OUR CUP RUNNETH UNDER
In Stockholm last week, the 21-member executive committee of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the self-perpetuating oligarchy that runs soccer, awarded the 1986 World Cup to Mexico, delivering, with the autocratic arrogance that is its hallmark, a casual coup de grace to U.S. aspirations of hosting the biggest and richest sports event in the world.
In the quixotic belief that the U.S. candidacy was still alive, American soccer officials had sent a formidable delegation to Sweden that included Henry Kissinger, who bore a supporting letter from President Reagan. Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer were also there on behalf of the U.S. But all these worthies might just as well have saved their airfares. The same was true of the emissaries on hand to plead Canada's case.
FIFA had already summarily rejected initial applications from the U.S. and Canada, refusing on the thinnest of grounds even to inspect facilities in the two countries as it had those of Mexico. Appealing those rejections in Stockholm, Canada was allowed 30 minutes to make its pitch, the U.S. a few minutes more. Mexico took barely five minutes, a member of its delegation saying, "You know all about us. You know we are ready." Half an hour later, a unanimous decision for Mexico was announced, even though a committee member from Sweden had publicly declared for the U.S. the previous evening. Underscoring that the whole meeting had been a waste of time, Hermann Neuberger, a West German who's a member of FIFA's inner circle, said, "The Canadian and U.S. replies were considered insufficient at the beginning of April. Therefore we didn't have to take into consideration this later material." So much for the "appeal" process.
In the view of some observers, the Cup wound up in Mexico simply because that's the way FIFA President Jo√¢o Havelange wanted it. A Spanish soccer weekly, Don Balon, in a story headlined HAVELANGE PLAYS DIRTY, reported that he had flown to Mexico last October in a private jet as the guest of Emilio Azcarraga, the president of Televisa, a Mexican TV network that stood to benefit hugely from a World Cup in that country. Other critics suggested Havelange had used clout in his native Brazil, which had earlier dropped out of the running as '86 host, to help destroy that country's candidacy—and so advance Mexico's. Havelange has feuded with Giulite Coutinho, president of the Brazilian Soccer Confederation, who recently said, bitterly, "It was an actual Brazilian who set about sabotaging our project."
Through it all, anything resembling genuine debate over the location of the 1986 World Cup, including consideration of Mexico's enormous foreign debt, has been muffled. "Mexico's economic conditions are improving," Havelange insisted last month, an assertion that will certainly be news to the International Monetary Fund. Concerning his trip to Mexico, Havelange told SI he traveled there on a commercial flight but at one point did go for a ride in Azcarraga's plane. "Why shouldn't I?" he asked. "He's my friend. As for the charge that he influenced the withdrawal of Brazil's candidacy to host the Cup, Havelange said this was a government decision, adding, "I'm not the government."
The U.S. delegation tried to be upbeat about its setback. "This would have been a great opportunity, but there will be others," said Kissinger. Maybe so, but for now a fine chance for U.S. soccer to take a significant step forward has been lost in the murk of some very curious international wheeling and dealing.
RETURN OF THE NONSWIMMER
Sixty years earlier, he'd been tops in the Class of '23 at Columbia but was denied a bachelor's degree because he didn't attend gym class or take the swimming test required for graduation. That didn't exactly impair his journey through life, though. Even without an undergraduate degree, Mortimer Adler, now 80, was able to get his Ph.D. in psychology at Columbia in 1928, after which he became a college professor, author of more than 30 books, educational reformer, philosopher, co-founder of the Great Books Program and chairman of the Encyclopaedia Britannica's board of editors, a position he still holds. Recently, however, Adler wrote a letter informing Columbia that he wouldn't mind belatedly receiving his bachelor of arts degree, and last week he got his wish, graduating in the company of the 750 members of the Class of 1983.
But what of Adler's aquatic shortcoming? Well, he never did learn to swim, but Columbia, which still considers proficiency in swimming a prerequisite for graduation, waived the requirement in his case. Of his long-ago failure to take the swimming test, Adler recalls, "I went to the pool once. The swimming coach kicked me in. I gagged and clawed my way around for a while, and that was it for swimming." Although he insists that he's not philosophically opposed to phys ed—on the contrary, it's an important part of the idealized elementary and secondary school curriculum he has devised—Adler says, "I think college is not the place to learn to swim." And he resignedly adds, "I wrote How to Read a Book and How to Think About War and Peace, but I'm never going to write a book, How to Swim."
HE'S IN THE MONEY
By winning a coin toss for the first pick in the June 28 college draft, the Houston Rockets, who had the worst record this season in the NBA's Western Conference, last week beat out the Indiana Pacers, last in the Eastern Conference, for the right to lavish millions of dollars on Center Ralph Sampson from the University of Virginia. It's to be hoped that Sampson takes better care of whatever loot he gets from the Rockets than he did the $600 in cash that was stolen, along with a gym bag and a warmup suit, from his 1979 Chevrolet van in Charlottesville, Va. last Thanksgiving night. Two weeks ago Gary Lesich, 18, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor larceny charge arising from the break-in and was sentenced to six months in jail. The charge had been reduced from grand larceny, a felony, after Sampson failed to appear in court to testify.
