HAMMERS AND KNIVES
Conversation keeps bubbling about the apparent increase in roughness in the NFL this year, even among the players themselves, although some feel that the press has given it too much attention. Of the biggest wave of publicity, that which swirled around the fining of Oakland's George Atkinson and Jack Tatum after Pittsburgh's Lynn Swann was whacked around in a Raider-Steeler game last month, Merlin Olsen of the Los Angeles Rams said, "I'm not too happy with those fines—not that they weren't deserved. But I think they were levied to calm some angry people. All we need are a couple of irate fans to get drunked up the next time Oakland plays in Pittsburgh and have one of them stick a knife in a player's back. Where would that leave us?"
Olsen and other veterans seem to feel that most NFL people have a professional respect for one another, and that cheap shots are occasional occurrences that are best dealt with by the players themselves on the field. Seattle's Norm Evans, who is in his 12th pro season, recalls Fred (The Hammer) Williamson, onetime terror of the Oakland defense, who eventually was sidelined permanently with a knee injury. "For a while," says Evans, "all I heard about was Freddie the Hammer and how mean he was. But then all of a sudden he was out of football."
Some don't believe that this eye-for-an-eye philosophy keeps excessive violence under control. Claude Humphrey, Atlanta Falcon defensive end, says, "If you can get Lawrence McCutcheon or James Harris out of there when you play the Rams, you've got a hell of a chance to win, and that's what it's all about. If Swann has a chance to catch a touchdown pass, why not hit him? It's just football. That's why it's the No. 1 sport. On a Sunday afternoon the fans get to screaming and they want to see somebody get hit." Ken Stone of Tampa Bay says, "From high school on, we're taught different kinds of arm tackling and clotheslining. It's all part of a violent game, and that's what people pay to see."
Those who prefer the daring grace and accomplishment of a healthy Gale Sayers, a healthy Joe Namath or, for that matter, a healthy Lynn Swann, may disagree.
Sparky Anderson, manager of the Cincinnati Reds since 1970, in praising the appointment of Joe Altobelli as manager of the San Francisco Giants, described Altobelli as "one of the best young managers in the game."
Altobelli is 44. Anderson, the old savant, is 42.
With all the dreary things ABC-TV did to the pennant playoffs—the amateurish announcing of Keith Jackson and Warner Wolf, the tiresome banalities of Howard Cosell, the intolerable number of commercials and promotions crammed between each half inning—it was a relief to note some plus factors. With few exceptions, the broadcasting efforts of Reggie Jackson and Tom Seaver made up for a lot of the gaffes committed by the so-called professionals. Some ballplayers are flops on the air; these two have careers ahead of them when they pack it in on the field. Give ABC credit for that.
Evonne Goolagong's pregnancy—she and her husband Roger Cawley are expecting their first child next May—could stir up women's tennis the way Margaret Smith Court's blessed event did in 1971. At that time Court and Billie Jean King dominated the game pretty much the way Goolagong and Chris Evert do now. But when Court went off to the obstetrician's, Evonne and Chris began their rapid climb to fame and fortune, fighting at first for the right to challenge Billie Jean and eventually superseding her. Now the same sort of opportunity is in the offing for bright young players like Sue Barker, Dianne Fromholtz, Mima Jausovec and Natasha Chmyreva, who have been frustrated up to now by the overpowering presence of both Goolagong and Evert. Never underestimate a mother's influence.
Torben Ulrich is two years shy of being 50, yet he wears his hair in a ponytail, sports a beard and enjoys staying up most of the night in cellar clubs listening to jazz. He should be a physical wreck but he's not. A native of Denmark and once a first-line international tennis player, he is currently a star in Grand Masters (over 45) tennis competition, runs 50 to 75 miles a week, pops vitamins and is bursting with health.
"Running is so cleansing," he says. "A lot of dirt leaves your system, a lot of garbage goes." He does stretching exercises to keep his body limber. In competition he relies on "years of experience to counterbalance slowing down. There is a purification in discipline."
Ulrich is something of an evangelist on the subject of people staying active in sport as they grow older. He says the attitude that vigorous play is somehow wrong for older people is mostly psychological. "The whole approach to growing older in athletics is changing," he claims. "The old generation today grew old without being aware of athletics for them. My generation is just becoming aware. But look ahead 20 to 40 years. People who grow old playing will stay in athletics. We know more of stamina, speed, care of injuries, training, over-training, stretching, flexibility, vitamins."
Not surprisingly, Ulrich prefers tennis as a sport for older people. "It's about halfway between golf and all-out physical effort, like an 800-meter run," he says. But he favors participation in other sports, too, even baseball. In the future, he suggests, "Maybe there will be a decrease in feelings hindering a person from playing baseball at older ages."
Banghi is a 3-year-old thoroughbred who seems constantly to have his name mispronounced as "Bang-High." Since he is currently running quite well (second in both the Lawrence Realization and the Man o' War at Belmont Park), we would like to set the record straight. His name is pronounced "Bangy." Banghi, a word derived from Hindi, means marijuana, and some of the younger horseplayers have noted that his best races, for one reason or another, are on grass.
