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The first unflawed, undiluted moment of joy in the 1986 World Cup came near the end of Saturday's opening game between Italy and Bulgaria. The favored Italians, leading 1-0, fell into a classic error. They quit their fast-breaking attacks from the wings and dropped back into a nine-man defense. With 5:20 left, Bulgaria's Nasko Sirakov slipped between two defenders, picked up a cross from Radslav Zoravkov and headed the ball into the net. Immediately, Sirakov, wild with elation, rushed to the sideline, vaulted a low wall, ran a crazy course in front of the stands, jumped back onto the field and ended his performance with a forward roll, arms outstretched in a gesture of sheer joy.

Until that moment, joy had been a commodity in short supply at the 13th World Cup. There had been a shadow on the tournament from the day in 1983 when it was awarded to Mexico after Colombia withdrew as host nation—ironically on the grounds of national poverty. Even before Mexico's devastating earthquakes last September, even before the country's oil boom went bust, there had been serious doubts about its ability to stage the Mundial in a manner consistent with the vastness of the event.

The stringent security outside Azteca stadium for the opening ceremonies on Saturday was a marked contrast to the festive air inside, where 110,000 fans were treated to a pageant of brilliant color. One moment of feeling came when Miguel de la Madrid, president of Mexico, addressed, and was howled down by, the crowd. A fan explained, "It's the only way we can say anything about him. At least publicly."

That this dissident was in the stadium at all meant that he was one of the wealthy. His ticket cost 30,000 pesos (about $57), which would be beyond the means of the fellows who hang out in a lower-class drinking establishment called Las Flores de Mayo in Coyoacan, a southern suburb of Mexico City. Most of them subsist on the minimum wage of roughly $4 a day. Las Flores will be doing big business, simply because it has a television set. It is a black-and-white 15-inch model, but that is one TV more than most of the clientele have at home. If they have a home. Tens of thousands of Mexicans, most of them earthquake victims, still live in makeshift shelters.

Nevertheless, in Las Flores the men—a sign outside bans women as well as minors—are a cheerful bunch. Said Ignacio Martinez, a 55-year-old gardener, "Sport is my life. Everybody here is happy!"

Many Mexicans watch the games on vast screens that have been erected in three public areas of Mexico City. One such is in the neighborhood of San Juan del Aragon, where some 7,000 people gathered Saturday. They watched passively—until that game-tying Bulgarian goal. Then they exploded with joy, remembering that in the 1970 World Cup, also held in Mexico, Italy had eliminated the host team, 4-1, in the quarterfinals.

On Sunday Brazil, the second favorite among Mexicans after the home team, beat Spain 1-0, and the French team, whose perceived arrogance hasn't endeared them to the locals, came close to being humiliated by a gallant young Canadian goalie named Paul Dolan before winning in a 1-0 squeaker.

And so, in Garibaldi Square, the mariachi bands played and young people honked their car horns and chanted Meh-he-co! It finally seemed as if the World Cup had begun.


A long baseball tradition dictates that pitchers "protect" their teammates by throwing at batters if bad blood develops during a game. Bill Swaggerty of the Triple A Rochester (N.Y.) Red Wings has taken that principle to another level.

In the fourth inning of a game against the Maine Guides last Thursday, Swaggerty got shortstop Cory Snyder to pop to center. Snyder then threw his bat into the stands, where it hit a 61-year-old woman and her granddaughter, breaking the younger woman's nose. When Snyder returned to the plate in the sixth, Swaggerty drilled him with his first pitch, starting a bench-clearing brawl. "Nobody told me to hit him," Swaggerty explained after the game. "You can't let stuff like that go by. Our fans are hard to come by. We want them to come back. We like them to know they can come and watch a good game without risking life and limb."

Both the populist pitcher and the plunked shortstop were thrown out of the game. But that wasn't the end of it for Snyder. On Friday morning he was charged with two counts of third-degree assault in Rochester City Court. He pleaded not guilty, saying that he was trying to throw the bat toward the dugout but, because of pine tar on the bat, he lost control of it. A pretrial conference has been set for June 12.


