THE CASE FOR P.E.
There has been a disturbing trend on the part of school boards in recent years to cut budgets for physical education, but the case for putting the physical back into education is incontrovertible. As Exhibit A, we offer the popularity of a phys-ed program in, of all places, the South Bronx, perhaps the worst slum in New York. Lou Schlanger's physical-education class at South Bronx High begins at 7:10 a.m., an hour before the start of regular classes, yet 133 students have signed up to join him in the school gym for aerobics, push-ups, sit-ups, long jumps and general conditioning. In a school with a historically high dropout percentage, Schlanger's dawn phys-ed class has an absentee rate of only 10%. "The class carries over to the rest of their lives," says Schlanger. "Instead of lowering the standards, we want them to set the standards and feel there's nothing they can't do."
When Schlanger, 31, began the fitness class three years ago, it was extracurricular and attracted only 11 students. A year later it became an official course that counted toward the seven semesters of physical education the state of New York requires of high school students. (Stunningly, only 17 states have any phys-ed requirements in their public schools.) The downside of this story: After early funding of $2,500 from New York City's Dropout Prevention Program, to buy equipment and pay students' travel expenses to fitness competitions, the class has depended on private donations, which have amounted to less than $3,000.
To understand the importance of this course to the participants' education, listen to what 17-year-old Sharmagne Solis told The New York Times. "I've learned to push myself physically, and when you know how to push yourself to do 60 push-ups, you know how to push yourself to do your homework. I used to go to school because I had to, and I was bored and I cut a lot. But last year I had perfect attendance because I didn't want to miss the fitness class, and then I began not wanting to miss school."
The University of Utah's football program has gone daffy. Call up the school's sports information office and you may be quacked at with a duck call. Migrate in the direction of Rice Stadium during a home football game and duck-call-wielding Ute fans will flock in beside you. Try to sing Utah Man, the fight song, as the school band marches onto the field and you will have to do so over the reedy cacophony of several thousand Utahans quacking like ducks. Last week against Utah State, a pregame sky diver landed on the field dressed as, of course, a duck. Says one school official, "This duck stuff is out of control."
It all started when coach Jim Fassel unveiled an offensive formation called the Daffy Duck during the Utes' season-opening 24-20 win over New Mexico. The bizarre configuration has three receivers lined up on one side of the field and six linemen on the other side, while the quarterback and center go to the middle of the field by themselves and line up in the shotgun.
The Utes, who are 4-4 and lead the nation in passing yardage, have used the formation no more than 20 times this season. They have scored two two-point conversions with it and had gains of 22 and 25 yards on a couple of plays from scrimmage. Utah fans, as you might imagine, love it.
Now a Utah graduate and conservationist named Bill Wilson has figured out a way to channel all this enthusiasm to benefit Ducks Unlimited, a group committed to preserving waterfowl habitats. Last week Wilson and Salt Lake City's KALL Radio arranged for the distribution of 1,500 Ducks Unlimited-University of Utah Duck Kalls, which went on sale in local stores for $5 each—about a dollar of which goes to Ducks Unlimited. Wilson hopes to have 5,000 of the duck calls in the stands for the Utes' Nov. 7 homecoming game against UTEP That should be sufficient to drive everybody quackers.
KOA AT KSU
Say this for Kansas State basketball fans: They aren't of the fair-weather variety. Buoyed by their Wildcats' fourth-place finish in the Big Eight and their 20-11 overall record last season, students began setting up housekeeping in tents outside Ahearn Field House on Oct. 8, even though no date for the opening of ticket sales had been announced. Before long there were 50 tents of various shapes and colors, each manned around the clock by rotating groups of six students. "It looks like a KOA campground out here," said assistant sports information director Kenny Mossman.
A week passed. On Oct. 15, K State officials announced that the tickets would go on sale on Oct. 26. But when the temperatures at night began to fall into the 20's, the school brass began to fear for the health of the campers and moved the sale date to Oct. 23. During the last night of the camp-in, Wildcat basketball coach Lon Kruger and his players served up 300 bowls of chili to the bone-chilled diehards, whose very presence, allowed Kruger, was "good for recruiting."
If you're wondering whether all this fuss is a sign that Kansas State fans have delusions of grandeur, maybe even of a first-ever national championship, forget it. Says Phil Ham, a member of the first tent in line: "Every place I see has us picked fourth in the Big Eight. We're going to surprise a lot of people. I think we can finish third."
HOCKEY STICK OR ROLL-ON
Speaking of delusions of grandeur....
The U.S. Olympic hockey team is featured in a recently released music video that's touted as the sport's first. Sponsored by Sure deodorant, it's shown before Team USA exhibition games in arenas that have Diamond Vision screens. Thankfully, the players don't sing, dance, rap or carry on like pro football players. Instead, game and practice footage is accompanied by the pulsating sounds of rock singer Nikki Ryder. Still, there's a funny odor to the whole business. The title of the video, for instance, raises expectations for Team USA that may be more than a little unrealistic. According to most estimations, U.S. prospects in 1988 Olympic hockey competition are even dimmer than those of '84, when Team USA finished seventh. The questionable title? This Time for Sure.
Former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer was renowned for his memory during his playing days. At the World Series, Palmer, now a commentator for ABC, was talking with Charley Walters, a baseball writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch who pitched for the Twins in 1969.
"I got a hit off you in the Instructional League in 1968," Walters told Palmer.
"It was a slider away. You punched it into rightfield," said Palmer.
RIDING FOR A FALL
Last week Lester Piggott, 51, one of the most accomplished jockeys in horse racing history, was led away, handcuffed, to begin serving a three-year sentence in England's Norwich Prison. The harsh sentence came after Piggott pleaded guilty to 10 fraud charges stemming from his attempt to hide $5.1 million in income from British tax authorities. Three days later, Piggott's reputation was further clouded when the Jockey Club announced it was studying allegatoins that he had made bets while he was a rider—a violation of British racing rules.
Piggott's lawyer, John Mathew, explained his client's tax troubles by pointing out that although Piggott is a genius in the saddle, "away from horses, he's a man of limited intellectual capacity...which may have been lowered in recent years by a degree of brain damage resulting from head injuries caused by a substantial number of bad falls."
But there may be another explanation. In A Jockey's Life, a biography of Piggott by novelist and former jockey Dick Francis that was a best-seller last year in Britain, Francis devotes two chapters to describing Piggott's gruesome falls, but concludes that Piggott "hid his worst injuries better than most, [and] has no disabilities or lasting effects today." Elsewhere in the book, Francis discusses Piggott's reputation for being a Scrooge and ascribes it to a deprived childhood and his mother's admonitions to be wary of spongers. Noting that Piggott has a habit of letting friends pick up tabs for him, Francis writes, "Lester walks away from paying out of deep-seated subconscious mental habit. It doesn't seem mean [cheap] to him, but merely normal and prudent."
Piggott (shown here in a 1969 photo) pleaded guilty to hiding $5.1 million from the taxman.
THEY SAID IT
•Dave Durenberger, U.S. senator from Minnesota, on the Twins' World Series win: "I've never experienced anything like it. Such high emotion, 55,000 people. No one said 'Bork.' "
•Ivan Lendl, asked what names John McEnroe called him during tennis matches: "Just come follow me on the golf course, and you'll hear them."