THOSE WORRISOME HELMETS
A new study by Penn State's National Athletic Injury/ Illness Reporting System sounds deceptively like good news. NAIRS, which monitors injuries in organized sport, says it examined data on 16,090 college and high school football players from 1975 to 1977 and found 96 cases of "significant concussions." NAIRS deems this a low number and concludes that football helmets were performing "quite effectively."
The only trouble is that concussions are not the major concern with helmets. In John Underwood's series on football violence and injuries (SI, Aug. 14, 1978 et seq.), Dr. Donald Cooper, the team physician at Oklahoma State, was quoted as saying "There's nothing wrong with the helmet itself. Doing what it was intended to do—protecting the head—it performs adequately." Cooper went on to say that helmets actually protect the head too well, allowing it to be used as a battering ram. Thus the biggest risk to the wearer is neck and spine injuries, not concussions.
All of which is borne out by another recent study, this one by the University of Pennsylvania's Sports Medicine Center. As reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the study points to a dramatic increase in the number of players permanently paralyzed from the neck down. In 176 such cases from 1971 to 1977, a large majority of the victims were defensive players making tackles—most of them defensive backs. Dr. Joseph Torg, who headed the research team that conducted the study, attributes the increase to "playing techniques that use the top or crown of the helmet as the primary point of contact."
Worried that the financially strapped Orioles might be sold and moved elsewhere, Baltimore civic leaders have formed a "Keep the Orioles" committee whose main purpose is to persuade local businesses to buy season tickets. Lending its support, a chain of department stores, Hochschild's, has come out with T shirts bearing the legend DON'T LET THE BIRDS FLY AWAY. A store spokesman says that sales are strong, which is nice to hear. Suffering financial problems of its own, Hochschild's recently closed its big downtown store as an economy move. It also canceled its eight season tickets for Oriole games.
GOING TO BAT FOR THE OLYMPICS
The U.S. Olympic Committee and NBC put on a 6½-hour telethon the other night during which Sammy Davis Jr., Glen Campbell, Joe Frazier, Milton Berle and dozens of other celebrities urged viewers to donate money in support of this country's Olympic effort. Given the worthiness they ascribed to the cause, one might have assumed that the notables who appeared on the program were doing so gratis. And, in fact, the show, called Olympathon '79, had been touted in ads. reading AMERICA'S GREATEST STARS GO TO BAT FOR YOUR TEAM.
All this made it slightly startling when actor Robert Conrad announced on the show that he was donating his $1,500 fee to Olympathon '79. His fee? It turned out that performers on Olympathon '79 were paid handsomely, a little secret that USOC Information Director Bob Paul tried to explain by saying, "I honestly don't see how we could have asked them to work for nothing."
Yet Olympathon '79 was the first telethon in memory on which performers didn't work for nothing. For whatever reasons, the show's producers didn't arrange to have the five major performing unions waive their usual pay requirements, something those unions routinely do for telethons and benefits through the Theater Authority, an office expressly set up for the purpose. Conrad wasn't the only one who saw fit to turn back his appearance money, which suggests that performers willing to work for free could have been found to begin with. At a time when ordinary Americans were being asked to be generous, the USOC's qualms about asking the same of entertainers are hard to understand. So are those misleading advertisements.
BIG DOINGS ON THE MOUNTAIN
Promoters of the world heavyweight skiing championships, contested annually at Maine's Sugarloaf Mountain by racers weighing more than 225 pounds, have done a commendable job of holding the line on the price of beef. At the first championships in 1969, competitors were assessed an entry fee of 3¬¨¬®¬¨¢ a pound. At the 1979 competition, the entry fee was still 3¬¨¬®¬¨¢.
The event attracted 16 skiers, who competed under a slightly amended handicap system. In the past, competitors were given a handicap of one second for every 10 pounds over 225, so that if a skier weighed enough, even Jean-Claude Killy might have had trouble beating him through the 20-gate slalom course. On the theory that this unduly rewarded tonnage at the expense of talent, the handicap was changed this year to three-fourths of a second for every 10 pounds over 225 on each of two runs. The winner was Terry Newcomb, a onetime defensive tackle at the University of Arizona and now a judge in Akron, N.Y. Including ski equipment, Newcomb registered 372 pounds on the cow scale used for the weigh-in and he rumbled down the course twice in a total of 70.4 seconds, or 48.34 seconds when adjusted for handicap.
Newcomb's beaten rivals included John Truden, a three-time champion from West Springfield, Mass., who took a spill after developing leg cramps early in his first run. Truden had the distinction of being the heaviest entrant. He came in at 453 pounds, much to the delight of the auto-rental firm and ski-equipment manufacturers who got a lot of exposure by plastering his considerable form with advertisements.
PAYING A CONDOLENCE CALL
It was early in the opening game of the Stanley Cup semifinals, and Jacques Lemaire had just scored to give the Montreal Canadiens a 1-0 lead over the Boston Bruins. Joyfully, the Montreal bench emptied to congratulate Lemaire. But wait. Boston's players then leaped from their bench to console beaten Goaltender Gerry Cheevers.
