Joseph Heller's Catch-22 said there was no way you could win. John McEnroe seems to have come up with the reverse. Last July, you may recall, McEnroe was fined $10,000 (later reduced to $5,000) by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council because of his obstreperous behavior at Wimbledon. McEnroe appealed the decision, and in accordance with its rules the MIPTC set up a three-man panel to decide whether McEnroe should indeed be fined. The panel was selected from a list of about 20 prominent tennis people from around the world. The MIPTC picked one member. McEnroe, as the accused, picked another. Those two selected the third.
The other day the panel handed down its decision. McEnroe was absolved and the fine rescinded. The vote was 2-1 against him.
Against him? Yes. McEnroe's choice, Harry Hopman, once McEnroe's coach, voted for McEnroe. The other two panelists, Bob Kelleher, former USTA president, and Lawrence Krieger, a New York lawyer, voted against him.
Then how come McEnroe won? Because under MIPTC rules, a player's appeal can be denied only if the decision against him is unanimous.
Let's get this straight. You mean, the accused gets to appoint one of his judges, and if that judge votes for him, he can't be found-guilty?
Well, yes. And, no, Lewis Carroll didn't make this up, although he must be gimbling in his wabe because he didn't.
It should be noted that the rule has now been changed. The MIPTC did smell a rat in there somewhere, and henceforth a simple majority will be sufficient.
Too late! John's away! With Alice in Wonderland.
Mike Flanagan, the Baltimore Orioles' pitcher, couldn't reach agreement on a new contract with Hank Peters, the club's general manager, so last week they went to arbitration, in which each party submits a salary figure and the arbitrator picks the one he deems the more reasonable. It turned out that Flanagan asked for a lower salary ($485,000) than the one offered by the Orioles ($500,000), only the second time this has happened since arbitration in its present form became a part of baseball in 1976. The incident, which ended in effect with the arbitration being called off and Flanagan getting the $500,000, probably serves to prove that not all players are greedy. Or that not all clubs are stingy. Or perhaps only that Flanagan and Peters would be pigeons playing poker.
Life is so bad for the New York Knicks these days it looks like death to some observers. When Boston whipped New York 131-99 last week, handing the Knicks their ninth defeat in 11 games, The New York Times erroneously indexed its account of the loss as the second item under "Obituaries."
Middleweight champion Marvin Hagler was warned last week by the World Boxing Association that he had 15 days "to come to terms on your mandatory fight with the leading available contender Fulgencio Obelmejias." For years while he was the best—or just about the best—middleweight around, Hagler was repeatedly ignored when big fights were being arranged. He was so tough and so little known—and lefthanded—that nobody with aspirations of his own wanted to get in the ring with him. Now he seems to be doing the same thing to Obelmejias. Or is he?
"He'd fight Fully Obel tomorrow," says Hagler's lawyer, Steve Wainwright. "Look, that's not the problem. Marvin knocked him out a year ago, and you won't find anybody who wants to promote the fight. Why would anybody pay to see Marvin knock out Obel again?"
Hagler doesn't want to fight Obelmejias because he has an attractive array of moneymaking bouts lined up for March, April and June, the last against Thomas Hearns, a far worthier opponent than Obelmejias. Still, Obelmejias has fought his way back up to No. 1 on the WBA's list of contenders since the Hagler beating and under WBA rules must be given the next shot at the title.
"It's politics," a bitter Hagler insists. "This is the only way they're going to get the title away from me, trying to strip me of it.
"Politics. I thought that was all over."
When several players on the same basketball team foul out, it often means defeat. Seldom, however, does a team get into as deep a hole as the West Coast Christian College Knights did a few weeks ago against the University of California-Santa Cruz Sea Lions.
