A HIGH TOLERANCE FOR LAWLESSNESS
In 1977, Paul Holmgren of the Philadelphia Flyers, his skates still on, kicked Boston's Wayne Cashman during a melee in a corridor between the teams' dressing rooms in the Spectrum. In 1978 Holmgren tried to kick the Bruins' Terry O'Reilly during a fight on the ice. That same year he hit the Rangers' Carol Vadnais over the head with his stick. For those acts of thuggery Holmgren, one of the most notorious of the NHL's "enforcers," received slap-on-the-wrist suspensions of three, three and six games, respectively. During his five-year NHL career, Holmgren has been suspended on at least five other occasions, most recently when the NHL penalized him last week for punching Referee Andy van Hellemond in the chest during a Dec. 9 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The token punishment: a five-game suspension and a $500 fine. Jim Beatty, a lawyer for the NHL Officials Association, was properly outraged, calling the penalty "grossly inadequate," while van Hellemond said it left him "so upset I can barely talk."
Under most judicial systems, repeated wrongdoing results in increasingly harsh punishment. Not so in the NHL, which subscribes to a violence-sells-tickets philosophy. The league has been particularly forgiving in dealing with mayhem involving the Flyers, which may have something to do with the fact that Philadelphia owner Ed Snider is one of NHL President John Ziegler's staunchest backers. The Flyers have led the NHL in penalty minutes for 10 straight seasons but receive kid-glove treatment when it comes to serious transgressions, witness the four-game suspension that Defenseman Behn Wilson received last month for slashing the Rangers' Reijo Ruotsalainen across the face with his stick. By contrast, Wilf Paiement, then with the Colorado Rockies, was suspended for 15 games in 1978 for engaging in a stick fight with Detroit's Dennis Polonich. Ziegler also demonstrated forbearance in being notably slow to express disapproval when Snider was reported to have pushed Dan McLeod, a supervisor of officials, against a wall following a loss a couple of years ago to Montreal, and when the Flyer boss, indignant over the officiating in Philly's 1980 Stanley Cup finals loss to the Islanders, suggested publicly that Referee-in-Chief Scotty Morrison "should be shot." During a game at the Spectrum against Buffalo on the day after Holmgren was suspended for hitting van Hellemond, Snider, angered by the officiating, rushed to rink-side, leaned over the glass and gave Referee Bruce Hood the choke sign.
Holmgren said that he hit van Hellemond because he was "frustrated." Apparently impressed by this explanation, Brian O'Neill, the NHL official in charge of discipline (sic), sought to further justify leniency in the case by noting that while Holmgren had been involved in many violent incidents with other players, he had never before assaulted a referee. In other words, Holmgren was, by NHL logic, a first-time offender.
As 1981 draws to a close, herewith is our choice for Banner of the Year in what, for Chicago sports fans, anyway, wasn't a banner year. The prize goes to a sign that was held aloft at a Bears game by a fellow for whom the Sting's NASL championship apparently failed to make up for the shortcomings of the Bears, Cubs, White Sox and Bulls: CHICAGO HAS MORE DOG TEAMS THAN THE YUKON.
CURTAINS FOR WESTERN CIVILIZATION?
Since 1972, when it scrapped the nickname Indians following protests by native-American groups, Stanford's athletic teams have been known informally as the Cardinals. Although the name supposedly refers to one of the school's colors, there were complaints that it also invoked unintended associations with birds or ecclesiastics. Recently Stanford President Donald Kennedy sought to end the confusion by decreeing that the school's teams henceforth will be known as the Cardinal. Not the Cardinals, plural, understand. Simply, the Cardinal.
Describing the color as "a rich and vivid metaphor for the very pulse of life," Kennedy noted in a written statement that the new nickname makes Stanford, "as usual, unique in our own (Pac-10) Conference, where one finds six mammals (all carnivores save one), a bird, a Sun Devil, and a military figure of some kind, but no other color." Kennedy continued: "We cannot actually condemn those from less cultivated environments who mistakenly pluralize our color by referring to collectives of Stanford athletes as Cardinals. But we should instruct them, as considerately as possible, in the proper use of such nouns of venery. 'Cardinal team' (or, if you must, 'Card gridders, Card netter,' etc.) is acceptable; 'Cardinals' or 'Cards' bad usage."
To say that Kennedy failed to end the controversy is a considerable understatement. His edict disappointed Stanfordites who had plumped for such alternative nicknames as Robber Barons (after founder Leland Stanford) and the Thunderchickens (the nickname of Stanford's defensive front four during its early-'70s football glory years). It also aroused the indignation of Leonard Koppett, sports columnist of The Peninsula Times Tribune in Palo Alto and a sometime Stanford instructor, who pronounced himself appalled by Kennedy's "mindless insistence that a color, and especially the color cardinal, can be made to serve the purpose of a mascot or emblem," and who argued further that "only a creature can be a mascot, and only an object can be a symbol. A color is neither; it is an attribute, and has to be attached to something...if Stanford had chosen, for instance, to be known as 'Puce,' it at least would have avoided a clash with already entrenched tangible images." Putting the issue in perspective, Koppett asked: "If the full intellectual resources of Stanford University, worrying about the problem for nearly a decade, cannot recognize that to be symbolized one must have a symbol and that a color is a color and not a symbol, what hope is left for Western civilization?"
