The Senate Commerce Committee held hearings last week on a bill, S. 2036, introduced by Senators Ted Stevens (Rep., Alaska), John Culver (Dem., Iowa) and Richard Stone (Dem., Fla.), which would make the United States Olympic Committee the central coordinating body for amateur sports, authorize the American Arbitration Association to settle disputes and guarantee athletes the right to take part in international competition. The bill follows recommendations made in January by the President's Commission on Olympic Sports.
Senators who have chaired hearings on sports bills have often been voted out of office when up for reelection, a pattern that moved Senator Stevens, who chaired the hearings, to say, "Either this one flies this year, or there will be no more bills." Stevens urged compromise, noting, "Too often sports organizations have come to us and said, 'If we don't get 100% of what we want, we'll oppose you 100%.' " In the case of the NCAA and high schools, both with effective lobbies, such opposition can endanger the mildest of proposals.
The basic question is whether the U.S., with so much of its sport under the control of schools, can ever have a cooperative group of sports organizations. The issue was drawn most clearly in the debate over athletes' rights. Speed-skater Sheila Young, rower Anita DeFrantz, marathoner Kenny Moore, water-polo player Carl Thomas and biathlete Ed Williams testified that athletes had been prevented from representing the U.S. in international competition or had been penalized afterward for doing so. They urged that freedom of entry in international competition be guaranteed by law.
The NCAA's executive director, Walter Byers, said the colleges wanted to maintain the power to keep athletes out of international competition if it conflicted with school programs. Startled, Stevens asked Byers, "Isn't there any event—perhaps the Olympic Games—in which an athlete should have an absolute right to compete?"
Replied Byers, "Our rule says that if a man competes outside, he can't go back and compete on the college track team. Now what is the objection to that rule?"
One objection is that the NCAA has put its cart before the U.S.A.'s horse. The President's Commission found that U.S. sports groups were "unbound by any common purpose." It seems they are still unbound, and so long as the NCAA is unwilling to compromise on healing legislation, they will remain so.
Bob Speca, a University of Pennsylvania swimmer, is spaced out by dominoes. Speca, who is in the Guinness Book of World Records for toppling 22,221 dominoes last year, recently spent four days setting up 55,555 dominoes on the basketball floor of the Palestra. Guarded by a security man, the dominoes spelled out various messages, such as D-E-K-E for Speca's fraternity and H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y M-A-R-I-E for a girl. Speca toppled all the dominoes on the morning of the Brown game, and that afternoon the Penn football team knocked the Bruins down in a 14-7 upset.
Speca began setting up dominoes five years ago when a high school math teacher drew an analogy between an infinity of numbers and an infinity of dominoes. Fascinated by this domino theory, Speca found, "I could do different patterns and formations, and before I knew it I was setting them on the basement floor. It kept getting bigger and bigger." At Penn, Speca has set up slogans, such as I-M-P-A-L-E Y-A-L-E, on the deck of the pool for his teammates on the swimming team. "It gets the guys psyched up," he says. "The guys watch the dominoes fall down and they cheer."
Depending on the formation, Speca says, standing dominoes fall at the rate of 30 to 35 per second, and he calculates that if dominoes were set up in a straight line from New York to Los Angeles, it would take 10 weeks for the last domino to fall over. Speca also builds ramps at a 10-degree incline, using yardsticks on domino boxes, and by setting up and toppling dominoes uphill on 20 ramps at the same time, he creates his version of a marching band. Some of the ramps crisscross, others are shaped like arrowheads. One of the fanciest formations is the super peel off, which Speca describes as "10 to 15 rows just peeling off a central line like a banana."
Speca has been psyched by his own act. When he arrived at Penn, his best time in the 100-yard breaststroke was a modest 1:09. Now he is down to 1:02. "It's just incredible," he says.
After years of domination by runners, this was supposed to be the year of the college quarterback. Instead, it has become the year of the injured quarterback. Particularly hard hit have been some of the top teams, with quarterbacks sidelined for part or all of the season. Heisman Trophy candidate Gifford Nielsen, quite possibly the best pure passer in the country, is out for the season with torn knee ligaments; Danny Davis of Houston has a separated shoulder; Rodney Allison of Texas Tech a broken bone in his left leg. Guy Benjamin of Stanford, a passer who many ranked with Nielsen, missed a game after straining knee ligaments. Matt Cavanaugh of Pitt came back after fracturing his left wrist in the opener against Notre Dame, as have Thomas Lott of Oklahoma, who sat out two games after he suffered an injured nerve below his right knee, and Rod Gerald of Ohio State, who was on the bench for the last quarter after suffering a neck injury against Oklahoma.
With the exception of Woody Hayes, who blamed Gerald's injury on an unnecessary head tackle ("You can expect that when you play Oklahoma"), no coach attributes the injuries to headhunting. Instead, there are various theories at work, and what they boil down to is the popularity of option offenses and bigger and stronger and quicker defensive linemen. Jackie Sherrill, the Pitt coach, says, "The defenses have changed. When the options came out it was felt that the best way to stop them was to go after the quarterback, get him before he could release the pitch. Today there's a new theory: 'slow play' the quarterback. With all the eight-man lines in college football, you give him the opportunity to pitch or keep. If he keeps, the pursuit is to blind-side him. You force the quarterback to run. Because he does so much running, he's vulnerable."
