In seeking to distinguish between amateurs who are allowed to compete in the Olympics and professionals deemed unworthy to do so, the International Olympic Committee can be more than slightly myopic. It meekly accepts the straight-faced claims of Soviet and other socialist-bloc sports officials that their athletes are amateurs even though they're paid. It also buys the assertions of Western officials that their athletes are amateurs, never mind that many of them accept lucre in the form of college scholarships, "trust funds" and "broken-time" training payments. Last week's IOC ruling on hockey eligibility in Sarajevo contained similar elements of make-believe.
In declaring ineligible five players who'd seen action in the NHL—two each from Canada and Italy, one from Austria—the IOC insisted that it was sticking to its Rule 26, which bars from Olympic competition anybody who signs a pro contract. But what of certain other players who signed pro contracts yet were allowed to compete at Sarajevo? Although Olympic officials didn't expressly say so during a tumultuous press conference on the subject, it appeared, as a result of the new IOC action, that Rule 26 now applied only to those who'd signed contracts and played as pros. What's more, insofar as hockey was concerned, only the NHL was now considered to be professional, and not the defunct World Hockey Association, the minor American Hockey League or the various play-for-pay leagues in Europe that insist on calling themselves amateur.
The effect of the hockey ruling was to further muddle the subject of Olympic eligibility—and to raise anew the question of why the Olympic brass still bothers to distinguish between pros and amateurs. The inconsistencies and hypocrisies seem to multiply with each Olympics. To take another example, tennis will be a "demonstration" sport at this year's Summer Games, and in this case eligibility apparently will have nothing to do with whether one has signed a pro contract or played for pay. The latest word is that tennis eligibility will be determined solely on the basis of age: Anybody under 21 can play, anybody over can't. Thus, 19-year-old Mats Wilander, who made more than $1 million on the pro circuit last year, is an amateur, while Uncle Max, who plays pitty-pat with his cronies at Retirement City, is a pro.
Absurd though all this clearly is, the IOC keeps drawing and redrawing the hopelessly blurred line between professionals and amateurs. The results can be as harsh as they are illogical. Consider the way the IOC switched signals on poor Hannu Kamppuri, a Finnish hockey player who abandoned his efforts to make his country's team for Sarajevo after being informed last October in a letter from IOC director Monique Berlioux that he would be ineligible because he'd played two games in the World Hockey Association and 19 in the Central Hockey League. Under last week's ruling, Kamppuri, who never played in the NHL, presumably would have been allowed to compete in Sarajevo after all. Asked about the case, Berlioux denied having written the letter to Kamppuri. But a photocopy of it turned up. The letter said it was "indisputable" that he was ineligible for Sarajevo.
A self-explanatory comment from Dr. Lawrence A. Simpson, director of the office of career planning and placement at the University of Virginia, on how members of the school's 1983 graduating class fared in the job market: "Our highest salaries were for graduates of the Department of Rhetoric and Communications Studies, where the beginning average pay was $55,000 a year. Of course, the average height was 6'5". Thanks, Ralph."
For home games in Alumni Fieldhouse, basketball players of St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind. dress in the basement and go up a tunnel to the playing floor. Just as the Pumas headed up for a game against Wisconsin-Parkside, assistant coach Dave Smith ducked into the rest-room. By the time he got to the tunnel door the players had passed through it, and it had been locked from the outside by the team manager. "I pounded on the door and yelled through a vent, but no one came," Smith said later.
Unable to get out. Smith, who ordinarily charts fouls and keeps track of time-outs for coach George Waggoner, listened helplessly as the pep band played and the crowd of 1,500 cheered. By positioning himself in the shower area, he could hear the PA. man introduce the starting lineups and announce fouls, time-outs and the like. "I never realized how long a half of a basketball game can last," Smith said. "But I made the best of it by keeping track of time-outs and fouls. I couldn't tell who made the free throws, though." Not until the Pumas, who would win 73-70, came in at halftime did they learn what had happened to Smith. "Where have you been?" demanded Waggoner. Relieved but also chastened. Smith said, "I was beginning to wonder if anybody missed me."
Some things the sports world easily could have done without:
•The hockey brawl that occurred on Jan. 28 in Glens Falls, N.Y. between the Adirondack Red Wings and the Nova Scotia Voyageurs of the American Hockey League. The melee involved all 40 players on the two teams, four of whom were ejected. What made this brawl embarrassing even by professional hockey standards is that it broke out during pre-game warmups, after the Red Wings' Réjean Cloutier came to blows near center ice with the Voyageurs' Dave Allison, who allowed afterward, "We just don't like each other."
