THE NCAA'S HOME COOKING
Senior writer Curry Kirkpatrick reports: We waited with bated breath Sunday for the NCAA to announce the seedings of 64 teams invited to the NCAA basketball tournament. All 64 place-holders should be proud of their season-long accomplishment, but there may be a hitch to some celebrations. What kind of reward is it for Brown to meet, in the first round, Syracuse at Syracuse? Not much. And, in fact, Syracuse isn't the only school that enjoys a first-round advantage; others playing before friendly crowds are Duke (in Greensboro), Pepperdine (in Long Beach), LSU (in Baton Rouge) and Utah (in Ogden).
Over the years the NCAA has labored to eliminate many of the thorns in its crowning playoffs. There is a rule that no team may play in a regional—the round of 16—on its home court. But a similar rule should apply to the first and second rounds as well. And it's not just home courts that should be off-limits, but also any court that might bestow home advantage. For instance, it's too bad that Kansas, if it wins its early rounds, will play in the Midwest regional in Kansas City, 37 miles from Lawrence. Are we to believe that in Kemper Arena any opponent of the Jayhawks would be facing a neutral crowd? And get this: Georgia Tech, which has already played six home games at Atlanta's Omni this season, will, if it gets that far, play in the Southeast Regional there. The NCAA says that if you play less than half your home schedule at an arena, then it's not really considered your home.
In 1974, N.C. State won the national championship without ever having to leave the red Carolina clay, and it was in the wake of that situation that the rule against teams' playing on their home courts in regionals was enacted. It was far more impressive when the Wolfpack won the 1983 title over the course of playing in Corvallis, Ore., Ogden and Albuquerque. State was followed by two other national champions, Georgetown and Villanova, which won the title while competing far afield.
The obvious excuse for keeping a team at home is its drawing-card value, but surely the tournament has become rich enough—CBS is paying a whopping $32 million for this year's broadcast rights—to avoid resorting to contrived home cooking.
JINGOISM IN THE MIDWEST
Everyone in Russia, Ohio knows that the name is pronounced ROO-shah. "But everybody else thinks it's like Red Russia," says Paul Bremigan, coach of the basketball team at Russia High. Certainly the fans of Cincinnati's North College Hill High thought so. All through the district finals in Dayton, a game Russia lost 51-49 on a last-second shot by NCH, they chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!"
No, it isn't just in sports that people are debating the merits of mandatory drug testing. Last week the President's Commission on Organized Crime recommended that federal agencies and contractors be required to test employees and that private companies consider doing so, too. The recommendations were immediately attacked by critics ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union, which accused the panel of waging "war against innocent American citizens," to, perhaps more surprisingly, The Wall Street Journal, which called the commission's proposal "an example of enforcement mentality run amok." In the face of such criticism, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Irving R. Kaufman, the commission chairman, emphasized that testing should be done "very selectively" and with assurances of privacy and protection of an individual's civil rights.
Meanwhile, a USA Today poll revealed strong public support for drug testing of workers in a number of professions. While 64% of respondents thought professional athletes should be tested, 86% favored testing for airline pilots and school bus drivers, 79% favored it for doctors and nurses and 77% supported it for truck drivers. Only 52% backed testing for bank tellers. As for rock stars, 44% thought they should be tested.
A nationwide SI poll indicates even broader backing for drug testing of pro athletes. In the poll of 2,043 adult Americans conducted in November and December by Lieberman Research Inc. of New York City, the question was asked, "Should professional teams be allowed to compel athletes to undergo random drug tests?" Seventy-three percent said yes, 14% no and 13% expressed no opinion.
A TIP OF THE HAT
After 412 victories in 24 years as a hockey coach, the last 18 at the University of New Hampshire, Charlie Holt, 63, is stepping down. In a fitting tribute, 1,000 black hats, replicas of the fedora that Holt always wore during games, were handed out to fans at UNH's home finale. Mike Rossetti, a sophomore forward, then scored three goals as the Wildcats beat Lowell 7-4. After Rossetti's third score, hats rained and rained and rained onto the ice of Snively Arena, and the game was held up for several minutes. How better to have said hats off to Charlie the Hat than with a hat trick.
MEDICAL WONDER DOG
Pet-care clinics have lately begun using a 25-inch-high, foam-filled, synthetic-hair-covered creature called CPR Dog on which dog owners can learn the techniques of canine cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Yes, dogs sometimes need CPR too, and veterinary schools have been using the fake Fido as a practice model since it was invented in 1983 by Cornell veterinary professor Dr. Charles E. Short. The plastic pooch is now available generally, and a dog owner can shell out $895 to buy his own. This way he can practice heart massage and mouth-to-snout breathing without fear of injuring Spot. Or of being bitten.
