DON'T DO AS I DO
Doesn't a contract mean anything anymore in sports? Coaches who skip out on their contracts have become stock figures, and the woods are full of professional athletes who want to renegotiate their deals. Even colleges are getting in on the act. Take, for example, the University of Kansas, which had a full basketball schedule of 28 games this season, the NCAA limit. When offered the chance to play a nationally televised home game against Louisville on Jan. 25, KU decided to make room on the schedule by dropping its away game at the University of Detroit on Jan. 6. Nope, we've got a contract, said Detroit, for whom the Kansas game looms as the season's biggest home attraction. When the dispute waxed hotter, Detroit sued in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Now Judge Susan D. Borman has issued an injunction restraining KU from playing Louisville unless it also plays Detroit. Gary Hunter, an attorney who is assistant athletic director in charge of administration at Kansas, is disappointed. He says that Kansas offered to pay Detroit the "amount of money that was in the liquidated damage clause in the contract, plus what the profits would have been. They never would do that. They would never send me that figure."
"It's more than just a game with Kansas," counters Brad Kinsman, Detroit's A.D. "It's a principle. If a team chooses not to honor a contract, what does a contract mean? As far as we can determine, a case of this nature at the college level has never been brought before the courts before. It's an important decision."
Well said. But KU's Hunter points out that in 1982 Detroit canceled out of a holiday tournament at the University of Missouri, whereupon the tournament collapsed and Detroit had to pay Missouri the contract guarantee of $10,000.
Both Detroit and the University of Kansas have law schools. If there is one thing that law schools hammer into students, it is the sanctity of written contracts. Isn't anybody at KU or Detroit paying attention?
SHOOT-OUT ON NOT-SO-EASY STREET
The ever innovative Continental Basketball Association will stage a halftime contest for fans at its Feb. 11 All-Star Game in Tampa. The contest is called The CBA's $1,000,000 Easy Street Shootout, and the contestant who makes the longest shot will win a redeemable zero-coupon bond that reaches maturity in 40 years. What does that mean? It means that in the year 2026 the winner gets a million bucks; if he or she wants to redeem it the day after the shoot-out, the take will be about $30,000.
Regional winners from the 14 CBA cities will assemble in Tampa to try for the payoff, and each will get just one shot. Obviously it is a considerable advantage to be able to shoot last, so a lottery will determine the order of shooters. Even so, the event should produce some interesting and perhaps novel strategies. Does the first contestant shoot from only 10 feet and hope the others miss? If, say, the first 10 shooters miss, does No. 11 try an easy layup and hope that the last three choke? And, finally: inasmuch as the shoot-out is a deferred-money deal, will the winner try to renegotiate four years from now?
NEW CHAMP, BUT SAME CAMP
Gary Kasparov, the 22-year-old challenger, could have coasted to the world chess championship simply by playing for a draw in the final game of his match with Anatoly Karpov, 34, the titleholder for the last 10 years. But it didn't turn out that way last Saturday in Moscow's Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. Impetuously, Kasparov gambled and pulled off a victory to win the championship 13 to 11.
The showdown game began with both Soviet players moving quickly and aggressively. Karpov is normally very deliberate, but in just over 10 minutes he and Kasparov completed the first 16 moves. Then they played nearly five hours until Kasparov sacrificed a pawn. On his 29th move, Kasparov attacked a rook. Then he sacrificed another pawn, enabling his pieces to enter Karpov's position. Karpov had to give up a knight and then his king became endangered. Karpov's cause looked hopeless, but he didn't concede defeat. With a contemptuous flick of his wrist, he made his 42nd and final move.
The crowd of about 1,500 people began to laugh at Karpov. Security guards ringed the stage to keep order in the hall. Karpov finally resigned, and the crowd broke into wild applause, chanting, "Gary, Gary, Gary" as bouquets landed on the stage. The youngest player to win the world championship, Kasparov raised his fists above his head in triumph.
