Even before the Soviet Union shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 on Aug. 31 there had been concern about whether the U.S.S.R. and its allies would participate in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Although the Soviets had disavowed any intention of staying away from L.A. either to avenge the U.S.'s boycott of the '80 Games in Moscow or for political reasons, they had indicated that they would stay home if they considered security or other preparations for the Games inadequate. And they'd said they wouldn't announce whether they were attending the Games until next June 2, the last possible day for such decisions.
The furor over the death of the 269 people aboard Flight 007 has increased uncertainty about Soviet Olympic participation. Last week a seven-game tour of the U.S. scheduled for November by the Soviet national basketball team was canceled after all seven universities the Soviets were to play backed out to protest the downing of the Korean airliner. A six-game series set for December between the U.S. Olympic hockey squad and the Soviet national team was also put in jeopardy when some arena owners objected to the idea of playing host to athletes from the U.S.S.R. In response, Soviet officials notified L.A. Olympic organizers that "due to existing circumstances," they were dropping plans to send 17 athletes to a pre-Games regatta this week at the Olympic rowing and canoeing site in Ventura County. But at week's end not all sporting contacts with the Soviets had been scrapped; U.S. wrestlers still planned to compete in the world championships starting this week in Kiev, and a four-nation women's volleyball tournament involving the Soviets is still set for Long Beach, Calif. in mid-October.
The latest developments have left U.S.-Soviet athletic relations even more tangled than usual. It was confusing enough when the U.S. boycotted the '80 Games in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, while allowing U.S.S.R. athletes to compete at that year's Winter Games in Lake Placid. The message to the Soviets seemed to have been: "We'll compete in our country but not in yours." Now the message appears to be exactly the reverse: "We'll play on your turf, but please don't come over here." The emerging Russians-stay-home sentiment was underscored by a unanimous vote in the California legislature in favor of a resolution urging President Reagan to ban the U.S.S.R.'s athletes from competing in the L.A. Olympics. Several U.S. Congressmen also called for such a ban.
The fact that anti-Soviet maneuvering was again, as in 1980, concentrated heavily on sports greatly vexed F. Don Miller, executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, who asked, "Isn't there more to our foreign policy than amateur sports?" Although Miller's frustration was understandable, the truth is that snubbing the Soviets on the playing field isn't part of U.S. foreign policy, not yet anyway. Reagan has pledged in two letters to the International Olympic Committee that the U.S. would issue visas to '84 Olympians from all countries. While that promise doesn't cover pre-Olympic events, it's significant that it was the Amateur Basketball Association of the United States, and not the Federal Government, that canceled the Soviet basketball tour. Asked about the cancellation, a State Department spokesman told SI, "I think it reflects the feelings of the American people. We would have been surprised if they felt they could have gone on with sports as usual in this climate." But he added, "At this point I don't think it relates to the Olympics."
THE CORNHUSKERS' NON-CAMPAIGN
In quite a departure for a man in his line of work, Nebraska Sports Information Director Don Bryant has disclaimed any intention of mounting a big publicity campaign in behalf of his school's Heisman Trophy candidate. Running Back Mike Rozier. "We believe the guy has to win it on the field," Bryant says. "They [the media] are going to laugh at me if I start sending out the Mike Rozier doll." Hold it, Don. Isn't there a painting of Rozier on the cover of the Cornhuskers' 1983 media guide, and haven't writers been receiving huge posters of Rozier from Nebraska in the mail? Yes and yes. But Bryant points out that somebody has to be on the media guide cover—you can't very well leave it blank, can you?—and that the posters were actually mailed out not by Bryant but by the school's strength and conditioning coach, and that furthermore....
We bet there are some writers who would've preferred the doll.
SON OF THE GREAT KEEL CONTROVERSY
The America's Cup (page 30) isn't the only nautical event to have been enlivened this summer by a clandestine Australian keel. Much the same thing transpired at the World Rowing Championships, held recently in Duisburg, West Germany, when the Australians unpacked their eight-oared shell the day before the first heats. In a splendid send-up of the summer-long fuss in Newport over Australia II's keel, the Aussies had shrouded the shell's keel in a plastic bag. Picking up on the gag, the coxswain on the Canadian Eight later showed up in snorkel and mask, a spoof of his countryman who was caught in Newport trying to take underwater photographs of Australia II's mysterious keel.
The Aussie Eight, which actually had a very conventional underside, won the bronze medal, finishing behind New Zealand and East Germany. The U.S., Australia's foe in Newport, placed seventh.
