ON THE WRONG COURSE
The Atlantic Coast Conference has exercised poor judgment in its choice of sites for its annual golf tournament. For the past four years the mid-April tournament has been held at Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount, N.C., an arrangement that has become the subject of a crusade by Steve Rogers, a black man who owns a house overlooking the club's 2nd fairway. Angry over Northgreen's admittedly restrictive racial policies, Rogers has argued that the ACC reinforces discrimination by holding its tournament at the club. During this year's tournament he posted protest signs on his lawn that were visible to the golfers. One of the signs read: RACCIST.
ACC Commissioner Bob James has reacted coolly to Rogers' complaints. In a letter to Rogers last January in which he claimed to have conducted a "thorough review" of the allegations of discrimination at the club, James said that the ACC's deal to use the Northgreen course runs through 1986 and that "in the absence of some very compelling reasons, we would not feel justified in breaching the agreement. Certainly, we would not use the facilities if we thought Northgreen Country Club was engaged in racial discrimination, but we believe that this is not the case."
Northgreen is more liberal in its racial policies than some country clubs, less liberal than others. Blacks play the Northgreen course as members of industrial and school leagues and can eat at the club if they're attending private parties. Although there are no black golfers currently on ACC teams, Northgreen has said that blacks would be welcome during the conference tournament. Still, Northgreen has never had a black member, and some of its practices are clearly discriminatory. Rogers, a commodity agent for one of the largest firms in the area, Consolidated Diesel Company, learned this firsthand in 1981 after availing himself of his firm's corporate membership by having lunch in the club's dining room. Rogers says his boss later received a call from a Northgreen official who wanted to "refresh" him on the club's rules against blacks eating in the dining room; the club official said that Rogers had been served only to avoid an incident. Not long afterward, says Rogers, another black employee of Consolidated Diesel, George Henning, the firm's materials director, was rejected for membership at Northgreen; 42 other employees of the company, all of them white, had previously applied and all had been accepted.
Neither Rogers nor Henning was interviewed in connection with the ACC's "thorough review." But The Nashville (N.C.) Graphic recently interviewed an unnamed Northgreen official who indicated that the club was "not ready" for black members. With regard specifically to Henning, Earl Elingburg, Northgreen's general manager, conceded to SI's Bob Sullivan that Henning was a worthy candidate for membership but had been rejected "for whatever reason." Elingburg also confirmed Rogers' account of the club's reaction to the latter's having eaten there. "Our policy is, we don't sit blacks in our dining room in one-on-one, two-on-one or whatever situations," Elingburg said. He also said he was certain that the ACC office "knew all about" this policy.
Confronted by SI with this evidence, Marvin Francis, an aide to James, backed away from James's assertion that Northgreen didn't discriminate. Francis instead claimed that the ACC hadn't thought to look into the question of discrimination when it made its arrangements with the club. But it's hard to believe that the ACC could have been surprised in the matter; the question of discrimination had also been publicly raised in reference to the tournament's previous site, the Cardinal Golf Club in Greensboro, N.C. Indeed, another of Francis' arguments is that it's difficult to find top-quality, discrimination-free courses. But it's not that difficult: Three ACC schools, Duke, North Carolina and Maryland, have their own courses, any of which would be suitable as a tournament site. As for James's reluctance to breach the conference's agreement with Northgreen, Elingburg says that if the ACC wanted to move its tournament elsewhere, the club wouldn't stand in the way.
The refusal of the ACC and, by extension, its eight member schools, six of which are state-supported, to sever their ties with Northgreen is distressing. In effect, the ACC is supporting a facility that practices discrimination. Not incidentally, this support reduces the likelihood that the conference will attract the black golfers it now lacks. It also happens that golf and other minor college sports are largely underwritten by revenues from football and basketball, sports in which blacks play prominent roles. In the ACC, 75% of last year's starting players in basketball and 50% in football were black. It's sad to think that those black athletes helped support an event at a country club that practices racial discrimination.
