ABOUT THAT SHOULDN'T BE
SI's Pat Putnam reflects on the return to the ring of 34-year-old former junior welterweight champion Aaron Pryor, who is scheduled to face club fighter Daryl Jones in Madison, Wis., this week.
For $300 you can become a boxing promoter in Wisconsin. All you have to do is set yourself up as a boxing club and mail a check to the state Department of Regulation and Licensing. Don't ask about state boxing regulations, because there are scarcely any. Wisconsin disbanded its boxing commission in 1980.
In Wisconsin a promoter doesn't even have to know how many healthy eyes a fighter should have. That's evident from the comments of Diana Lewis, promoter of the Pryor-Jones bout. Lewis told Wallace Matthews of Newsday last week that "if [Pryor is] blind in one eye, he's still got another eye. Even if he had only one eye, why couldn't he fight?"
In effect, Pryor already has only one eye. He underwent surgery on the left one for a detached retina and a cataract last year, and in the words of David Smith, consulting ophthalmologist to the New Jersey boxing commission, who examined Pryor in February, "He can't even see the big E [on an eye chart] without corrective lenses." Because of his poor vision and concerns about his general health—Pryor has battled drug addiction on and off for several years—boxing commissions in Nevada, New York and California have refused to grant Pryor a license.
To prove his fitness to fight, Pryor gave Wisconsin licensing officials the results of recent physical and eye examinations of him conducted by doctors of his choosing. Based on that information, the officials decided that his health was adequate and his vision only moderately impaired. The officials say that Pryor had the risks of returning to the ring with poor eyesight explained to him at length. Not surprisingly, Pryor—who just got out of a drug-rehabilitation center and needs money—said he still wanted to fight.
Alluding to Pryor's impaired vision, Marlene Cummings, secretary of the state's licensing department, said, "Handicapped people should not be penalized for their handicaps. They should be allowed to do the same things non-handicapped people can do." Someone should point out to her that a boxer's being blind in one eye isn't the same as, say, an architect's being blind in one eye—unless the architect's T square jumps up and smacks him in the head from his blind side over and over until he falls down.
Someone should check Wisconsin's licensing officials for myopia.
HOLD THE OLIVES
The starting pitchers in a 1:35 p.m. game between the Montreal Expos and the Los Angeles Dodgers last Thursday were Dennis Martinez for the Expos and Ramon Martinez for the Dodgers. In his pregame notes to the media, Montreal media-relations director Richard Griffin described the matchup as "the revival of the two-Martinez business luncheon."
For the past two weeks, LPGA officials and Jean Johnston, the lawyer for suspended golfer Muffin Spencer-Devlin, have been privately negotiating the conditions and timing of Spencer-Devlin's return to the tour. The situation is delicate: Spencer-Devlin, 36, one of the LPGA's most colorful personalities (SI, Aug. 19, 1985), was given a three-event suspension for her behavior at a pretournament dinner in Woburn, England, on April 24. Since then, she has been at a clinic in England receiving psychiatric treatment for manic-depressive illness.
Spencer-Devlin shocked those in attendance at the dinner by arriving late in a very much out-of-place Roaring '20s-style dress and then cursing and storming out when she was not allowed to sit at the head table. "I spoke with her outside, and she was quite abusive," Joe Flanagan, executive director of the women's European tour, said afterward. "The language took me back to my seafaring days."
Spencer-Devlin later told British reporters that she had been under great emotional strain because of the recent death of her stepfather, Bill Devlin, and that she had been struggling to control her previously diagnosed manic-depressive condition. She said that she had gone through a psychological "crash" early in 1989 and that after a year plagued by recurring back pain, she had endured another bout of severe depression, in January.
"I tried to kill myself by injecting an air bubble into my veins, hoping it would travel to my heart and blow up, [but] nothing happened," Spencer-Devlin said. "I thought about taking a boat ride and slipping off the back so that I would drown or be eaten by sharks. I just wanted to end this incredible misery in which I was living. I was living my life for other people." Spencer-Devlin now says that although she contemplated suicide, she didn't actually attempt it, despite what she told the British reporters.
Spencer-Devlin hasn't played in an LPGA event since last month's Dinah Shore Classic, in which she finished in a tie for 69th place and drew a $300 fine for throwing a water bottle at her caddie. One would hope that the LPGA, now aware of Spencer-Devlin's medical disorder, will address her case with support and sensitivity. "She is full of apology and regret for her misbehavior [at the dinner]," says Leslie Morrish, the psychiatrist who has been treating her. "But in fairness, the incident had more to do with the level of neurotransmitters in her brain than it had to do with intentionally giving offense." Spencer-Devlin may have put it best after the dinner flare-up: "I need a little patience and tenderness."
Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight says that after seeing former UCLA coach John Wooden's autobiography, They Call Me Coach, in a bookstore, he came up with a title for his own someday-to-be-written autobiography: They Call Me a Lot of Things.
SI special correspondent Robert H. Boyle writes:
Last week's White House decision to renege on a pledge to help developing countries phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was disturbing but not surprising. It was, after all, made at the behest of the President's chief of staff, John Sununu, and budget director Richard Darman, who aren't exactly allies of the environmental movement. In a recent speech at Harvard, Darman uttered the memorable line, "Americans did not fight and win the wars of the 20th century to make the world safe for green vegetables."
One could argue that Darman's speech was exactly the kind of stuff that makes vegetables grow. Unfortunately, the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer by CFCs (man-made chemicals used as refrigerants, solvents and aerosol propellants) is no joking matter. The ozone layer is the primary filter of ultraviolet radiation from the sun and is essential to protecting life. In 1987, after scientists confirmed that CFCs had caused a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, the U.S. and 23 other nations signed a protocol calling for a 50% reduction in CFC production by 1999 and agreed to provide financial and technical assistance to help developing nations reduce their use of CFCs. In March, the contributing countries proposed that the U.S. chip in $25 million over three years toward the cause. This money would be drawn from $5 billion in excise taxes that the U.S. has imposed on CFC producers.
