MINI-REBELLION IN ROAD RACING
As happened in tennis in the mid-1960s, pressure is building for openly awarding prize money in road racing, a sport in which under-the-table payments have become increasingly common. Most athletes, sponsors and race promoters want to end hypocritical "shamateurism" and legalize cash prizes. However, in sharp contrast to the situation in tennis, which hasn't been an Olympic sport since 1924, leading road racers often compete in the Olympics and are subject, with track and field athletes, to the archaic amateur rules imposed by the IAAF, the world governing body of the sport. While The Athletics Congress (TAC), which oversees road racing in the U.S., has promised to work within the IAAF for a needed relaxation of the rules, the pace of change remains slow.
The situation may nevertheless be coming to a head. Two weeks ago the makers of Jordache jeans paid out $50,000 in prize money at a professional marathon in Atlantic City and promised that other run-for-the-money events would follow. But Ollan Cassell, executive director of TAC, warned that, under IAAF rules, runners who entered such races would risk being stripped of their international eligibility. Alternatively, Cassell announced that he had obtained IAAF approval for an experimental Grand Prix circuit in which prize money would be awarded not to athletes but to their clubs, which then could distribute funds to members for "expenses." Cassell described the circuit as a necessary first step toward open racing. "The IAAF needs some kind of experience before diving into dark waters," Cassell told SI's Craig Neff. "They want to know where the rocks are."
Runners have reacted to these goings-on with a fine streak of independence. The Atlantic City race wound up drawing 31 entrants, but most of the big names skipped the event rather than risk their eligibility in what could've been a one-shot opportunity. But they didn't exactly rush to the TAC circuit, either. The Association of Road Racing Athletes, a newly formed group whose ranks include Bill Rodgers, Craig Virgin, Herb Lindsay, Don Kardong, Joan Benoit, Benji Durden and Garry Bjorklund, met in Chicago last week and voted to shun the proposed Grand Prix circuit. "TAC is just clouding the waters with more disguised payments," said Bjorklund. "Their circuit would just lead to more clever bookkeeping." Stung by the athletes' rejection, Cassell hinted that TAC might go ahead with its prize-money circuit even without the balky stars.
Cassell may have reason for sticking to his guns. As he points out, if TAC lent support to a prize-money scheme that ended up costing athletes their international eligibility, it might be violating the federal Amateur Sports Act of 1978 and could face lawsuits. Yet the road racers hope that by holding out for direct prize payments, they can force the IAAF's hand, especially if their mini-rebellion spreads to track and field athletes. As Kardong puts it, "TAC says it has no choice in these matters because of directives it gets from the IAAF. We're not convinced of that. We're not convinced these things are unchangeable."
The athletes' ultimate weapon is the possibility that many of them may decide to chuck their international eligibility. Thanks partly to disillusionment caused by the Olympic boycott, U.S. road racers appear determined to take greater control of their own fate. Says Kardong, "Most of us would rather work within the international structure. However, I think if someone came up with a long-term, well-thought-out system [of prize-money races], we'd all look at it quite seriously."
PUTTING THE PIG BACK IN THE PIGSKIN
As with thoroughbreds, some people perform better on mud than others. When it comes to sloshing about on a football field knee-deep in slop, nobody compares with the Mount Washington Valley Hogs of North Conway, N.H. They're the Pittsburgh Steelers of mud football, a game that has long been popular on campuses and is now gaining a wider following, especially in the Northeast.
Mud football is played on fields plowed and hosed down to produce swamplike conditions. Teams play two-hand touch, but because of the slippery footing, participants probably spend more time earthbound—or mudbound—than they would if they were playing tackle. Players are usually barefoot and even the most routine handoff can be high adventure. Says John Gorman, a special-teams member of the Hogs, "When I was eight, I'd have gotten into trouble for doing this. Now I can play in the mud without my mother yelling at me."
Mud football got started in the ski-resort community of North Conway in 1975 when a team of ski bums and locals was formed to play in the grandly named World Mud Football Championships, which were being held at another ski resort, Sugarloaf in Maine. The Hogs won the title and repeated as world champs the next three years, but in 1979 they were defeated by the Hamslammers of Holland Patent, N.Y. Earlier this month the Hogs regained the championship, beating the Hamslammers 8-7 before a crowd of 4,000 in Holland Patent. The following weekend the Hogs returned to North Conway to play host to what was billed as the Olympic Mud Games. The Mount Washington Valley Band played but refused to slog through the mire, and the Hogs were urged on ("We love you, Hogs, oh yes we dooooo...") by the Hoggettes, a corps of cheerleaders clad in gym shorts, pig ears and snouts. Alas, the Hogs were upset 19-0 in the title game by the Plymouth Valley (N.H.) Mudders, after which the teams faced what one of the players called the most unsavory part of mud football. "I hate going under the hose to clean off," he shuddered. "That water's ice cold."
PRESERVED FOR POSTERITY
First-base Umpire Bill Haller was probably guilty of a bum decision when he neglected to inform the managers and players at a recent Oriole-Tiger game that he had been wired for sound by a Washington, D.C. station, WDVM-TV. But for anybody who's ever wondered what really goes on during a rhubarb, the taping was illuminating, especially when Haller called a balk on Baltimore Pitcher Mike Flanagan, much to the consternation of Oriole First Baseman Eddie Murray and Manager Earl Weaver. Highlights of the ensuing exchange:
Murray: "That is not a balk."