MAKING APPEARANCES COUNT
To make it these days in the NASL, it's not enough just to be able to play soccer. Under terms of the league's collective-bargaining agreement with its players association, it's also necessary to be a salesman. In recognition of the trouble the NASL has had attracting fans, the agreement, ratified in 1981, gives clubs the right to require each player to make as many as 48 promotional appearances a season on his team's behalf. The league has now issued a 280-page Player Appearance Manual providing teams with detailed guidance on how to get the most marketing mileage out of those appearances.
The manual offers hints on how to plug players into the right promotional sockets. It is pointed out, perhaps unnecessarily, that players hailing from Italy might be more effective appearing before Italian-American than, say, German-American groups. Other guidance is less obvious. Citing examples of effective marketing strategies already followed by various clubs, the manual notes that the Tampa Bay Rowdies have held classes for players on how to deliver a winning speech and have brought in members of the local Toastmasters International chapter to critique the players' efforts. The manual also alerts teams to the existence of a Seattle firm that offers instruction in how to comport oneself during "the impromptu interview." If the NASL has its way, such interviews will become less impromptu—and more tailored to project an image of the league that will help sell tickets.
The manual suggests such a wide variety of personal appearance "opportunities" that it will be a wonder if NASL players have any time left for games. Teams are encouraged to have players show up at soccer clinics, sales meetings, civic lunches—any occasion that promotes contact with the public. Thus, Tampa Bay had its players personally deliver season tickets to indoor games to purchasers at Christmastime, an idea that could be used all year long. The manual is imaginative in suggesting other ways players might reach potential fans. One novel idea: Teams might arrange with local auto dealers to have players take test drives with folks shopping for cars.
In an effort to increase interest in the playoffs, the NBA board of governors last week voted to expand the number of teams participating in postseason play from 12 to 16. That prompted predictable—and valid—complaints that such a move will prolong an already protracted playoff schedule and dilute the importance of regular-season games. These objections were neatly summed up by Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist John Owen, who claimed to have divined the league's master plan when he wrote: "Eventually the playoffs will begin on Memorial Day, end Labor Day—and the rest of the year will be devoted to the sole task of eliminating Cleveland."
NEW DEPARTURES IN JAZZ
In another action, the NBA gave the Utah Jazz permission to move as many as 11 of its 1983-84 home games from Salt Lake City's 12,143-seat Salt Palace to the new 18,000-seat Thomas-Mack Center in Las Vegas. By shifting the games to Las Vegas, the Jazz, which has one of the smallest TV markets in the NBA, hopes to get a toehold in an additional one. It also hopes for more revenue at the gate. At the same time, co-owner Sam Battistone says, with Alice-in-Wonderland logic, that he'll be doing Salt Lake fans a favor by reducing the number of games at the Salt Palace: With fewer games, season tickets won't cost as much.
Not that Las Vegas fans are jumping up and down in anticipation of seeing the Jazz play. "Hasn't been much in the newspapers about it," says Tom Wiesner, a Las Vegas businessman and a former county commissioner. "Basketball is big here [the University of Nevada-Las Vegas is a national power], but there has been a feeling in past years not to put anything in competition with college basketball. Maybe the trend is shifting. The big thing is the stadium. It needs exposure and some major events to get it off the ground."
Besides the financial aspect of the proposed shift, there's the artistic one—if what Utah does on the court can be called art. Last season it was 21-20 at home but only 9-32 on the road. As one Salt Lake City columnist wrote, "It doesn't take a genius to project what kind of season the Jazz will have if they play only 30 games at home and 52 games on the road."
THANKS FOR HELPING, SABIN
After Sabin, a 3-year-old filly trained by Woody Stephens, scored a wire-to-wire victory over 11 other fillies and mares Saturday in the New York Handicap at Belmont Park, there was this exchange between Frank Wright, racing commentator for New York's WOR-TV, and Sabin's jockey, Eddie Maple:
Wright: "A tremendous job of rating that filly.... She must have relaxed some for you."
Maple: "Yeah, Frank, I mean, I couldn't have done it without her."