The usually well-disciplined Knights had committed an average of only 17 team fouls a game, so Coach Jerry Turner wasn't concerned when injuries left him with only eight men to play Cal-Santa Cruz. Wouldn't you know? That night his players kept getting whistled, whistled and whistled. Said Sea Lion Coach Joe Richardson, "There were some strange calls. The officiating was consistently poor." Whatever the reason, the Knights got into bad foul trouble. One player fouled out, then another, then a third. The Knights kept on fouling out until only one man, 6-foot Guard Mike Lockhart, was left. "We had started in a tandem zone," Lockhart explained afterward. "Then we went to a straight 2-3 zone. After we were down to four guys we used a 2-2 box. Then a 1-2 diamond. Then a 1-1 zone. Finally a 1."
There were two minutes and 10 seconds to play in the game when Lockhart found himself alone on the floor, with the Knights ahead 70-57. "I was scared to death," he said. "I have confidence in my ball handling, but I had four fouls myself and there was nobody to pass to. The coach told me to calm down, take my time."
Further complicating Lockhart's situation was that, when he put the ball in play after a Sea Lion score, it had to touch another player before he could retrieve it. Once he managed to bounce the ball off an opponent's leg and then grab it back. He also got a rebound after Cal-Santa Cruz missed a shot. When he got possession, he did a good job of dribbling to eat up the clock, and the Sea Lions were forced to foul him to get the ball. Lockhart made five of six free throws.
In their brief five-to-one matchup Cal-Santa Cruz beat Lockhart 10-5, but that wasn't enough to turn the game around. West Coast Christian won 75-67. "It seemed like an eternity before it was over," Lockhart said. "I just thanked the Lord."
THE BUSINESS OF BLOOD
NHL officials say some pretty amazing things on the subject of fighting during games. They'll tell you that fighting is tolerated by the league because it's an outlet for frustration, that nobody gets hurt and that, if fisticuffs weren't tolerated, the players would resort to swinging their sticks. Never mind that the typical NHL fight isn't a spontaneous occurrence born of frustration but, rather, a set piece intended to intimidate an opponent and waged by designated tough guys. Or that players do get hurt in hockey fights, as the Rangers' Ed Hospodar will tell you, if he has recovered sufficiently from the broken jaw he suffered upon being punched by the Islanders' Clark Gillies. Or that NHL games feature fighting plus stick swinging. Surely nobody expects the NHL higher-ups to admit the truth: to wit, that they cynically detract from hockey's inherent beauty and the skill of its players by condoning fighting to pander to the baser impulses of the ticket-buying public.
But few of the league's higher-ups have gone as far in defense of fighting as Paul Martha, chief operating officer of the Pittsburgh Civic Arena and the Penguins. In an interview with Dan Donovan of The Pittsburgh Press, Martha was so adamant in expressing the view that brawling is a harmless way for players to release "pent-up emotions" that he was moved to say, "I don't think fighting is necessarily violence." Moreover, even while insisting that NHL teams "don't sell violence," he conceded that the Penguins had been encouraged to exhibit the "aggressiveness" that puts them second in penalty minutes among NHL teams. And he outdid himself when he said, "It's not the players who cause fights, it's the fans." With that remarkable comment, Martha appeared to be absolving from responsibility for fighting not only the players but also, by extension, NHL executives and referees who make and enforce the rules. He elaborated: "The players give no more and no less than what the fan demands. If he didn't like what he saw, why would the spectator come out?" In other words, hockey fights occur not to release players' pent-up emotions but to satisfy the bloodlust of certain fans.
If nothing else, Martha sure let the cat out of the bag. If his argument is correct, doesn't that make the NHL owners purveyors of gore?
Not long after Martha made his revealing remarks, Paul Gardner of the Penguins got into a minor mix-up with a Winnipeg Jet in a game at Winnipeg. Jimmy Mann of the Jets went onto the ice soon after and hit Gardner with a blind-side punch that broke Gardner's jaw, sidelining him for an estimated 25 to 30 games. Mann's skills are evident: In 109 games played over two seasons with the Jets, he has scored six goals while amassing almost 400 minutes in penalties. Last Thursday the NHL suspended Mann for 10 games. "Ten games...what a joke," said one NHL general manager. "The best punishment would be to force Winnipeg to play Mann as a regular for 10 games. Losing him is no loss."
