After Los Angeles Laker Forward Kermit Washington slugged—and seriously injured—the Houston Rockets' Rudy Tomjanovich during a game in Los Angeles on Dec. 9, 1977, NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien fined Washington $10,000 and suspended him without pay for 60 days. That punishment, which cost Washington some $60,000, may have been a deterrent to further violence in the NBA. The league did not have any serious trouble for the rest of the '77-'78 season, nor all of last season.
Last week a federal jury in Houston reached a verdict, in a suit brought by Tomjanovich, that could help deter violence in all professional sport. Tomjanovich asked damages of $2.65 million against the Lakers, but the six-member jury exceeded this figure, awarding the Rocket forward $3.3 million. L.A. is also being sued by the Rockets, who are asking $1.8 million for loss of Tomjanovich's services for the remaining 53 games of the '77-'78 season. That trial is scheduled to begin in Houston next week.
Significantly, Washington, now with the San Diego Clippers, was not a defendant in Tomjanovich's suit. During the two-week trial, Tomjanovich's lawyers sought to show that the Lakers bore full responsibility for the injuries he suffered. Witnesses included Jerry West, the Laker coach at the time, who admitted that he had said nothing to Washington before or after the fight about controlling his temper. Testimony also was elicited to show that the Lakers did not fine players for fighting. The jury concluded that the Lakers were negligent in retaining a player they were aware had "a tendency for violence while playing basketball" and that the club "failed adequately to train and supervise its employee."
The Lakers have not said whether they plan to appeal, but if the Tomjanovich verdict stands, that $3.3 million figure cannot fail to impress professional teams—and their insurance companies. The big award against the Lakers would be a signal that fighting is not part of sports and that teams have a duty to try to prevent it.
BIG NAME, BAD NEWS
While the President of the United States was struggling with his most recent burdens, a namesake was battling to make the San Diego Chargers. The rookie guard from Tennessee State, who, of course, is nicknamed "The Prez," showed no shortage of energy, but, alas, the agate-type news out of San Diego last week was that Jimmy Carter had been placed on waivers.
PASSING THE BUCS
By rights, owner Joe Robbie should have been delighted when his Miami Dolphins beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-7 two weeks ago before a crowd of 72,126 in Tampa. For one thing, it was the fourth straight time the Dolphins had defeated the Buccaneers in the preseason. What is more, the four exhibition games, all of which were played in Tampa, have produced $1,029,109 for Miami's coffers. But last week it was revealed that Robbie had decided not to play the game next year.
One reason is his annoyance with Tampa owner Hugh Culverhouse, who has been a prime mover in the NFL's efforts to bar its owners and their families from holding controlling interest in other pro sports teams. Robbie's wife, Elizabeth, owns the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the NASL, and the Dolphin owner considers that none of Culverhouse's—or the league's—business. Robbie also feels that the Buccaneers approached the series with too much "intensity," resulting in injuries to the Dolphins. "I'm not interested in a cross-state grudge match for the championship of Florida during the preseason," Robbie says.
Disagreeing with the boss, Miami Coach Don Shula credits the exhibition games at Tampa for acclimating the Dolphins to the sort of hostile crowd noise they might face during the regular season in, say, Baltimore. No matter. Robbie has replaced the Buccaneers on next year's exhibition schedule with a game against the Seahawks in Seattle, which is quite a distance from Tampa in both mileage and intensity.
IN YOUR FACE
For 7-year-old Ashley Whippet, last year's defeat in the world K-9 Frisbee Catch & Fetch championships contained an ample ration of humiliation. As the Rin Tin Tin of the art of catching a thrown Frisbee, Ashley Whippet had appeared on the Tonight Show, had taught Amy Carter's dog Grits a few tricks on the White House lawn and had reigned as world champion since 1974. But then, competing before 50,000 people at the world Frisbee championships in the Rose Bowl, Ashley Whippet was upset by a 2-year-old mixed breed named Dink.
The object of the competition is for a dog to catch and return a thrown Frisbee as many times as possible in two minutes. The Frisbee must be tossed at least 15 yards and the dog scores a point if any of its paws are off the ground, an extra point if all four are. Much depends on the accuracy of the toss, and Ashley Whippet's owner, Alex Stein of Sierra Madre, Calif., takes the blame for last year's defeat. "I wasn't throwing so well that day," he says.
But Ashley Whippet may have his paws full with Dink when the 1979 world championships get under way this week in Pasadena. Dink was found as a pup in a dog shelter by owners Jim and Cathy Strickler of Severna Park, Md., and he quickly became adept at Frisbee, thanks to a no-nonsense training technique. As Cathy Strickler describes it, "We threw the Frisbee at his face. He had to catch it or be knocked out."
SPREADING IT AROUND
The NCAA basketball tournament was expanded last week for the fourth time since 1974—to 48 teams. Wayne Duke, chairman of the NCAA basketball committee and commissioner of the Big Ten, said that one objective of the expansion, which takes effect next season, was "to spread income from the tournament over more institutions." That income is considerable. Schools playing in last season's tournament received $39,183.90 per game plus expenses, and the NCAA will have even more money to hand out next season, thanks to a new two-year TV contract with NBC that will bring in $18.5 million, nearly twice as much as the old one provided.
