Raise a cup to ESPN! Its coverage of the America's Cup through Monday's race (page 66) was smashing. With 11 cameras sending stunning pictures from Down Under, the live Cup telecasts lent boat racing a never-before-seen excitement. The camera-microphone rig on the mast of Stars & Stripes brought the salt spray—and the salty talk of the sailors—right into your living room.
The telecasts sold out their advertising space and earned good ratings. Even on the East Coast, where the starter's gun sounded after midnight, America's Cup parties were the occasions on some people's winter social calendars. ESPN was clearly riding a big wave, and looking good doing it.
NEW ATTITUDE AT AUBURN
Last month we told of Auburn coach Pat Dye's decision to play All-America tailback Brent Fullwood in the Citrus Bowl despite the fact that Fullwood hadn't attended a single class since October (SCORECARD, Jan. 5). Since the game, in which Auburn beat USC 16-7, there have been several developments. Wilford S. Bailey, former Auburn president and new president of the NCAA, called Dye's decision "embarrassing to the university." Then Auburn professor Ian Hardin introduced a resolution in the university senate demanding "responsible policies for maintaining the academic integrity of Auburn." The next day the school announced adoption of a rule that required "all student-athletes to have normal class attendance to maintain their eligibility." The announcement didn't mention the tailback, but on campus the new law was immediately dubbed the Fullwood Rule.
With the big game over, many of the 101,063 who were at the Super Bowl found safe places for their ticket stubs. Several dozen others sought very safe spots for their souvenirs: 18-karat-gold key rings that looked like Super Bowl tickets.
"We just create unusual things," says Sidney Mobell, a San Franciscan who bills himself as a "jeweler extraordinaire." Mobell has previously created such sporting extravagances as a diamond-studded tennis racket worth $8,500, an $18,000 Frisbee with a one-carat diamond in the center and a million-dollar chess set containing 1,171 diamonds, 1,033 rubies, 459 sapphires and 59 emeralds. He hasn't been able to unload that chess set. Mobell has also manufactured solid-gold fishhooks. How would you like to see a trout snap your line after striking one of those?
The Super Bowl key ring is a relative bargain at $3,500 for one of the limited edition of 100. Mobell is certain that football fans who had real tickets will want them just as much as those who looked at the game on television.
Why does he manufacture such fancy, frivolous jewelry? Says the modest Mobell, "I want to go down in history."
Pat Turner of Severna Park, Md., lives and breathes hockey. When he's not skating, he's leafing through an instructional book on the sport. When he can't get hold of a puck to practice with, he'll take the pacifier from his mouth and push it around on the ice with his hockey stick.
Pat is just barely two. "He was probably five days old when he first went to a rink," says his mother, Ellen. "He always wanted to skate." That wish was answered last September when his dad, Leigh, laced up Pat's size-6 single-runner skates—the tiniest available, but still much too large—and took him out on the ice.
These days, wearing a helmet and lugging a stick taller than he is, Pat moves down the ice with steely determination. After practice he can be found with one of his Peter Puck hockey books, or on his tricycle. He rides it around the living room, pretending he's the Zamboni driver resurfacing the ice. Although Pat badly wants to be a rough-and-tumble hockey player like the big boys, he does have one handicap to overcome. "He's not even potty-trained," says Leigh.
The NFL's experimental use of TV replays as an officiating tool came under renewed fire in the Super Bowl. In the second quarter CBS took 8 minutes and 52 seconds to air a reverse-angle replay of a key pass to Bronco Clarence Kay that had been ruled incomplete, probably incorrectly. Says CBS producer Bob Stenner, "I can't give you a good reason, so help me God, why we didn't see that thing." By the time the replay was found, play had long since resumed, the Broncos' three-point lead had shrunk to one, and the momentum had shifted. Denver fans are calling it the Rosemary Woods Nine-Minute Gap.
"The Super Bowl may have dealt a death blow to the chances of replay being voted back in," says NBC Sports executive producer Mike Weisman. When the NFL approved the replay experiment a year ago, four clubs were against it. Only four more votes are needed to scrap it when the league owners convene next month.
Such a move would be misguided. For all its problems—the most serious of which is the length of the review process—the replay makes for a fairer game. NFL officials should sit down and discuss ways of improving the replay system before terminating it.
Weisman wants to be part of such a discussion. He suggests a summit conference between the NFL and the networks. "If we all put our heads together, we could come up with a system that everybody could live with," Weisman told SI staff writer William Taaffe. Weisman pointed out that the league adopted instant replays without soliciting advice from the very people who would be providing them.
One idea that deserved consideration, said Weisman, is taking a TV commercial timeout during each appeal. Commercials scheduled to run later would simply be aired earlier, thus shortening the length of the game. And during the breaks the networks would routinely furnish the replay ref with all replays, making it less likely that the conclusive angle might be discovered too late.
Clearly all angles on the replay haven't been examined. It's too soon to give up on the experiment.
IN YOUR FACE, OLD PAL
New Jersey Nets center Chris Engler was reminiscing recently about his first game against the Celtics in 1983, when he was a rookie with Golden State. Boston's front line featured Engler's former University of Minnesota roommate and close friend, Kevin McHale. "Kevin and I were coming up-court," says Engler, "and he whispered to me, 'When you get the ball, just move in close and shoot a jumper. I won't block it, I want to make you look good.' I thought that was nice of him.
"First time I got the ball I went right up for my shot. Next thing I knew Kevin was slapping the ball off my forehead. He smiled and said, 'Sorry. I lied.' "
He's more dominant, he makes much bigger moves and technically he is far beyond anything I could do at his age."
WRESTLING COACH AT IOWA
Gable won 181 of 182 matches through high school and college and an Olympic gold medal in 1972. He's the standard against which other wrestlers are measured, and he rarely indulges in such encomiums. So who's he talking about here?
Gable sings the praises of Danny Knight, a 126-pound senior at Clinton (Iowa) High and the best schoolboy wrestler in America. Knight possesses an array of vicious takedowns, a 116-0 four-year record and a cheerful, unassuming demeanor—he calls his sport "rasslin'."
Knight's moves were honed when his three older brothers returned from practice each evening, "bringing back new stuff and beating on me a little." The living-room rough housing built toughness. This past December Knight stepped onto the mat just three days after undergoing knee surgery. He accepted a forfeit that night and has pinned 19 of 22 other opponents this season.
One might expect Knight, as a gifted Iowa wrestler, to join Gable's Hawkeyes in the fall. But one of Danny's brothers, Steve, left the Iowa team in a huff last month and is attending Iowa State. Gable, who says Danny was "one of our main recruits," thinks there's now only "a very slim chance" of landing him. Knight says he's not sure where he'll wind up, but doubts it will be Iowa.
—T. NICHOLAS DAWIDOFF
SAM Q. WEISSMAN
Last week, Knight (on top) had no trouble with Davenport West's Joel Purcell, his 114th straight victim.
THEY SAID IT
•Tom Grieve, Texas Rangers general manager, on why he didn't offer a contract to free agent Bob Horner: "I read where he was embarrassed by the $4.5 million Atlanta offered. I didn't want to add to his embarrassment."
•Don Mattingly, Yankees first baseman, on his new teammate, 13-year veteran Rick Rhoden: "He's spent several years in the majors plus several more with the Pirates."