Little Furman University (enrollment 2,300) of Greenville, S.C., has been having fun with comparative scores. You know how that's played. Sure, Michigan beat Ohio State last Saturday on national TV in one of the big games of the year (page 82) but wait—Michigan lost to Purdue, which lost to Notre Dame, which lost to Georgia Tech, which lost to Navy, which lost to William & Mary, which lost to Furman. Is it fair that Michigan, and not Furman, is going to the Rose Bowl?
You say that's a mighty slender string on which to hang an invitation to Pasadena on New Year's Day? Furman fans neatly reverse their field and point out that while USC walloped UCLA (page 24) to gain the other Rose Bowl berth, USC lost to Missouri, which lost to Illinois, which lost to Baylor, which lost to Houston, which lost to Florida, which lost to North Carolina, which lost to North Carolina State, which lost to—who else?—Furman.
If you're not convinced by now, there's nothing more we can do. Go, Furman! Go, Paladins! Beat Wofford! Which they did last Saturday, 56-14.
Although the AP and UPI weekly rankings of college football teams are read eagerly by everybody who follows the sport, including us, they really don't make a whole lot of sense. Jerry Claiborne, coach of undefeated Maryland, noted earlier in the season that his team, which has been accused of playing a generally soft schedule, climbed in the rankings as it beat the easy marks and then dropped a notch on two straight occasions when it decisively defeated teams that were considered reasonably tough.
Pittsburgh, too, has had an undemanding schedule; in fact, it played three teams that also played Maryland. Maryland defeated all three (Duke, West Virginia and Syracuse) by substantially wider margins than Pitt did. Yet Pitt has been ranked No. 1, while Maryland has been hovering around sixth.
Or take the Missouri-Tulsa situation. Missouri, that strange team, lost five games this season, but it played seven of the teams ranked in the Top 20 in the UPI coaches poll; Tulsa played one. Missouri defeated four of those teams and lost to the others by one, four and seven points; Tulsa was soundly beaten by the Top 20 team it played. In the UPI poll released a week ago, Missouri was unranked; Tulsa was 15th. Ridiculous.
The Dunkel Ratings, a complicated system in which a team's won-lost record is weighed against the strength of its schedule, ranked Pitt 13th last week and Maryland, before it defeated soft-touch Virginia to complete its undefeated season, 11th. Battered old Missouri was ninth. Tulsa wasn't in the Top 30.
There's this man on a train in England, see? And he notices this girl, and he decides to put a little move on her. Well, let the lady tell it. Perhaps you should first be told that her name is Janis Kerr and that she is the English women's shot-put champion, and that she is six feet tall and weighs a little over 200 pounds. She was sitting alone on the train, reading, when the man approached her, leering.
"He stood over me and his intentions seemed quite clear," says Kerr, "so I had a go. He really did not know what hit him. It was a beauty."
The go lasted four minutes, while Ken-struggled to hang on to the man—his interest in her suddenly having waned—until the train stopped at a station. "I was determined to hold him for the police," she said, and did.
Her husband, Andy Kerr, a 6'2", 260-pound weight lifter, said approvingly, "She fights like a wild animal. When we had play fights I soon discovered she could handle herself."
Mrs. Kerr had a previous bout with a masher on a train. "That time," she said, "I was sitting alone when a guy put his hand on my knee. I told him to stop it immediately. But he persisted, so I whapped him one."
Of her latest encounter, she said, "I think I scored one for every woman who has found herself being molested in this sort of situation. It happens far too often these days. Something has got to be done to stop it."
Like whapping them one.
Having two players with the rare skills of George McGinnis and Julius Erving on the same team may not necessarily guarantee the Philadelphia 76ers the NBA championship, but it does make for some breathtaking moments. One such, reported by The Washington Post, came in a game between the 76ers and the Bullets when McGinnis, heading toward the basket on a breakaway with only Dave Bing to beat, saw out of the corner of his eye that Erving was trailing on the play. Instead of going in over Bing, or pulling up for a jumper or trying one of his sleight-of-hand hesitation moves, McGinnis suddenly stopped and lobbed the ball underhand straight up in the air. Erving, reacting instantly, took off from the free-throw line, grabbed the ball as it sat there in midair waiting for him and laid it in for the score.
TO BE SPECIFIC
Erving's spectacular layup may have been esthetically satisfying, but it did nothing for his slam-dunk average. Slam-dunk average? That's just the latest in a multitude of basketball minutiae kept by Harvey Pollack, the 76ers' director of publicity and the NBA's undisputed Sultan of Stats. Pollack likes to keep track of such things, but it isn't always easy. When in an official play-by-play report of a 76er game in Houston he found seven entries saying "Erving, layup," he didn't believe it. He fired off memos to every publicity man in the league imploring them to "be sure your play-by-play man knows the difference between a layup and a dunk."
Pollack's concern for detail is reflected in his 76er yearbook, which is rich in trivia. Examples:
•The most common point spread in the first 12,968 NBA games ever played was two. It occurred 949 times, 128 more than second-place four. The largest spread ever was 63 (Los Angeles over Golden State, 162-99, in 1972).