•The vote that Idaho State Representative Eugene Stucki cast against a resolution in the state legislature commending native son Harmon Killebrew on his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Stucki said he voted nay for personal reasons having to do with an unspecified business deal in which Killebrew was involved. The resolution deemed it "fitting and proper that the people of the state of Idaho join their accolades [for Killebrew] with those of a nation of admiring baseball fans." Because of ft Stucki, the vote was a not-quite-unanimous 68-1.
•The statement issued by Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer after the news broke that former Sooner running back Marcus Dupree was dropping out of Southern Mississippi University. When an Oklahoma City radio station reported that Dupree might return to Oklahoma, Switzer, who has been trying to recruit running backs for the spot once filled by Dupree, said, "I was not aware of [Dupree's] dropping out of Southern Mississippi. I do not know what his plans are. I have not had any communication with him. I am deeply concerned that something like that always seems to occur during our recruiting season...." The next day Switzer changed his story. Although he still denied that Dupree was considering returning to Oklahoma, he admitted that Dupree had called to tell him of his decision to leave Southern Mississippi.
ANY FURTHER QUESTIONS?
Michael Cella, an assistant football coach at Revere (Mass.) High, is a locally famous character who wears shorts and shirtsleeves on the sidelines in even the coldest weather and speaks his own brand of Stengelese. Recently he was asked about another of his trademarks, the long—and well-worn—white socks he also wears during games. "I've had them since college," Cella replied. "They're my OTN socks."
"What's OTN?" the interrogator persisted.
"Over the knee."
"Uh, coach...shouldn't that be OTK?"
"Yeah, they're over the calf, too."
A VERY SINCERE NO COMMENT
Before he quit the University of Houston basketball team in a huff in late December, Braxton Clark, a much heralded junior-college transfer who'd been something of a disappointment with the Cougars (SI, Jan. 9), was assessed by The Houston Post's Kevin Sherrington as follows: "He can't jump, rebound or play defense. Nobody knows if he can shoot because he can't fire his flat-footed jumper without having to eat it [having it blocked]." Two weeks ago Clark asked to return to the team, and Cougar coach Guy Lewis allowed him to do so. When Sherrington approached him to discuss his reinstatement, Clark was ready for him. "I can't rebound, I can't shoot, I can't play defense," he said. "And I can't talk."
Last month Frank Deford wrote a scathing movie review of the box-office smash Hot Dog...The Movie (SI, Jan. 30). Now it's necessary to pan an item by The New York Times' language savant, William Safire, in which he claimed that "a new meaning of hot dog has emerged." According to Safire, a hot dog can now be defined as "one who unduly exults in the presence of the losers." Safire even provided a recent example from the world of sports: " 'Sometimes there are hot dogs jumping around and saying things,' said a glum Eric Dickerson of the defeated Los Angeles Rams, 'but they [the Redskins] didn't rub it in.' "
New meaning? Let's work backward. Safire appears to have overlooked, first, the famous line that pitcher Darold Knowles got off in 1977 about one of his former Oakland A's teammates: "There isn't enough mustard in the world to cover Reggie Jackson." Then there was the utterance reported in this magazine in 1958 that San Francisco Giants rookie first baseman Orlando Cepeda delivered to another Caribbean player, who had been ribbing him about his English: "You hot dog. You think you speak better English than me. You cute. Forget it." And finally, Harold Went-worth and Stuart Berg Flexner noted in the 1967 edition of the authoritative Dictionary of American Slang that "hot dog" was used to signify "hot shot"—a usage that had at least a suggestion of someone who rubs it in, who's good and knows it all too well—among students as far back as the turn of the century.
Sorry, Safire. If we seem to be gloating, just spread some mustard on us.
Overheard last Wednesday night in Runyon's, a Manhattan watering hole:
Arriving customer (noticing the Knicks game on TV): "Hey, let's turn on the Olympics—tonight's the opening ceremonies."
Regular at the bar: "Only if you can find a way to bet on a parade."
THEY SAID IT
•World B. Free, Cleveland Cavalier guard, after teammate Cliff Robinson sank a three-point shot at the final buzzer to beat Detroit 114-112 in overtime: "That shot was so good, for a moment I thought I took it."
•Buck Williams, New Jersey Nets forward, on the measly number of assists he has had this season: "I know those guys are out there somewhere. I just don't know where."