WARM AND STRANGE
Some wild things are going on along the Pacific littoral. For the first time ever, an Oregon fisherman has caught a popeyed catalufa, a tropical species that ordinarily ranges between Peru and Baja California, while a few weeks ago an Oregon crabber lifted his pot and found a fine-scaled triggerfish, native to waters from Chile to Baja. Last week, in one 15-minute trawl 30 miles off San Francisco a woman netted 16 Pacific barracuda—300 miles north of the species' regular haunts. Barracuda have even been taken off the coast of Washington, and what was believed to be a swordfish was caught off British Columbia. Dr. Keith Ketchen of the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, B.C. says, "Whether it's a swordfish or a marlin, we're not quite sure. Our people here are quite unfamiliar with beasts like that."
The unusual catches are symptomatic of large-scale temperature changes in the eastern Pacific resulting from El Ni√±o, the name given to the abnormally warm expanse of water that builds up every five years or so off Peru. El Ni√±o usually shows up around Christmas, but this one began to form in June 1982, six months early. It eventually covered an area the size of Canada, triggering heavy storms and flooding from Ecuador to California, the southern Rockies and Florida, and drought in many other parts of the world. Although the area initially affected by El Ni√±o has diminished in size, Pacific coastal waters are still 2" to 4° warmer than normal off the lower U.S., Canada and Alaska.
Tropical and subtropical fish have shown up in unexpected numbers in this warmer water. James Squire of the National Marine Fisheries Service Center in La Jolla, Calif. reports that there has been an unusually big run along the Southern California coast of yellowfin and skipjack tuna, up from Baja California and Mexico. Anglers have also been catching striped marlin as far north as Monterey, and Pacific bonito from San Diego to British Columbia. "We've got tons of bonito on the coast and in San Francisco Bay, where the water temperature has risen as high as 66°," says Larry Green of San Bruno, who does fishing broadcasts for KCBS in San Francisco. "It's 72° in the ocean, 10° above the norm for this time of year. Striper fishermen have been taking bonito and barracuda with metal lures right in the surf." On Sept. 10, during an annual shark derby in San Francisco Bay, angler Peter Rattiger took a 13-pound, six-ounce black sea bass, the first ever recorded in the bay, near Candlestick Park.
Native species meanwhile have become scarce. Dr. Murray Hayes of the National Marine Fisheries Service Center in Seattle says that coho salmon returning to spawning rivers from California to Puget Sound are significantly smaller than usual because they haven't been able to feed normally in inshore waters. And the numbers of returning coho are down by as much as 75% in some rivers. Early returns of chinook salmon to the Klamath River in Northern California are "abysmally low," and Hayes says there have also been dislocations with sockeye salmon returning to the Fraser River in British Columbia.
Dr. William H. Quinn, an oceanographer at Oregon State, is one of several experts who think that the lingering effects of El Ni√±o are actually part of a larger global climatic change that began in 1976. "Perhaps the changing climatic effects will be measured by the decade rather than season by season," says Quinn. "We don't know, when this El Ni√±o episode does wind down, whether we will return to conditions as they were before or whether we are headed for a different climatic equilibrium point."
In other words, fishermen, be ready for anything.
GLAD YOU ASKED
Karen Permezel, a regular on the LPGA tour, hails from Yackandandah, Australia. Finding that name to be quite a mouthful, writers sometimes ask Permezel where the town is located. Permezel is happy to be of assistance. "It's at the foot of Mount Marambarambannong, right near Tangambalanga," she replies.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY, OR SOMEDAY
If this keeps up, Kansas City Chiefs Coach John Mackovic is going to get himself a reputation as a philosopher. Not long ago (SCORECARD, Aug. 29), we reported Mackovic's observations about how coaches over the years have had to change the way they talk to athletes. According to Mackovic, the coaches used to say, "Go over and stand in the corner," later amended that to "Please stand in the corner," then to "How about if you went over and stood in the corner?" next to "How about us talking about you standing in the corner?" and finally to "Why don't I go over and stand in the corner for you?"
A good one, right? But certainly no more thought-provoking than this recent Mackovicism: "You must always be prepared for today. If you lose sight of that, then you will never have a today, which was a tomorrow yesterday. What I'm saying is, you must be prepared for today, because tomorrow really doesn't ever get here from yesterday, and we have to assume it will get here again tomorrow."
A STREAK OF SORTS
Auburn defeated Alabama last season for the first time in a decade, but a sign in a 'Bama fan's camper sighted the other day in Birmingham suggests that perhaps Tiger rooters shouldn't try to make too much of that achievement:
1972 AUBURN 17 ALABAMA 16
1982 AUBURN 23 ALABAMA 22
1992 CAN AUBURN MAKE IT THREE IN A ROW?
THEY SAID IT
•Bobby Hull, who objects so strenuously to the fact that the Hockey Hall of Fame charges an admission price that he refuses to let the Toronto shrine display his mementos: "After 23 years of having to pay to watch me play, I don't think people should have to pay to see my broken hockey sticks and dirty underwear."
•John Riggins, Redskin running back, on his reputation for being out of sync with the rest of the world: "I don't know if I'm ahead or behind, but I know I'm not even."