HE'S STRONG ON THE REBOUND
Dante Vignaroli's vagabond basketball team is the Harlem Globetrotters of detoxification. Composed of 21 former college players, the Athletes Fighting Substance Abuse team goes from gym to gym in the Midwest, playing clubs and colleges and preaching a gospel that's not funny. "We're like the Globetrotters in that we reach out to people, but our message is quite different," says the Des Moines-based Vignaroli, 41, who founded AFSA in 1984. "Our message is about the dangers of chemical dependency."
Vignaroli is in the melancholy position of being the right man to speak about substance abuse. A data-processing analyst who played tennis daily and was a good pickup basketball player, he became hooked on cocaine in 1982. He spent more than $40,000 on drugs, ruined his marriage and twice enrolled in treatment programs before getting a grip on his addiction. "I formed the AFSA team to help myself," says Vignaroli, who has reconciled with his wife since shaking his habit. "And also to prevent others from entering the nightmare world that I've already visited."
At each stop, Vignaroli delivers a one-minute talk at halftime and hands out AFSA brochures; he promises each host that "our purpose is not to confront anyone but to increase awareness about substance abuse." The team—good enough to win the Iowa AAU title last year—has been warmly received at each school it has visited. Vignaroli now hopes to enlist corporate sponsors and to take his team farther afield. "We hope to do an Eastern swing in the fall—play a few of those Ivy League schools."
STOMPING FOR A STAMP ACT
U.S. postage stamps have featured Babe Ruth and other sports stars but never a famous American racehorse. Oh, yes, there have been some pretty stamps with horses on them. But except for a 10-cent commemorative issued during the Kentucky Derby centennial in 1974, horse racing has been out of the money.
Theresa Fitzgerald, librarian at The Blood Horse magazine, wants to rectify this slight, and she is championing the legendary Man o' War for the first such stamp. "Other countries have honored their famous thoroughbreds," says Fitzgerald. "Hungary with Kincsem, Australia with Phar Lap, Great Britain with Mahmoud, Ireland with Ballymoss." What's more, the West African republic of Togo issued a set of eight stamps last July commemorating distinguished thoroughbreds. As if to shame the United States, half of those stamps honored American horses—Seattle Slew and steeplechaser Jingle Creek among them. "It's high time we acclaimed our own," says Fitzgerald, who has sent her proposal to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, which reviews suggestions for the U.S. Postal Service. She expects to receive a sympathetic hearing as her campaign heads into the homestretch. "After all," she says, "we have named thoroughbreds for them. There have been Postal Service, Postage Stamp, Stamp Collector, Philatelist...."
MAC'S NO LONGER A LAUGHING MATTER
Many an engaging oddball has graced the nation's sports pages, including, to name just a few, Yogi Berra and his Yogi-isms, Casey Stengel, Bobby Riggs, Bum Phillips and Bill (Spaceman) Lee. The jury is now more or less in on golfer Mac O'Grady, once an aspirant to that happy company. O'Grady used to be funny, but these days he's merely inexplicable. In the good old days O'Grady, having missed a birdie putt, might offer, "I'm in that wonderful state of purgatory between the insane and the rational." Now, more and more often, he sounds irrational. Once a free spirit, he seems to have turned mean-spirited.
Docked $500 a year ago by PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman for calling a New Orleans tournament volunteer "a bitch," O'Grady has since been waging a nasty, vindictive campaign against Beman and others. He has charged Beman with running a "totalitarian" system, and said, "Deane Beman is a thief with a capital T." He recently called fellow pro Jim Colbert "Deane's water boy," adding, "I don't want to say he's a crook, but there are some players with better records who have won more money but still can't afford what he has." This is not funny stuff. Of the tour's other leading players, he said, "I told them if I didn't start getting some support...I would start going after them."
O'Grady needs support quickly because last week the tour notified him that he was being penalized for "conduct unbecoming a professional." O'Grady said he will appeal, adding, "I'll rot in hell before I pay that fine."
The once bubbly O'Grady has lost some fizz.
SAM Q. WEISSMAN
THEY SAID IT
•Frank Layden, Utah Jazz coach, to a newspaper fashion editor who had called for an interview: "You don't want me. Pat Riley spends more on a haircut than I do on a sports jacket."
•Yogi Berra, famous sayer of sayings: "I really didn't say everything I said."
•Bob Weltlich, Texas basketball coach, when asked about his team's rough play against SMU: "If you showed the game films to Hulk Hogan, he wouldn't want to come here."