HITTING THAT LINE
In reaction to the Tulane point-shaving scandal, Atlantic Coast Conference athletic directors voted last week to ask newspapers to stop running point spreads on games involving ACC teams. That wasn't the first time college officials have moved against gambling. Some schools have barred representatives of tout sheets from their press boxes, and most college sports information directors take pains to ensure they don't inadvertently give information over the phone to gamblers posing as sportswriters.
Many newspapers think that point spreads meet the definition of news, and indeed, even non-gambling sports fans find them of interest. Still, the widespread publication of odds and tout ads is part of a climate that legitimizes gambling and helps it flourish. While the ACC's gesture is at least partly symbolic, any effort to put more distance between college athletics and gamblers is a worthwhile one. And the media would be serving the public interest if they gave the ACC's recommendation serious consideration.
THE REF FACTOR
More shots were directed at the refs than at the goalies during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs:
•After Quebec beat Buffalo 6-5 to eliminate the Sabres, Buffalo coach Scotty Bowman said, "I hold [referee] Bryan Lewis directly responsible" for the loss. With Buffalo protecting a 5-4 lead midway through the third period, the Nordiques' Wilf Paiement twice punched the Sabres' Ric Seiling in the face mask. Seiling never retaliated, yet Lewis penalized both players for two minutes. While they were off the ice, Quebec tied the score.
•St. Louis owner Harry Ornest, whose team was upset by Minnesota in three straight games, charged that the refs had allowed the North Stars to employ "goon" tactics. Ornest was incensed that Minnesota defense-man Dave Richter had received only a two-minute penalty for a high-sticking incident that put Bernie Federko, the Blues' top scorer, out of Game 3 with a concussion and facial cuts. "In no other sport do they reward the head-hunters as they do in hockey," Ornest said. "It's akin to allowing a wild pitcher...[to] plainly throw at the hitters."
•After winning the first game of its series with Montreal, Boston was leading the Canadiens 3-2 late in the second period of Game 2 when referee Ron Hoggarth called what appeared to be a phantom interference penalty against the Bruins. The Canadiens scored a power-play goal that sent them on to a 5-3 win, and they eventually knocked off the Bruins. "I'd like to take the officiating and rip it to complete shreds," Boston G.M. and coach Harry Sinden said. "We deserve a better quality of work in the NHL."
Sinden is right. Fact is, the NHL has maybe four first-rate refs, and for the opening round, it needed eight a night. The G.M. of one first-round winner said it best: "If I did my job as badly as the referees do theirs, I wouldn't have a job."
THE SOUND OF NO HANDS CLAPPING
The Minnesota Strikers of the MISL haven't drawn particularly well this season. So when coach Alan Merrick told his players about plans for introducing, them on Fan Appreciation Night, defender Ken Fogarty chimed in, "What if he doesn't show up?"
The U.S. isn't the only country that has basketball scandals. Israel has one, too. That country has been stirred by allegations that American players have secured unkosher conversions to Judaism in order to play professional hoops there. Each of Israel's 12 pro teams is allowed to sign one foreign player a year, but many Americans evade the rules by becoming Israeli citizens. The easiest way for a gentile to obtain citizenship is to convert or to marry a Jew. And now the government claims some teams have been recruiting non-Jewish Americans and arranging quickie conversions for them.
Such chicanery is apparently a recent development. Americans began playing pro ball in Israel in the mid-'60s, and most of the early ones were Jews. Non-Jewish whites followed without much trouble. Then came non-Jewish blacks. One of them, Aulcie Perry, a 6'11" veteran of the ABA, converted to Judaism without fuss and is now a hero in Israel, where he's called Alisha Ben-Abraham.
The cases of two other American players, Philip Dailey and Chris Rankin, aroused the ire of the Ministry of the Interior. Dailey and Rankin arrived in Israel in 1982 brandishing conversion certificates signed by three Milwaukee rabbis. Coincidentally or not, their team, Maccabi Petach Tikvah, generously donated $6,000 to the rabbis' synagogue. But the documents were invalidated when somebody in the ministry noticed that they'd been dated four years before the alleged conversions took place. Undeterred, the team tried to smuggle Dailey and Rankin in again by marrying them to a couple of matronly women, both 30 years their senior. The players were shipped home.
The furor over Dailey and Rankin eventually led investigators to 6'9" John Irving, who was born a Baptist in Baton Rouge and played college hoops at Hofstra in the mid-'70s, leading the nation in rebounding as a sophomore. But Irving never quite reached the NBA. Instead, he drifted off to play pro ball in Europe. Three years ago he resurfaced in a Brooklyn gym, where an Israeli pro team recruited him. "Do you want to play basketball in Israel?" Irving was asked. "And would you like to be a Jew?" Sure, he said.