Coach Bill Yeoman of Houston suspects that football has become overbalanced in favor of powerful linemen built up by weight programs. "The differential in weight lifting may be the point at which it's beginning to show," he says. "We try to build up a quarterback's strength by having him lifting weights in the off-season. Once the season starts, however, we try to limit a quarterback's weight work because it might affect his throwing motion. Linemen never stop lifting, and the difference has become substantial."
Instead of the peasant look, Yves St. Laurent should turn to the jock look. One of the hottest fashion items for women these days is track shorts. "Women as old as 60 are wearing them," says Gunner Haggerty of Triangle Sporting Goods in Baltimore. "We sell all we can get our hands on." Mike Warren of Bucky Warren's in Boston reports, "We went through more running shorts this year than at any time in our 25-year history. We couldn't get enough of them."
The shorts sell from $3 to $12 a pair, and the most popular design is with the V-notch on the leg, the most popular colors scarlet, royal blue, navy blue and Kelly green, with a stripe down the side. For some shoppers, the in thing is to own a pair in every color available.
According to Al Wartel, a vice-president of Felco, a New York manufacturer that has sold 600,000 pairs of shorts this year, sales began increasing steadily a few years ago as women began to jog and to take part in school sports programs. "Then this past spring there was a tremendous, tremendous upsurge, with the shorts selling primarily as a fashion item," Wartel says. Tom McBride, New England sales rep for M. J. Soffe, a North Carolina manufacturer, enthuses, "I'm taking orders for November 1978." In short, in shorts the end is not in sight.
What would happen if deer hunting were prohibited? There would be problems galore according to Robert Miller, the wildlife program manager for Maryland, where hunters kill 10,000 deer a year. There are now an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 white-tailed deer in Maryland, and if not hunted, the population would double in two years.
"There would be serious crop damage, especially to the corn and soybean crops in the lower Eastern Shore," says Miller. "We experienced that problem in the mid-1960s in Dorchester County." There would also be far more deerkills on state highways. Drivers now kill about 1,000 deer a year and, Miller says, "We could expect that figure to climb, along with injuries and even deaths to the state's motorists. Then there would be malnutrition-related problems with the deer, including parasites and disease. There might be some starvation."
Miller notes that in Vermont, where there is a century-old law prohibiting the hunting of does, an estimated 46,000 deer died in 1971 from starvation and attacks by dogs and other animals. By contrast, hunters took only 8,000.
Mirror, mirror on the wall / Who is the biggest fan of all? One nominee is Dr. Charles Davis, who has attended every Maryland home football game since 1930 when he joined the Veterinary Science Department. Another is Bob Beaven, a 53-year-old Houston accountant, who this week will see his 506th college football game. Beaven plans to visit the 250 top college teams in the country. He has about 50 to go.
Then there is Giles (Bud) Pellerin, a 71-year-old retired accounting examiner, who has seen every Southern Cal football game, home and away, since 1926. Last week Pellerin attended his 543rd game, the loss to Notre Dame in South Bend. In the old days Pellerin used to go to games by train (he had understanding bosses), but now he usually flies on the USC team charter. Over the years he has logged close to 600,000 miles. His streak was almost broken in 1949 when he had an emergency appendectomy on the Tuesday before the UCLA game, but he got himself sprung from the hospital at noon Saturday in time to make the kick-off. "I don't think I'm a nut," says Pellerin. "It's all been fun. After all, you spend a lot more on other things."
Happy birthday, Instant Replay, born 10 years ago in Redwood City, Calif. The complex replay machine, called the HS-100C, costs about $110,000 and is now entering its third electronic generation. There are more than 300 such machines around the world (the Russians are said to be anticipating the acquisition of several for their 1980 Olympic coverage), but despite the revolution that the device has brought to TV, John Poole, the senior staff engineer at Ampex Corporation who headed the development team, rarely bothers to watch sports on the tube.
Poole, who came to the U.S. from England in 1960, finds American football incomprehensible. "I have no knowledge of football," he says. "I played some rugby football, but I was astounded when I saw American football. Everyone seems to get tackled in your game." True to form, Poole did not watch any of the NBA playoff games earlier this year, and he finds golf a bore because "there is too much walking between holes." Poole says, "The BBC has a couple of our recorders. Maybe they cover cricket matches with them. Cricket would provide you with a lot of time to see the highlights."
THEY SAID IT
•Bill Lee, Red Sox pitcher, asked to assess the results of the World Series after attending the final game: "I think there are going to be a lot of Reggies born in this town."
•Bum Phillips, Houston Oiler coach, asked if it would be an advantage to play the Steelers on a Sunday, after they had played Monday: "Nope, but it would be if we got them after a Saturday night game."