From the start Olympic organizers and civic officials in Los Angeles have sought to allay fears that summer heat and smog will combine to damage the performances of athletes in the '84 L.A. Games. Now, in hopes of guaranteeing that nothing of the sort will happen, Tom Heinsheimer, the chairman of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the public agency that deals with air pollution in the L.A. area, has called on residents and businesses to take voluntary antipollution measures before and during the Games, including increased car pooling and reduction of refinery production. Heinsheimer hastens to add that unless there are unusual weather conditions, "We expect to put on an Olympics that will be in no way affected by smog."
In support of that prediction, Heinsheimer invokes smog measurements taken for the past five years at the monitoring stations nearest each of the 10 outdoor Olympic sites during periods corresponding to the '84 Olympic dates. Heinsheimer's data indicate that first-stage smog alerts, which are called when ozone levels exceed an average of 0.20 parts per million for at least one hour—under federal standards the maximum acceptable ozone level is 0.12 parts per million—occurred frequently at only three of the 10 sites, East Los Angeles College (field hockey), the Rose Bowl (soccer) and Santa Anita (equestrian events). Most of these first-stage episodes, he points out, were in the afternoon, which presumably means that morning and evening events would be less severely affected by smog. In Heinsheimer's view, the fact that all soccer games in the Rose Bowl are to be played at 6 p.m. or later greatly reduces the chances of ill effects.
Another official of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, deputy executive officer James N. Birakos, offers comforting assurances concerning apprehensions that Olympic marathoners, in particular, might suffer from oppressive smog and heat. In so doing Birakos makes a statement that, coming from an Angeleno, is truly remarkable. The statement amounts to a testimonial to L.A.'s fiercest intrastate civic rival. Pointing out that the starting times for the Olympic marathons—8 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5 for the women's and 5:25 p.m. the following Sunday for the men's—are scheduled during periods of traditionally low smog and that the L.A. course hugs the Pacific much of the way, Birakos says, unflinchingly, "In that part of town, the quality of air, even in the summertime, is comparable to what they have in San Francisco."
There were a couple of interesting juxtapositions in the newspapers last week. One was to be found in USA Today, which ran two news photographs of California Angel Second Baseman Bobby Grich furiously duking it out with Texas Ranger base runner Wayne Tolleson after the two collided on an attempted pickoff of Tolleson. The photos ran on the same page as a canned feature in which a grinning Grich was pictured with his list of big-league players with "the best sense of humor." The five players deemed most amusing by Grich were Pat Dobson, Tony Muser, Terry Humphrey, Roger Freed and Dave Boswell. Tolleson didn't make Grich's list and now, one supposes, never will.
Then there was the advertisement that the National Hockey League placed in The Wall Street Journal seeking buyers for the St. Louis Blues, a franchise whose status has been in limbo ever since its owner, the Ralston Purina Company, more or less dumped the team in the lap of the NHL last month. Ralston Purina did so after its effort to sell the Blues to a group that would have moved them to Saskatoon, Sask. was rebuffed by the league. The ad identified the contracts of the Blues' active players as the club's chief assets, and it seemed somehow appropriate that the NHL's notice ran in one of the Journal 'seditions next to an ad offering for sale another troubled business dealing in beef: a bankrupt meat-processing plant in Coshocton, Ohio.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the home of the Minnesota Twins, is installing a new air-conditioning system, and Calvin Griffith, the team's tight-fisted owner, is commemorating the event in a most uncharacteristic fashion. At a press conference Griffith grandly announced, "On the night we turn on the air conditioning, we're going to hold a drawing for a free air-conditioning system." A stricken expression then flashed on his face, and he urgently added, "That's for a house...not a hotel or anything like that."
THEY SAID IT
•Frank Layden, general manager and coach of the hapless Jazz: "We formed a booster club in Utah, but by the end of the season, it had turned into a terrorist group."
•Ron Kittle, White Sox rookie slugger, who starred last season with the Edmonton Trappers: "I like Edmonton. It's a nice town. But my parents could never see me play, because you can't get to Edmonton. Nobody goes to Edmonton. It takes two donkeys and a ski boat to get to Edmonton."
•Ronald Reagan, when Commissioner Larry O'Brien presented him with a referee's jacket during a visit to the White House by the NBA-champion 76ers: "You mean there aren't enough people mad at me already?"