Haller: "Behind the rubber."
Murray: "He did not go behind the rubber."
Haller: "For me he did."
Weaver (arriving on the scene): "Aaah, bleep."
Haller: "Bleep yourself."
Weaver: "You're here and this crew is here just to bleep us."
Haller (with a jerk of the thumb, indicating Weaver's ejection): "Boom!"
Weaver: "You couldn't wait to get me out."
Haller (pointing a finger at Weaver): "Oh, Earl, you run yourself."
Weaver (swatting away Haller's hand): "Get your finger off me."
Haller: "You hit me?"
Weaver: "Yeah, because you put your finger on me.... You do it again and I'll knock you right on your nose."
Haller: "I didn't touch you. You're lying."
Weaver: "You ain't no good."
Haller: "Nah, you aren't, either."
Weaver: "What're you doing here now?"
Haller: "Well, why don't you call the league office and ask them?"
Weaver: "Don't you think I won't."
At one point during this deathless dialog, Weaver boastfully predicted that in another decade or so, he'd be in the Hall of Fame.
Haller: "For bleeping up the World Series?"
Weaver: "I've won more than I've lost, kid."
For the record, it was the 78th time Weaver had been thrown out of a game in his career.
On March 31, 1931, Notre Dame Football Coach Knute Rockne was killed with seven other people in the crash of an airliner in Kansas. So why is Rockne's smiling face gracing a Piedmont Airlines ad running this season in football programs at more than 40 colleges? Well, it seems that Piedmont, which was founded in 1948, wanted to promote an association between itself and college football and came up with copy reading, "Football has come a long way. So have we...." Further, it seems that nobody at either the airline or its ad agency remembered the circumstances of Rockne's death when it was decided to use his picture. Mitch Lawrence, a sportswriter for the Syracuse Post-Standard, caught the gaffe ("I thought for a second I was reading National Lampoon") and called it to the attention of W.G. McGee, Piedmont's senior vice-president, who was properly embarrassed. Noting that Rockne had been included "because of his personality and not how he left this world," McGee said of the ad: "It was done in good faith and we hope people take it that way."
A JUMBO-SIZED TRIBUTE
During his 46 years as Villanova's track coach, Jumbo Elliott has turned out a host of world-class performers, including such notable middle-distance runners as Ron Delany, Eamonn Coghlan, Marty Liquori and Don Paige. Those athletes and others like them have helped Elliott's teams win eight NCAA (one outdoor, three indoor, four cross-country) and three AAU (2 indoor, one cross-country) championships. What makes these numbers all the more impressive is that the Wildcat trackmen train on an antiquated track at Villanova Stadium so slow that not even the most talented of them ever ran a sub-four-minute mile on it.
Now that may change. Last week Villanova dedicated a new eight-lane, Rubaturf track at the stadium that will not only facilitate faster clockings, but will also enable the school to play host to championship meets, something it couldn't very well do before. The dedication ceremonies were held at halftime of Villanova's 20-9 football victory over Boston College, and one old grad, Paul Drayton, seized the occasion to make a gift to the school—"Villanova did everything for me," he said—of the gold medal he won as a member of the U.S. 4 x 100-meter relay team in the 1964 Olympics. Drayton was one of 150 present and former Villanova trackmen (including Delany, Liquori and virtually all of the school's 20-odd other track Olympians) on hand for the festivities, and as the crowd of 13,300 cheered, the 65-year-old Elliott led his boys on a victory lap of what Villanova officials have named, fittingly enough, Jumbo Elliott Track.
SUPPORTING ALMA PATER
It happened in Tempe, Ariz. a few days before Arizona State was to play Ohio State in Columbus. Walking across the Arizona State campus, Sun Devil Quarterback Mike Pagel noticed a coed wearing an Ohio State T shirt. He stopped her and asked her prediction for the game.
"Ohio State by seven," she replied.
"Know who I am?" asked Pagel.
"The Arizona State quarterback."
"Know who I am?" the coed shot back.
"I'm the daughter of the Ohio State coach."
That gentle put-down wasn't the only gesture that Lynn Bruce, an Arizona State sophomore, made on behalf of Earle Bruce's Buckeyes last week. To surprise her father, who wasn't expecting her, Lynn flew to Columbus for the game. And didn't she have mixed emotions about the clash between dad's school and her own? "She'd better not," said Jean Bruce, the mother of Lynn and three other Bruce girls. "Her father pays her tuition at Arizona State and this is his job." With that the Bruce family, Lynn included, went off to Ohio Stadium to watch the Buckeyes win, not by seven, but by 17.
THEY SAID IT
•Willie Wilson, Kansas City outfielder, on why he refuses to sign autographs: "When I was a little kid, teachers used to punish me by making me sign my name 100 times."
•Abe Lemons, Texas basketball coach, at a golf tournament for coaches in Edinburg, Texas: "Coaches who shoot par in the summer are the guys I want on my schedule in the winter."