DOWN THE TUBE
The latest sports craze in California is tubing, or floating down a river in a truck-tire inner tube. It is proving to be a deadly game. Heavy snows in parts of the Sierra Nevada caused high spring runoffs, and in the last six weeks, according to a Los Angeles Times survey of 10 counties, 41 people have been reported missing and presumed drowned. Charles Williams, the Kern River water master, says 14 people have drowned on his river thus far this year. Although the raging flow on the Kern has eased (it was 280% above normal), Williams expects tubing will be a continuing problem simply because so many people are now doing it. Moreover, he notes that there is no way to keep tubers off a river even when conditions are dangerous, because "the law of the land is that if a stream is navigable, it's open to the public."
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Are most sports fans out of their minds? That's putting it strongly, but Dr. H. L. Newbold, a New York physician and author, believes that about 60% of the fans attending an event have what he terms "altered moods." Their moods, which can prompt them to start fights, shout abuse at the officials or throw litter on the floor, ice or field, have been altered not by the score but by tobacco smoke or foods containing substances to which the fans may be allergic or hypersensitive. These foods, Newbold claims, can affect the brain cells and cause fans to become agitated and aggressive.
According to Dr. Newbold, foods likely to cause trouble at sporting events include hot dogs, hot dog or hamburger rolls (or any food containing wheat products), beer, soda and ice cream (or any other food containing sugar or milk products). A former ice-cream freak himself and a onetime member of the Northwestern medical school faculty, Newbold switched from internal medicine to psychiatry and eventually nutrition and allergy as he sought to identify agents that might trigger depression, aggression or schizophrenia. To diagnose allergies, Newbold places various substances in solution under a patient's tongue. In difficult cases, he puts patients on a five-day fast, during which they consume only pure spring water, and then has them eat one food at a time.
Newbold, who advocates a diet of vegetables, fresh boiled beef and fruit, says his clinical experience has shown that diet also is often the cause of migraine, bursitis, asthma and tennis elbow. Tennis elbow? "Yes, tennis elbow," says Dr. Newbold. "You get tennis elbow from playing tennis, but tennis is the precipitating factor, not the cause. The most common cause is wheat and wheat products."
RETURN OF A NATIVE
Decimated decades ago by dams and pollution, Atlantic salmon continue to stage a comeback in New England rivers (SCORECARD, Aug. 29, 1977). The state of Maine, which spent $1.2 million to construct fishways on the Penobscot, is experiencing record catches on that river and the Narraguagus. As of last week, anglers had caught 240 salmon on the Penobscot, approximately triple the number taken during the same period last year. Indeed, anglers caught 24 salmon in one day on the Penobscot, a record for any Maine river in this century.
Fish from the Penobscot have been used in efforts to create a salmon strain that will contend with the waters of Long Island Sound and home in on the Connecticut River. A program to restore the Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut began in 1966, and for years the results were disheartening with rarely a returning fish. But this year a total of 65 fish have been taken from the Connecticut system, 14 of them from below the dam in Holyoke, Mass. and 51 from the tributary Farmington River, which hasn't had a salmon run since the late 18th century.
The Berkshire (Mass.) National Fish Hatchery has managed to keep 44 of the fish alive for breeding, and if half of them turn out to be females, which should happen on average, they will yield almost 200,000 eggs. As a rule of thumb, a third of the eggs should eventually develop into 2-year-old fish that can be released, and of those 60,000 fish, somewhere between 600 and 1,800 should return to the Connecticut as adults.
As Matt Connolly, director of Fish and Game for Massachusetts, says, "We're making tremendous progress. The importance of our recoveries is that we see the feasibility of creating a strain of Connecticut River salmon."
MOVING UP IN THE WORLD
How times change. Last April Mrs. Rene Muth Portland resigned as women's basketball coach at St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia, where she had a 48-9 record in two seasons. Her salary at St. Joe's was $2,393 a year.
Portland is now the women's basketball coach at the University of Colorado. Her salary is $20,000 a year, and she has a car, a $100,000 budget (which doesn't include her salary or that of her full-time assistant or her secretary), and the right to dole out five $6,000 full-ride scholarships. "It got scary," she says. "I asked for outrageous things, and they gave them to me. They are paying the rent of a furnished townhouse in Denver while we wait for our new house to be finished. They have found my husband a real-estate job and will be locating a baby-sitter for me during the time I am coaching. They will pay to move our furniture and give us football tickets. They don't nickel-and-dime you, that's for sure."
P.S. There were 19 applicants for Portland's old job at St. Joe's, 16 of them men.
NO SNOW JOB
Ski-resort operators, who used to go nuts trying to figure out ways to make money during the off-season, now make almost as much in the summer as they do in the winter, thanks to a German ride known as the Alpine Slide. Up to 4,600 feet long, the slide consists of prefabricated cement troughs shaped to accommodate an unusual one-man sled. When the brake handle is pulled back, two rubber strips slow or stop the sled, but when the handle is pushed forward, the sled rises and wheels take the place of Teflon runners for greater speed.