Irving says he was sent to a rabbi in Manhattan. The rabbi handed Irving a book entitled What Is a Jew?, asked him some perfunctory questions and told him to come back in a few days. On Irving's next visit, the rabbi talked to him for 10 minutes, shook his hand and said, "Welcome to Judaism." Conversion papers were signed, entitling Irving to citizenship under Israel's "law of return" and the right to play basketball in the pro league. Next stop, the Promised Land.
And it came to pass that Irving had a bountiful career. As a rookie with Elitzur Tel Aviv, he averaged 28 points a game, fourth best in the league. He settled into the country and opened a couple of ice cream parlors. Last year his wife gave birth to a sabra, an Israeli-born child. But two months ago the Israeli government revoked Irving's citizenship, challenging his conversion. Ministry officials had looked at his papers and found the names of the same three rabbis who signed the Dailey and Rankin certificates. Only one of the rabbis could be located, and he denied ever meeting any of the three players.
In Israel the question of who is a Jew is an intense religious, social and political issue. Now it's a sports issue as well. And for Irving, it's a personal one. "I came to Israel assuming I was an Israeli citizen and that I'd converted," he says. "I haven't broken any laws. I've invested all my savings. I pay taxes. I feel I'm being cheated."
Carolyn Chute, author of the best-selling novel The Beans of Egypt, Maine, was waylaid recently at a highbrow Boston literary soiree. The interloper pointed out how kind the fates had been to Down East women of late—what with Chute winning wide acclaim for her book and Freeport's Joan Benoit winning the Olympic marathon gold.
"Who's Joan Benoit?" asked Chute, who leads a somewhat reclusive existence in Gorham, Maine.
She was hastily enlightened.
"Well," she said, "we all run in our own circles."
Last week Southpaws International, an organization that trumpets the cause of lefthandedness, named its 1985 inductees into the Lefthanders Hall of Fame. In addition to such legitimate and no doubt deserving portsiders as Robert Redford and Hamilton Jordan, those enshrined included none other than that old righthander Bill Bradley. While acknowledging that Bradley is not a lefty. Southpaws president Herman Moore said he plans no action to right the mistake. "Senator Bradley's a great man," said Moore. "If he's not lefthanded, he should be."
THE NIGHT THE COPS BUSTED THE BOBBIES
Steve Damiani has one of those cocksure New York voices that imply knowledge of everything from how to avoid muggers in the South Bronx to the best joint for pesto Genovese south of Washington Square. He comes by his accent honestly. He was born in Queens and now pounds a beat as a rookie cop in the 111th Precinct. Earlier this month Damiani and seven other members of New York's Finest went to London to take on some of the best of that city's bobbies in an exhibition billed as a "Grand Dinner Boxing Evening for Gentlemen."
"They talk funny over there," Damiani says. "They called us lads'." When someone greeted him with "Cheerio," Damiani said, "Sure, I'll have a bowl."
The New Yorkers were amazed at the tidiness of London's streets. "Where's the garbage?" asked Frankie Puello, an undercover narcotics cop.
"Garbage?" said Damiani. "Where's the potholes?" They eventually found three.
The matches were held at the Blooms-bury Crest Hotel, a posh hostelry where nearly all 1,000 guests wore tuxedos. "We thought the bobbies would come out like Marcus of Queensberry," says Puello. "But they fought tough, just like in the Bronx."
The New Yorkers won the first four bouts on TKOs. The winners included Puello, whose opponent was Graham Simpson, a welterweight nicknamed Duracell because his batteries never run down. Puello took him out in Round 2 with a right hook. "Many thanks for the lesson," said Simpson, displaying a loose upper lip.
The Brits won the next two bouts. Damiani was one of the victims. He fought a middleweight lad named Gary Leverton, whose accent may have been funny, but whose left hand was not. A three-time European police champ, Leverton outpointed Damiani in three rounds. Then Al (Bubbles) Vallejo, a light welterweight scuba diver for the New York harbor patrol, beat a constable named Paul Constable to clinch it. Final score: New York 5, London 3.
Afterward the New York team took off for Windsor Castle, where the Queen and Queen Mother waved as the royal band struck up New York, New York. One visiting cop dropped trousers in front of a bunch of tourists. Then everyone punked out at the Hippodrome. But even the jaded New Yorkers were bemused by signs on the club's WCs for MEN, WOMEN and TRANSVESTITES. "Where we come from," says Puello, "they don't warn you."
SAM Q. WEISSMAN
TREVOR JONES/ALL SPORT
Simpson (left) and Puello struck a pose before squaring off in their transatlantic cop out.
THEY SAID IT
•Jimmy Johnson, University of Miami football coach, on whether the departure of quarterback Bernie Kosar will mean a run-oriented team this fall: "If we're three yards and a cloud of dust, the cloud of dust-would be me leaving."
•Walt Michaels, New Jersey Generals coach: "A man who has no fear belongs in a mental institution. Or on special teams."