IF THE SHOE CONTRACT FITS...
Here is further testimony, if any is needed, that professionalism is well entrenched in the Olympic Games:
•Robert MacDonald, a Seattle real-estate broker and volunteer official assigned to the shot, discus and hammer competitions at Los Angeles, says officials were given lists of athletes and the track shoes they were supposed to be wearing in competition because of endorsements. The officials, says MacDonald, were told to inform an entrant whose shoes didn't match the brand on the list to put on the correct shoes before competing. Track authorities say the requirement was designed not to protect commercial interests but to keep athletes from being pestered during the Olympics by rival shoe companies bidding for rights to their feet. The athletes were asked to specify their brands so there wouldn't be a lot of last-minute switching.
While MacDonald encountered no shoe problems in the events he officiated, he says, "One woman javelin thrower showed up in the wrong shoes. She borrowed a pair of the right brand from another competitor. She complained they didn't fit comfortably, but she was permitted to compete."
MacDonald says he wasn't told the reason for the rule and had never before officiated at a track meet where officials had to check competitors' shoes. "We were all amazed," he says.
•A Yugoslav at Los Angeles said the Yugoslav team had an arrangement with Adidas, and when long jumper Nenad Stekic was about to enter the arena wearing Puma shoes, he was obliged to tape over the Puma logo or withdraw from competition. Stekic applied the tape and jumped (he didn't make the finals). When 1,500-meter runner Drajan Zdravkovic and shotputter Vladimir Milic, each of whom had an arrangement with Tiger shoes, refused to compromise and insisted on competing in Tigers, they were sent home.
For a month, ads in the eastern edition of the Daily Racing Form have invited horseplayers to "Talk To Eddie Arcaro About Today's Races" at New York tracks. A phone number, good in three area codes, is included, along with Arcaro's picture and the notation. "All You Pay For Is The Call." The number reaches a recording that begins, "Hi, I'm Eddie Arcaro. Here's our analysis of today's races..." and then goes on to discuss briefly three top selections in two races on the day's card. At the end of the recording, the listener hears an invitation to call again later in the day for more "inside" information and a cheery signoff: "This is Eddie Arcaro. Don't be a loser, give us a call."
Is the caller really getting the benefit of the expertise of a Hall of Fame jockey who won 4,779 races and more than $30 million in purse money from 1930 to 1961? Don't bet on it. Reached by phone at his Florida home last week, Arcaro said he loaned his name to the venture and recorded the opening and closing bits, but he doesn't do any of the handicapping. The race "analysis" is done by a group of anonymous experts and read by a man whose voice is a dead ringer for Arcaro's.
"I couldn't pick 'em," said the real Arcaro. "I'd probably be the worst handicapper in the world."
NO ROOM FOR A PARADE
Leominster, Mass., a city of 34,000 about 35 miles west of Boston, is suddenly a hotbed of baseball talent. Four of its youth teams—from Little League, Lassie League for girls, 13-year-old and 14-and-15-year-old Babe Ruth leagues—were Massachusetts state champions this year, and all but the Little League team went on to win northeast regional competition and advance to World Series play. None of the Leominster teams won the whole ball of wax, but the 14-and-15 Babe Ruthers went all the way to the national finals before losing to Tallahassee, Fla.
Leominster, previously known mostly for the odd way its name is pronounced (Lemminster is approximately how the home folks say it), is proud of its young heroes and heroines, but no special celebration is being planned. Benjamin Ruggles, director of the recreation department, says that ordinarily the city would lay on at least a police escort, but a police department spokesman says even that modest attention is unlikely. "Right now our downtown is completely destroyed," he explains. "They're doing urban-renewal work. There isn't a street that's passable."
Golfers at the Eagle Bluff club in Hurley, Wis. were mystified by the repeated disappearance of balls hit along the fairways. Then club manager Gary Pelkola discovered that foxes living in the rough near the 1st and 13th holes were swiping the balls and carrying them off into the tall grass, particularly yellow balls, which for some reason were their favorites. Complicating matters is the fact that a fox will sometimes pick up a ball, carry it along the fairway and then drop it again before scampering off to cover. One golfer had his lie splendidly improved by a fox that moved his ball 30 yards closer to the hole. "We're still, trying to figure out what the ruling is," says Pelkola.
THE SWING AIN'T THE THING
Despite a chronically aching back, Lee Trevino won the PGA Championship mostly by taking it easy between tournaments and not practicing very much, but Fuzzy Zoeller, the 1984 U.S. Open champion, was so disabled by his painful back that he had to withdraw from the PGA and check into a hospital with back spasms after practice rounds. Does the golf swing, with its extreme and sometimes violent twisting of the torso, cause back problems, as many assume?
