BOSS OR BULLY?
In his first year as president of the NHL, John Ziegler Jr. has been accused of in-decisiveness and waffling and tolerating hooliganism on the ice. Last week Ziegler took his firmest stand to date, but on an incident that occurred off the ice: he suspended New York Rangers Forward Don Murdoch for the upcoming hockey season and fined him $500, as a penalty for Murdoch's guilty plea last April in a Brampton, Ontario court to a charge of possession of 4.8 grams of cocaine, a not insignificant amount. Although the suspension has a proviso for Murdoch to return after 40 games if, in Ziegler's judgment, he is sufficiently penitent, Murdoch could be stigmatized for the rest of his career.
Protecting young people from such shame or discredit is why so many courts are lenient toward first-time drug offenders, especially 20-year-olds, which Murdoch was when he was arrested in Toronto last August 12. If he had been arrested in New York, for instance, he probably would not have been prosecuted. Even in Brampton, Murdoch got off with a $400 fine, a suspended sentence and, most important, a second chance.
Apparently Ziegler did not feel the punishment of the Ontario court was sufficiently harsh. More surprising, neither did the NHL's 18 player representatives, who voted unanimously not to support Murdoch's cause, despite pleas by Ranger teammates Steve Vickers and Phil Esposito, an NHL Players Association vice-president. "I think the penalty was severe," says Vickers. "He's gone through a very tough year since the incident happened. He was only 20. Sometimes it's difficult for a young player." Says NHLPA Executive Director Alan Eagle-son, "They talked of some problems he'd had and how he's helped his family. But it boiled down to a discussion of the issue, the plea of guilty and the offense itself being so difficult for the players to accept. If it had been only marijuana, I think he would have gotten full support."
It has been suggested that other NHL owners who are jealous of the Rangers pressed for the harsh penalty, that the other players have no great love for Murdoch. "I don't think the players' firsthand knowledge of him helped his cause," says Eagleson.
Certainly it behooves the NHL to reprimand a player who breaks the law, and no one wants to go on record as condoning the use of an illegal drug, even though the use of cocaine is fairly widespread among young professional athletes. But it seems rather arrogant that Ziegler can impose a more severe penalty than a court of law for a victimless crime and one that had nothing to do with the game of hockey. Many people are applauding Ziegler for finally getting tough. We only hope that he gets tough the next time a player whacks another over the head with a stick.
POINT OF ORDER
In Philadelphia politics is serious business. But sometimes it gets clear out of hand, such as last week when a City Councilman and a community activist nearly escalated a little disagreement to a three-round bout in The Spectrum.
Here's what happened: Councilman Francis Rafferty, enraged by remarks made by Milton Street at a Council hearing on proposed city charter amendments, advanced on Street in the City Council chambers. Police restrained the pair after an exchange of epithets. Two days later The Philadelphia Daily News columnist Larry McMullen ran into Rafferty, who said he wanted to take on Street in a ring. "You're serious?" said McMullen. "Damn right," said Rafferty, who had a dozen bouts as an amateur more than 15 years ago.
McMullen relayed the challenge to Street. "He's on," said Street. "You're serious?" said McMullen. "There's nothing I'd like more," said Street.
Boxing promoter J. Russell Peltz went for the idea and set about booking the bout as a three-round exhibition on The Spectrum card for Aug. 24. All that was needed was approval of the appropriate authorities, and that is where sanity prevailed.
"No way," said State Athletic Commissioner Howard McCall. "Boxing has had to battle its way back to respectability in this city. Why set it back 10 years with a sideshow like that? If Peltz wants to promote a novelty act, let him sell it to The Gong Show."
The Cowboys have their Cowgirls and the Rams their Embraceable Ewes, but the biggest splash in the NFL this season will be in Miami, where Flipper is making a comeback (SI, May 22). Actually, he won't be the same dolphin who cavorted in the Orange Bowl during pre-Shula days, but a colleague from the Miami Seaquarium. The original Flipper got the ax in 1969 and was forgotten in 1970 when the Dolphins installed new stands in the end zone. But last year the stands were removed leaving room for a nine-foot-deep tank and a stage on which the Starbrites, 24 June Taylor-trained cheerleaders, will back up Flipper II.
To get to the games, Flipper will be wrapped in wet sheets and placed on a canvas stretcher for the brief ride from the Seaquarium to the stadium, accompanied by the Seaquarium's director of training, his own trainer, a veterinarian and a representative from Florida's Department of Natural Resources. The Dolphins may even be tempted to try Flipper on defense—he can perform over 100 tricks, is 8½ feet and weighs 475 pounds soaking wet.
OLYMPIAN MESS (CONT.)
When last we left them, the city of Los Angeles and the International Olympic Committee were staring each other down over the IOC's Rule 4—L.A. must assume financial responsibility for the Games or bid them farewell (SCORECARD, July 31). But last week in Colorado Springs, the U.S. Olympic Committee stepped in with the latest plan to save the day. The USOC would enter into a "partnership" with the L.A. organizing committee, and together they would indemnify the city for any losses. Bradley says he would agree if the IOC agrees. Then it's up to the L.A. City Council and the USOC House of Delegates, and it all must be worked out by Aug. 21.
