THE COLT-BRONCO HORSE TRADE
Just look at the fuss this fellow John Elway has caused. Selected by the Colts as the first pick in the NFL draft despite his vow that he'd sign with the New York Yankees rather than play football in Baltimore, Elway last week won his bluff—if that's what it was—when the Colts traded him to the Denver Broncos, a team more to his liking. En route to his happy landing in the Rockies, these things had already happened on his account:
•In hopes of keeping Elway from casting his lot with either the Yankees or, worse, the USFL, Commissioner Pete Rozelle, ordinarily a non-interventionist in such matters, took the unusual step of saying that if the parties desired, he'd help "in any way I can" to arrange a trade between the Colts and an NFL team interested in Elway.
•Al Davis, the Raiders' managing general partner and Rozelle's courtroom nemesis, threatened to bring yet another lawsuit against the NFL, this one alleging that before the draft Rozelle had vindictively sabotaged a three-way deal with the Bears and Colts that would have brought Elway to the Raiders.
•Rozelle said Davis was driven by "calculated paranoia." Bears General Manager Jim Finks called Davis "absolutely crazy." According to Davis, it was Finks who, at Rozelle's behest, scuttled the deal that had Elway ticketed for the Raiders.
•Colts owner Bob Irsay stunned the football world by making the Elway trade, one of the biggest in NFL history, over the heads of his own GM, Ernie Accorsi, and coach, Frank Kush, both of whom learned about the consummation of the deal from the media.
The commotion was heightened by the widely voiced assertion that Irsay had been taken to the cleaners by the Broncos. The fact is, given the Colts' alternatives, the deal may not have been as bad as Irsay's detractors made it seem. In return for Elway the Broncos gave the Colts their rights to Northwestern Tackle Chris Hinton, the fourth overall pick in the draft; to backup Quarterback Mark Herrmann; and to their first-round pick in 1984. The Broncos also agreed to play exhibition games in '84 and '85 in Denver with the Colts, who have drawn poorly during the preseason.
Herrmann is admittedly of dubious value, but the same can't be said of Hinton, a prospect considered by many scouts to be of future All-Pro caliber. Critics contend that the Colts had rejected better deals with the Raiders, Patriots and Chargers before the draft, but while each of these teams offered combinations of present and future first-round choices, none of the choices would have yielded a player of Hinton's promise; the highest proffered pick in any of the three deals was this year's 15th overall choice from the Patriots.
It was also argued that Elway really was bluffing about not playing in Baltimore and eventually would have signed with the Colts if Irsay hadn't panicked. This line of thinking was fueled by revelations after the Bronco trade was announced that Elway preferred the NFL over baseball all along, that he wasn't the can't-miss baseball prospect he'd been cracked up to be and that, contrary to what the public had been led to believe, the Yankees had never made him an offer. It's likely that the Colts knew or at least suspected much of this, and there was a report last week that Elway and his father, Jack, the San Jose State coach, had themselves panicked and had gotten in touch with the Colts about Elway's joining the team after all. But it's also known that the senior Elway disapproves of Rush's coaching methods and didn't want his son to play for so feeble a team as the Colts. In other words, if Irsay hadn't made the swap with the Broncos, there was always the chance that Elway still would have gone with the Yankees, in which case he could have come to the NFL after two years as an immensely marketable free agent.
One way the Colts could yet come up empty is if Hinton refuses to sign with them. After drafting Hinton, the Broncos had brought him to Denver, showed him the city and decked him out in cowboy boots. The subsequent trade to the Colts distressed Hinton's agent, Dick Lynn, who grumbled, "He's gone from cowboy boots to lobster and crab cakes in one week." Although Hinton indicated he'd probably sign with the Colts, he was also talking to the Chicago Blitz in the USFL and making sly comments calculated to send here-we-go-again tremors through the Colt organization. In a nicely satirical reference to Elway's bargaining tactics, Hinton told one TV interviewer, "I don't have to play for the Colts. I can play in the USFL, and I have another option—I'm an amateur tennis player."
