WORDS AND DEEDS
Michael Fay, the Auckland investment banker who is trying to force the San Diego Yacht Club (SDYC) to accept his challenge for a two-out-of-three-race America's Cup that would be sailed next year in supermaxis (yachts measuring 130 feet), has picked up some allies lately. First Arthur Santry, commodore of the New York Yacht Club, filed an affidavit in support of Fay's lawsuit in New York Supreme Court. Next, Australia's Alan Bond, who won the Cup in 1983, put pressure on San Diego by announcing that if Fay's suit failed, he would donate a gold cup and a $2 million prize for an international series among supermaxis.
At issue is the wording of the 100-year-old America's Cup Deed of Gift, which dictates the terms of the Cup competition if the contesting parties can't agree. For decades no challenger chose to disagree with the terms proposed by the Cup's longtime trustee, the NYYC; hence, reference to the Deed was rare. Now Fay, whose 12-meter, Kiwi Magic, was the surprise of the 1987 Cup races, argues that the Deed requires the SDYC to accept his challenge or forfeit the Cup. In response, the SDYC has petitioned the court for a rewording of the Deed to make it consistent with recent practice—meaning the SDYC would name the place, the date and the type of vessel for the next Cup defense. As a result, the court's decision is crucial to the future, perhaps even the survival, of the America's Cup.
Santry's affidavit states that if the court were to grant San Diego's petition, "each future trustee of the Cup would be able to dictate whatever terms for the challenge and defense of the Cup seemed best to suit the interests of that trustee." Meanwhile, Bond's offer to stage a supermaxi series is sure to appeal not only to Fay, but also to Britain's Peter de Savary, who has expressed his support for Fay's proposal to sail the America's Cup in big boats. If three such prominent Cup veterans were to defect, others would likely follow, and San Diego could find itself the trustee of a 136-year-old white elephant.
BEANTOWN ON THE WABASH
Larry Bird's Boston Connection hotel isn't in Boston—it's near the banks of the Wabash, in Bird's home territory, Terre Haute, Ind. Actually, it's less a hotel than a theme park with rooms, all 109 of them equipped with extra-long beds. The dining room, called the The MVP Club, displays Bird's many trophies. The family restaurant, called the Boston Garden, has championship banners hanging from the ceiling and a glass-walled free-throw court, where restless customers can shoot baskets while they wait for their meals. The waitresses in the Bird's Nest lounge are outfitted as Celtics cheerleaders might be, if the Celtics had cheerleaders. In short, if green turns you green, pass it by.
Bird, who prefers not to reveal the extent of his financial interest in the hotel, nevertheless says he will be a frequent visitor in the off-season. "There are a lot of kids out there in the lobby," he says.
You can't miss him, kids. He's the one in the black sneakers.
THE OTHER STRIKE
The NFL players' strike isn't the only labor-management dispute affecting the quality of life in America's living rooms this fall. Because of a walkout by NABET (the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians), which began on June 29, NBC Sports has been forced to use middle-level executives, secretaries and freelancers to operate its cameras, replay machines and other high-tech gadgets. As a result, the production of the baseball playoffs has seemed, in some instances, as amateurish as scab football.
As the substitute technicians have been getting the hang of things, a player runs off the screen because the cameraperson is shooting too tightly; a second baseman stands idle, on camera, while a bang-bang play occurs at first, off camera; and a replay camera focuses on the batter as infielders race after foul flies along the grandstand rail. There have been memorable shots, to be sure—Ozzie Smith, the St. Louis runner, raising his arms as if he were about to catch Giant rightfielder Candy Maldonado's throw to second, for instance—but the telecasts haven't been uniformly up to NBC's usual high standard for baseball.
Although no one at the network will say so for the record, and although the NABET leadership denies it, officials at NBC Sports are convinced that at least two baseball telecasts this year have been sabotaged. In the more recent one, a crucial Cardinals-Mets game on Sept. 12, the audio from the announcers' booth mysteriously disappeared for 45 minutes, and the centerfield camera inexplicably went black for 24 minutes.