•The Pac 8 has supplanted the Big Ten as the leading producer of NBA talent (28 players). California is the No. 1 state (34), UCLA the No. 1 college (12).
•Cleveland had the biggest team last season. The average Cavalier was 6'7.08" and weighed 211.08 pounds. An average Portland Trail Blazer was a runty 6'4.86", an average Houston Rocket a frail 198 pounds.
•The most popular months for NBA birthdays were November and July, with 23 each. June had only 10.
•Last season a total of 682 technical fouls was called, netting the league $37,650 in fines. Boston Coach Tommy Heinsohn led with 33. Chicago's Norm Van Lier topped the players with 23.
•The most popular uniform number was 10. Tied for second were 15 and 42. The onetime leader, 24, slumped to third. Only two players wore 1. Two wore 13. (This season one player, Robert Parish of Golden State, is wearing 00, but that's for next year's book.)
THINKING MAN'S TEAM
Never underestimate the memory of an Original Met fan. No sooner had we mentioned that four members of the 1962 New York Mets, possibly the worst team in big-league history, are currently pitching coaches in the majors (SCORECARD, Nov. 22) than we received indignant word that three other members of that justly maligned team are now passing on their accumulated wisdom to today's players. Catchers Joe Pignatano and Chris Cannizzaro are coaches with the Mets (Joe) and the Atlanta Braves (Chris), and Third Baseman Don Zimmer is manager of the Boston Red Sox.
And if you move onward to the 1963 Mets, who were better—but not much—you can add Catcher Norm Sherry, manager of the California Angels, and Pitcher Larry Bearnarth, who was a coach for the Montreal Expos last season.
Two managers and seven coaches from one of the most bizarre collections of players in major league history. Surely, that's one for the book.
Last year about this time (SCORECARD, Nov. 17, 1975) we reported on the penchant of Indianapolis' Cathedral High football team for upsetting opponents with terrific winning streaks. The Irish snapped, among other things, skeins of 60 and 24 victories. This season Cathedral continued to be a spoiler, knocking off rivals who had won six, seven, eight and 11 in a row.
A Cathedral supporter who supplied us with this information added, nervously, "Someday we are going to get our own medicine fed back to us." His words proved prophetic. When Cathedral met Merrillville for the Indiana state AAA title last Friday night, it had stretched its own win streak to 20. The Irish lost that championship game in the last two minutes 28-24 and, we imagine, swallowed hard.
LOUSING THINGS UP?
The proposed Dickey-Lincoln dam system on the St. John River in northern Maine may not be built because a rare species of wild snapdragon called Furbish lousewort has been found growing in the area that would be flooded. Environmentalists say the plant may come under the Endangered Species Act, which bars Federal funds from projects that would damage or destroy the habitat of plants or animals in danger of extinction.
Richard Dyer, the botanist who revealed the existence of the lousewort, says there is nothing special about the plant, other than its rarity, and that it is ludicrous to imagine its existence alone could halt a multimillion-dollar project. But he says it symbolizes the change in the environment the damming of the St. John would cause, with its drowning of 88,000 acres of forest land.
Opinion in Maine appears divided on whether the vast hydroelectric project, said to be larger than Egypt's Aswan Dam, should go ahead or be stopped. The Portland Press Herald, suggesting that the plants might be moved, wrote facetiously, "While we bow to no man in our delight at the news that Furbish lousewort is not, as we had feared, extinct, we would modestly submit that an accommodation may be yet achieved. There is no gainsaying the wisdom of legislation designed to protect and preserve, among other things, Furbish lousewort. Yet, having said that, is it not possible to safely transplant this botanical Lazarus to another nearby location? Mind you, we're just asking."
The Bangor Daily News took the opposite stand. "Three cheers for the Furbish lousewort," it wrote. "May it long grace the banks and adjacent lowlands of the St. John River.... As we view it, the Dickey dam issue is just now beginning to take focus. The spotlight is on [the] Furbish lousewort and all it stands for—including a beautiful free-flowing river."
THE SMELL OF MONEY
In August 1970, the Cincinnati Reds were in New York for a series with the Mets, and a 19-year-old rookie pitcher from Kentucky named Don Gullett was taking a long look at the big town. He didn't like it.
"I'd give one house in the country for the whole city," he said. "All you can see is buildings and long-haired people. There's no fresh air. I can't take that, not even out on the mound when you're pitching. You're surrounded by so many people that the air smells."
Last week, after Gullett left the Reds to sign a six-year contract with the New York Yankees for a sum in the neighborhood of $2 million, he said, "It wasn't a hard decision for me. There's something special about pitching in Yankee Stadium."
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Downey, Chicago Daily News sportswriter, on the jumping ability of Denver's David Thompson: "The last time anybody jumped like that in Chicago was when Mayor Daley asked an alderman to get him a cup of coffee."
•Jeff Morrow, University of Minnesota tackle, after he injured his right knee and sprained his left ankle: "I can't even limp."
•Sal Bando, asked how he felt about leaving the Oakland A's to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers: "Was it difficult leaving the Titanic?"