SLAP SHOT ON THE WRIST
Hockey people put down the movie Slap Shot-not so much for its artistic shortcomings (SI, March 7) as for what they feel is its unfair emphasis on violence. Such sanctioned or at least semi-approved rage, they say, does not exist in real life—that is, on real ice.
Maybe not. But last week John Ferguson, coach of the New York Rangers and therefore a leader of men, became enraged at the officials. He used "abusive" language, made obscene gestures and hurled a plastic water bottle 80 feet across the ice that hit Linesman Swede Knox. He was eventually tossed out of the game and later fined $500 by League President Clarence Campbell, who said he was "completely satisfied that Referee Bob Myers was justified in ejecting Ferguson from the game."
That sounds as though Myers, not Ferguson, was on trial. And a $500 fine for, among other things, hitting an official with a thrown object? Ted Williams was once fined $5,000 for spitting in the general direction of the crowd. And that was before inflation. Maybe we'd better take another look at Slap Shot.
MAN IN A HURRY
At the Marion State Correctional Institution in Ohio, where Don King was staging the quarterfinals of his U.S. Boxing Championships, a resident spectator demanding action shouted: "Come on, I've only got 20 years!"
Because America the Beautiful was played before the Super Bowl instead of The Star-Spangled Banner, Raymond A. Dypski, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, has introduced a bill to that body which would urge the television networks to play only the national anthem before sports broadcasts. "I think we ought to continue the tradition of playing our national anthem," Dypski argued. "Playing other songs will confuse patriotic people. We've been teaching them for almost 200 years that it's The Star-Spangled Banner."
Dypski's facts are a bit off. Francis Scott Key wrote his poem in 1814 during the British bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry, but the words were not put to music until some years later and it was not until 1931 that Congress made the song the national anthem (SI, Jan. 3).
"I didn't know that," Dypski said, and conceded that his greatest concern was that the shift away from The Star-Spangled Banner could affect tourism at Fort McHenry, which just happens to be in his district.
OH SAY CAN KATE SING?
Raymond Dypski notwithstanding, Kate Smith—first in person, now in a recording—sings God Bless America instead of the national anthem before Philadelphia Flyer games and supposedly brings great good luck to the two-time National Hockey League champions. If this heresy distresses Dypski, he will be pleased to hear about Hamilton College of Clinton, N.Y.
Hamilton had a history of poor basketball teams, losing frequently even at home. Then, in 1974, some Hamilton students bought a Kate Smith recording, not of God Bless America but The Star-Spangled Banner, and began to play it before every home game. A strange thing happened. Hamilton turned into a small-college power. Over the past two years the Continentals are 43-9 and, presumably aided by that old Kate magic, are unbeaten in 23 straight games on their home court. When Hamilton students were asked to name the 15 women they most admired in the world, Miss Smith made the list. Several students circulated a petition asking that she be granted an honorary degree.
If anything was needed to prove to Hamilton undergraduates Miss Smith's extraordinary powers, it came during this month's small-college basketball championship tournament at Utica, N.Y. Although Hamilton, the defending champion, was the host school, it was decided not to play the Kate Smith record at the tournament. Instead, an instrumental version of the national anthem was played. Naturally, Hamilton lost.
THE RUY DIODE OPENING
When computers first played chess some years ago, they were easy prey for any competent player. But times change—1984 is only seven years away—and according to Larry Eldridge, sports editor of The Christian Science Monitor, computers are now moving into big-time chess.
During the recent American Class Championships in California, Control Data's chess-programmed Cyber 170, which played its matches via telephone from its home base in Minneapolis, wiped out all five of its opponents to win the Class B section. After the tournament a Class A player took on Cyber 170 in an attempt to vindicate humanity, but he was beaten, too. Finally an expert class player was called on and he was able to defeat the computer, but only after a 94-move marathon.
What this means is that computers are now capable of beating the vast majority of chess players, including those good enough to compete in tournaments. The computers' presence poses a problem for chess. In California, Cyber 170 upset the competitive balance, giving an advantage to those lucky enough not to have to play it while creating an insurmountable obstacle for those who did. In the final round, for instance, a player with a 4-0 record got paired with the computer, was beaten and fell out of first place. This sort of thing resulted in a mini-revolt at the end of the tournament, with one of the losers grabbing a microphone and calling for a meeting of all those who had played the computer. Someone else snatched the mike away and told the audience to ignore the message.
That putative rebellion was quashed, but tournament directors are going to have to reckon with computers. Eldridge suggests that when computers play they be forced to compete in the Open section, where sooner or later they would face a master or even a grandmaster and find their transistors shorting out. As in whirr, click, bang, it does not compute.