Although it now seems likely that Los Angeles will host the 1984 Olympics after all, the Rams are definitely leaving. After the 1979 season they will abandon the Coliseum, where they have played since 1946, and move some 35 miles down the Santa Ana Freeway to Anaheim Stadium, the home of the California Angels. Soon there may be nothing left but smog, the Dodgers and Johnny Carson.
Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom called the move the most "traumatic experience" of his life, but by the time his sweetheart deal was spelled out, it was apparent that to have passed it up would have been even more traumatic. The deal includes the enlargement of Anaheim Stadium from 43,000 to 70,000 seats at a cost of $22 million and 7.5% of the Rams' gross attendance as rent. Rosenbloom gets a minimum 30-year lease, half the parking proceeds plus options to purchase and develop 95 acres adjacent to the stadium for hotels, office buildings and shopping malls. In addition, the stadium will have about 80 VIP suites, the rental from which is exempt from the NFL's 60-40 shared gate-receipt rule. The deal should make the Rams' owner millions. But life is not just a bed of rose blooms. There are thorns.
For one thing, Los Angeles is up in arms. Two City Councilmen have introduced legislation to prevent the Rams from using "Los Angeles" in their name, because Anaheim is in Orange, not Los Angeles, County. L.A. Congresswoman Yvonne Braithwaite Burke is preparing legislation that, if adopted, would wipe out the NFL's 75-mile territorial protection rule; this would open up L.A. to another team and allow Rams home games in Anaheim to be televised in Los Angeles. And an Orange County man is suing Rosenbloom, the Rams, Pete Rozelle and the NFL for $60 million because he was denied the right to bring an NFL franchise to Anaheim.
Meanwhile, the people who run the Coliseum are fervently seeking a new tenant. They have already spoken with Al Davis, managing partner of the Raiders, whose lease on the Oakland Coliseum co-incidentally expires after the 1979 season. And, as if the lure of a 71,039-seat stadium in a megalopolis of 12.6 million is not strong enough, the City Council is seeking $9 million in federal funds to modernize the Coliseum.
None of this should bother Rosenbloom if his Rams, under George Allen, can make it to a Super Bowl or two. If not, Los Angeles fans probably wouldn't care if they moved to Tokyo.
FORE PLUS TWO
One guy shot 27 over par, the other 33. One player's fiancèe ran over a woman with a golf cart and broke her ankle. The two men played on a course that was not even open, fooled and joked all day and took nearly 14 hours to finish. Enough to make Francis Ouimet turn over in his grave, you say? Hardly. This one might make Francis come back.
The two players were J. F. Burey, the 28-year-old pro at Pinehurst (N.C.) Country Club, and Michael Dann, 29-year-old associate editor of Golf World magazine. And their scores were not particularly astronomical considering that they played all 108 holes at Pinehurst—six courses—in a single day. The idea was to raise money for charity—they collected $6,112—and at the same time to dramatize the argument for fast play.
From their 5:55 a.m. tee-off on the still unopened No. 6 course, Dann and Burey flew over the first five courses—Nos. 6, 4, 5, 1 and 3—in electric carts, holing out all putts and averaging one hour and 54 minutes per round. Out of respect for the famed No. 2 course, the golfers walked the final 18 in two hours and 30 minutes, and by the time the last putt dropped, the two had hit the ball a total of 924 times, 459 for Dann (81, 75, 76, 73, 75, 79), 465 for Burey (81, 74, 80, 76, 74, 80).
"We proved that a person doesn't need six hours to play a round of golf," said Dann. "If everyone would just speed up their play they could play 36 holes a day and be ready for cocktails by 5:30."
After sinking a 20-foot putt for par on the 108th hole at 7:40 p.m., a good two hours past cocktail time, Dann was panting. "The toughest part?" he said. "Moving. Breathing. Standing here." Which way to the gin and tonics?
THE GHOST OF HONOR
Last Saturday was a real big night in Catalina Gym, home of the Tucson Sky of the International Volleyball Association. Not so much for the match, in which the Sky lost to El Paso/Juarez Sol 14-12, 12-7, 12-5, but for the history that was not being made. It was "President Carter Couldn't Make It Tonight Night," and the evening was a success: Carter didn't show, exactly as promised.
"It's not that you wouldn't be welcome," General Manager Robert Garrett wrote to Carter, "but let's face it, never before in the history of the United States has a President attended a professional volleyball match."
Sure enough, Carter sent his regrets and 3,176 people came out for the "Free Peanuts, Free 'merican Flags, Free Blank Tapes." There was free admission for all uncles named Sam (accompanied by a paying niece or nephew) and half-price admission for all service personnel (and those with patriotic tattoos). And all over Catalina Gym, people, as instructed, were asking each other, "Hey, where's President Carter?"
THEY SAID IT
•Reggie Jackson, explaining why a few small groups of Yankee Stadium fans did not boo him when he returned to the Yankee lineup after a five-game suspension: "All the fans in those sections are black, under 10 and don't read the papers."
•Conrad Dobler, on his off-season trade from St. Louis to New Orleans: "Religiously speaking, it is an advancement from a Cardinal to a Saint."
•Lenny Goodman, Steve Cauthen's agent, on his success in representing jockeys: "I try to keep myself in the best of company and my horses in the worst of company."