A commendable result of the NFL's spring meeting was a modification of the rules concerning unnecessary roughness. The dangerous defensive tactics of butting, spearing and ramming with the hard-shell helmet (SI, Aug. 14, 1978 et seq.), now will call for a 15-yard penalty. But the owners stopped short of eliminating the chop block used by the offense. Instead, they agreed to "appeal to coaches to discourage its use."
Purportedly to prevent injuries that might result from insufficient padding, the NFL at the same time informed its teams that players with uniform violations—and that includes flapping shirt-tails—will be forced to the sidelines until they are properly dressed. In other words, you can chop block a lineman as long as your jersey is tucked in.
A chop block is usually thrown as part of a double team by a lineman and back who are trying to protect their quarterback. It entails one of the blockers—most often the back—hitting a pass rusher below the waist, specifically in the vulnerable area of the knees, and many coaches think it should be banned.
All-Pro Offensive Lineman Conrad Dobler, a noted tough guy, unsurprisingly is pleased with the decision to leave chop blocking alone. "I'm concerned with safety and reducing injuries, too," Dobler says. "People have been hurt that way, no question, but if you don't stop the defensive rusher, he winds up killing your quarterback."
But even Dobler knows full well that asking coaches not to encourage the use of the chop block will hardly eliminate it. "The only way to kill it," he says, "is to make it illegal for the back to block below the waist."
Fortunately, there wasn't a crowd in Kansas City's Kemper Arena when the roof collapsed last week. Only a handful of people were working in the building, and no one was hurt. Although the cause of the cave-in has not been determined, there is speculation that the roof was weakened by a severe storm, which an hour before the collapse lashed the city with 70 mph winds and 3¾ inches of rain.
Kemper Arena is home to the Kansas City Kings of the NBA, next season's Big Eight basketball tournament and the American Royal Livestock and Horse Show. It was the site of the 1976 Republican National Convention, and, during the week of the collapse, the American Institute of Architects was holding its annual meeting there.
Ironically, the AIA had cited the arena in 1976 for its design, though AIA President Ehrman B. Mitchell Jr. said, "There wasn't any structural review in the award process."
In 1968 the Spectrum in Philadelphia had to have a portion of its roof replaced after it blew off, and last winter the roof of the Hartford Civic Center fell in (SI, Jan. 30, 1978). All three roofs were of a design described as "free-standing," meaning not supported by walls.
The Kings will move back into their original Kansas City home, Municipal Auditorium, until the Kemper Arena roof is fixed, which should be sometime this fall. But as Dave Busch, the Kings' public relations man, says, "The problem is not so much where we'll play now, but who will be involved in what suits. It's a pretty good bet that these free-standing roofs may have a structural flaw."
FIT FOR A POPE (CONT'D)
Ever since a conclave of Cardinals elected him Pope after the sudden death of his predecessor, John Paul II has impressed the world with his vigor. Not only does the fitness-minded Pontiff do push-ups (SCORECARD, June 11), but he also likes to ski, hike and canoe for exercise. But, obviously, it's difficult for him to find the time and the privacy to indulge his athletic bent nowadays.
The remedy, he has decided, is swimming, not his favorite sport but one he is good at, and he is having a 25-meter pool built at his summer residence, Castelgandolfo, in the Alban hills outside Rome. The proposed pool did cause a mild stir among economy-minded Vatican officials. Indeed, one French visitor, learning of the project, was prompted to remark, "A swimming pool might be pretty expensive, Your Holiness." "It will be less expensive than another conclave," said the Pope.
When the softball fans at Sun City (Ariz.) Stadium holler, "Bring on the pompon girls," they're asking for 64-year-old Foofie Harlan and Leslie's Pompon Squad, a group of 55-to-77-year-old women who perform at Sun City Saints' women's fast-pitch games.
Corinne Leslie, 77, started the group when she found there were so many energetic women in her disco dance class. After overcoming the skepticism that greeted its April debut at a Saints' game, LPS has also been playing to standing ovations at local high schools and nursing homes.
The pep squad dances—Rockette style—to disco music, performers swishing yellow-and-orange pompons and wiggling their hips. Choreographer Leslie and Jerri Parker, 66, stand on their heads as part of the show, but it is Foofie who has emerged as the stellar attraction. Her routine includes cartwheels, handsprings and splits that leave onlookers gasping. When her daughter, Mrs. Jackie Castruita, watched her mother perform, she was circumspect, saying only, "I feel like I'm my mother's mother."
Lucille Montequin is the Dade County, Fla. school coordinator for compliance with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded programs, and she thinks that girls' basketball teams deserve the same rousing rah-rahs that the boys get. To that end, Montequin is planning to issue guidelines that would provide for cheerleaders at all girls' games.
For Title IX fans, alas, it turns out that some of the cheerleaders aren't all that thrilled with this development. "I believe in girls' sports being supported, but for some reason I can't get excited about cheering for the girls," complains Holly Asaastamoinen, the captain of Miami's Sunset High squad.
