A number of issues were raised and nothing was settled in last Saturday's heavyweight fight between Bill Sharkey and South Africa's Kallie Knoetze. The ruckus over whether or not Knoetze should have been permitted to enter the ring generated more passion than was displayed in the fight. (Knoetze pounded his way to a fourth-round knockout, displaying a style that is pure Chuck Wepner.) There were 2,348 fans inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, some 100 protesters outside, and the fight was offered to a national audience on CBS-TV's Sports Spectacular.
The main furor came from U.S. civil-rights groups, most notably The Reverend Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH. Knoetze was an "agent of apartheid,' " Jackson said, as well as a "convicted criminal." and his appearance violated the spirit of President Carter's human-rights policy.
There is a confusion of purpose here that violates the spirit of humans' rights. If certain groups in this country feel that excluding South African athletes will bring about the collapse of the South African regime, they have every right to protest, peacefully. But perhaps, as advocates of equality, they should also protest the appearance of Gary Player, Sally Little, Cliff Drysdale, and Frew McMillan as well as Knoetze. Although Knoetze is a more obvious target for protesters, having been, as a cop, directly involved in the enforcement of apartheid, as an athlete, whatever his beliefs, he is really no different from other South African athletes. Whether or not a South African athlete has a criminal record—and under that country's law, Knoetze was guilty only of misdemeanors—is neither here nor there.
And if there are groups that wish to protest the appearance of athletes who are ex-cons, their native country is beside the point. Finally, if there are groups that want to exclude ex-cons from the ring, they should have picketed Sharkey as well; he served four years at New York's Ossining and Wallkill Correctional facilities for manslaughter.
Bobby Riggs notwithstanding, tennis has never been a betting game. There has been no tennis equivalent of the $2 Nassau. Now, however, a kind of tennis gambling that originated in England has surfaced in Miami. It works like this:
You are playing singles with, say, $2 riding on the set. Suddenly you have broken your opponent's serve and you find yourself leading 3-0. You can at this point, if you choose, double the bet. Your opponent must decide on the spot whether he wants to risk $4 on his chances of pulling himself out of the hole. If he accepts the challenge, you play on. If he refuses the bet, he loses the original $2, the set is over, and a new set with a new bet begins.
If, perchance, your opponent does accept, turns the set around and finds himself ahead, say, 4-3 and 30-love, he can then double you. If he does, the bet is now $8 that you cannot pull it out. And so it goes, even unto tie-breakers.
Our spies tell us the game has no name yet but that its primary characteristic is unbearable tension.
Alabama was the No. 1 college team in the country in the Associated Press poll of 68 sportswriters and broadcasters, all of whom voted. USC was No. 1 in the United Press International poll of 42 coaches, but seven of those coaches, for one reason or another, did not vote.
Disgruntled Alabama fans contended that had those seven (The Dirty Half-Dozen Plus One, as they are known in Tuscaloosa) voted. 'Bama would have been a double winner. So David Lamm of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville tracked down the missing seven and got their votes.
Result: USC still No. 1, but by only two points, a smaller margin than the original five points and the narrowest in the history of the UPI poll. For the record, four voters picked Alabama as No. 1, two chose Oklahoma and one selected USC.
Lincoln Cathedral, built on an English hilltop nine centuries ago at the behest of William the Conqueror, costs $200,000 a year to maintain these days. Until recently, the dean of the cathedral, The Very Reverend The Honorable Oliver Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, depended on the generosity of interested individuals for the necessary funds. Now, however, on the theory that "it's better to earn funds than to beg," Reverend Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, a motorcycle fancier, has plunged his cathedral into the business of sports promotion. A 12-member committee has been formed to plan a national motorcycle race meeting for the spring in Cadwell Park near Lincoln. Further, the committee will sponsor a local rider named Jack Machin and will buy him a $7,000 Italian Morbidelli cycle to ride in the British national championship series.
Said the dean of his project, "It is one thing for a churchman to go around just looking interested in what is going on. It is another thing to go in there and do it yourself."
The staggering World Hockey Association, currently down to six teams, has voted to qualify five teams for its playoffs, but because five is an inconvenient number for a playoff, the No. 5 team will first play No. 4 in a best-two-out-of-three series to see who really plays off.
In a spasm of common sense, the Edmonton Oilers have notified the league that if they finish No. 5 they will decline the honor. No. 6 presumably will fold its tent, or its franchise, and quietly steal away.
TALE OF A WHALE
This is the time of year when thousands of gray whales travel from the Bering Sea, down the Pacific Coast to their breeding grounds in the lagoons of Baja California, there to mate, calve and cavort in the sun. Years ago people were content to watch from the shore as the weeks-long procession of grays passed, delighting in the occasional sighting of a plume of spray from a blowhole or sunlight briefly illuminating a great expanse of back.
