OUR PRESIDENT, WIN, LOSE OR TIE
On the eve of the Democratic convention, while Teddy Kennedy was plotting to wrest the nomination from him in New York, what was Jimmy Carter doing? Fly-fishing near Camp David. Last weekend, the convention over and his nomination secured, the President again went fly-fishing, this time on Spruce Creek outside Franklin, Pa., a secret hideaway of his that, thanks to a story in the Altoona Mirror, is no longer secret. Something else now out in the open is this: the President is so smitten that he recently starting tying his own flies.
A couple of weeks ago, even as his ratings in the polls were sinking to alltime lows and the controversy over Billy Carter was swirling about him, the President spent four hours of a Saturday afternoon visiting with a dozen prominent anglers and fly tyers on the lawn of the home of Tom McFadden, the superintendent of Catoctin Mountain Park, which includes Camp David. It was a very informal show-and-tell session, topped off by a picnic lunch of hamburgers, corn on the cob, grits and salad.
Carter inspected some handsome bamboo rods brought by Tom Maxwell of H.L. Leonard Rod, Inc. and Frank Thompson, a rod collector from Beltsville, Md. He chatted with John Randolph, managing editor of Fly Fisherman. He watched Eric Leiser, author of Fly-Tying Materials and proprietor of The Rivergate, a fly-fishing shop in Cold Spring, N.Y., tie a Chuck Caddis. The President admitted he had trouble tying both the Muddler Minnow and the Irresistible. When he tied a Muddler, the wings kept slipping off to the side, while the deer-hair tail on the Irresistible had a way of flaring instead of lying straight. Leiser showed Carter how to solve both problems with the tying thread. "The Muddler and the Irresistible are both advanced flies," Leiser says. "They're not for beginners. The President's really interested in fly tying. If he were in Cold Spring he'd be a regular at our Thursday night sessions."
In fact, Carter was so absorbed in tying that McFadden had to interrupt to warn him that the hamburgers were getting cold. After lunch, two accomplished flycasters, Barry Beck and Ed Shenk, demonstrated casting techniques. Vince Marinaro, author of A Modern Dry Fly Code and a strikingly innovative tyer of realistic flies, drew a presidential chuckle when he said, "My imitations are made love to by every bug in the country." Everyone eventually went indoors, where Jim Gilford, a former professor of biology at nearby Hood College, showed color slides of aquatic insects in Big Hunting Creek, which flows near Camp David. According to one of those present, the President told the gathering that if there were anything he could do for the cause of clean water, he'd like to know and he'd be happy to help. He also confessed he finds fly tying rejuvenating. When Leiser at one point remarked, "Tying is very relaxing after a tough day," Jimmy Carter replied, "We all have one of those now and again."
FACING THE MUSIC
Thwarted, at least for the moment, in their acrimonious, much-publicized effort to bolt to Los Angeles, the Oakland Raiders are playing once again in Oakland Coliseum. Because of delays caused by legal maneuvers over their attempted move to L.A., the Raiders were three months late in processing season-ticket applications, and when they finally got around to that task, they found Oakland fans openly bitter about the club's intended defection. To make matters worse, the Raiders looked dreadful in losing their preseason opener at San Francisco, 33-14. Last Saturday night they faced the music at home—and beat New England 31-29. Attendance was announced as 41,649, but some press-box observers suspected that the real figure was less than 40,000. Even as announced, it was the smallest turnout for a Raider game in six years.
WHITETAILS, FLAMING LOCKS
Based on Ben Feder's experience, deer hunters would be advised to shave their heads before stalking game, especially if they frequent fancy hair salons. It seems that deer don't go for well-tended locks. Mind you, Feder isn't a hunter himself. He's a real-estate man and a vintner whose Clinton Vineyards Seyval Blanc is among the choicest of New York white wines. And until recently he was beset by whitetails that hung around his 100-acre farm in Clinton Corners, N.Y. and grazed on the vines.
Feder might have spread chicken wire on the ground, which some similarly vexed farmers do on the theory that deer don't like stepping on it. Or he might have hung out old clothes, a trick other farmers resort to in hopes the human scent will drive off the animals. But Feder insists that human hair is the most effective repellent. He doesn't use just any old hair, either. He gets his tresses from Kenneth, the Manhattan hair stylist who coifs the likes of Jackie O., Lauren Bacall and, when the couple is staying at their New York City apartment, Feder's wife, Kathy.
"Basically it's clean hair because Kenneth doesn't cut until after it's been shampooed," says Feder. "Then it's all swept up from the floor and put in big garbage bags for us. We make a twist of it and tie it in clumps on low wire 12 inches off the ground and place it every 20 feet or so. This year we've used more hair than ever before, and we've suffered the least damage." Feder couldn't say whether the shampoo Kenneth uses might in any way help repel the deer or whether the animals could be simply too dazzled to feed; as he notes, "The hair comes in all colors—flaming red, white, golden blonde, blue." In any event, the man who supplies the hair seems just as impressed by the results as Feder is. Says Kenneth happily, "Do you think this can be marketed nationally?"
