.
The nascent acrophile got his start while away at school at Oklahoma Military Academy. For the devil of it he took to going off the dam at Tenkiller Ferry Reservoir (the name, obviously, held no terror for King). That was 160 or so feet. He also tried the 110-to 125-foot cliffs at Acapulco. Tame, thought King. A year ago he drifted over to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he quietly plied his trade as a carpenter, until one day recently he spotted a condominium going up by the Intracoastal Waterway. It was 22 stories high, or about 220 feet. King knew he had to jump.
On Memorial Day, when nobody but a watchman was around, he crept into the building while two friends in a row-boat awaited his descent. On the roof, King studied the problem for 40 minutes, checking the wind and the building outcroppings. Just as he was set to go, the security guard spied him from several floors below, drew his pistol and threatened to kill King if he insisted on jumping off and killing himself. It was all academic. King never heard the man. He was launched on his mission.
Wearing cutoff blue jeans, he sprinted for the edge of the condominium, jumped straight out and then began to fall feet-first, as planned. But halfway down a gust of wind hit him and flipped him over. "I had to do a full gainer to hit the water with my feet, but I hit perfectly," he says.
King landed in only 14 feet of water. The impact—King estimates he was going about 100 miles an hour (actually, it was more like 75 mph)—dislocated his shoulder and tore a few ligaments. His jeans were ripped up the sides but his belt held them in place while his undershorts were tearing and flying away.
King and his aides made a fast departure, and for a day nobody in the area—there were other witnesses who reported the feat to the Fort Lauderdale News—knew who the mystery jumper was. Then King identified himself and offered to repeat the stunt, this time for money. Don't bother, Mike. We believe.
An Englishman who seems determined to muddle through on his own placed the following advertisement in Britain's Athletic Weekly: "Young vaulter (19), Southeast London area, requires person to supervise his conditioning and training schedules and oversee his vaulting in training and competition. The person does not need to know anything about pole vaulting." Backgammon, maybe.
Curious about the efficiency of the National Basketball Association draft, Joe Axelson, president of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, drew up some figures and pronounced the results interesting but inconclusive. Confining his study to first-round choices, Axelson gave three points to a player who was still with the team that drafted him, two points if he was still in the NBA and one if he had gone to the ABA and still played there. There was one bonus point for draft picks making Rookie of the Year.
On a five-year review, Portland and Buffalo tied for first place. Golden State was poorest. Over a 10-year period—only nine of the present 17 NBA teams qualify here—Washington rated as most efficient with such first-round picks as Jerry Sloan, Jack Marin, Earl Monroe, Wes Unseld, George Johnson, Stan Love, Phil Chenier and Nick Weather-spoon. All are still active. Philadelphia was low team.
Washington, formerly Baltimore, has never won an NBA championship, which accounts for some of its drafting success, since it was often picking early. Milwaukee, a power of late, ranks only ninth over the last five years. The Bucks, of course, have had Abdul-Jabbar, who is enough compensation.
What do you do with an outlaw horse? Turn him over to the police, of course. Wee Three (Gomer), a roan gelding with an unlovable disposition, was donated to the Philadelphia Mounted Police Force almost two years ago and under its impermissive handling became so law abiding that he won the blue ribbon at the recent Devon Horse Show in the Park Guard Rider and Horse class. Municipal police cavalries have been expanding recently, the better to control crowds and park vandalism, but not all in Gomer's class are reformed rogues. Second to him at Devon was a National Park Service entry who in his last show ring appearance won the Ladies Side-Saddle class.
OFF THE MARK
False starts in the NCAA track and field championships two weeks ago in Austin, Texas that delayed the schedule by more than 30 minutes led to arguments far more false than the starts. Eventually the NCAA voted to adopt a rule that will disqualify anybody who beats the gun.
"The sprinters are going to have to go to the starting line and run now," said an upset Jim Tuppeny, coach of Penn. "There won't be any more psyching or fooling around. Now we'll find out who the best sprinters really are," said William and Mary Coach John Randolph, who apparently suspects the wrong people have been winning.
Wrapping himself in a blanket of concern for the athlete's well-being, Tuppeny claimed that runners had to realize that starting was now a tougher business, especially since the introduction of electronic pressure plates of the sort used at the Munich Olympics, where there were few false starts. This conveniently ignores the fact that at Munich each runner still was permitted one false start before disqualification and that the pressure plate merely served to show better who jumped the gun. It ignores, too, the fact that earlier Olympics, without benefit of electronic starting devices, had no more false starts than Munich.
So where is the real problem? It is in a proliferating breed of U.S. starters. Many of them prima donnas, they operate under the misapprehension that the crowds have come to see them. They order the runners to their marks in lordly tones, slowly bring them to set, then hold them interminably, waiting, it seems, for somebody, anybody, to jump. The rationale for this odd behavior, they say, is that it cuts down on the gun timers—men like West Germany's Armin Hary, who seemed to have a genius for anticipating the gun's bark—and it ensures that nobody will ever steal a record.
False. The good sprinters, with their sixth sense, will always get off well. The one way to assure a fair start is to use the same one, two three rhythm every time, "On your marks, get set, go!" This comes closest to giving everybody an equal chance and it adds an element of consistency to the sometimes unbelievable business of record setting.
THEY SAID IT
•Bruce Featherston, 6'11" Southwest Texas State senior and bottom draft choice of the Milwaukee Bucks, asked if he thought he could move right in at center: "I think the one they've got may last another year or so."
•Tony Mason, football coach at the University of Cincinnati, speaking at a "psychology of coaching" clinic: "If you've gotta kiss your best player every day, then kiss him. I kissed my fullback this year. Next year it'll be my halfback. He's better."
•Pat McGuire, wife of Al, the Marquette basketball coach who fell off the motorcycle he recently began riding: "I guess it was just a combination of Al's age and that big motorcycle. There's quite a generation gap there."
•Pepper Rodgers, Georgia Tech football coach, whose team opens its season on Sept. 9 against defending national champion Notre Dame: "There is simply no way we can beat Notre Dame, but Notre Dame could lose to us."
•Brian McKenzie, explaining why he was happy to go from Edmonton to Indianapolis in the World Hockey Association expansion draft: "We went 40 straight days of sub-zero temperature up there, that's why."