Cara DePalo, a South Miami High cheerleader, laments, "You have to maintain your grades. You can't get a D in conduct. How do they expect us to do all this and cheer for the girls, too!"
Maybe Montequin would have better luck if her guidelines provided that at girls' games the cheerleaders be boys.
The perennial outrage at baseball's All-Star voting hardly seems worth the energy anymore, but something should be done if seven of the eight National League starters to be selected by fan vote turn out to be Philadelphia Phillies, as the early returns indicate they will be. If the Phillies could poke line drives as well as their fans poke those little holes in the computer-card ballots, they wouldn't be in fourth place in the National League East.
While good cases can be made for Pete Rose at first base and Mike Schmidt at third, what's to be done at second, where Manny Trillo leads the voting even though an injury has prevented him from playing since May 3? At catcher, a worthy candidate, Gary Carter of Montreal, is hidden in seventh place while Bob Boone of Philadelphia has got four times as many votes as he has. Probably nothing can be done to further the cause of the league's surprise batting leader, Lou Brock, who was left off the ballot—which was printed in early April—but Chicagoans and others should come to the aid of Cub Dave Kingman. Philadelphia's Greg Luzinski, who is batting .260 with six home runs, has rolled up 213,445 more votes than Kingman, who has a major league-leading 20 homers and a .304 average.
Boston and New York lead the American League in jingoism. Carlton Fisk of the Red Sox tops the balloting for catcher, though an injury has prevented him from starting a game behind the plate. New York heartthrob Bucky Dent (.238) is way ahead of the league's leading hitter, Minnesota's Roy Smalley (.367), in the shortstop voting. But then the Yankees average roughly 20,000 more fans a home game than the Twins do.
Thank you, Bowie Kuhn and Gillette, for giving us the vote. Now please take it back.
Dick Vermeil may be from Los Angeles but, as W. C. Fields wrote for his epitaph, he'd rather be in Philadelphia. And he is. The coach of the Eagles says it's all because owner Leonard Tose is so generous. Maybe too generous.
"He's overpaid me the last three years and he treats me too nice," Vermeil says with a grin. "He treats my wife and family too nice. He spoils us rotten. I'm a guy who never had a damn thing, and all of a sudden I'm financially secure for the rest of my life. I have a contract that, hey, it's unbelievable. I don't even want to talk about it."
Vermeil's original five-year contract has just been extended for another five years—it now won't expire until 1985. Though Eagle General Manager Jim Murray will describe the contract only as being "bigger than a bread box, smaller than the stadium," Vermeil's annual salary is reportedly more than $250,000. His deal also calls for the Eagles to provide him with a house in the fashionable Philadelphia suburb of Bryn Mawr, two cars, $500,000 in life insurance, membership in the Philadelphia Country Club and a bonus if the team finishes at better than .500.
Ed Hookstratten is the sharp lawyer who drew up Vermeil's dream contract, and it should come as no surprise that the $50,000 fee for Hookstratten's services was paid by the Eagles.
DADS FOR A DAY, ANYWAY
In honor of Father's Day, June 17, New York's Belmont Park will salute three great horses. Secretariat will be honored, and fittingly, because he has been at stud since his retirement at the end of his 1973 Triple Crown campaign and, at latest count, has 130 registered offspring. The other two honorees? Kelso and Forego, who are at least equally renowned as runners but will never be celebrated as sires. They are both geldings.
FINAL RESTING PLACE
Remember the sad story of Virginia Annable (SCORECARD, March 19)? She's the teacher from Brookhaven, N.Y. whose Volkswagen was stolen and abandoned to sink in then frozen Great South Bay. Her problems multiplied when the Army Corps of Engineers informed her that she was responsible for removing the sunken vehicle.
After aides of New York Senator Jacob Javits intervened on Annable's behalf, the Corps and the Coast Guard reluctantly agreed to dispose of the car themselves. Well, they said they looked but couldn't find it. So the local municipal authorities took over. After using a helicopter to locate the car, the Town of Brookhaven sent an amphibious vehicle with grappling hooks to haul it out of eight feet of water.
Because Annable had abandoned the car, it was taken to the town's landfill site. It cost about $1,000 for the whole operation, and if someone wants the remains for scrap, Brookhaven would be happy to sell it for $10. From monster of the deep to monster of the dump.
THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
Baseball trivia question: What righthanded pitcher at the University of Havana once wrote to Calvin Griffith asking for a tryout with the Washington Senators?
Hint: When Griffith's ace Latin-American scout, Joe Cambria, checked out the young prospect and wired back FORGET IT, the pitcher gave up on major league baseball and started a revolution.
THEY SAID IT
•Esa Tikkanen, Finland's top marathoner, asked why his country has produced so many standout distance runners: "Because back home it costs $2.40 a gallon for gas."
•Bill Fitch, new Boston Celtics coach, on his experience as coach of the expansion Cleveland Cavaliers: "I once said coaching a first-year team was a religious experience. You do a lot of praying, but most of the time the answer is no."