RUSSIAN ROULETTE CHESS-STYLE
To the list of such classic chess maneuvers as the Queen's Gambit Declined, the English Opening and the Sicilian Defense, you may now add the Austrian Roulette Spin. This hitherto unknown move was used to determine the outcome of a World Chess Championship quarterfinal candidates' match last month, in the Austrian casino resort town of Velden, between former world champion Vasily Smyslov of the Soviet Union and West German grandmaster Robert H√ºbner. After 14 games Smyslov and H√ºbner were deadlocked, and in accordance with procedures mandated under such circumstances by FIDE, the international chess federation, officials called for the match to be decided by lot. The FIDE rules don't say how this is to work, but the most common practice has been to seal the lots in envelopes.
But not this time. Quick to see a promotional opportunity in the situation, the director of the Velden casino, Hermogen Sanderman, suggested it would be a good idea to "draw" the winning lot by means of a single spin of a roulette wheel. Tournament officials agreed, and a courier was dispatched from Vienna to bring in a gold ball ordinarily reserved for casino openings and other special occasions. In deference to the prominence of the colors in their respective national flags, Smyslov took red and H√ºbner black. The stage was thus set for a unique ending to a major chess match.
A crowd of chess enthusiasts looked on expectantly as the wheel was spun. The tension grew when the gold ball stopped neither on red nor black but on the green "zero," an inconclusive result that prompted murmurs to the effect that the match was simply meant to end in a draw. But on the second spin, the ball came to rest on 3, a red number. Smyslov appeared pleased, and his wife sobbed in relief at his good fortune in moving on to the semifinals. H√ºbner wasn't present, having returned to Cologne because of illness in the family, but a friend allowed that the hapless loser would have preferred "a decision on the chessboard" rather than one reached by the luck of the spin.
On May 26 Temple University will confer an honorary doctor of arts degree on Julius Erving. Then you'll have to refer to him as Dr. Dr. J.
The earthquake that devastated Coalinga, Calif. last week was only the latest of many blows inflicted on the baseball team of local West Hills Community College. The Falcons had lost 26 straight games and were trailing 7-4 in the seventh inning of a home game against Kings River C.C. of nearby Reedley when the quake hit. Umpire Larry De-Carlo gave the Los Angeles Times this account of what happened next:
"It was a real sharp jolt. You couldn't even walk. Our first concern was to get the players out of the dugouts and onto the field. But they couldn't even stand up at first. The backstop began to sway, and I thought for sure it was going to fall down. I looked over and saw the Kings River bus bouncing. It actually came off the ground."
To get away from backstops and other objects that could topple on them, the players and coaches gathered around second base, from which vantage point, said Kings River Coach Jack Hacker, they could see the mound bizarrely "disappear and reappear." After the tremors subsided, DeCarlo and fellow Ump Denny Pacini waited 15 minutes to satisfy themselves that the immediate danger had passed and then coolly ordered the game to resume. Given West Hills' all-losing record, it wasn't surprising that the earthquake was followed by a 15-run avalanche as Kings River romped 22-4.
REMATCHES AND OTHER MACHINATIONS
By controlling rankings and the sanctioning of title fights, the WBA and the WBC hold a firm, if shared, grip on boxing. By controlling many of the best fighters, promoter Bob Arum and his chief rival, Don King, are able to apply leverage of their own. The machinations of the WBA-WBC-Arum-King axis take different forms. For example, Arum claims in an interview in the May issue of The Ring that to get "anything you want done in the WBA," it's necessary to "pay off" Pepe Cordero, a Puerto Rican promoter whom Arum describes as the "bagman" for the WBA. In testimony last week at a congressional subcommittee hearing on a bill to create a federal boxing commission, Arum repeated the charge, claiming he had to pay "tribute" to Cordero to get opponents for Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini, whose fights Arum promotes. For his part, Cordero denied these accusations in an interview with SI's San Juan correspondent, Connie Lepore, and called Arum "an ass, a liar and a rat," adding, "and he's jealous because the WBA doesn't let him do what he wants."