There remained the question, though, of what a college fellow like Sampson was doing with $600 cash in his van. The police report didn't address that issue and it didn't come up in court, either. Last week a university source told SI that Sampson had been given the money—mostly in 50s and 20s—by his mother for the purpose of buying Christmas gifts during an approaching Cavalier trip to Hawaii and Japan. As for why he'd left the cash in the van, the assumption was that Sampson, who has an easygoing, what-me-worry nature, didn't get to the bank on time. Whatever the explanation, one needn't feel too bad for Sampson. As if all the money he stands to get from the Rockets weren't enough, Lesich was ordered to make restitution to him of the purloined $600.
A LEGACY OF INVENTIVENESS
Clair Bee, who died last week in Cleveland at the age of 87, was one of the most innovative basketball coaches of all time. The 1-3-1 zone was his brainchild, and he helped lay the groundwork for the three-second rule and the 24-second clock. By no coincidence, Bee was also one of the most successful of all coaches. He had a 410-86 record at Rider College in New Jersey (1929-31) and Long Island University (1932-43 and 1946-51), for a winning percentage of 82.7, tops among major college coaches. In addition, Bee churned out 21 instructional and other nonfiction sports books and, in his 23-volume Chip Hilton series, some of the best-written juvenile sports fiction. Bee and the fictional Hilton were the subjects of an SI story in Jan. 7, 1980, written by Jack McCallum, who recalls:
"Life can take a lot from a man before he's released, and that was the case with Bee. Much of his health and strength were gone in his later years and, finally, all of his eyesight, too. Before that, he'd lost a lot of pride and self-respect when eight of his LIU players were implicated during the dumping scandals of the early '50s. Though he wasn't personally involved, he never got over the pain.
"But life didn't get his mind. I can still see him sitting at his kitchen table when he was 83, huddled under a blanket, looking for all the world like someone in the throes of senility. But nothing was further from the truth. I remember him suddenly springing from his chair and sketching on a piece of paper a few perfect X's and O's, which I know he couldn't see. 'Look, the NBA just isn't using the three-point play the way it should be,' Bee said. 'There's no reason they couldn't set a few simple picks outside and make that a high-percentage shot instead of some desperation heave. See, like this.' Of course, he was correct.
"He left a deep mark even on those who weren't aware of his coaching achievements or his writing. A few months ago I was out in Bloomington, Ind. and asked Hoosier players Ted Kitchel and Randy Wittman if they'd ever heard of Clair Bee, who had been one of the strongest influences on their own coach, Bobby Knight. They got very animated and told me how impressed they'd been with his acuity when Bobby brought him out for a visit. Bee was a guru to Knight and a lot of other coaches. That's because there weren't many men with his grasp of the technical aspects of basketball. His prodigious output of top-quality juvenile fiction only made his legacy that much greater."
THE NIGHT THEY FOOLED WITH KING'S CROWN
Six days before last week's heavyweight championship doubleheader in Las Vegas (page 24), Boxing Promoter Don King appeared on NBC-TV's Saturday Night Live to be "interviewed" by the show's comic-sportscaster, Joe Piscopo. As King began to talk excitedly about his big upcoming promotion, Piscopo objected that nobody cared about the fights and said, "Don, the question on everyone's mind—why the hair?...You need a trim. You promote, I'll cut." Egged on by the audience, Piscopo then brought out a pair of oversized scissors and, so it seemed, furiously began cutting down King's famous head of gravity-defying hair.
The spectacle of the grinning King (shown at left during a rehearsal of the impending deforestation) apparently being unburdened of his trademark coif was greeted by gasps from the studio audience and, according to a publicist for the network, an "incredible" reaction from at-home viewers. But when King arrived in Vegas for the Holmes-Witherspoon and Dokes-Weaver fights with his "do" miraculously restored to its full electro-frizzed glory, the secret was out: What Piscopo had actually clipped was an uncannily realistic wig. That may not be, as Piscopo melodramatically likes to put it, "the big story." But it's the whole, now-it-can-be-told—and utterly unshorn—story.
THEY SAID IT
•Bob Golic, Cleveland Brown linebacker, of his off-season labors as a member of the pit crew of Indy 500 driver Scott Brayton: "There's nothing in my contract that says I can't change tires."
•Charlie Hough, Ranger pitcher: "They say most good managers were mediocre players. I should be a helluva manager."
•Tex Cobb, whose beating at the hands of WBC heavyweight champion Larry Holmes last November prompted Howard Cosell to decide to stop announcing boxing: "I'd go 15 more rounds with Holmes if I thought it would get Cosell off football broadcasts."