Several years ago Thaddeus Thorne, president of Attitash Mountain in New Hampshire, installed one of the first slides and has watched lift lines lengthen to such an extent that he is thinking of giving customers numbered tickets, as though they were in a bakery lineup. Last year he sold more than a quarter of a million rides at $2.75 each for adults and $2.25 for children. Elated, Thorne has upped prices to $3 and $2.50 this year.
Stig Albertson of Bromley Mountain in Vermont holds the North American distribution rights for Alpine Slides, of which 29 are now in operation from coast to coast. A couple of months of fast business can do a lot to pay off the $250,000 to $600,000 cost, and a slide can be erected anywhere there is a mountain. As a matter of fact, Albertson is branching out into South America where he plans to build an Alpine Slide in Caracas.
Bowie Kuhn may think it's a dandy idea to get the fans involved in the All-Star Game by letting them elect the starting lineups, but baseball should really go back to having the players do the voting. Take the balloting—or ballot stuffing—by fans for starting catcher in the National League. Johnny Bench, hitting .230 and out of the Reds' lineup with a bad back since May 27, leads with almost 674,000 votes. The Dodgers' Steve Yeager, hitting .204, is second. Ted Simmons of the Cards, who is batting .308 and who should be in the lead, is a distant third with only 336,000 votes.
JOCK 'N' ROLL
In a music world filled with disco and punk, surely there's a place for Howie Newman, a singer-songwriter in Boston coffeehouses whose special brand of music might best be described as sports-folk. Among his songs are such soon-to-be standards as Utility Infielder Blues, Traded, The Football Song and AstroTurf. He records on the Major League label, and his songs are published by Chin Music.
Newman's biggest hit—it sold 700 records—was Blasted in the Bleachers, an ode to the inhabitants of Fenway's cheap seats ("I don't need no runs or hits/Just a six-pack of Schlitz"). Cole Porter he isn't, but Newman's heart is in the right place. Upset when the Mets sent Tug McGraw to the Phillies in 1974, Newman sat down and wrote his first sports song: "Traded, my uniform's hardly faded/Wish I could have made it/Stayin' right here/Clean out my closet/And get my security deposit/Go and drown my sorrows/In a mug of beer."
The plight of Bob Heise, who played in 32 games for the Red Sox in 1976, inspired Newman to write Utility Infielder Blues, subtitled "Play Me or Trade Me." He sent a copy of the song to Heise, who wrote back, "Thanks, it's great." Newman himself played in a fast-pitch softball league last year, appearing in only five of 18 games as a utility infielder.
SO LONG, SUCKER
It looked as if Mario Andretti was going to get blindsided again. Two weeks ago he was leading the Formula I world driving championships with 36 points, when along came two-time champion Niki Lauda to win the Swedish Grand Prix, his first victory of the year. Lauda, who climbed back into the race for the 1978 title with 25 points, drove one of two new Brabhams that looked unbeatable. The car was also, an angry Andretti charged, "illegal by every letter of the word."
Andretti and other critics claimed that the new Brabhams employ a "ground effect" design principle that improves handling by violating Formula I rules banning movable aerodynamic devices. They contended that the bodywork is designed to create a semisealed chamber beneath the car and that a large fan that draws air through this chamber turns the Brabham into a giant suction cup. This made the car, dubbed the Sucker, somewhat slower on straightaways than other cars but faster on the turns because it is literally held to the track.
Brabham Team Manager Bernie Ecclestone argued that the fan was needed to cool the Brabham's 12-cylinder engine, but Andretti countered that the fan was about 12 times more powerful than necessary. Andretti's teammate Ronnie Peterson had another objection. "I was trailing a Brabham when the fan's blades started spraying stones at me. One of them went right through the radiator of my Lotus, so we had to change engines. Imagine what would happen if a stone of that size hit my face."
Although the Brabhams are new, the concept isn't. In 1972 Jim Hall introduced his Chaparral 2J, a "ground effect" machine, in the Sports Car Club of America's Can-Am series. Nicknamed the Vacuum Cleaner and driven by Jackie Stewart and Vic Elford, it was entered in four races. It won none, but twice had the fastest qualifying times. Then it was banned by the SCCA.
Last week in Paris the Commission Sportive Internationale, which governs Formula I racing, banned the Brabhams and any other cars with a vacuum-cleaner ventilator. Lauda's win in Sweden and the nine points he earned for it are not immediately affected by the decision, but they could be if objections raised by Andretti and others are upheld before a CSI appeals tribunal.
THEY SAID IT
•Steve Hunt of the NASL champion Cosmos: "People assume that my greatest thrill last year was winning the championship. They're wrong. It was meeting Mick Jagger."
•Guthrie Packhard, owner of the Denver Stars of major league rodeo, on the toughness of local bars: "I know a bar out on East Colfax that's so tough, if you don't have a gun when you go in, they give you one."
•Wayne Schwartz, 29, a St. Paul security guard, on filing a complaint with the Minnesota Human Rights Commission charging that the Family Nights and Senior Citizen Days held by the Twins are discriminatory: "It struck me that everyone was getting a discount except males between the ages of 17 and 64."