HONESTY GETS MUGGED
An episode in Virginia Beach, Va., involving the manipulation of 10- to 12-year-old players in a Midget football league demonstrates once again that children's games are far too important to be entrusted to some adults.
Frederick Talbott, a staff writer for the Norfolk Ledger-Star, has brought to light proof that 11 of 26 members of one team—a team undefeated for two years—were too old (up to 15), too young or did not live in Virginia Beach. The evidence surfaced when Mrs. J. A. Cox refused to go along with a coach who asked her to alter her son's age on his application blank. "We received five anonymous phone calls threatening our lives," Mrs. Cox said. One mother of a player in the league delivered a bunch of toughs to beat up the Cox boy; he ran inside and police were called.
"This is amazing," says Nick Sessoms, a City Parks and Recreation official who took part in an investigation by the city, "when you consider that we are talking about a game for children." The impact on children both on and off the team has been enormous. They have been exposed to a code that says cheating is defensible, and that lies are suitable when something as all-important as winning and losing is involved. Fletcher Bryant, the man who started the league in 1962, is irate: "This is the first exposure most of these kids have to organized sports."
An awards banquet was held for the offending team, the Courthouse Knights, at which everyone was assured that the Knights were still champs. Head Coach Frank Brunell said he had no idea there were 11 ineligibles on his team. Nevertheless, he and three other coaches have been permanently suspended from coaching city recreation teams again in Virginia Beach.
In greyhound racing, the dogs chase a mechanical rabbit but never catch it. Almost never. At Hollywood Greyhound Track in Florida the other day, fans wagered $47,000 on the fifth race, but not many dollars on a 10-1 shot named Lucky Maury. Away tardily, Lucky Maury took two jumps down the track and saw that his chances of catching his buddies were slim, of getting to the rabbit nonexistent. So he made a U-turn, eluded a frantic patrol judge who tried to grab him, and proceeded to meet the bunny head-on at the clubhouse turn. He made Bunny's fur fly; when the other dogs caught up, they joined in the fun.
Nobody can remember such a scandalous flaunting of the rules by any greyhound. Infrequently a dog will fall, be dazed, and get up and run the wrong way, but he will just be trying to get back to the paddock. Lucky Maury, who is not quite two years old, was being devilish. All bets were refunded.
Last week Lucky Maury was put in a schooling race for a refresher course on dog-rabbit etiquette. But there were those who thought Lucky still had a certain gleam in his eye.
BEST FOOT FORWARD
The California Interscholastic Federation (Southern Section) surveyed its 400 members and found the most popular team name was Eagles, used by 17 schools. Best name? The Argyll Academy Socks.
As Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn continues to vacillate about letting American major-leaguers play exhibition games in Cuba, he sounds more and more like a man making mountains out of pitching mounds.
Last year Kuhn refused to let the Yankees accept Fidel Castro's invitation to play in Cuba, saying it would be better if an all-star team went. But the other day he nixed letting an all-star team go. saying, well, the Cubans won't let their players perform in our big leagues, so...
Now comes word that Kuhn is willing to listen if any of the 26 major league clubs is really determined to go to Cuba. For Pete's sake, Bowie, make up your mind. Why don't you just let 'em go down there and play ball?
AS THE WORM TURNS
Anyone who passes down a bank of vending machines absentmindedly pulling handles for a soft drink, sandwich and candy bar should be more alert, because there may be a new machine in the row—dispensing worms.
It is the brainchild of Frank Kartesz, math coordinator at the Rockwood (Pa.) Area Schools, who knows when things add up. His worms do. Last year he sold some 3.5 million worms as sales crept ahead of 1976, his first year. In 1978 he is counting on sales to leap to perhaps 35 million.
The idea is that a fisherman can deposit $1 to $1.50 for a package of his favorite worms. He can get 12 to 15 night crawlers which, says Kartesz, founder of Franko's Live Bait, are the best sellers because "they're the biggest, so people think they are really getting their money's worth." Or the fisherman can get 30 to 40 mealworms or red worms or 70 maggots. Next, Frank plans to package minnows. Kartesz digs, grows or buys the worms (he pays worm diggers 2¬¨¬®¬¨¢ for each crawler; an enterprising digger recently harvested 12,000 worms in an evening, a spree worth $240) and packages them in a special substance. He designed the vending machines and now is selling distributorships.
This spring Kartesz plans to expand from 52 vending machines in Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and West Virginia, to nearly 200. He makes about a dime a package and one busy unit in Chambersburg, Pa., produces $250 a week.
Mrs. Kartesz can't stand worms, wouldn't think of touching them and tries to ignore the research her husband does in the basement of their home.
In the 12 Super Bowls played so far, the team that had the longer trip to the game has lost nine times, including the last five in a row. Only Green Bay (1967), the New York Jets (1969) and Miami (1973) survived the mileage jinx.
In all four games in New Orleans, the team farther from home lost. However, in two of three games in the Los Angeles area, the team that made the longer trip won.