DEPARTING FROM THE SCRIPT
It happened at the end of the Lake Placid Games when members of the U.S. Olympic team were gathering for a flight to Washington, where they were to be honored by President Carter. The athletes were besieged by fans, one of whom, a 6-year-old boy, had an unusual request. As luger Ty Danco relates in the Middlebury (Vt.) College News Letter, the lad wanted them to print their autographs.
CRACKDOWN IN THE PAC-10
In one of the most dramatic developments yet in college sport's pervasive bogus credit scandal, the presidents and chancellors of Pac-10 universities last week punished five conference schools for transcript and curriculum abuses involving athletes. Meeting in Denver, they declared Southern Cal, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon and Oregon State ineligible for this season's Pac-10 football championship, the 1981 Rose Bowl and all other postseason play. They also ordered Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA to forfeit a total of 21 football victories over the past three years and took away three of Oregon's football grants-in-aid for 1981. In addition, penalties were imposed on USC in track and Oregon in swimming. Describing the crackdown as "pretty jolting," Glenn Terrell, president of Washington State and chairman of the presidents and chancellors, said it would "certainly act as a deterrent" against future improprieties.
Inevitably, the penalties were assailed as too weak by some, too severe by others. The latter included Southern Cal boosters, who expected their team, as usual, to vie this season for the Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth. The perennially powerful Trojans have played in 10 of the last 14 Rose Bowls and, including appearances in the Liberty and Bluebonnet Bowls, have been tapped for bowl games for eight straight years, winning seven of them. For Trojan players, coaches, alumni and fans, next New Year's Day will seem unusually empty.
Also unhappy with the Pac-10 action was a former UCLA football coach, Dick Vermeil, who seemed to take the view that if the presidents and chancellors really wanted to get to the root of the bogus credit problem, they might look first at themselves. Vermeil, who now coaches the Eagles, told the Philadelphia Bulletin that the penalties were "a bunch of baloney" and laid the blame for academic cheating squarely on administrators who "hire and fire football coaches on the basis of wins and losses. They don't give tenure like with a chemistry teacher. If the chemistry teacher was evaluated on 12 weekends on the basis of wins and losses, he'd probably find a way to make sure the students got a little better grade, too."
Pressure to win isn't an acceptable excuse for cheating, yet there is little doubt that such pressure does encourage wrongdoing. And as Vermeil suggests, university presidents are often front and center in demanding the victories. Significantly, several of the Pac-10 presidents who imposed last week's penalties have either fired losing football coaches or pressured them into resigning. Coaches at two conference schools—Arizona State's Frank Kush and Arizona's Tony Mason—have lost their jobs over the past year for alleged wrongdoing rather than for failing to win, but Darryl Rogers, who holds Kush's old job with the Sun Devils, is probably still right when, invoking what he calls an old coaching axiom, he says, "They'll fire you for losing before they'll fire you for cheating."
Last week's penalties may or may not have been a first step toward reversing those priorities. But they certainly are a reminder that the underlying assumption of big-time college football—that bona fide college students can be found who are capable of winning football games and filling stadiums—may need some revision. As one of the Pac-10 presidents, Oregon State's Robert MacVicar, conceded, "Some students extremely talented in athletic ability simply do not belong in a four-year, research-oriented type of university. It simply isn't reasonable that they can survive in that environment unless you do things that are improper or irregular. If we can't have athletes who are successful students, intercollegiate athletics is a fraud and we ought not be a party to it."
STOCKS & SOX
The news last week that Merrill Lynch was considering buying the Chicago White Sox from Bill Veeck and his partners set the Chicago Tribune off on a flight of fancy. If the deal went through, the paper editorialized, Merrill Lynch "could run the Dow-Jones ticker across the scoreboard on game days, install phones in the dugouts so players could call their brokers when they're not at bat, and send brokers into the stands to hawk stocks like hot dogs during the game. And even if the White Sox lose, fans could still be bullish about America."
There is, indeed, an air of unreality about Merrill Lynch's interest in a club that nobody would mistake for blue chips like the Yankees and Dodgers or a glamour issue like the Royals. At week's end the White Sox had a 48-65 record and seemed assured of finishing below .500 for the 10th time in 13 seasons. They also have suffered declining attendance for the past three years. Nevertheless, Eli Okman, a Merrill Lynch vice-president, said the brokerage house was contemplating buying the team and offering investors limited partnerships, an approach that has worked with real-estate ventures and oil and gas leases. Okman explained that owning the White Sox would provide substantial tax benefits, including player-depreciation allowances. He also intimated that, despite their recent difficulties, the Sox had growth potential; Merrill Lynch was thought to be particularly intrigued by the prospect of future cable-TV riches. All in all, said Okman, "we think there may be value there."
Makes sense to us. Still, diehard White Sox fans might wish Okman were a little less brutally analytical about the team's investment potential. "So what if they made four errors last night in New York?" he said one morning after the White Sox had done just that in an 8-4 loss to the Yankees. "That has no bearing on the financial side of things."
THEY SAID IT
•Johnny Unitas, shrugging off news that Oakland Quarterback Dan Pastorini had demonstrated his throwing prowess by heaving a football from a hotel parking lot to a sixth-floor balcony: "His receivers were on the second floor."
•Jim Frey, Kansas City Royals manager, asked what advice he gives George Brett about hitting: "I tell him, 'Attaway to hit, George.' "