STARS AND GRIPES
Many Americans have long suspected that if we had to do it all over again this country never would gain independence, and new support for that thesis is at hand. Back on May 31 rider Jerry Linker set out from Charlotte, N.C. on a special bicentennial mission. He and his Arabian stallion Sharek would reenact the colonial ride of Captain James Jack, the horseman who carried the Mecklenburg County Declaration of Independence to North Carolina's delegation at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The trip, just like in the old days, would take 30 days.
And then came Culpepper, Va. Hardly had Linker and his horse bedded down there for the night when County Humane Agent Doris K. Ireland sent the sheriff to charge Linker, under a venerable Virginia law, with overriding a horse. "The horse had saddle sores, was exhausted and his ribs were showing," said Ireland, impounding the animal. Word of this action got back to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bicentennial Commission, sponsors of the ride. Ralph Jarrells, a spokesman for that body, said that a veterinarian examined the horse and found Mrs. Ireland's claims somewhat exaggerated.
While they were attempting to unsnarl this red tape, Linker borrowed another horse from a nearby farm, this time an Appaloosa, and set out again on his historic journey. The way things are going, by the time he gets to Philly—if he ever gets there—he'll find that the Congress has adjourned.
Just about the last thing the government needs is a hockey team, which is hardly the sort of asset that can be stashed away with the gold at Fort Knox. But NHL officials were glumly facing that prospect last week with the dead-broke Pittsburgh Penguins. Not long after the Internal Revenue Service padlocked the Penguin office and put a lien on the club for some $500,000 in unpaid taxes, banks foreclosed on more than $5 million in loans. As if that weren't enough, the club also owes the NHL more than $1 million, and League President Clarence Campbell allowed, "I'm afraid we are going to share the fate of most general creditors."
Since the Penguins' only assets are the players, most of whom have expensive, long-term contracts, one Pittsburgh official admitted, "It looks like the United States may now own a hockey team."
This is only the latest in a series of calamities for the NHL. The league lost about $11 million in the last few years in supporting the California Seals, and is in no position to bail out the Penguins. Not even half the 18 teams broke even last year, and the crunch is so bad that the NHL has permitted several ailing expansion clubs to delay their annual $850,000 franchise installment payments. "We are full of good sentiments," said Campbell, "but we're fresh out of money."
LEAVE NO STONE UNTAXED
Right now it is more ripple than ground swell, but a brand-new spread-the-taxes movement is under way on Capitol Hill, provoking what legislators like to call "a lively discussion." The proposal is to tax nonhunting and nonfishing users of public wildlife lands, the better to raise funds to protect and expand these areas, and it comes from the Wildlife Management Institute, a nonprofit conservation group. The Institute says that there has been a marked trend in recent years toward greater use of state and federal recreational lands by such folks as bird watchers and photographers (more than 12 million participate in these two activities), and skiers and campers.
Most of the financial burden now rests upon hunters and anglers, who are taxed on guns, ammunition and fishing gear. Also, an estimated 42 million Americans shell out some $240 million a year for state hunting and fishing licenses. These moneys, with matching U.S. funds, maintain the great outdoors. The Institute suggests that "all who enjoy wildlife share more equitably in paying for the protection of badly needed wildlife habitat."
Among potential revenue sources, the Institute cites federal excise taxes on recreational vehicles, tents, sleeping bags, lanterns, skis, wild-bird seed, scuba gear, binoculars, cameras and film. The tax take of from 1% to 10% on these items could yield as much as $149.6 million annually and easily fund a $40 million matching grant-in-aid, nongame wildlife habitat program, says the Institute. Other possible sources include strip-mining royalty fees, zoo admissions, nonreturnable bottles, public-land building permits, recreational stamps to be issued in the absence of hunting or fishing permits and a surcharge on public-land timber sales. Maybe even a $1 checkoff on federal and state income taxes.
WHAT SILVER LINING?
Perhaps this story shouldn't be written but played on a Gypsy violin, accompanied by background sobbing. Enter the Triadelphia High School baseball team, ready for the West Virginia state tournament at Huntington, 250 miles from its home in Wheeling. Action starts. The Triads are leading Greenbrier East 2-1 in the second inning when a rainstorm stops the game. It is rescheduled for the next day—and rained out. The Triads return to Wheeling; the game is reset for a week later at Charleston, 250 miles away. The Triads show up, and win 2-1. Next day they triumph again, 5-1, over tourney favorite Logan High, and the title game with Parkersburg South is set for the same evening. It rains again.
Officials reschedule the game for the following night, but switch it to Parkersburg's home field, some 110 miles away from Wheeling. The Triads go home, then drive to Parkersburg. They arrive at the field just in time to sit on the bench and watch it rain. Home again to Wheeling, where the boosters' club decides to replenish the team's fast-vanishing funds by staging an outdoor benefit steak fry. It pours. Four days later the Triads return to Parkersburg, take the field—and lose 1-0 before the biggest prep baseball crowd in West Virginia history. But that's not all.
