WAY OFF COURSE
Anyone who has been around tournament golf much knows that it is a sport you listen to as much as watch. The best place to listen is the players' locker room, if you happen to be a journalist entrusted with the job of trying to make reports on a tournament as accurate, interesting and colorful as possible. Well, everyone seems to know this except William H. Lane, the new chairman of the Masters, and Will Grimsley of the Associated Press, the president of the Golf Writers Association of America. Lane and Grimsley got together last week and barred the press from the locker room for more than half of each tournament day. No journalist was permitted in the lockering area until the last pairing had teed off.
This is one of the few mistakes the Masters organizers have ever made and the sort of thing that would not have happened if Clifford Roberts were still alive.
Lane apparently thought he was doing the golfers a favor. A few have always wanted to bar the press from life itself. The great players, however, have never complained about the press watching them tie their shoes, eat their eggs, deal with their nerves and trade banter. If anything, they have enjoyed the attention of journalists.
Many members of the press at Augusta last week agreed that Grimsley should have fought vigorously against Lane's idea rather than agreeing to its implementation on a trial basis. "The Masters is one of the most difficult tournaments in the world to cover," said Dave Anderson of The New York Times, "and this just makes it more difficult." And a disgruntled Marino Parascenzo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, confronted with an empty locker room, resorted to interviewing Tom Watson's shoes. "If they hadn't spoken up I wouldn't have known whose they were," he said.
However, one writer, our own dauntless Dan Jenkins, seemed to feel that Lane and Grimsley had done the world a good deed. "It's a step in the right direction," he said. "Next, they should bar us from the course and the final result. Then we can make up our own winners."
If you still fail to appreciate the sports-writer's burden, consider these sad tales:
Dave Heberle, an outdoors writer for the Erie, Pa. Times, wrote in an April 2 column that the monofilament line used by trout fishermen had been banned in three states because a "Dr. Ayper Ilfu" found that it caused cancer in brook trout. "I thought people would get it," said Heberle. Heberle got the ax.
Then there was the case of Bill Livingston, pro basketball writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who was waiting to enter the 76ers locker room after a game in San Antonio. When a TV cameraman was allowed in and Livingston was not, Livingston took issue with the policeman guarding the door and wound up wearing a set of handcuffs. When the cuffs were finally removed (no charges were pressed), 76er Coach Billy Cunningham told Livingston, "I wouldn't have bailed you out." Which is exactly the kind of respect a writer expects from a coach.
Ah, but last Saturday at the University of Kentucky spring football game, the sportswriters were the coaches, and the coach, Fran Curci, covered the game for the Lexington Herald. Curci was thrown out of the locker room before the game, and afterward had to wait 20 minutes to interview losing coach D. G. FitzMaurice of the Louisville Courier-Journal. "When FitzMaurice finally came out," said Curci, "He gave all kinds of stock coach's answers. I couldn't break him."
Will L.A. Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom never stop coveting his neighbors' chattels? First he dumped his old team, the Colts and bought the Rams. Then he hooked someone else's Super Bowl quarterback, Joe Namath, and someone else's coach, George Allen. And now he envies someone else's cheerleaders, Dallas'. Rosenbloom will not entice the Cowgirls to Los Angeles, just outflesh them. So he has hired David Mirisch, the man who discovered Farrah Fawcett-Majors, to round up a pulchritudinous squad selected from Hollywood's ample supply. All that's needed is a name for the group. Somehow, "the Ewes" doesn't make it.
Senator William Proxmire (D., Wis.), the self-appointed watchdog of wasteful federal spending, took a blast the other day at Ohio State. It seems that OSU has developed a two-foot-tall, 200-pound, six-legged robot known as "The Bionic Bug" at a cost of $405,000 to the nation's taxpayers. Though the Bug is being used for various kinds of research, in Proxmire's view it is worthless, and he suggests it be put to work in Woody Hayes' backfield.
"Wouldn't Coach Hayes love to get this solidly built 200-pounder with six legs out of the laboratory and onto the gridiron," said Proxmire. "This new Buckeye would fit perfectly into Ohio State's supremely boring style of play. It walks at a rate of five inches per second, which translates into a 12-minute 100-yard dash. And since the Bug travels 10 yards at a time [it is limited to that distance by its electrical umbilical cord], it would be assured of a first down every time its signal was called. It could convert Ohio State's great tradition of 'three yards and a cloud of dust' into '10 yards and a cloud of rust.' "
William V. Merriman, Ohio State's director of communications, says that the Bug has a number of valuable uses, including helping in the development of artificial joints for humans, "though it does resemble some of our fullbacks. Anyway, I can well see why our football is supremely boring to a senator from Wisconsin, considering that Wisconsin is 1-24-2 against Woody."