That same day in Pittsburgh a radio spot promoting last Saturday's Penguins-Jets game urged folks to come out and see Jimmy Mann. While the commercial obviously was prepared before Mann's suspension was announced, it nonetheless suggested that Pittsburgh hockey fans attend the game to see a fellow who had shattered the jaw of one of their players. What's the NHL trying to say? Come out and see the wild animals?
THE WAGES OF PEACE
A revealing sidelight to all this occurred during a recent game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks. A run-of-the-mill fight broke out on the ice, and the Kings' rookie coach, Don Perry, ordered 6'4", 220-pound Paul Mulvey off the bench and into the fray. Mulvey had been obtained by the Kings from Pittsburgh late in December to give L.A. a little muscle; he'd already had 126 minutes in penalties as well as a one-game suspension this season. But he refused to follow Perry's orders, recalling the league rule that slaps a three-game suspension on anyone coming off the bench to join a fight.
Perry, furious at Mulvey, told him four times to get out on the ice, but Mulvey refused until other players had preceded him and both benches were about to empty onto the rink. Perry raged at Mulvey in the locker room afterward, told reporters, "I don't want him on my hockey team," and soon thereafter L.A. put Mulvey on irrevocable waivers.
"I'm a human being," Mulvey said, "and I stuck up for my rights as a person. I was being shoved out there as if I was nothing—he was asking me to get a couple more games in suspensions. I've had my share of fights, but I don't think my role is to fight. I'm a hockey player. What I have to do is play hockey."
If only the management of his former teams believed that.
KISSING YOUR SISTER
Or maybe Perry was just working off some frustrations. After all, by tying Philadelphia last Wednesday, the Kings extended two streaks simultaneously: six games without losing and 16 games without winning.
When baseball fans think of Tony Conigliaro, they think of a hard-luck player. They remember the early promise and the awful 1967 beaning that left Conigliaro's left eye damaged and his career in jeopardy. They may recall the embarrassing attempt at a singing career and the desperate digging up of his dad's front lawn when Tony decided to build a pitcher's mound in an attempt to find a ticket back to the majors.
Perhaps they recall the unpleasant stories about Tony C.'s arguments with Boston Manager Dick Williams and the subsequent shipping of Conigliaro to the California Angels. Lately, they've heard that the health food business Conigliaro was running in San Francisco was lost in the mudslides and that he suffered a heart attack in Boston a few weeks ago. They know that he has been lying unconscious in Massachusetts General Hospital and that his chances for a complete recovery dim with each passing day.
What is often forgotten in stories about hard-luck guys are the bright moments, and Conigliaro had a luminous one that bears recounting at this dark hour. After his beaning, the vision in Tony's left eye, once 20/15, deteriorated to 20/300, and doctors at the Retina Foundation in Boston told him the damage was irreparable and that he'd never play baseball again. Here's what is generally forgotten: Not only did Conigliaro play again, but he drove in a total of more than 200 runs for the Red Sox in 1969 and 1970. Two years after the beaning, ophthalmologist Dr. Charles Regan reexamined Conigliaro and discovered that, miraculously, his eye had healed itself and the vision in it was 20/20. "You're an amazing young man," Dr. Regan said. "Someone must have been saying a lot of prayers for you."
The man, still young at 37, is seemingly in need of another miracle. A lot more prayers are asking that he have at least one more shining moment.
THEY SAID IT
•Reggie Jackson, of California Angel owner Gene Autry, who signed free agent Jackson to a four-year, $700,000-a-year contract: "I think he likes me."
•Bob Donewald, coach of Illinois State's big but slow basketball team, after the Redbirds arrived at the baggage area of Boston's Logan Airport before the Worcester City Classic and found their suitcases were already there: "Even our luggage is faster than we are."
•Glenn Wilkes, Stetson University basketball coach, lamenting a schedule that includes games against Duke, Clemson, Nevada-Las Vegas and Marquette: "We don't have a fight song. We have a surrender song."