With next weekend's graduation ceremonies, the curtain rings down on a curious spring of discontent at Santa Clara University in California. In a most unusual protest, a small group of Muwekma Indians assembled on the campus and established a picket line. The target of their demonstration: women's mud-wrestling matches put on by the college's Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. The Indians were upset about a report in the campus newspaper that the dirt used in the matches had come from a sacred Indian burial ground. The Muwekmas marched to protest the alleged desecration and demanded a retraction from the newspaper, whose coverage of the controversy they labeled racist.

The local supply company that delivered the soil to the fraternity started the flap by telling the newspaper the dirt had come "from the Indians." The company now says that it was only joking and that the soil was from its own rock quarry. Says Sigma Phi Epsilon vice-president Jim Manning, "I think we're going to stay away from mud wrestling for a little while."


It may sound farfetched, but for the third year in a row the International Olympic Committee has been nominated for the august Nobel Peace Prize. A group of approved Nobel nominators (among them, most prominently, an Indian judge from the World Court) has put the IOC up for consideration for the 1986 award, which will be presented in December in Oslo.

Those supporting the IOC over the estimated 60 to 90 other peace prize candidates contend that the organization promotes world harmony by bringing together nations of different political stripes in a friendly forum. They point out that at a recent Olympic gathering in Seoul, representatives from the United States and Libya sat at the same table. It's just as easy to argue, however, that the IOC has contributed to world tensions by putting on Games every four years that are overtly nationalistic and rife with political squabbling. Alfred Nobel, the peace prize founder, specified that the award be given to "those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind" in the field of peace. Could that possibly be the same IOC that we all know?


Do golfers really drive for show and putt for dough, as the saying goes? According to an article entitled "Determinants of Success Among Professional Golfers" published in Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, the answer is yes.

Purdue researchers James D. Davidson, an associate professor of sociology, and Thomas J. Templin, an associate professor of phys ed, studied the performances of 119 PGA players for 1983 to determine the relative importance of putting, driving, reaching greens in regulation, sand saves (finishing a hole out of a sand trap in two strokes or fewer) and number of tournaments entered. Their conclusions: The most important factor in achieving a low-scoring average is hitting greens in regulation, with putting "a close second" and driving far less significant. However, the study also found that "putting had the most effect on money earned," with hitting greens in regulation second and driving third. Sand saves and number of tournaments entered were said to be almost negligible factors in both scoring average and money earned.

Three Michigan State athletes were first-team All-Americas this year: football player Lorenzo White, basketball star Scott Skiles and hockey tri-captain Mike Donnelly. Certainly they're all accomplished athletes, but it seems a little too neat that the 10-member committee charged with voting for the school's male Athlete of the Year should arrive at a tie. Nevertheless, Michigan State's athletic department insists that the balloting was honest and that the vote was hopelessly deadlocked at 3-3-3, with one abstention. "It's nice it worked out this way," said Donnelly, who should be happy that White wasn't on the selection committee. Said the running back, "If I had to vote for this award, I would have had to vote for myself."

Everything is in perfect order: Jack Nicklaus won the Masters, Bill Shoemaker took the Kentucky Derby, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup and the Boston Celtics are closing in on their 16th NBA championship. If you're experiencing déj√† vu this spring, that means you were probably a sports fan back in 1965, the last time these familiar personages and teams earned those laurels all in the same year.



At Azteca stadium, fans are jubilant while the security guards have a somber job to do.




•George Raveling, USC's new basketball coach, recalling his rough-and-tumble youth in a ghetto in Washington, D.C.: "If you went to my school with two ears, it was obvious you were a transfer student."

•Steve Ontiveros, Oakland relief pitcher, who recently shaved off a beard he had sported during the spring: "It wasn't producing, so I had to send it down."

•Doug Weaver, former Kansas State football coach, reminiscing about the time he was hung in effigy on the school's campus: "I'm glad it happened in front of the library. I've always emphasized scholarship."