YAWN AND YAWN
Now that hockey and pro basketball have progressed from their regular seasons into interminable playoffs, only the strong, the near-strong, the not-so-strong and a few of the feeble survive. While the NBA, with merely 12 of its 22 teams having qualified, may provide considerably fewer than a thrill a minute into June, its folly pales beside that of the 18-team NHL. Four of the hockey league's 12 playoff qualifiers have sub-.500 records and one, Colorado, won only 19 of 80 games. On the night the Rangers clinched a berth, they lost their fourth straight game and wound up the season losing five of six.
Certainly it is heartwarming that the Colorado Rockies and the Atlanta Hawks have a shot at winning the NHL and NBA championships, despite percentages of .369 and .500, respectively. But if good feelings are what the two leagues want to promote, they ought to consider letting generosity run rampant next year by letting everybody take part in the playoffs.
When Doc Medich, the surgeon who also pitches for the Rangers, retires, his contract calls for Texas to pay him $50,000 a year for four years as a medical consultant to the team.
But will he make clubhouse calls?
When it was announced recently that the Aspen Skiing Corporation, which for 30 years has been owned by rugged individualists, was about to be purchased by Twentieth Century-Fox, it immediately became clear that Fox' motives for investing in Aspen are profoundly different from those of the hardy souls who in 1946 began turning the seedy mining town into a ski resort.
As Aspen President D.R.C. (Darcy) Brown recalls, "Heck, I put in a few thousand dollars back then, because I was tired of walking up the hill." Fox, newly flush with a projected $200 million in earnings from Star Wars, is taking over Aspen—at a price of about $48.6 million—as a solid investment to balance off the feast-or-famine profit patterns of the movie business. In Aspen, Fox will own one of America's most popular ski resorts, one that has produced profits in 29 of the last 30 years.
The announcement of the impending sale brought varied reactions from Aspen residents. Some feel that wealthy Fox will roll back season-pass fees, which the Corporation raised last season, but that seems unlikely. Says Fox executive Phillip Myers, "We know nothing about skiing, and we are going to let the Aspen Skiing Corporation run the mountains as it did before." Other townspeople are disturbed by rumors that Fox is buying up acreage at the foot of the mountain, with the intent of building some sort of plastic Star Wars theme park. "Absolutely not," retorts Myers. "We are buying nothing but the mountains."
For the moment at least, the principals on both sides of the deal insist that the status quo at Aspen will prevail. Depending, of course, upon the whims of The Force.
The A's opened their home schedule earlier this week in Oakland, not Denver. But they might as well have played out of town. Aside from those in the park, only people within three or four miles of the University of California campus with FM radios were able to "catch all the exciting action." That is because Charlie Finley "sold" radio rights for the first 16 A's games to KALX-FM, a 10-watt student-operated station in Berkeley. Larry Baer, a 20-year-old junior political science major, is handling the play-by-play. Station officials refuse to discuss the financial arrangement, but sources say that the crafty Finley negotiated a contract that runs to two figures.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the baseball season nearly began for the first time in a decade without Chief Noc-A-Homa in his teepee behind the leftfield fence. The chief, whose real name is Levi Walker, had quit the Braves when they refused to raise his pay from $50 to $100 per game. However, he agreed to stay on after the Braves made him cozier than ever. They got him a carpet cleaning and a color TV for his teepee, two new costumes, a personal booking agent and an Indian princess, Pok-A-Homa—to keep him company.
A simple handshake left an unsuspecting wrestler and his team wincing in pain recently. It happened at the Presidents' Athletic Conference tournament in Bethany, W. Va. when Bob Daschbach of Washington & Jefferson shook the hand of Allegheny College's Dennis McGraw before their 118-pound final. Daschbach yanked McGraw's arm so hard that he stretched a nerve in McGraw's neck. The meet doctor advised McGraw not to compete, and a 15-minute consultation between coaches and officials ensued. Finally, the referee, who felt he could not disqualify Daschbach because the incident did not occur during the match, raised his hand in victory.
The crowd booed and Allegheny Coach Ken Levels argued that the rules against "flagrant misconduct" covered the situation. The tournament committee decided to appeal to the NCAA. The next day a call was placed to Wilfred Chassey, chairman of the Division III wrestling committee. Saying he'd never encountered anything like this before, Chassey threw the decision back to the PAC, claiming that if he made a ruling, "the NCAA would be setting a precedent." The PAC athletic directors then huddled and determined that Daschbach would be 118-pound champion after all.
The ruling cost Allegheny a third-place finish and gave it to Washington & Jefferson.
THEY SAID IT
•Lon Simmons, San Francisco Giants announcer, on receiving critical letters: "I don't mind hate mail, but when a letter comes to the station addressed 'Jerk, KSFO, San Francisco,' and I get it, then I start to worry."
•Oriole Jim Palmer, asked when his sore shoulder would be well enough for him to pitch: "I don't know. You never know with these psychosomatic injuries. You have to take your time with them."
•Ted Turner, Atlanta Braves owner, on his team's prospects: "We're on our way to the World Series, really we are. Well, maybe not this year, but soon. Nobody ever heard of other great teams before they became great."