If the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan once said, the message this fall seems to be that television sports coverage is no longer the reliable refuge from reality that it once was.
WAGES OF SIN
John McEnroe's abominable behavior at the U.S. Open led to his being suspended from the Grand Prix tour for two months. He's now serving his sentence, which means he couldn't compete last week for the Grand Prix first prize of $46,000 in Scottsdale, Ariz., or the $30,000 for first in Brisbane, Australia. Nor could he enter the Swiss Indoor Championships and play for its $40,000 winner's purse. Instead poor McEnroe was reduced to playing in an eight-man nontour event in Atlanta, which he won. Prize: $150,000.
Ever wonder, as Andy Rooney might say, how it happens that 53,000 Minnesota Twins fans all just happen to have clean white hankies to wave during the American League playoffs? Coincidence? Hardly. The Homer Hanky is a promotional gimmick of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which hired a public relations outfit, Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt, to stage an all-out advertising blitz centered on the handkerchiefs. Once the hanky was designed, the agency acquired the music rights to a 1966 hit (My Baby Does the) Hanky Panky, adapted it for the campaign to My Baby Waves the Homer Hanky, and had the song recorded by the J.D. Steele Singers, a Twin Cities gospel group.
The blitz was launched just before the playoffs with full-page ads in the Star Tribune and other local papers. The song was introduced on area radio stations, with more than 40 spot commercials a day for four days. The hankies were sold for $1 apiece in taverns and for 50¬¨¬®¬¨¢ at Star Tribune offices. An additional 53,000 hankies were handed out free to fans attending the first playoff game against the Tigers at the Metrodome. To further hype the promotion, local aerobic dance teams performed a Homer Hanky Dance-Off in a stadium parking lot just before the game.
Last Thursday the Homer Hanky campaign achieved a pinnacle of sorts—a brief shot on NBC's Today show of three hanky-waving people who were dancing atop a wall at the Metrodome.
To connoisseurs of college fight songs, Michigan's The Victors ranks ahead of even those two soul-stirrers, USC's Fight On and Notre Dame's Victory March. None other than John Philip Sousa called The Victors one of the greatest marches ever written. From the first line of the chorus ("Hail to the victors valiant!...") to the last ("...the champions of the West!"), Michigan's fight song is a model of martial melody and uplifting lyric. So it was an affront to Wolverine fans and music lovers alike when on July 6 the city of Lansing, next-door neighbor to East Lansing, home of Michigan's archrival, Michigan State, declared The Victors noise pollution and, under the city's Traffic Code [Section 5.80(2)], banned it from Lansing streets.
When Michigan fans arrived for Saturday's game against Michigan State at Spartan Stadium, observance of the new ordinance was sporadic—it is reliably reported that the accursed song was heard more than once in the vicinity of passing Ann Arbor cars. Nevertheless, because the Spartans proceeded to score their first home victory over the Wolverines since 1969, a 17-11 upset, you can rest assured Lansing's superstitious Michigan State fans will resist any move to rescind the ordinance.
Are drooling Dobermans and snarling shepherds shattering the tranquillity of your early-morning run? At the same time, does your love of animals keep you from kicking a canine or macing a mongrel? K-II Enterprises of Camillus, N.Y., has produced what may be the solution to your dilemma, a handheld, ultrasonic dog deterrent called the Dazer. Terror permitting, the runner allows the four-legged fiend to approach to within 15 feet. Then he presses a button, which causes the Dazer to emit the proverbial "sound so high only a dog can hear it." That temporarily discomfits the hound, sending him into retreat and allowing the runner to continue, safely and guilt-free, on the road to fitness.
Has Steeltown U.S.A. gone soft? When strike replacements crossed the Steelers' picket line at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh on Oct. 6, the pickets pelted them with jelly doughnuts.
A bare fact: McEnroe's suspension can't be called costly.
THEY SAID IT
•Don Baylor, Minnesota Twins DH, on why he would say no if George Steinbrenner offered him the Yankees' managing job: "I came into this game sane, and I want to leave it sane."