In recent years, however, whale watchers have become more aggressive. Last season, some 2,000 of them went to Baja, where they followed the whales in chartered boats to the lagoons to observe the goings-on at close range.
While the whales are moving through American waters they are protected to some extent by the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, which stipulates that anyone convicted of "taking or harassing" a whale can be fined up to $20,000 and/or jailed for a year, and by the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Getting within 100 yards of a whale is considered harassment. So is causing a whale to change its course. Beyond that, harassment is loosely defined and open to interpretation.
In 1972 the Mexican government closed Scammon's Lagoon, one of the three principal breeding areas, to everybody except scientists with permits, and limited entry to the "nursery" to two boats at a time. But San Ignacio Lagoon and Magdalena Bay farther south remain open to tourist boats.
No one knows whether the whales actually are being harmed by all this well-meaning curiosity, but scientists on both sides of the border are concerned. In November the Mexican government announced that all lagoons would be closed to tourist boats this year, but then, in December, the ruling was rescinded. Walter Ocampo, a regional director for Mexico's Department of Fisheries, hopes that on the basis of his recommendation at least the regulations governing tourist boats will be clearly defined next year.
Meanwhile, Dr. William C. Cummings, chief scientist at the San Diego Natural History Museum, is worried that the migration itself, as well as the mating and birthing in the lagoons, may be disturbed. Whale watchers by the tens of thousands, he says, go out from San Diego between December and March to watch the whales swim by. "The people operating the charter boats don't want to bother the whales," he says, "but given the situation as it is, there is potential for doing harm and it should be investigated."
Scammon's Lagoon was discovered in the 1850s by Charles Melville Scammon. Captain Scammon led whalers to his find and launched a period of hunting that by 1937 had reduced the gray whale population to 100. Fortunately, the grays survived their 19th-century pursuers and grew in number to some 12,000. Now the question is whether they can survive their 20th-century admirers.
The 1979 calendar of national AAU events has arrived, and its listing of 25 sports is led, alphabetically at least, by something called acrogymnastics. For fans irredeemably mired in the past, the AAU explains (parenthetically) that acrogymnastics used to be "Trampoline & Tumbling."
Never mind that acrogymnastics is an ugly-sounding word that brings to mind acrophobia (morbid fear of heights), acromegaly (chronic hyperpituitarism) and the like. It is also a dumb word. Used to distinguish tumbling and trampolining from standard gymnastics, it implies that the latter, the sport of ring and horse and beam and mat, is not acrobatic.
Tumbling is a jolly word that has stood the test of time and use. Trampolining is a little awkward, perhaps, but at least the word is precise. Acrogymnastics is noise pollution.
That suspicious-looking character lurking about the high school practice field isn't a drug dealer, he's a genuine North American Soccer League scout. In the Jan. 8 NASL draft, a rite once devoted to choosing graduating seniors from four-year colleges, five of the 24 first-round picks were high school seniors, and the very first choice of all—which the Dallas Tornado did some wheeling and dealing to obtain—was used to claim Njego Pesa, a forward from Ulster Community College, a two-year institution in upstate New York. Pesa, 20, was born in Yugoslavia, went to high school in New York City and is now an American citizen.
The heavy accent on youth has come about because the original purpose of the college draft has succeeded only partially. It has helped supply NASL teams with the American starters they need to fulfill league requirements (two last year and this, three in 1980, and so on), but the quality of players available has not nearly matched the increasing quality of play in the league. As Freddie Goodwin, general manager of the Minnesota Kicks, says, "The 21-year-olds are 100% better than a few years ago. The trouble is, the league is 200% better."
"This isn't the NFL," says Terry Hanson of the Atlanta Chiefs. "The NCAA's best player might not get into a game all season. Our best players come from the rest of the world, not the U.S. By taking the 18-and-unders, we're saying in effect, 'Nice try, colleges, but you blew it.' "
One solution being fostered by the league is the establishment of reserve squads to which a team's younger players would be assigned. They would train with the big teams, scrimmage with them (the value of tangling with such as Franz Beckenbauer cannot be overestimated) and eventually play schedules of their own. From these squads would come a base of talent for U.S. national teams of the future. The well-heeled Cosmos and the Seattle Sounders have such squads now; when more teams become affluent the league would like to make them mandatory. "We can do a better job training kids than the colleges," says Goodwin. "That's all there is to it."
THEY SAID IT
•Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker, on Craig Morton: "I kind of like Craig Morton. I think he's an overachiever. The reason I like him, though, is because he can't run out of the pocket."
•Andy Dorris, Houston defensive end, as 45,000 fans welcomed the Oilers home after they had lost to Pittsburgh: "Can you imagine what would have happened if we'd won?"
•Cleburne Price, Texas track coach, on Olympic sprinter Johnny (Lam) Jones' not running this spring: "It won't hurt us any more than it would hurt a football team to lose Earl Campbell."