Now the White House says it doesn't want to contribute any money to the fund. Administration officials contend that the developing countries, many of which are already overburdened by foreign debt, should borrow from the World Bank or other international financial institutions. The White House says that these institutions already have the resources and the structure to provide the needed aid. However, in a letter to President Bush on behalf of himself and 11 other senators last week, Republican Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island called for an immediate reversal of the decision, which, as he put it, "has isolated the U.S. and placed us in an untenable position.... There has rarely been, we believe, a better example of being 'penny-wise and pound-foolish.' "
NO! NO! NO!
CANNED IN BOSTON
Losing a deciding playoff game at hallowed Boston Garden, as the Celtics did to the Knicks on May 6, was a chilling experience for a franchise that once was invincible in big games at home. But the firing of coach Jimmy Rodgers two days later smelled of panic.
Rodgers, supposedly a member of the Celtics "family" that management gushes about, had the head job for only two seasons, the first spent without Larry Bird (heel surgery), the next without point guard Brian Shaw (who bolted to Italy). Granted, Rodgers was nobody's candidate for coach of the year. He never settled on a clear player rotation, and some Celtic veterans complained that his offense was over-regimented. But contrary to reports, Bird and the other vets did not lobby for Rodgers's firing. Rodgers did a creditable job, winning 42 games (40 without Bird) in 1988-89, and 52 this season without Shaw, who would have provided the speed and the transition game Boston so sorely lacked.
These are not the Celtics of yore. The Fab Four—Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish—are old and plodding, and if Boston's boss, Red Auerbach, thinks he could have returned to the bench, sprinkled a few cigar ashes over this team and won a title, he's sadly mistaken.
The Celts have been reeling since the death of top 1986 draft pick Len Bias, the player who would have taken them into the '90s. But Rodgers's firing was not the bold move they need. It was just another case of making the coach a scapegoat.
RUNNING IT UP
Last week the Leonard (Texas) High baseball team pounded Chisum High 46-5 in a game stopped after 4½ innings under a mercy rule. In the process, Leonard also routed sportsmanship, stealing 53 bases—only five shy of the national high school record of 58 it set in a 33-1 defeat of Chisum last month. When asked why he had his team steal base after base against the overmatched Chisum players, Leonard coach Bill Francis said, "I was hoping they would throw us out."
Proof that the NHL's officiating system needs reform was never more evident than in Game 3 of the Wales Conference finals in Washington, during which the Capitals' Dale Hunter assaulted two Boston Bruins without being penalized.
In the second period, after Boston defenseman Glen Wesley tripped and fell facedown, Hunter, an inveterate cheap-shot artist, skated over and slammed the Bruin player's face into the ice, leaving him dazed, with an ugly cut on his left cheek. Minutes later Hunter struck again, this time against Bruin center Craig Janney. After Janney scored a goal in Boston's 4-1 win, Hunter viciously blindsided him with his elbow and sent him to the ice, where he lay prone for several minutes.
Andy vanHellemond, the NHL's top referee, missed both calls; the two linesmen couldn't have whistled Hunter for a penalty even if they had seen his misdeeds because they're not empowered to call roughing or elbowing penalties. As previously suggested in this space (SCORECARD, April 23), the league needs more than one referee to police the game.
THEY'LL ALL BE WATCHING
If you could see through the eyes of Texas A&M Quarterback Lance Pavlas, well, you had only to be at the Aggies' spring practice. In a joint venture with the university's human-performance lab, A&M coaches had Pavlas wear a revolutionary eye-tracking unit on his helmet during noncontact passing drills. The device produced videotapes showing not only Pavlas's field of vision at all times but also where his eyes were focused at any moment.
"If you ask players to verbalize what they see and do, you're apt to get inaccurate information," says lab director Charles Shea, a kinesiologist who along with some A&M colleagues invented the tracking unit. "The eyes move so quickly that it's nearly impossible for someone to process all he sees into memory. With eye tracking, you can monitor the sequence of events a quarterback goes through in analyzing a defense or selecting a receiver."
Photoelectric sensors built into the helmet's face mask monitor the quarterback's eye motion as infrared light is bounced off his eyes. This data and the field-of-vision image captured by a miniature video camera mounted atop the helmet are sent by radio signal to a computer. The computer then superimposes onto the video intersecting lines showing exactly where the quarterback was looking. Coaches go over the video to teach the quarterback where he should have looked.
Shea, who believes his unit could help athletes in many sports, including baseball and tennis, will refine the device this summer. A&M's football team will use it again in fall practice both for quarterbacks and for linebackers, who need to learn to pick up visual clues given by the offense.
Pavlas hopes the eye-tracking unit doesn't become the bane of his existence. "It's easy to say you're looking in the right places," he says, "but now the coach has proof."
RONALD C. MODRA
Spencer-Devlin: A tale of deep turmoil.
Ex-champ Pryor: Common sense gets knocked out.
Red made his coach the scapegoat.
Hunter's thuggery was shameful.
Shea's eye-monitoring unit lets Aggie coaches see almost exactly what Pavlas sees.
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Flanagan, former Toronto Blue Jay pitcher, watching a highlight tape showing lame-legged Red Sox veteran Bill Buckner circling the bases for an inside-the-park homer on April 25 against the Angels: "His wheels need a front-end alignment."
•Harry Neale, former Detroit Red Wing coach, on the high turnover rate in that job over the years: "We had a golf tournament for ex-Red Wing coaches, and we had to rent three courses."