Whatever the truth of Arum's allegations about having to pay off the WBA, it should be noted that top promoters like King and he are in a position to exact tribute from the WBA and WBC in return. A case in point is the difficulty three-time world champion Alexis Arguello has had in getting WBA sanctioning of an envisioned rematch this summer with junior welterweight champion Aaron Pryor, who stopped Arguello in the 14th round last November. The WBA has ruled that Arguello must have a tune-up with a ranked contender before it will sanction a rematch. Considering the frightening ending to Arguello's first bout with Pryor—he lay on the canvas for four minutes after the fight—it isn't out of line to suggest that he work his way up to a rematch. But the only reason the WBA is able to order that he do so is that Arguello, strangely enough, is unranked by that organization.
That's only part of the curious situation. Acceding to the WBA demand for a tune-up, Arguello has arranged a fight in June with ninth-ranked WBA contender Akio Kameda of Japan, but only after coming under pressure from the WBA to fight instead 1Oth-ranked Miguel Montilla, a boxer from the Dominican Republic under the control of the ubiquitous Cordero, who has co-promoted fights with Don King. Dan Duva, the promoter for Arguello's recent fights as well as the hoped-for rematch with Pryor, said he was told in late March by Rafito Cede√±o, a Venezuelan promoter with close ties to both Cordero and the WBA, that a Pryor rematch would be sanctioned only if Montilla were to receive a staggering $150,000 as his purse in an Arguello fight and only if King were co-promoter of both that fight and the subsequent title go with Pryor.
The implication is that Cede√±o and the WBA were trying to help Cordero and King horn in on a couple of big promotions and to create a bloated payday for Montilla. A spokesman for King disclaimed knowledge of any such maneuverings, and Cede√±o challenged one of Duva's allegations, saying he hadn't discussed the size of Montilla's purse with Duva. What lends credence to Duva's assertions, however, is the acknowledgement by Cede√±o and other sources close to the WBA that the organization did indeed try strongly to push Montilla on Duva. Nor does the matter end there. Duva says that Cordero still has visions of an Arguello-Montilla fight and is now using his influence to try to persuade Kameda to back out of fighting Arguello.
Not to be outdone by the WBA in throwing its sanctioning weight around, the WBC has refused to approve Bobby Chacon's planned defense of his junior lightweight title on May 15 against Cornelius Boza-Edwards of Uganda, even though the latter is the top-rated WBC contender. Instead, the WBC wants Chacon to fight Hector (Macho) Camacho, who's ranked lower than Boza-Edwards. Why the leapfrogging of Boza-Edwards? It appears that Chacon, besides having a contract with Boza-Edwards, also has one for his next three title defenses with Don King, the man who's trying to put together the Camacho fight; King has Camacho tied up, too. Chacon's contractual entanglement is now in the courts, but WBC President Jose Sulaimàn supports his friend King on the grounds that King promoted the bout last December in which Chacon won the title against Rafael Limón and that WBC rules entitle a promoter of a championship fight to an option on the successful challenger's first defense. "The rules must be respected," says Sulaimàn. The trouble with this argument is that the rule in question is a bad one, because it unnecessarily rewards the promoter—a favored one of the WBC in this case—to the detriment of the sport, and also creates a situation in which the WBC's own ratings are thrown out the window. Of course, that rule is hardly the only thing bad in boxing at the moment.
SADDEST HEADLINE OF THE YEAR
TAILBACK HEADS LIST OF PRIORITIES AS DOGS OPEN SPRING TRAINING
—Over a recent story in the University of Georgia Athletic Association's magazine.
BEYOND HIS EXPERTISE
Buddy Hackett, the comedian, told a story on The Tonight Show last week about a friend of his who lost his shirt betting on NFL games. After the Super Bowl the fellow's bookie suggested that he switch his action to hockey. But Hackett's friend would have none of it. "What do I know about hockey?" he asked.
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Valvano, North Carolina State basketball coach, on his unsuccessful attempt while at Iona to recruit Rodney McCray, who wound up starring at Louisville: "I knew I was in trouble when I took Rodney to our school cafeteria for lunch and he ordered a mint julep."
•Tom Moore, The Citadel's new football coach, promising to give the Bulldogs a pass-oriented offense: "Our running game's going to consist of running on the field and running off the field."
•Pete Rose, balking at Philly Manager Pat Corrales' decision to rest him by keeping him out of the starting lineup for a game against the Astros: "So what do I do now? How do I rest? Do I sit on the bench? Do I stand? I wish somebody could tell me how to rest."