As all hoop fans know, Springfield, Mass. is the place where Dr. James Naismith nailed up two peach baskets in a gym shortly before the turn of the century and invented the game of basketball. This week the NCAA Division II basketball tournament is being held at Springfield's Civic Center, the first time an NCAA basketball championship has been held in New England. To help celebrate the occasion, Springfield decided to hang peach baskets from lampposts on the main street of the city as a salute to Dr. Naismith.
The only trouble was, Springfield couldn't find enough peach baskets. Distress signals were sent out. Georgia, which has been sending a lot of things north lately, heard about the shortage, and the Peach State promptly shipped 300 baskets to Springfield, courtesy of Delta Airlines, which contributed air cargo space. Then Food Mart supermarkets found 250 peach baskets tucked away in a storehouse and contributed them. Other folks sent baskets to Springfield, too, and by the time the NCAA tournament began, the streets of the city were properly attired. Or basketed.
NOM D'UN NOM
From time to time we report on beautifully named racehorses and praise the taste and perception of those owners who take the time and trouble to come up with names that reflect the horses' breeding, the excitement of racing and, sometimes, the appearance of the animals.
Now we are obliged to comment on the opposite side of the coin: bad names, specifically those of Secretariat's first crop of foals. There are 28 living colts and fillies from the Triple Crown winner's first season at stud, and many of them will be coming to the races this year as 2-year-olds. A sorrier collection of names would be hard to come up with.
For instance one filly, a good one, is named Sexetary. Isn't that clever? How about Superfast? Or Brilliant Protege? And then there is the imaginatively named Miss Secretariat.
What else? How do you like Syntariat? Seclusive? Sociologue? Centrifelia? Acratariat? Senator's Choice? And what about Jean Louis Levesque's filly Feuille d'Erable. That means "Maple Leaf" in French (Right! Levesque is a French Canadian) but is all but unpronounceable for American racegoers and race callers.
About the only name in the entire crop that seems to couple an echo of the sire's name with the rhythm of the racetrack is that of another filly, called Punctuation. Come on, Punctuation! Leave Sexetary in your dust.
SULLY'S SO-CALLED SENILITY
Sully Krouse, 300-pound wrestling coach at the University of Maryland, doesn't much like Bill Lam, wrestling coach at North Carolina. "He's a hot dog," Krouse says. Asked why he thinks Lam is a hot dog, Krouse says, "Well, he got all upset when I called him a humpty-dumpty a couple of years ago."
Krouse once summed up his coaching philosophy by saying, "Everybody talks about gentlemen and scholars. I'd rather have bad guys who can win." Asked to what lengths he would go to beat Lam, he says, "I'd lie, cheat and steal."
Krouse's disenchantment with Lam stems in part from what happened when Maryland went to Chapel Hill for a dual meet with the Tar Heels earlier this year. The meet was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. but at 11 that morning the Carolina trainer called Krouse and told him the time had been changed to 3 p.m. Wrestlers weigh in four hours before they compete, which meant that the Maryland wrestlers had to start weighing in right away, instead of waiting until midafternoon. As wrestling fans know, such short notice can be a hardship, particularly for competitors who need to lose a pound or so before they hop on the scales. Krouse was bitter.
"Ten years ago." he says, "we'd have gotten right in the cars and headed up the road toward home. But I let the boys vote. They voted to stay, and we lost the meet."
Why hadn't he taken the team home without submitting it to a vote? "I'm getting senile." Krouse says.
SNARE AND DELUSION
The Toros of Cal State, Dominguez Hills near Los Angeles finished the basketball season with a 5-20 record, so it is not surprising to learn that the college is looking for a new coach. What is surprising is that it took four different head coaches to get the Toros through that terrible season. Al Pompey was relieved of his post early in the year presumably because he dressed only six players for one game. Athletic Director Mike Kolsky, with whom Pompey did not get along, took over amid protests from players and students. Kolsky lasted two days. Ed Brown-lee, a high school teacher who had acted as Pompey's assistant, replaced Kolsky. Brownlee directed the team for one game and then, apparently because of a time conflict with his high school job, quit. Finally Ron Fortner, a former assistant at Pepperdine and Denver, was named coach and managed to last the rest of the season, even though several pro-Pompey players boycotted a game after Fortner's arrival.
Now the school is accepting applications for the coaching job for next year. Aspirants might keep in mind that Pompey and, possibly, Fortner are planning to reapply for the post, though heaven only knows why.
THEY SAID IT
•Henry O. Nichols, acting chairman of Villanova's department of education and one of the nation's top college basketball officials, on how he behaves when he is a spectator at a Villanova game: "Are you kidding? I yell at the referees just like everybody else."
•Bill Russell, Seattle SuperSonic coach, after towering Tom Burleson fell over a rival player and landed on his head: "When a guy 7'2" falls on his head, it can be serious. He's got a long way to go. The velocity builds up pretty good."
•Jim Fuller, Houston Astro outfielder, replying to lead-footed Cliff Johnson's claim that he'll steal 20 bases this season: "The only way you'll do that is to break into the equipment room."