At a news conference the next day Kasparov was in a somber mood. The new champion said, "I want to say that there is a big difference between the champion Gary Kasparov and the challenger Gary Kasparov." He was referring to his denunciation of the International Chess Federation's decision to end his first match against Karpov last February. Karpov, the Kremlin favorite, had a 5 to 3 advantage in that match but appeared to falter after five months of play. Last summer Kasparov told a Yugoslav magazine that his relations with the Soviet federation could not be worse.
But at the news conference, Kasparov said, "I think that all those questions of July and February are in the past. As the challenger, I wanted the match to proceed in an honest, sportsmanlike fashion, and now that I am the champion, I feel a great responsibility." Asked if he would emulate Karpov, who is chairman of the Soviet Peace Fund and engages in many officially sponsored political activities, Kasparov said, "I shall do everything that I can do for my country."
A comment by sports official Marat Gramov best summed up the Soviet reaction to Kasparov's win. Declared Gramov, "The most important thing is that the title stays in the Soviet Union."
THE FINAL BELL RINGS FOR CUS D'AMATO
Cus D'Amato died last week at age 77 of pneumonia. He was a unique force for good in boxing. He was a man of staunch principle, and even though he guided Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres to world championships and riches, he himself wound up bankrupt in 1970, largely because he had used his money to battle the monopolistic International Boxing Club controlled by mobster Frankie Carbo.
No one in boxing could match Cus's knowledge of strategy and tactics. He never managed Muhammad Ali, but every time AH had a tough fight he would call Cus for advice. At the funeral last week in Catskill, N.Y., there was a wreath from Ali with a card that said, "Cus, you were the Greatest."
In recent years Cus lived in Catskill, where he trained fighters for his close friend Jimmy Jacobs, the handball-champion-turned-film-producer. Cus's latest prodigy was 19-year-old heavyweight Mike Tyson, who has a record of 11-0, all knockouts. Cus was more than Tyson's trainer; he was also his legal guardian.
Cus spoke in the accent of his native Bronx, read Thoreau, wore a black homburg with all the aplomb of a prime minister, believed in astrology and had a giant telescope at his training camp, through which he often peered for hours at the stars. A high school dropout, Cus served in the Army in World War II, even though he had lost the use of his left eye in a street fight. Ever one to give his all to a cause he believed in, he was determined to be the best soldier in the Army, and to toughen himself he slept on the floor instead of a cot, shaved with cold water and made himself stand at attention for hours.
Back home, Cus slept on the floor of a gym he ran on Manhattan's East 14th Street, not so much because he was trying to toughen himself but because he was broke. Nevertheless, when some friends asked for a loan, he went out and borrowed the money so he could lend it to them. "Of all character traits, the most valuable to Cus was loyalty," Jacobs says.
Cus was an avid bass fisherman. Although he was an eager purchaser of every kind of lure, he had a favorite, the Mepps spinner, popular in Europe. He was absolutely smitten by the Mepps spinner. On a boxing trip to London he went into Hardy's, the toniest of tackle shops, and bought 1,500 of them. Cus brought them back to New York and stored them in boxes in his office closet. Whenever he felt down in the dumps, he would haul the boxes out of the closet, open them up and gaze rapturously at the Mepps spinners gleaming in the light. "My vice," he confided.
One morning a friend went to Cus's room to wake him up for a fishing trip. Cus carefully spread his trousers out on the floor. Then he pulled both trouser legs toward him and, with a leap and a shout, was on his feet with his pants on. Cus explained to the bewildered friend, "When guys in boxing come to me and try to put the bull on me, they say, 'Listen, D'Amato, you're no different from me. When you get dressed, you put your pants on one leg at a time.' And you know what I do when they say that? I laugh. I just have to laugh."
SAM Q. WEISSMAN
Torres (far right) and Patterson (opposite him) led the pallbearers at D'Amato's funeral in Catskill, N.Y.
After dressing every morning, Cus had reason to smile.
THEY SAID IT
•Bob Golic, Browns nosetackle, on the Steelers' Mike Webster: "He's still the fastest, strongest and most talented center in the league. I say that, hoping that he'll read this and won't hurt me."