SAY IT AIN'T SO, ANNUNZIO
The Summer Olympics are at odds with the U.S. Government again. It's not a question of boycott this time but the stubborn stand of one U.S. Congressman. A plan to have the Treasury authorize commemorative coins for the 1984 Los Angeles Games is supported by President Reagan and Secretary of the Treasury Regan, and a bill to go ahead with the coins has been sponsored by, among others, Democratic Senator Alan Cranston of California and Republican Senator Jake Garn of Utah, along with more than 100 Congressmen. The bill passed the Senate handily, but when it got to the House of Representatives it was stopped dead in the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage by its chairman, a nine-term Democrat from Chicago named Frank Annunzio, who doesn't like the bill at all. He's sat on it, kept it from coming to the House floor and effectively stopped its passage. To Olympic people, including the two dozen athletes who dropped in on Washington last week to lobby for the bill, Frank Annunzio is looming as the Afghanistan of these Olympics.
Why? Well, to put it simply, the sale of commemorative coins has become vital to the finances of recent Olympics. The bill that passed the Senate called for a maximum of $425 million worth of silver and gold coins to be issued, in values of $1, $10, $50 and $100 and with 25 different designs. The bill stipulated that the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee's cut from the sale was to be at least $50 million, although estimates of how much the LAOOC would actually receive go as high as $200 million (it would divide its take with the U.S. Olympic Committee), because the coins are usually sold for a price far above face value. A professional consortium (the same one that handled the sale of coins for the Moscow Olympics, plus the Franklin Mint) had agreed to give the LAOOC $50 million as a guarantee against its share of sales as soon as it had the coins to sell. Now the consortium has been saying it would back out of the deal if approval for minting the coins isn't given by April 1. If that happens, insiders say the Los Angeles Games could be in serious trouble. Time is running out, and the LAOOC, the USOC, the International Olympic Committee and the athletes are all beginning to panic.
Why is Annunzio stonewalling? For one thing, his office questions the optimistic sales projections, and, in a letter to fellow Congressmen, he raised the specter of "scandals" in connection with past commemorative coin sales (he didn't specify what scandals). He also told the House that the American Numismatic Association, a collectors' group, objects to the number and variety of coins to be issued.
The LAOOC refutes this, declaring that the sale of Moscow coins was extremely successful, that even the financially disastrous Montreal Games had coin sales of $125 million and that coin sales were the second-largest source of income for the 1976 and 1980 Olympics. As for the numismatists' objections, critics of the A.N.A. call it an elitist group that disapproves of mass sales of commemorative coins.
In any case, Annunzio introduced his own bill in the House that reduced the number of coins from 29 to one. The LAOOC objected, but in time reluctantly agreed to 17 coins, warning that it wouldn't be economically feasible to issue fewer than that. Annunzio just as reluctantly came up to 10 coins but said that was as high as he could go. He said he wouldn't hold a hearing in his committee on the bill until the opposition agreed with his total. Annunzio had no further comment, but a subcommittee staffer says: "It's one of those matters that need some basic agreement before the legislative process can be started."
Well, no, it isn't. First, the legislative process is already under way—the Senate passed the bill—and is now being blocked. Then, too, Annunzio, his staffer admits, hasn't even polled his committee members to see how they feel. Considering the overwhelming support for the measure in the Senate, it can be assumed that opposition to Annunzio would be great, and that the bill's progress through the remainder of the legislative process would be assured.
Perhaps this is what worries Annunzio, and why he so stubbornly persists in his lonely stand. But hearings are part of the legislative process. One should be called as soon as possible, and the bill's fate properly and swiftly resolved.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
Who says modern athletes aren't hungry? A story out of Pembroke, N.C. told of a college baseball game that was actually called on account of hunger. The game between Pembroke State and North Carolina at Charlotte had started at 3 p.m., and at 6:25, with the score tied 8-8 at the end of nine innings, Pembroke Coach Harold Ellen pulled his team off the field, explaining to the disbelieving members of the visiting team that the school cafeteria was about to close. "We don't have the money like them big schools have," Ellen said, "and I can't afford to send them to McDonald's."
Then there's the case of former Duke basketball star Kenny Dennard, who had been deemed too poor a rebounder for somebody standing 6'8" to make the NBA and who had been playing in Great Falls (Mont.) for the Montana Golden Nuggets of the Continental Basketball Association. Nevertheless, Dennard was signed Feb. 17 by the Kansas City Kings. In 16 games since then, playing part-time, he has averaged almost five rebounds a game, a success story especially gratifying to his coach back in Great Falls, George Karl, and Karl's wife, Cathy, who had had Dennard over frequently for dinner, not to mention lunch and breakfast. "Kenny's just a big boy," says Cathy Karl. "He ate all the time."
In fact, Dennard's hearty appetite may be what influenced him to improve enough as a rebounder to make the NBA. In addition to grabbing meals at the Karls', Dennard took full advantage of a Great Falls restaurant that offered a free meal to the Nugget players who led the team in rebounds and assists in each game. The famished Dennard credits that offer for the fact that he was second on the team in assists and—surprise—led the team in rebounds. "That was my first motivation, and then I got to playing center and I had to box out seven-footers," he says. "I had never had to do that in my life, and I found I liked it." With Dennard in the NBA at last, Cathy Karl exults, "Now Kenny can afford to eat."