A couple of weeks ago we ran a quiz in which you were asked to match a list of 16 terms taken from Webster's Sports Dictionary with their appropriate sports. The terms were rather esoteric, and so far nobody has claimed to have gotten even half of them right. Although we gave an answer key, matching terms and sports, several readers have asked for definitions, too. Here goes:
Mongolian draw (Archery): a method of drawing back a bowstring. Moebius flip (Skiing): a forward or backward flip with a full twist, performed during a jump. Death spiral (Figure skating): in pairs, where the couple spins in place, the man holding the woman outstretched with her head just above the surface of the ice. Cuban fork ball (Baseball): a pitch suspected of being a spitball. Crab ride (Wrestling): a hold in which one competitor is behind and under the other. Belly roll (Track and field): a high-jumping technique in which the jumper leads with the leg farthest from the bar, "rolls over" the bar on his stomach and lets the trailing leg follow. Wheel sucker (Cycling): a rider adept at utilizing the slipstream from another rider to conserve energy. Tight scrum (Rugby): a formation in which players from both sides join to form a tunnel into which the ball is tossed to restart play. Swedish box (Gymnastics): a vaulting apparatus consisting of a series of rectangular frames graded in size. Running English (Billiards): spin imparted to the cue ball to make it come off a cushion or another ball at an increasing angle. Pumpkin ball (Hunting): a solid metal ball or rifled slug, used for big game. Penholder grip (Table tennis): a grip in which the handle of the paddle is held the way you would hold a pen or pencil. Naismith's formula (Hiking): a method of estimating the time a hike should take—one hour for every three miles, plus an hour for every 2,000 feet of climbing. Murphy blind (Harness racing): leather attached to a bridle to obstruct a horse's vision on one side and thus overcome its tendency to turn to that side. Ice screw (Mountain climbing): a metal spike that is screwed into ice instead of hammering in a piton. Gunkholing (Sailing): sailing a small boat in shallow water along a coastline.
Bert Jones, the Baltimore Colt quarterback, has moved beyond Earl Morrall to become the No. 2 passer in Colt history. Jones' tosses have gained 5,930 yards.
He still has a way to go. The No. 1 passer in Colt history has 39,768 yards.
If you've been wondering whatever happened to Rosi Mittermaier, the West German girl with the big smile who caught the imagination of the world at the Winter Olympics last February when she won two golds and a silver in Alpine skiing, she's doing just fine. Rosi, sometimes called the grandma of international skiing because of her advanced age—she's 26, you know—has turned pro and could make as much as $500,000 in the next year. Most of that will come from endorsements and participation in special events, such as ABC's Superstars and CBS' Battle of the Sexes.
Mittermaier will take part in professional ski races "only if the competition is interesting." Right now, she says, "There are too few races and too few women to race against." And possibly not enough prize money.
Rosi's lucrative commercial tie-ups are with four German firms: Fritzmeier, one of the top European ski manufacturers; Klemm, a ski-pole maker; Braun, a ski-clothing company; and Adidas, the shoe manufacturer, which is pushing a line of "Rosi Mittermaier leisure suits." The Fritzmeier connection is interesting. Rosi had used Fritzmeier skis ever since she was a teen-ager but switched to Dynamic a year before the Innsbruck Games and then won the Olympics on them. But Dynamic couldn't meet Fritzmeier's bid for her services, so she made a tight parallel turn and switched back.
YOU'RE THE TOP
It was noted earlier in the baseball season that while hitters who win batting titles and home-run championships get the publicity, the most valuable players tend to be the ones who are at or near the top in runs produced (a figure arrived at by adding runs scored to runs batted in and subtracting home runs). Last season, for example, Joe Morgan of the Reds and Fred Lynn of the Red Sox were first in none of the Triple Crown categories, yet each led his league in runs produced and each was named Most Valuable Player.
Here are the top 10 in each league this season in runs produced:
Carew, Minn 178
Munson, NY 167
Hisle, Minn 164
Otis, KC 161
Chambliss, NY 158
Mayberry, KC 157
White, NY 155
Rivers, NY 154
Brett, KC 154
Staub, Det 154
Morgan, Cinn 197
Rose, Cinn 183
Schmidt, Phil 181
Griffey, Cinn 179
Foster, Cinn 178
Watson, Hous 162
Parker, Pitt 159
Zisk, Pitt 159
Cedeno, Hous 154
Garvey, LA 152
Monday, Chi 152
THEY SAID IT
•Al Hanlon, in charge of preparing football schedules for the University of Maryland: "I'll tell you how far in advance we schedule. We have two open dates left before 1990."
•Ray Floyd, pro golfer, explaining why his expenses on the tour are $60,000, twice what the average pro spends: "If you travel first class, you think first class, and you're more likely to play first class."
•Chuck Mills, Wake Forest football coach: "I give the same halftime speech over and over. It works best when my players are better than the other coach's players."
•Alois Blackwell, University of Houston running back, on why he chose to play under Coach Bill Yeoman, developer of the Veer-T offense: "I always wanted to play for someone who invented something. Why take a piece of cake from just anybody when you can get one from Betty Crocker?"