THE COMMISSIONER HOMERS
If George Steinbrenner does not yet understand the seriousness of the crimes to which he pleaded guilty in Federal court, Bowie Kuhn, a lawyer, does. His action in suspending the principal owner of the New York Yankees from any connection with the club for the next two years was his finest hour as Commissioner of Baseball.
Legally, Kuhn may have overstepped his authority. After all, there is no law that says a person who made illegal campaign contributions and attempted to influence employees to make false statements to a Federal grand jury, as Steinbrenner admitted, must disassociate himself from gainful employment. Operationally, too, Kuhn is on soft ground. He has no real enforcement powers if Steinbrenner flouts the ruling and runs the Yankees covertly.
But behind him Kuhn has a fine baseball tradition launched by Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis after the Black Sox scandal of 1919 and continued by Ford Frick in 1953 when he induced Fred Saigh, convicted of income tax evasion, to sell the St. Louis Cardinals. And, hopefully, he has the owners, who will see Steinbrenner's heavy sarcasm of last week—"It is certainly a wonderful Thanksgiving present" and "It's impossible to understand how the Commissioner of Baseball could call me incompetent"—for what it is, a threat to them. As Kuhn said, "Attempting to influence employees to behave dishonestly is the kind of misconduct which, if ignored by baseball, would undermine the public's confidence in our game."
As promotions go, this one laid an egg, with bacon. How 76er General Manager Pat Williams could even think of booking it is a mystery, but it does seem to help explain why Philadelphians are so often considered bootiful.
At any rate, the halftime highlight at a recent 76er game was Chick, the singing pig, accompanied by three fellow porkers and a trio of hens, boo bait in any town. To give him his due, Chick performed amiably during warmups, skidding successfully down a 10-foot slide, but then it came time to croon. All Chick could manage was an occasional bellow delivered in a flat oink. The act was bombing when one of the backups, turning critic, relieved himself at center court. That was the high-water mark. Before the barnyard revue was herded off to its just reward it got a roasting. A newspaper headline caught the spirit of the thing: KNICKS WHIP 76ERS, PIG BOOED.
"What did they expect," asked Williams, "grand opera?"
SWEET SMELL OF FAILURE
A sweet tooth does not a sweet play make. So, in more scholarly language, says a report issued by the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics of the University of Montreal after a yearlong study of the effects of sugar on athletic performance.
An amateur hockey team was evaluated for performance, resistance to fatigue and playing ability. The control group was free to consume candy and chocolate bars, while the rest of the team was split into a sugar-free group and a test group given increasing sugar diets over an eight-month period. The sugar eaters, said the report, saw their ability to play drop to the level of incompetence as more and more gum and chocolate were added to their diets. Neither pep talks nor putdowns by teammates were sufficient to restore the original level of performance. Each youth on the sugar diet "had a severely weakened metabolism and was physically inferior to the rest of the team. Digestion of sugar and sugar substitutes in the candy robbed the body of its energy at the time when the game called for maximum ability. Concentration, resistance and physical strength dropped surprisingly, even for small amounts of sugar ingested."
Meanwhile, those on sugar-free diets improved their performances by 63%. In other words, where athletes are concerned, a sugar shortage would be a plus.
Michael Morris, an Irish jump rider from Tipperary and son of Lord Killanin, president of the International Olympic Committee, turned professional early this year. "My father didn't object," said young Morris. "Eventually, you need the money."
ODOR IN THE COURT
It is 16 months now since four people were arrested during a stakeout of a trout hatchery some 10 miles from Kitchener Ontario, and after 10 court appearances everybody—the judge, the prosecutor and the defense—agrees on one point. The case smells.
What, for the lack of a better word, ranks the trial right up there with the seamiest exploits of Dr. Moriarty is the evidence, an eight-pound trout that was seized on a search warrant. Constable Frank Wheeler, who has had custody of the trout since July 9, 1973, trots it out of his freezer every time the case is called up and plunks it down on a table in the courtroom. After a while the corpus is undelicti and everyone present gets the distinct impression that justice would be better served if it, or they, were someplace else. One time out, the evidence thawed for nine hours.
"Once the case was adjourned because the accused went fishing with one of the witnesses," Wheeler says. "Then the judge was sick. Then the defense lawyer was sick and couldn't make it."
Soon, perhaps, nobody will make it, and the case, or the evidence, will be thrown out of court without further airing. Let us hope.
SUMO ARE ICUMEN IN
For centuries Japan has flattered the nations of the rest of the world by borrowing freely from their cultures. A fairly recent trend in sports in the Island Empire has been the importation of stars, first baseball players from the United States, then ice hockey players from Canada, soccer players from South America and rugby players from New Zealand. But sumo wrestlers? Ah so.
This latest wrinkle appeared when Daigoro Takamiyama (originally Jesse Kuhaulua of Hawaii) showed up in Tokyo. Then King Taufa'ahua Tupou IV of the tiny South Pacific kingdom of Tonga learned that Japan was running short of its mountainous wrestling men. The Tongans are a big people and Tupou IV, who weighs in at a heroic 360 pounds himself and knows sumo well, volunteered to help out. The result: four towering Tongan youths left last month for Tokyo in hopes of becoming genuine copies of sumo champs—or even the real thing, made in Japan.
The proprietor of a Somerset, England movie house has a growing problem: rabbits. They were left over from a magic show when the theater still presented live acts, and the gentleman is desperate to make them vanish. Probably going about it in the wrong way. Top hats and loose sleeves are the only solution. Everybody knows that.