By sending his men onto the Montreal Forum ice to comfort Cheevers, Boston Coach Don Cherry was slyly protesting what has become an annoying phenomenon in the NHL. Where bench emptying used to occur only when a team won in sudden-death overtime or somebody scored, say, his 200th career goal, such celebrations have become common lately even after routine goals. Cherry's objection is that it can be "intimidating seeing all those guys dancing around," but more important, the practice delays the game. Which is why Referee Dave Newell told both teams that he wouldn't tolerate any more post-goal celebrations or condolence calls. His warning was backed up by the NHL's referee-in-chief, Scotty Morrison. "We don't want to do anything that stifles enthusiasm, but there's a limit," Morrison said. "Lemaire's goal was the first of the game [Montreal won 4-2]. We can't have something like that happening after every goal. The game would take forever."
A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME
Making good on his promise to Indiana State's baseball coach, Bob Warn (SCORECARD, April 16), Larry Bird appeared briefly in both ends of a double-header last week against Kentucky Wesleyan. The Sycamore basketball star took over at first base in the fifth inning of the opener and promptly caught a knee in the forehead when he collided with Catcher Mark Rickard while chasing a foul ball. Bob Woolf, the agent who is trying to negotiate an NBA contract for Bird with the Boston Celtics, was sitting in the crowd of 2,000 in Terre Haute and he looked understandably relieved when his client climbed to his feet.
The rest of Bird's day on the diamond went well enough. He batted once in each game, going down swinging on a 2-2 count and singling in two runs as the Sycamores won both games, 5-1 and 7-1. He also had nine putouts. It was the 6'9½" senior's college baseball debut and it was probably also his college baseball farewell. He ended the day hitting .500 and fielding 1.000 and, as he happily noted, "Woolf and I are still talking."
THE NOBLE STEREOTYPE
American Indians have complained in recent years that the nicknames of the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Washington Redskins, Chicago Black Hawks and Kansas City Chiefs add up to one big ethnic slur. Their complaints have obviously been unavailing. Similar protestations have met with a bit more success in the colleges. Although the University of North Dakota still calls its teams the Fighting Sioux, Stanford bowed to pressure a few years ago and changed its nickname from the Indians back to an earlier one, the Cardinals.
A similar change took place—officially, anyway—at Dartmouth, which was founded in 1769 for the purpose of educating Indians. That commitment was soon abandoned, but Dartmouth long referred to its teams as the Indians and used a drawing of a war-painted brave as a symbol. In 1970 the school reintroduced a program for actively recruiting Indians, and after students admitted under the scheme complained about the nickname, the college's trustees dropped it in favor of the Big Green. But the 40 current members of an organization known as Native Americans at Dartmouth can hardly claim total victory. Although a rousing cheer punctuated with the cry, "Scalp 'em," has fallen into disuse, some alumni have been clamoring for restoration of the old nickname. And while proprietors of shops near the Hanover, N.H. campus have finally promised to drop their lines of shirts and jackets adorned with caricatures of the Dartmouth Indian, they say they will continue to sell neckties bearing the symbol.
Nor were Dartmouth's real Indians happy when two students donned green war paint, feathers and loincloths and skated onto the ice last Feb. 25 between periods of a 5-0 Dartmouth hockey victory over Brown. The administration put the two students and a conspirator on probation, and they in turn contritely offered to make public appearances around campus explaining why Indians feel as they do on the nickname issue. The reason is that Indian designations have traditionally been adopted in sports to symbolize savagery, scalping and looting rather than to honor real people who have suffered more than their share of oppression. Far from fully grasping this, however, one of the miscreants admitted last week, "I still can't understand why using the Indian as a symbol hurts anybody's feelings."
THE MAINE 700
There will be a six-day moose-hunting season in northern Maine in the fall of 1980, the state's first since 1935. The state legislature has approved creation of a lottery by which licenses will be issued to 700 Maine residents. Applicants must pay a $5 fee to participate in the lottery and winners will be charged an additional $10 for a license. Another $10 fee will be assessed for any moose taken. Proponents expect the moose hunt to thin out Maine's herd—which they say is necessary—and also to produce more than $250,000 for the state's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
The moose season was approved over the strenuous objections of some legislators, one of whom, Representative Stephen Gould, played taps on a trombone in a corridor outside the senate chamber in Augusta as the decisive roll-call vote neared. Afterward, Gould and other opponents put on black armbands and conducted a moose "funeral." A retired engineer named Bruce Carter, who insisted that the state's moose herd was not so big as to need weeding out, said he would mount a campaign to encourage non-hunters to enter the lottery and to burn any licenses they receive in protest. Pro-hunting forces note that an attempt to thwart a similar lottery in New Brunswick, Canada failed, but Carter, undeterred, has formed a committee to carry out the scheme. Its slogan: "Remember the Maine 700."
THEY SAID IT
•Bill Walton, on where he might play if he becomes an NBA free agent: "Right now, I've eliminated Teheran and Three Mile Island."
•Earl Weaver, Baltimore Oriole manager, when told by slump-ridden Outfielder Al Bumbry that he was about to go to chapel services: "Take your bat with you."