NEXT, A DOME FOR NOME?
Domes are popping up like mushrooms, and the biggest of all may sprout soon in our biggest state, assuming the Alaska legislature votes its approval of the project. The new dome is planned as an outsize covering for Alaska 1984, an exposition slated to open in Anchorage in two years to celebrate the northern giant's 25th anniversary as a state. Although it will be designed by the same people responsible for the Pontiac Silverdome, the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. and the new Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis (SI, Jan. 18), it won't be a stadium as such but rather a permanent, air-inflated membraned cover over 26 acres of Anchorage real estate, or an area roughly 2½ times that of the Silverdome. It will be 12 stories tall at its highest point, sloping down to 14 feet at its glass-enclosed circumference. The glass outer walls and the transparent roof are to give Alaskans the feel of the outdoors all year round (temperatures won't drop below 45° F, no matter how cold it gets outside). After the exposition is over, most of Alaska Pacific University's campus will be under the dome. The University of Alaska at Anchorage will install some of its facilities there, too. There'll be lots of recreational space, including at least one football field.
"Alaska has the chance to be a real innovator," says Dr. David Geiger of Geiger Berger Associates, the dome designers. "This can open the door to great year-round recreational centers in the north. In the dead of winter you can play football or tennis in shirtsleeves with snowdrifts only 100 yards away."
VOICE OF THE BOWLER
Bowlers complain that they're the poor relations in sports, that nobody pays enough attention to them. Bob Handley, a member of the pro bowling tour, says, "People don't consider us athletes or regard bowling as a sport, but consider this. A bowler on the tour lifts a 16-pound ball, moves 12 to 15 feet with it and rolls it with accuracy at a target 60 feet away, and he does this 700 times a week, not counting practice sessions. That takes strength and endurance." Handley, a power bowler whose 18-mph fastball has led to him being called the Nolan Ryan of bowling, says, "I know bowling takes a lot more out of me than golf does. That's not a put-down of golf. It's just that pro bowling requires excellent physical conditioning."
THE CLASS OF '76
You haven't heard the word dynasty used very often in connection with baseball teams lately, and there's a good reason for that. In this era of free spending and free agency, it's difficult to keep championship teams intact. A case in point is the exodus of Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, et al. from the Oakland A's championship teams of 1972 through '74. Another case in point is the dispersal of members of the 1976 Cincinnati Reds, who routed the Yankees in that year's World Series. All eight of the non-pitching regulars on that team are still in the majors, but only two are with the Reds.
To figure out what broke up that old gang in Cincinnati (clue: It wasn't wedding bells), you need look no farther than a rundown of the current teams and approximate annual salaries of those eight key players: Johnny Bench, C (Reds) $450,000; Tony Perez, 1B (Red Sox) $400,000; Joe Morgan, 2B (Giants) $300,000; Dave Concepcion, SS (Reds) $800,000; Pete Rose, 3B (Phillies) $1 million; George Foster, LF (Mets) $2 million; Cesar Geronimo, CF (Royals) $150,000; and Ken Griffey, RF (Yankees) $900,000.
Bench's salary is relatively low because the Reds showed foresight in signing him in 1977 to a long-term contract; he's currently entering the last year of the five-year deal. Perez and Morgan have a little less bargaining power than some of the others because, unlike the ageless Rose, they're considered, at 39 and 38, to be in the twilight of their careers. Geronimo's price is presumably commensurate with his current role as a late-inning defensive replacement. Foster and Griffey have recently departed for big bucks in the Big Apple. Concepcion is the only one to have been given big dollars to stay in Cincinnati, which says something about the value attached these days to topflight shortstops. And to think that the Reds might have kept all eight of these players for only $6 million a year.
Round and round we go. Three years ago the Philadelphia Flyers fired Bob McCammon as coach and replaced him with Pat Quinn. Last week the Flyers fired Pat Quinn and replaced him with Bob McCammon. Three months ago Buffalo Sabres General Manager and Coach Scotty Bowman backed off as coach and had assistant coach Jim Roberts act in his place. "I never want to coach another game," Bowman said. Last week Scotty Bowman backed in again and replaced Jim Roberts with—Scotty Bowman. Oh yes, Bowman also redesignated Roberts as assistant coach. Round and round.
THEY SAID IT
•Tommy Mulroy, trying out for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers after having played for the Miami Toros, Cleveland Cobras, New York Eagles, Pittsburgh Spirit and Hartford Hellions: "I've had more clubs than Arnold Palmer."
•Lou Holtz, Arkansas football coach, asked if he had thought of leaving to coach at another school: "Not once, not since I came here, have I ever considered leaving. Suicide, yes. Leaving, no."
•Ron Shumate, Southeast Missouri State basketball coach, on his team's shooting accuracy: "It was so bad the players were giving each other high fives when they hit the rim."