Stuck with all those steaks still on ice, the hometown boosters now decide they'll toss a testimonial dinner the very next night to console the team. Outdoors, naturally. And it rains again, the biggest storm of them all. As the saga sinks slowly in the mud, here is Triad Coach Dick Moore back at school, ready to clean out his desk for vacation. Wrong. He has missed so many teaching days trekking around with the team, says the principal, that Moore will have to make up time. He does it, of course. Misses a special golf date, too. And the sun shines all day long.
Lest one think that it only rains in West Virginia, consider the Delaware Open track meet in Wilmington, which had decided to face up to the coming metric era by staging the first metric events in its 24-year history. The meet was called off because of a violent thunderstorm. Mathematicians figure it rained 5.08 cm in one hour.
SOAK THE RICH
And for a final wet flourish: never mind the big Pennsylvania lottery drawing, said William R. Tronzo, he had a Little League game to coach that night, and didn't want to miss it. But it wasn't his lucky night: the game was called because of rain in the third, when his Beaver Falls team was ahead 2-1. So Tronzo went home to find that the lottery had been drawn and he had won $1 million.
SIC TRANSIT THE WORKS
The teams were in training and all was set for the annual Canadian Football League All-Star game in Montreal. That metropolis of 2½ million is being touted as an NFL city, despite xenophobic pressure against it, and the game—between the Grey Cup champion Alouettes and a lineup from eight other CFL teams—would serve to prove its expansion potential. Canadian officials expected a big turnout but figured that a gate of even 15,000 would allow them to break even. And then they counted the advance sales: only 2,200 tickets had been sold. Game, and possible NFL status, called on account of indifference.
ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN
The secret of his racing longevity was in his recuperative powers, Jockey Robert L. Baird told The Louisville Times. The day after the interview appeared in the paper the 54-year-old Baird, whose career list of broken bones rivals Evel Knievel's, mounted up for the first race at Churchill Downs. His horse surged into second place, then fell, spilling Baird and breaking two of his ribs. For the record, the horse's name was Amazing Safety.
SLOTH CAN BE BEAUTIFUL
Armchair athletes the world over will be cheered to learn that getting in top physical shape has its perils. In fact, two doctors who know a lot about such things say that an athlete who falls into the wrong medical hands can be in trouble. Peak condition brings what might appear to be abnormal physiological and metabolic results, report Dr. George A. Sheehan, known as the Running Physician of Red Bank, N.J., and Dr. Joan L. Ullyot, director of Aerobics and Physiology at San Francisco's Institute of Health Research. Thus many athletes show abnormal ECG readings, meaning, by rough translation, that their hearts register unusual electrical patterns, rhythms or enlargement. This ostensible problem has benched basketball players and might have sidelined Wilt Chamberlain if his physician had been a cardiologist, said Dr. Sheehan. He cited other cases of doctors sounding misguided alarms and noted, "The only danger in an athletic heart is in going to a doctor."
Dr. Ullyot went even further at a recent symposium on sports medicine, declaring that the medical profession "has no idea of normality or health because all 'normality' is based on sick people." She, too, recounted instances of athletes being warned that they were "very sick" and in danger of a heart attack, and recalled that she once rescued a top distance runner from three weeks of unnecessary hospitalization by telling his doctor that "all runners have these abnormalities.
"Despite the fact that 70 to 90 is considered a normal pulse rate, in runners we have yet to find one over 60, and more likely they are in the 40s," Dr. Ullyot asserted. "A good long-distance runner should wear a dog tag saying that his pulse rate is 30 to 40 and that his ECG is bizarre," she suggested. "Otherwise, if he is sent to a hospital for any reason, he might end up in a coronary care unit."
Better yet, one can avoid all these scary possibilities by maintaining, say, average good shape and seeing one's doctor once a year. Walk, don't run.
It all started when the Manzanita Speedway at Phoenix introduced what it calls a "street stocker" class to spice up its racing programs. The cars are usually tattered and torn, and no frills like window glass or chrome trim are allowed. The drivers merely add seat belts, don crash helmets and roar into action.
Hard by the speedway a gentleman named Dave Boatwright operates a car junkyard—and if ever there was a sporting opportunity, this was it. Boatwright launched his own, rent-them-and-wreck-them scheme: for $25 plus the price of gas, anyone may have the fun of racing a Boatwright car. The owner doesn't mind at all if the driver trashes the vehicle; he sweeps up the pieces and uses the parts. "Look at it this way," says Boatwright. "A guy who puts $300 into his own car and then wrecks it the first night is out the whole pot. If I can take a car worth $15 and get $25 out of it, I'm ahead. One car, I got almost $300 back on already."
Covering all angles, Boatwright has added one stipulation: rent one of his racers and he gets to keep all the winnings. No problem. So far there haven't been any winnings.
THEY SAID IT
•Alex Wheaden, a national fencing champion in the under-16 class: "I love winning medals, and I like to see people see me getting awards."
•Danny Cater, late of the St. Louis Cardinals, on his club's flurry of player deals: "So many guys come and go here that if we won the pennant, our shares would be $50 apiece."