IRON MAN OUT IN THE COLD
Utah Jazz Guard Ron Boone played his 1,000th consecutive game Friday night, the longest iron-man streak in pro basketball history. The 34-year-old Boone was honored at halftime of the 144-122 win over Dallas—he started and scored five points—with a ceremony that included tributes from just about everybody in the NBA but, curiously, not the NBA itself. Boone's achievement was officially ignored by the league because 662 of the games in his streak were played in the ABA. "It's a tremendous feat," said NBA publicist Matt Winick of the streak, "but NBA records can only be set in NBA games."
The ABA expired in 1976 when four of its teams and dozens of its players were absorbed into the older league. The NBA then decided that ABA records wouldn't be officially recognized. Behind the decision to leave ABA stars out in the statistical cold was a feeling in the NBA that the ABA was a soft-touch league whose stats and records would dilute and cheapen the NBA's.
This week Dan Issel of the Denver Nuggets will probably get his 20,000th point, a milestone the NBA won't recognize because 12,823 of them were scored in the ABA. Julius Erving will probably score his 20,000th point later this season, but this achievement won't be acknowledged by the NBA, either. Issel and Erving can comfort themselves with the knowledge they've nevertheless achieved something special, just as Boone consoles himself when he says of his streak, "What is most important to me is I did it. No asterisk or footnote can take that away."
Though Boone appears admirably unbothered by it all, it should be pointed out that there's ample precedent for the NBA to recognize more fully the accomplishments of ABA players. Major league baseball recognizes the statistics of players in the Federal League, the original American Association and other leagues it absorbed over the years. Similarly, when the NFL and AFL got together in 1970, the NFL accepted the upstart AFL's stats. What seems painfully obvious is that if the ABA was worth absorbing, so are its records.
ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR WATSON
Detroit Lion Defensive Tackle John Woodcock walked out on the club last week as the result of a contract dispute. The Lions got their first clue that Woodcock was quitting when he failed to show up for scheduled treatment in the training room. They got their second clue when they found his football shoes in a garbage can. Coach Monte Clark later allowed, "I took that as a bad sign."
TALE OF TWO LEAGUES
Designated hitters aside, how can you tell baseball's two leagues apart? Easy. The American League is the one whose owners two weeks ago vetoed the proposed sale of the Chicago White Sox to Ohio-based Edward J. DeBartolo Sr., ostensibly because 1) he's an out-of-towner and 2) as a racetrack owner, he's involved in legalized gambling. The National League is the one that was rocked last week when the Houston Astros' principal owner, New York naval architect John J. McMullen, fired General Manager Tal Smith and replaced him with Al Rosen, until four weeks ago the executive vice-president of an Atlantic City casino. That's right, the Astros' out-of-town owner turned the club over to somebody who had been recently and intimately involved in legalized gambling.
There's a further difference between the two leagues. Given the fact that the American League already had owners of its own involved in legalized gambling(the Yankees' George Steinbrenner, for instance, breeds and races thoroughbreds) and no shortage of present or prospective absentee owners (New Yorker James Nederlander and Californian Neil Papiano head a group that agreed only last week to buy the Cleveland Indians), there was speculation some American League owners really objected to DeBartolo for other reasons. Some were even said to be afraid he'd spend a lot of money to make the White Sox more competitive. At any rate, National League owners needn't entertain such thoughts about McMullen. By firing Smith, who deserves much of the credit for building the Astros into a division champion, McMullen was taking a step likely to make his team less competitive.
THE WACLAWSKI EFFECT
In preparing its press kit for the college basketball season, the NCAA asked a number of players what their superstitions were. The responses were fairly predictable—one player said he wears lucky socks, another cowers at the sight of broken mirrors, that sort of thing—until it came to Mike Waclawski, a forward for Virginia's Christopher Newport College, a Division III school that had a 19-8 record last season. Waclawski, a sub who scored 1.2 points per game, said: "A superstition I have is that I prefer to shoot on baskets facing east-west as opposed to a north-south direction.... I believe it's harder to shoot on a north-south basket, because the Coriolis effect reduces the probability of the ball going in."
According to The International Dictionary of Physics and Electronics, the Coriolis effect, which was discovered by the 19th-century French mathematician Gaspard Gustave de Coriolis, is an inertial force caused by the earth's rotation that results in any object moving above the earth at a constant speed being deflected to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. It's a factor that must be taken into account when firing long-range ballistic missiles, but it has a negligible effect on small-arms fire at ground level, in which category basketball shotmaking presumably falls. Nevertheless, in preferring baskets aligned on an east-west axis, Waclawski may have stumbled onto a hitherto unknown physical phenomenon. Missouri, which set an NCAA Division I field-goal shooting percentage record of .572 last season, plays its home games in Hearnes Arena, which is indeed laid out along east-west lines. Conversely, Waclawski's own anemic stats may just have something to do with the fact that the baskets in his school's Ratcliffe Gym run northeast-southwest—and how's anybody supposed to shoot well on a court as confusing as that?
