THE DEATH OF PISCATORIAL PARADISE
First the Justice Department ruled that three Canadian films, two of them dealing with acid rain, were "political propaganda" and that the distributors therefore had to identify themselves as foreign agents. That resulted in an outcry in the press, the introduction of legislation in Congress to repeal the law under which Justice acted and a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union. Next the Interior Department demanded that the National Wildlife Federation turn over its copy of a film the department had commissioned in 1979, during the Carter presidency, touching on the controversy over whether waterfowl hunters should use steel shot or lead shot. Interior officials said they were trying to block the film's showing because it was "incomplete" and "a disservice to the hunter," but the federation said it would not give its copy up on the grounds that the government had no right to suppress a film made with taxpayers' money.
Those well-publicized controversies have engendered heated debate over such matters as free speech and censorship. But what do the films themselves show? SI Writer-Reporter Brooks Clark, who has viewed all three of the environmental films, reports:
Acid From Heaven (31 minutes). "My lake is dead and so is my business," says 70-year-old Pete Carpenter of his north woods resort, Piscatorial Paradise. Good old Pete heads down to "the university" to find out what killed his business and learns that the culprit is acid rain. By the end of this determinedly homespun but informative Canadian-made docudrama, Pete has become an expert on the subject and assures his town council that it's possible to get rid of acid rain. "The technology is there. The politicians and the people in industry say it's going to cost too much, but that's not true," he says.
Acid Rain: Requiem or Recovery (27 minutes). The second of the Canadian films calls acid rain "one of the miscalculations we made when we learned to burn." An aerial shot of the Statue of Liberty, which has been severely corroded by acid rain, accompanies the narrator's lament that the word "bronzed" no longer connotes permanence—a strange observation since the Statue of Liberty has a copper surface. A young girl is shown riding a slalom ski as the narrator says, "Water...cool and refreshing. Many scientists say life began there. It is ironic that the source of life is a source of death." This one is more somber in tone than Acid From Heaven, but no more so than the subject warrants.
Field Testing Steel Shot (28 minutes). Noting almost in passing that millions of waterfowl die each year after ingesting lead shot in the course of normal feeding and that steel shot is an environmentally safer alternative, this documentary examines some of the problems associated with using the latter. Current Interior higher-ups, notably Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife G. Ray Arnett, object that shooting with steel is too difficult for most waterfowl hunters, and that's apparently why the attempt was made to block the film. But the documentary, while admittedly unpolished, is about as evenhanded as it can be and freely concedes that "learning to shoot steel shot well is no easy task." The film's pitch, innocuously enough, is that hunters should simply allow time to practice with steel shot.
FROM LAGOS TO OLYMPUS?
The heroics of Akeem Abdul Olajuwon in the NCAA basketball tournament have been a source of considerable national pride in his native Nigeria. A daily newspaper in Lagos, The Punch, carried a front-page story on Olajuwon's role in leading Houston to the NCAA finals under the headline NIGERIAN IS WORLD'S NUMBER ONE, a bit of button-popping that wasn't really all that excessive.
Until very recently basketball was viewed by Nigerians as strictly a woman's game. Introduced to the country by British colonial authorities, it was played on open, bitumen-surfaced courts with no backboards, only metal rings. U.S. Peace Corps volunteers introduced the American-style game in the early 1960s, but it still doesn't rival soccer or boxing in popularity. Today there are fewer than 3,000 "active players" among Nigeria's 90 million inhabitants.
Although Nigerian sports officials conceded that, as one of them put it, "a tree doesn't make a forest," they hope that Olajuwon's success will stimulate interest in the sport. They also hope that he'll resist the NBA's blandishments long enough to play for Nigeria in the 1984 Olympics. "We shall give Akeem all the help he requires to lead a Nigerian team to Los Angeles," a spokesman for the Ministry of Sports said last week. Indeed, just playing in L.A. would be quite an achievement, because up to now Nigeria has never so much as qualified a basketball team for the Olympics.
The University of Maryland, although a winner more often than not, has had trouble attracting fans to its football games. A couple of years ago the school tried to remedy this with a costly ad campaign starring Rodney Dangerfield—"I don't get no respect, but Maryland does," the comedian said—but the effort wasn't wholly successful; average attendance for football last season at 42,500-seat Byrd Stadium was still only 32,000.
Now the school is trying another approach. Maryland citizens who receive state income tax refunds this year are finding order forms for Terps football games in the envelopes with their refund checks. Maryland law allows self-supported state agencies to make solicitations by means of such "piggyback mailings," apparently on the theory that a lot of refund recipients are sitting around wondering how to spend their windfalls. In laying out $18,000 for printing and other expenses related to the mailing, the Terps' athletic department is betting that those folks also are looking for a way to spend their Saturday afternoons.
"Psychologically, people are getting a refund check in one hand and the opportunity to buy football tickets in the other," says Frank Gray, assistant athletic director for business affairs. A spokesman for the state comptroller's office said that 850,000 tax refunds have been sent out so far and that only three taxpayers have complained that the football pitch is inappropriate. Maryland officials are hoping that enough of the remaining 849,997 refundees will send in for tickets to tax Byrd Stadium's capacity.