Beats us. But we are encouraged that Western culture has so far survived the Big Red of Cornell, the Orange of Syracuse, the Big Green of Dartmouth and the Crimson of Kennedy's alma mater, Harvard.
A MIDDLING SEASON AT THE TOP
When top-ranked Clemson takes the field against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, more than the national championship will be at stake. Also on the line will be a .500 season for the No. 1 team in the Associated Press rankings—a position that had been occupied by six different schools before Clemson. The "record" of those six teams in games they played when ranked No. 1 stands at 6-6, as follows (with top-ranked team in capitals):
Wisconsin 21 MICHIGAN 14 (0-1)
Michigan 25 NOTRE DAME 7 (0-2)
USC 28 Oklahoma 24 (1-2)
USC 56 Oregon St. 22 (2-2)
Arizona 13 USC 10 (2-3)
Arkansas 42 TEXAS 11 (2-4)
PENN STATE 30 West Virginia 7 (3-4)
Miami 17 PENN STATE 14 (3-5)
PITT 47 Rutgers 3 (4-5)
PITT 48 Army 0 (5-5)
PITT 35 Temple 0 (6-5)
Perm State 48 PITT 14 (6-6)
MADISON AVENUE GOES TO MADISON
For several years now, University of Wisconsin rooters have been enlivening their school's athletic contests by lustily singing a variation on the advertising jingle, "When you say Budweiser, you've said it all." The takeoff, which merely substitutes "Wisconsin" for "Budweiser," has become so popular in the Badger state that St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, Inc., the brewer of Budweiser, is now exploiting the phenomenon with three 30-second commercials. All three spots, which are aired only in Wisconsin, show Badger fans singing their when-you-say-Wisconsin number. Two of them include film footage of a 1979 football game against Northwestern and a 1980 ice hockey game against Bowling Green. In each of the commercials an announcer says, "Wisconsin, this Bud's for you." In return for the tie-in, Anheuser-Busch made grants of unspecified amounts to the Wisconsin band and athletic department. The Wisconsin athletes didn't get paid by Anheuser-Busch, nor were they identified by name in the commercials, although a number of them were recognizable, including several current members of the school's defending NCAA-champion hockey team.
Although most Wisconsinites find them rousing, the commercials have caused some home-state grumbling that the promotion for Bud might undercut Wisconsin's own Miller, Pabst and Schlitz brands. Another objection was raised last week by David Berst, the NCAA's director of enforcement, who expressed surprise that the school hadn't bothered to clear them with his office. Berst said the Budweiser campaign sounded like a "flat-footed" violation of an NCAA prohibition against athletes allowing themselves or their names to be used in commercials. "If we didn't have such a rule, that's all you'd see," said Berst.
Berst didn't specify, however, what would be so wrong if such commercials did become commonplace, thereby providing a new source of badly needed revenue to colleges committed, for better or worse, to big-budget athletics. In recent years Olympic-related sports federations have been groping toward a long-overdue revision of amateurism rules that have allowed some athletes to appear in commercials on the condition that their national federations handle the deals and get at least part of the loot. Whatever one might think of the propriety of college athletes being used in beer advertising, Wisconsin appears to have stumbled into an arrangement that might be used in college sports; though in this case it might be considered best that no endorsement be made by individual athletes and that the take should all go to the institution. If the NCAA could be persuaded to reexamine its policies in this area, a lot of other schools might wind up joining Budweiser in saluting the Badgers.
CBS PLAYS D
Don't be surprised if CBS changes its name one of these days to DBS, for the Dallas Broadcasting System. Consider, first, the network's strategy for turning the New Year's Day ratings showdown between the Clemson-Nebraska Orange Bowl on NBC and the Pitt-Georgia Sugar Bowl on ABC into a three-way battle. Because Jan. 1 falls on a Friday, CBS will be able to challenge those games in most major markets with its regular weekly offering of Dallas, TV's top-rated show. CBS publicists are ballyhooing the fact that the script for that evening's episode will reveal the fate of Jock Ewing, the patriarch of the oil clan who disappeared from the program following the death last April of the actor who played him, Jim Davis. With the top spot in college football and Ewing's whereabouts up in the air, there could be a whole lot of dial switching on Jan. 1.
CBS also relies heavily on another Dallas product, the Cowboys, whom the network is able to showcase because it carries NFC games, while NBC covers the AFC. Last season CBS barely edged NBC in the average weekly Nielsen ratings during the NFL season, 15.3 to 15.0, but in 1981, going into last weekend's final regular-season games, CBS had clobbered NBC on national games, 17.2 to 13.7. The main difference this year was that CBS concentrated its NFL coverage more heavily on the Cowboys, who appeared in the network's national game no fewer than nine times. "We've been operating on the principle: Put on the best game available, but when in doubt, give 'em Dallas," says CBS spokesman Beano Cook. "Love them or hate them, the Cowboys are the most popular NFL team."
In addition to relying on Dallas on New Year's night, CBS is also hoping for good things from its telecast earlier in the day of the Alabama-Texas game in the Cotton Bowl in, yup, Dallas.
THEY SAID IT
•Ken Hayes, Oral Roberts' basketball coach, after his team trailed Oklahoma State by 13 at halftime, then lost 77-75: "We just dug ourselves into a 10-foot hole, then dug out nine feet, 11 inches."
•Tommy Lasorda, Dodger manager, asked what terms Mexican-born pitching sensation Fernando Valenzuela might settle for in his upcoming contract negotiations: "He wants Texas back."