In addition to increasing the size of its postseason tournament—roughly one-fifth of the 257 schools in Division I basketball now will make it into the field—the NCAA also rescinded its rule limiting conferences to two representatives in the tournament. That rule, which was in effect only one year, proved especially unpopular in the perennially powerful ACC and the resurgent Big Ten, whose race ended last season in a tie among three schools, one of which, Purdue, was left out of the NCAAs.
The NCAA's action will hurt the rival NIT tournament, which is made up largely of NCAA leftovers. What makes Pete Carlesimo, president of the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association, the NIT's sponsor, even unhappier is an NCAA rule forbidding schools that receive NCAA tournament bids from playing in the NIT. "Because of the money [NIT participants received about $13,000 per game last season], not many teams would pick our tournament over theirs," Carlesimo says. "But at least give them the right." He added that the NIT might bring an antitrust suit challenging the NCAA rule.
IN CONTEMPLATION OF ALI
A course dealing entirely with Muhammad Ali will be offered this fall at Manhattan's New School for Social Research. The non-credit course, the title of which, "A Tribute to a Champion," seems more appropriate for a testimonial dinner, will consist of seven 90-minute sessions and feature appearances by Joe Frazier and Norman Mailer as well as a screening of the movie The Greatest. The fee is $60, and Gabriel Grayson, the instructor, is hoping that the spirit of academic inquiry will be such as to fill the New School's 500-seat auditorium.
Grayson, a sign-language instructor and onetime Catholic seminarian, considers Ali a subject fraught with significance—as "the most recognizable man on earth," as "one of the greatest champions ever" and as a "symbol of the '60s." Grayson, who previously taught courses on Jesus and Houdini at the New School, feels that Ali was a logical next step. "I don't mean to sound irreverent," he says, "but certainly all three are great showmen." The course concludes with a scheduled appearance by Ali himself. That's like promising students in one of the New School's philosophy courses a guest appearance by Socrates.
HAVE SNEAKERS, WILL TRAVEL
For daily joggers who hate to miss a step, finding places to run on business trips used to pose problems. Not anymore. By staying in one of the growing number of hotels that make tracks and jogging trails available to guests, travelers can find running just as convenient—maybe even more so—than it is at home.
In some cases, guests can run right on the hotel's property. The Atlanta Hilton has its own 220-yard track, and Los Angeles' Bel Air Sands Hotel is putting a running trail on its grounds. Pittsburgh's Hyatt Regency makes life for the runner almost as easy. Guests automatically become members of an organization called the Hyatt Striders, members of which gather to work out on the outdoor quarter-mile track across the street at the Civic Arena. Similarly, guests at the Houston Oaks Hotel are allowed to use the five-laps-to-the-mile Tartan track that encircles the glass dome of the Galleria, a shopping complex next door.
Some hotels provide guests with maps showing measured runs through nearby parks and streets. The Capital Hilton in Washington suggests doing "Monumental Miles," a selection of 1.5-, three- and five-mile runs, each route passing by such landmarks as the Lincoln Memorial. The Sheraton in Boston charts a route that includes a section of the Boston Marathon course.
Also popular at hotels are "parcours." Along jogging paths, which are meant to be covered in a specified time, are exercise stations equipped with balance beams, chinning bars and the like. The Rye Town Hilton in New York's Westchester County offers a course with 18 stations. The Hyatt in Orlando has a 1.3- mile, 20-station layout, while San Francisco's Hyatt Regency has built a half-mile, nine-station course on adjacent sidewalks and parkland. Guests at a sister hotel, the Hyatt on Union Square, are encouraged to use the same course. Because of the perils of city traffic and fears that guests might get lost, they need not run to get there. They are taken the 12 blocks to the parcours at 7:15 a.m. and returned an hour later—by limousine.
GEORGIA ON EVERYBODY'S MIND
Georgia Rosenbloom, majority owner of the Los Angeles Rams, fired her stepson, Steve Rosenbloom, as the club's executive vice-president last week, escalating their unseemly family feud (SI, Aug. 13). The action by Carroll Rosenbloom's widow made Ram watchers wonder what might happen next. Will Georgia bring back former Ram Coach George Allen, whom she has been effusively praising? Will she scrap the club's proposed switch from the Los Angeles Coliseum to Anaheim Stadium? Will Steve, tapped by his father to run the Rams, sue Georgia?
The beneficiary of Steve's dismissal is his bitter rival, Don Klosterman, whom Georgia restored to his old job as the Rams' day-to-day boss. There is so much bad blood between the young Rosenbloom and Klosterman that when Steve, who is popular with Ram players, let it be known that he planned to attend a team meeting to say goodby, Klosterman canceled the meeting. An impromptu get-together between Steve and the players occurred anyway, which raises an intriguing question: Seeing as players can be fined for missing a meeting, can they also be fined for attending one?
THEY SAID IT
•Ken Coleman, Boston Red Sox broadcaster, gushing over a long home run by First Baseman Bob Watson: "They usually show movies on a flight like that."
•Dennis Lamp, Chicago Cub pitcher, whose pitching hand was badly bruised when Lou Brock caromed a ball off it for his 3,000th hit: "I guess they'll be sending my fingers to Cooperstown."