DIPPING INTO THE POOL
The NFL Players Association released a study last week documenting the paucity of black coaches in the NFL. The study, which was prepared by Dr. Jo-mills Henry Braddock II, a black sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, notes not only that there are no black head coaches in the NFL, but also that the percentage of black assistant coaches declined between 1973 and 1979 from 7% to less than 6%—while the proportion of black players in the league increased from 36% to 50%. What's more, while the NFL has drawn 68 head coaches and 261 assistants from the ranks of former NFL players over the past two decades, only 20 of those coaches, all assistants, have been black.
There are a couple of points worth making about the study. First, the NFL says it would like to hire more black coaches and undoubtedly means it, a fact underscored last year when Commissioner Pete Rozelle directed the league's scouts to be on the lookout not only for black players but also for black coaches. Having said that, it must be added that NFL clubs could do more to find, develop and hire black coaches. It's a cop-out for the league to try to defend its hiring policies, as it did last week in responding to the study, by pointing out that black head football coaches are rare at major colleges, the implication being that this is the pool from which the NFL draws its head coaches. In fact, only seven of the 28 current NFL head coaches ever were college head coaches. But 15 of them are ex-NFL players and as Braddock's study reminds us, there is no shortage of blacks to choose from in that pool.
A FARCE IN THREE ACTS
Time: Thursday night. Place: The Philadelphia Spectrum.
ACT I: Bobby Clarke of the Philadelphia Flyers collides with New York Ranger rookie Mike Allison and is nicked on the face by Allison's stick. A moment or so later Clarke raises his stick, hooks the blade around Allison's neck and pole-axes him to the ice. Allison is removed on a stretcher. Clarke tells reporters, "I just wanted to flip him because I was teed off. He got me near the eye.... I figure anybody hits you, you should hit him back. Isn't that the way the game's supposed to be played?"
ACT II: Flyer Paul Holmgren crosschecks New York's Eddie Johnstone from behind, precipitating a melee. Holmgren is banished from the game, his third such game-misconduct penalty of the season, which is only 11 games old.
ACT III: With six seconds to play, Flyer Behn Wilson stops along the boards and for no apparent reason roughs up Anders Hedberg of the Rangers. Wilson is given 14 minutes in penalties, a meaningless punishment at this stage of game.
Ranger President William Jennings: "It was a disgraceful performance by the Flyers, the most disgraceful I've seen."
Flyer President Ed Snider: "Hockey is a violent game."
NHL Office: No comment.
FROM LONDON WITH 4.6 SPEED
Quite a few foreign-born lads have done well in U.S. football as placekickers, but Owen Gill, an 18-year-old senior at Brooklyn's Tilden High School, is different. Though he arrived in the U.S. from England barely two years ago, the 6'2", 200-pound Gill is being recruited by Penn State, North Carolina, Syracuse, Rutgers and Iowa primarily as a running back.
Gill, whose parents are Guyanese, grew up in London playing soccer and rugby, and he was puzzled by football when he moved to the U.S. with his family in 1978. "I couldn't see why, as soon as one person was stopped, everybody stopped and grouped again to call another play," he says. Nevertheless, Gill went out for Tilden's team, wound up in the backfield and last season gained 853 yards on 136 carries and scored nine touchdowns as Tilden, with a 7-3 record, made it to the finals of New York's Public School Athletic League B Division playoffs before losing to Midwood 14-0. This year he has gained 1,048 yards on 121 carries and scored nine TDs as Tilden has gone 5-0-2. During a 26-0 win over Madison High two weeks ago, Gill rushed for 314 yards, including TD runs of 57, 70 and 76 yards. And, yes, he's also Tilden's kicker. His 43-yard field goal beat Midwood 10-7 earlier this season to avenge last year's big loss, and last week he scored all but one of Tilden's points (four TDs, a 33-yard field goal, a two-point conversion run, two PATs) in a 32-0 rout of Sheepshead Bay. He's also had four touchdowns nullified this season because of penalties, including runs of 62 and 57 yards.
Gill is still learning to follow his blockers, but he has overcome his habit of putting the ball down in the end zone after touchdowns—"In rugby you have to do that to score"—and is developing into an accomplished receiver. With 4.6 speed in the 40 and sufficient athletic ability to have won the gold medal last summer in the triple jump (47'11½") in the Empire State Games, Gill is an explosive runner, of whom Tilden Assistant Coach Pete White says, "Once he's past the line, there isn't a defensive back in New York City who can catch him." Having overcome his early aversion to football, Gill is now a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Earl Campbell and Walter Payton, and he finds the awarding of college football scholarships a quaint and not displeasing custom. With British understatement he says of the likelihood he'll get a free ride at one college football power or another, "It sounds like a good deal."
THEY SAID IT
•Tony Dungy, former NFL defensive back, asked if he felt biorhythms influenced the outcome of games: "I think your biorhythms are going to be better against San Francisco than they are against Pittsburgh."
•Dan McCann, Duquesne football coach, after being beaten 30-28 on a field goal by Georgetown junior Jim Corcoran, who had also beaten the Dukes with a field goal in 1978 and a punt-return touchdown in 1979: "I plan to attend his graduation."