Looking back on the season, UCLA Football Coach Dick Vermeil no doubt wishes he had kept to himself the advice he gave his nephew Louis Giammona a couple of years ago. If he wanted to make it in major college football at his size—5'9" and 176 pounds—Louie would have to convert to split end, Uncle Dick said. But Louie wanted to run, and he listened to his uncle Al Vermeil, Dick's brother and a former Utah State linebacker, who thought Louie could run to his heart's content at the old alma mater. Louie has.
Saturday, Louie Giammona closed out the season as the leading all-purpose running back in the nation. He also led the nation in rushing yards per game, at 153.4. He would have done better if he had not outrun his blocking so frequently, but above all he is durable, "glued together real sturdy," says his coach, Phil Krueger. Against Idaho, Giammona ran for 247 yards to break the school record in that category; it marked the third best one-game rushing performance by a major college back this season.
"The longer and more he runs in a game," says Krueger, "the stronger he seems to get. The decision we usually had to make was whether to run him a lot on shorter gain patterns or run him less and go for long yardage. Sometimes we used him as a decoy because everybody was keying on him."
"I just wanted to show my Uncle Dick that I can run for a major college team," Giammona says. He knows, Louie, he knows.
WHAT KEPT YOU, SAL?
Cheers, everybody, and back to the drawing board to design some salmon leaps. Fifteen years and ¬£100 million after the great cleanup of the Thames River began, an eight-pound 4½-ounce female salmon was caught a quarter of the way up to London. She was the first recorded salmon catch in the Thames since 1833 and the chief scientific officer of the Thames Water Authority, the splendidly named Hugh Fish, expects more. "We shall now have to help the fish over the up-river locks," he said, beaming. "The fish need to reach Oxfordshire to spawn, but it will happen."
CALL OF THE NORTH
Expansion and the accompanying dilution of talent have not treated professional hockey in the manner to which it hoped to become accustomed. Tempers, particularly among Canadian executives, have grown short, and one National Hockey League official has told a friend that the long-rumored move to establish a league for Canadian cities only was no longer just a threat.
Hockey essentially is a gate-receipts sport, and in both the NHL and the World Hockey Association crowds are down or, in the cases of new franchises, have not developed as expected. In Montreal, where Forum season subscribers once willed their seats, the Canadiens have been advertising. Toronto and Boston, which for years sold out, are not filling up. Washington and Kansas City, with huge investments and new arenas, are averaging 8,238 and 8,405, far below capacity and not enough to keep them healthy financially. Chicago and Michigan in the WHA are worse off, averaging barely 3,000 each.
The NFL has denied that it will cut team rosters next season from 47 to 36 players, but already both hockey leagues have drastically reduced the number of players that they own directly. In past years it was not uncommon for a team to list 20 or so on the major league roster and spot another 30 or 40 on minor league teams. Now most list the varsity and only a dozen or so prospects.
The Canadians feel that the leagues increasingly represent U.S. money men who, in their eyes, cannot tell the difference between a hockey stick and a share of Avon. If and when they do break away, the Canadian league probably would look something like this: Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Blazers, Quebec Nordiques, Calgary Somethings, Toronto Toros and possibly teams from Ottawa and the Maritimes. The winner among these conceivably would meet the best of the U.S. teams in the Stanley Cup.
ROAR OF THE CROWD
Several times this season, because of fan furor, National Football League games have been delayed for almost as long as it used to take to play a quarter—22 minutes in New Orleans one week. Not once has an official penalized the home team, which is not surprising since there is no rule calling for such a penalty. If you remember one, you are right, but it was rescinded when the league decided it was unfair to the home team. The strategy is for the home bench to raise arms and plead while the rival quarterback waits patiently for a hole in the wall of noise to open up. He can hold out three days if he has to, a league official said. TV would love that, football's equivalent to a delayed baseball game with all those exciting shots of raindrops pelting the tarpaulin.
THE GAME'S GAME
At adjacent Harvard Stadium the varsity football teams were scheduled to settle the small matter of an Ivy League title a few hours hence. But on an obscure touch football field a larger battle raged between the political science departments. It was, after all, a contest of philosophies as well as wills. Would the Harvard Theorists, weak on behavior but strong on vision, beat the Yale Empiricists?
"We will win," said a Yale behaviorist, "because Harvard refuses to let its graduate students play. It's a typical example of statist thinking." All that the department chairmen, James Q. Wilson of Harvard and Yale's Joseph LaPalombara, had agreed to, however, was that there be at least three professors playing continually for each team.
The game began less on a note of aggression than containment. Yale owed an 8-6 lead to a safety, which many of the scholarly spectators mistook for a touchback. Indeed, the only record being set was for largest number of players wearing glasses. Early in the second half Harvard scored a go-ahead touchdown following a controversial interference penalty that set up a first down on the Yale two-yard line. Yale Captain Douglas Rae protested. "It's easy to confuse your legitimate belief in fairness with your own self-interest," scoffed a Harvard player. "You must be consonant."
Yale rallied to win 14-12 on an empirical plunge by Joe Morone. Not that any of the issues were settled. Some Yale players admitted Morone might have gone out of bounds before scoring. LaPalombara insisted, "It's a victory for people who know how to handle the real world." Wilson, sidelined when he injured his knee stepping where a dog had paused, was unmoved. "We'll be at Yale next year," he said, "if we have to pay our way down there with a slush fund."
THEY SAID IT
•Chuck Foreman, Viking running back, on his reserved behavior after scoring: "I'm cool on the outside, but inside it's like a thousand little kids jumping up and down on Christmas morning."
•LaVell Edwards, Brigham Young coach, after an invitation to play in the Fiesta Bowl: "I've been to the Fiesta Bowl the last two years. It will certainly be nice to take the team with me"
•Frank Shorter, Olympic champion, asked why he runs the marathon: "Because I'm good at it."
•Alex Karras, on his golf game: "My best score ever is 103. But I've only been playing 15 years."