Dr. Edward Zenni, a Cincinnati orthopedic specialist and himself an ardent golfer, says it doesn't: "I don't think golf causes any more back injuries than other sports do, such as football, soccer, basketball. In fact, other sports probably cause more back injuries than golf does. If you have a chronic back problem, you can't play football, soccer or basketball, but you can go out and play golf. Then, when the back acts up, the golf swing is blamed."
Zenni points out that Zoeller's back problems are a consequence of an old basketball injury and that Trevino was struck by lightning during the Western Open near Chicago nine years ago, after which he had two back operations. "In the normal populace," Zenni says, "five percent to eight percent have back problems. I don't think the percentage is any higher in the golfing community."
Just don't bend over too fast when you pick the ball out of the cup.
While the transferred Colts are thriving in their new stomping grounds in Indianapolis, bereft Baltimore keeps pining for its departed team and hoping that pro football will return to the city. Currently, its best bet is the USFL, which apparently would like to move a team there. The faltering Washington Federals, who were set to switch to Miami until the USFL's planned shift to a fall schedule upset those plans (SCORECARD, Sept. 3), were considering a move to Baltimore before settling instead on Orlando, Fla. But Baltimoreans were said to be cool to the Federals, hoping instead reports were true that the fall schedule would prompt the Philadelphia Stars, the USFL champions, to move south. In the long run, Baltimore still wants the NFL, and the feeling seems to be that the Stars would stand a better chance of getting into the old league if the USFL eventually forces a merger.
Dreams, surely, but dreams are what they're selling in Baltimore these days. A determined group of die-hard fans called Baltimore Football Associates, Inc. is selling "season tickets" at $120 a seat. The money is to be held until a pro team returns to Baltimore, at which time contributors would get top priority on real season tickets. The idea is to demonstrate to pro football people that despite the city's disenchantment with Robert Irsay's ownership of the Colts, a strong core of dedicated fans still exists in Baltimore and is eager to embrace a new team.
A GERMAN RETREATS, BUT THE HOOP INVASION CONTINUES
The University of Kentucky's announcement last week that its 7'4" West German prize, Gunther Behnke (SI, March 12), had quit school and returned home before playing a single basketball game for the Wildcats refocused attention on the trend in American colleges to enroll foreigners to help their programs. Stars like Akeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) of Houston and Detlef Schrempf (West Germany) of Washington have demonstrated that it's possible for these outsize aliens to adjust socially and excel athletically.
But Behnke had a tougher time of it after arriving in Lexington on Aug. 24 (he was welcomed at the airport by a local TV station's minicam crew). In an effort to ease his transition to life in the bluegrass. Behnke was introduced to several German-American families in the area, including one named Rupp (though not related to Kentucky's famous Baron, Adolph Rupp). But the youngster just couldn't cut it. After he lost his way to a math class on the morning of Aug. 28, he told the Wildcat coaching staff that he wanted to leave. In a statement released through the university, Behnke cited "circumstances at home," among them, apparently, a father with lung cancer and a girl friend. "Gunther's a good kid," says Jim Hatfield, the Kentucky assistant who recruited him, "but he was so homesick for his girl friend it was unbelievable."
Despite Behnke's departure, most of last season's West German imports will be back on American courts this winter. The 7'2" Uwe Blab returns to Indiana, while Jens Kujawa (6'11") and Olaf Blab (Uwe's 7-foot younger brother), who were exchange students at rival high schools in Illinois last season, will play for Illinois. Thomas Deuster, a 6'9" transfer from Centralia (Wash.) Junior College, has begun his sophomore year at Oregon. The 7-foot Christian Welp, Washington's Pac-10 Freshman of the Year last season, rejoins Schrempf, with whom he combined on the West German Olympic team to give America's gold medalists their toughest game at Los Angeles. And Wake Forest, which needs size underneath, plucked 6'8", 225-pound Hartmut Ortmann out of a metropolitan Philadelphia AAU league. Only 6'6" Lutz Wahden of the University of Puget Sound has emulated Behnke and returned home—Wahden did so in part because he misses his girl friend. He may come back next season.
And as far as Behnke's defection is concerned, fans at other SEC schools should give pause before indulging in too much Schadenfreude at Kentucky's loss. Three other West Germans, all 6'7" or taller, are currently enrolled as exchange students in Kentucky high schools.
Behnke to Kentucky: Don't call me, I'll call you.
THEY SAID IT
•Edwin Simmons, Texas tailback, explaining his problems after his third arthroscopic knee surgery in eight months: "There's no pain when I'm walking, but I'm not a walking back."
•Mike Gottfried, Kansas football coach, on learning that the odds against his Jay-hawks winning the Big Eight title are 100 to 1: "Who's the one guy who thinks we can do it?"
•John Ligums, owner of the Bay State Bombardiers of the Continental Basketball Association, after moving the team from Brockton to Worcester, Mass., where ex-Holy Cross star Togo Palazzi is still a popular figure: "We're going to have a Togo Palazzi night. Everyone named Togo gets in free."