Since Shergar's abduction from an Irish horse farm on Feb. 8 (SI, Feb. 21), hopes for the safe return of the prized stallion have waxed and waned. Rumors that secret ransom negotiations were taking place have circulated, and there has also been speculation that Shergar is being held by Irish Republican Army terrorists. On the other hand, Lord Derby, a member of the syndicate that owns the $30 million horse, says, "I've given up all hope of seeing Shergar alive again. He must be dead."
Many people with an interest in the missing horse are proceeding as if Derby is right. Shortly after Shergar's disappearance, a Canadian news service, noting that the valuable sire had 50 mares on his stud book, characterized him, with gallows humor, as being "late for work." Now, with the breeding season about to get into full swing, most Shergar-booked mares have been placed elsewhere. Quite a few of them had been shipped to Ireland from the U.S., Great Britain and mainland Europe, and in Shergar's absence, many of the mares have been booked to other leading stallions standing in Ireland, such as Habitat, Be My Guest and Golden Fleece. Because most sires already had tight stud schedules, some of these substitute bookings reportedly were arranged only through payment of premium fees.
Police say that no leads to Shergar's whereabouts have turned up. The force of 30 officers that had initially been assigned to the baffling case has dwindled to half that number, and Detective Chief Superintendent Jim Murphy, who for a time had held twice-daily press conferences, has become tight-lipped. Last week Murphy broke his silence long enough to tell SI's Dublin correspondent, Selwyn Parker, "I have no evidence to suggest that the horse is alive or dead. I'm hoping the whole time that he is alive, but it's getting a bit late in the day, isn't it?"
SLOW DOWN, LARRY
Larry Brown's resignation last week as coach of the New Jersey Nets to take the vacant coaching job at Kansas left him with two dubious distinctions. Brown has now had four coaching jobs in barely four years and has twice quit NBA teams with seasons still in progress. Unhappy about having to deal with what he considered spoiled, overpaid players and citing "tension problems," Brown abandoned the Denver Nuggets late in the 1978-79 season. He wound up at UCLA and said he intended to stay forever because "college kids will listen to you." But after two season at UCLA, bothered by the pressures of college coaching and the high cost of living in Los Angeles, he resigned to join the Nets. In quitting the Nets with more than two years left in his four-year contract, Brown said, "I think I belong in a place like Kansas." He said he planned to be at Kansas "a long time."
When it comes to peripateticism, Brown has quite a way to go to catch Lou Saban, whose latest football coaching job is at Central Florida University (SI, April 11). Still, Brown's penchant for turning his back on his employer of the moment is becoming increasingly nettlesome, in no small part because he's so quick to discern similar acts of disloyalty on the part of others. At UCLA he griped that he was being undermined by alumni and the press. And last season he had scathing things to say about the failure of Nets fans to support his team, which was in last place at the time.
Significantly, the curriculum vitae that has appeared in the media guides of the various teams Brown has been with in recent years neglects to mention that he once was coach at Davidson for all of three months; he was hired after the 1968-69 season but quit before the start of the next campaign because of disagreements over the recruiting budget, the remodeling of his office and other matters. One Davidson official who was on campus at the time recalls, "I liked Larry, but I remember him as a very nervous, fidgety person. He always seemed in a hurry to get on to the next thing."
WHOOSH! TIMBER! CHARGE! CRUNCH!
This week's most-daring-use-of-metaphor award goes to Donn Bernstein, ABC-TV's media director for college football, who, like everybody else associated with the sport, is eagerly anticipating a decision—one source says it may be handed down later this month—by the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver on last fall's blockbuster antitrust ruling by U.S. District Judge Juan Burciaga (SCORECARD, Sept. 27, 1982). By way of making the point that Burciaga's decision, which if upheld would void the NCAA's control of TV rights for college games and allow colleges and conferences to negotiate their own TV deals, could have far-reaching implications, Bernstein last week told the Chicago Tribune: "There's a hurricane on the horizon. And when it hits, a lot of trees will fall. Then you'll have a zoological garden out there with animals running all over the place. The elephants will be stampeding the giraffes, the lions will be stampeding the elephants."
And here you thought the case only affected TV rights.
THEY SAID IT
•Otis Birdsong, New Jersey Nets guard, enumerating the three certainties of life: "Death, taxes and my jump shot."
•Bob Hope, following Howard Cosell to the dais at a National Fitness Foundation awards dinner in Manhattan: "I've enjoyed every minute of this. And, Howard, I've enjoyed every hour of you."
•Orlando Woolridge, Chicago Bulls forward, who has 60 head of cattle and two fishing ponds on his Louisiana ranch: "I'm the Afro-American Curt Gowdy."
•Johnny Carson, after Interior Secretary James Watt announced that he was banning groups like the Beach Boys and the Grass Roots from the Fourth of July celebration on the Washington Mall: "What does Watt know about entertainment anyway? His favorite song is We're the Men of Texaco."