Which proves, of course, the overwhelming truth of that adage nearly all of us had to memorize in school at an early age: "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like as close to home as possible, except for L.A., which everyone knows is a special case."
GREATEST SHOW ON THE BLOCK
Too many gifts are too soon forgotten, so the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus suggests something special: rent the circus, for $15,000 a day. This is a circus that makes house calls, sort of.
For the 15 grand you get 100 circus performers, 10 elephants, eight lions, eight tigers, horses and a band, arriving in 70 vehicles. The big top requires an area the size of a football field, the total operation seven acres.
But wouldn't the neighbors be distressed? Tim Stinson, a vice-president with the Winter Park, Fla.-based circus, says, "Well, yes, maybe." A person who rents the circus, says Stinson, can be the ringmaster if he so desires—no charge for top hat, tails, whistle and microphone. Or he can be a clown, which sounds more appropriate.
"Diamonds are nice," says Stinson, "but a three-ring tented circus in your own backyard is forever."
In the spring of 1972, when the World Hockey Association was arriving on the scene, the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League started a salary war. Cleveland's WHA franchise talked big dollars to try to lure some Rangers. New York panicked and multiplied the salaries of many of its players (Walter Tkaczuk, for example, went from $35,000 a year to $175,000). New York wound up doubling its payroll. Other NHL teams had little choice but to yield to the renegotiation demands of their players—and NHL paychecks skyrocketed from an average of $27,000 per year to the present $96,000. And there is no evidence of any downturn.
Now the Rangers are at it again. This time they are trying to lure a pair of Swedish-born forwards, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg, from Winnipeg of the WHA with a $1.9 million package for two years. They're fine players, but worth that kind of money? "The Rangers," grumped one NHL official, "are trying to ruin us again." With hockey suffering at the gate and on the ice—there are far too many mismatches—this is playing Monopoly with real money. Montreal captain Yvan Cournoyer said, "Personally, I don't think any player is worth more than $200,000. If those guys are worth $475,000 a year, then give Guy Lafleur $1 million."
Besides, money doesn't necessarily buy excellence, which the Rangers should know better than anyone. They haven't been much good since their 1972 spending binge.
At a Central Hockey League game in Fort Worth, public-address man Bob Yates made a routine announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, we ask that you not smoke in the arena but confine your smoking to the lobby."
Later, fights broke out among the players, and fans started throwing things. Intoned Yates, "Ladies and gentlemen, we ask that you not throw foreign objects on the ice but confine your throwing of foreign objects to the lobby."
When Nathaniel Crosby, Bing's 16-year-old son, took over as sponsor of the Crosby pro-am golf tournament just held at Pebble Beach, he missed a couple of weeks of high school. Other golfing activities pushed his classroom absenteeism to three straight weeks. But he says he and his mother have talked it over and agree that "I am learning something unique, something I couldn't in school."
It will be interesting to see how he applies this special knowledge when he is confronted by final exams on his return to Burlingame (Calif.) High in a few days. Nathaniel's ability on blind shots could be crucial.
SPEAKING OF DEFEAT
Listening to coaches grapple with defeat can be more fun than watching the event itself. First we offer Gordon Frizzell, basketball coach at Trinity Christian High School in Burlington. Vt., who shows potential as a lovable loser.
Playing its first-ever interscholastic game—and making a 300-mile round trip to do it—Trinity fell behind 66-0 at halftime to Leland and Gray High of Townshend. At least Trinity averted a shutout. The final score was 124-14. "I couldn't seem to get our players up for the game," says Frizzell. "But I don't think Leland and Gray's pressure defense was so good." The fact that the victors, coached by former UCLA player Mike Lynn, abandoned the pressure defense about four minutes into the game, when they were ahead 20-0, doesn't faze Frizzell. Says he, "Our only problem is we are short one guard."
Things are only marginally better at New Jersey's Fairleigh Dickinson University, where the Knights have been blown away several times already, including a 42-point loss to Florida State.
Yet the club did rise up from its own ashes and play well against Seton Hall. It lost, of course, but the margin was only five points. 71-66. A reporter with not enough on his mind asked Knight Coach Al LoBalbo, "Would you rather play poorly and win, or play well and lose?" LoBalbo replied with laudable flair. "If I were in a movie, I would rather play Quasimodo and leave with Raquel Welch than be Rock Hudson and come away with Imogene Coca."
THEY SAID IT
•Shelby Metcalf, Texas A&M basketball coach, after watching Baylor miss 19 of 35 free throws against Rice: "Rice defends against the free throw as well as anybody I've seen."
•Dallas Cowboy Linebacker Thomas Henderson, on how exciting it is to be on a Super Bowl championship team: "I feel like a rat in a cheese factory with the cat on vacation."
•Former Denver Bronco Coach John Ralston, giving an explanation for his 1976 ouster: "I left because of illness and fatigue. The fans were sick and tired of me."