OF LOTTERIES AND BAND-AIDS
In 1982, to help ease a budget crunch, Oregon stopped giving taxpayers' money to the athletic departments of its state universities. Largely as a result, Oregon, Oregon State and Portland State are now a total of $5.4 million in debt. The schools have dropped some non-income-producing sports—Oregon State chopped out its once glorious track program (POINT AFTER, June 20, 1988)—and in early June, Oregon president Myles Brand hinted that his university might have to withdraw from the Pac-10 or shut down its athletic department entirely.
A year ago the Oregon legislature thought it had found a painless way to fund intercollegiate athletics: It set up Sports Action, a sports lottery whose profits were to go to the athletic departments of state schools (SCORECARD, June 19, 1989, et seq.). However, Sports Action has been a less than rousing success, taking in $380,000 a week on NFL games but just $45,000 a week on NBA action. Worse, it seems to have undercut Oregon's non-sports lottery, which faces a shortfall of nearly $3 million for the fiscal year now ending. Sports Action has contributed $447,311 to athletic department coffers, but another $1.9 million in proceeds has been diverted to cover the shortfall in the regular lottery.
On June 14, with the athletic department deficits projected to grow by as much as $2 million in the next year, Oregon's board of higher education voted to allow the use of tax-derived funds to help fund the departments on an emergency basis. Many costs now borne by the athletic departments (among them athletic scholarships and salaries of coaches in nonrevenue sports) will for the next year be paid with general university funds. The schools will in turn be allowed to enroll several hundred more students, whose tuition will help cover the shifted athletic costs. "This is just a one-year Band-Aid," admits board spokesman Jim Sellers. "The long-term solution hasn't been determined."
States thinking of starting sports lotteries should learn from Oregon's experience (and from the example of Delaware, whose NFL lottery died 13 years ago from lack of interest) that such lotteries are no panacea. As for Oregon, it shouldn't rely on bettors to fund college athletics. If sports are part of a well-rounded education, and we believe they are, a state should be willing to include them in its general college funding.
According to a new study by researchers at Tufts University and Harvard Medical School, people 80 and older can benefit tremendously from a limited regimen of weightlifting. The researchers, who worked with 10 nursing home residents ranging in age from 86 to 96 three times a week for eight weeks, had their subjects sit on an exercise bench and lift weights by extending one leg at a time. The subjects improved their average lift nearly threefold over the eight-week span, to 42 pounds per leg. At the end of the study two of the subjects no longer had to use canes to walk, and nearly all were more mobile and had better balance, which rendered them less susceptible to falls.
"The importance of this study is that it shows that even at a very advanced age, physical frailty is treatable," says Dr. Evan Hadley, chief of the geriatric branch at the National Institute on Aging. "This could greatly reduce the need for nursing home admissions by maintaining mobility of older people and thus their ability to live independently."
Researchers warn that senior citizens shouldn't overdo their lifting and should check with their doctors before starting. But age alone appears to be no barrier to pumping iron. About 25 more residents of the nursing home in the study are now being placed on weightlifting regimens, including one man who is 99 years old.
WORLD CUP DRAW
In an effort to repair their thuggish image, a number of English soccer fans attending the World Cup matches in Sardinia gave blood last week at a hospital in Cagliari. The donations were appreciated, although in some cases nurses and physicians had difficulty finding veins to tap because the fans' arms were so covered with tattoos.
A CUTTING ISSUE
It's estimated that between 20,000 and 50,000 loggers could lose their jobs over the next decade as a result of last Friday's decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare the spotted owl—of which only 3,000 pairs remain—a threatened species. The decision makes it illegal to destroy the owl's natural habitat, which comprises as much as four million acres of forest in the Pacific Northwest.
Because of the potentially devastating job loss and the need to safeguard both a rare species and the nation's last stands of ancient cedars, firs, redwoods, spruces and hemlocks, this has been one of the most emotional battles conservationists have ever fought. Yet, while the lumbermen will continue to mount opposition to last week's ruling, the government's action may ultimately force them to adopt a new and more environmentally sensitive approach to logging.
The most promising approach is called New Forestry, a method of logging developed in two decades of study by the U.S. Forest Service. Whereas a typical clear-cut logging operation denudes a section of forest, New Forestry would call for a larger tract to be partially worked. Depending on the ecosystem's need for nutrients, shade and other protection, New Foresters would allow 20% to 70% of living trees to remain standing, and leave logs and other natural debris on the forest floor. Forest Service scientists call these remnants "biological legacies" similar to those left by a forest fire. They say these legacies encourage the revitalization of a forest.
New Forestry yields fewer board-feet per acre, which upsets the timber industry, and still involves the cutting of trees, which riles preservationists. But the Bush Administration has expressed interest in the method, and Representative Jolene Unsoeld (D., Wash.) has already drafted a bill that mandates New Forestry experiments in three areas inhabited by owls to see if the birds can live with the compromise approach. Given how much is at stake, it's certainly an experiment worth trying.
Last week at Belmont, a 5-year-old gelding named, of all things, Joint Victory, threw his rider, Jose Martinez Jr., while coming out of the starting gate. As if to show the jockeys of the world how much they matter, Joint Victory ran the full six-furlong race unmounted, surviving a stretch duel to finish a nose ahead of the race's official winner, Best General, ridden by Jerry Bailey.
Some faces are red in the University of Miami athletic department because of the connection between the Hurricane football team and the controversial Miami rap group 2 Live Crew, whose latest album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, was ruled obscene last month by a federal judge in Florida because of its lyrics. Members of the group, especially its leader, Luther Campbell, are friends of many current and former Miami players—ex-Hurricanes Melvin Bratton and Tolbert Bain sang backup on one of the group's albums a couple of years ago—and the football team is thanked (without explanation) on the cover of As Nasty As They Wanna Be. In their video for the song Me So Horny, group members wear green Hurricane jackets.
Miami has been working for several years to clean up its football team's trash-talking image, and it's safe to assume that the university would just as soon not be associated with the group. Athletic director Sam Jankovich says that when practice opens in August, he'll discuss the subject with Hurricane players in, well, sort of a rap session.
SPOKESMEN FOR THE LAW
In many cities, mountain bicycles—those rugged, knobby-tired vehicles that have been all the rage the last couple of years—are becoming essential pieces of police equipment. "It's congested downtown," says Sergeant Larry Hart, one of 28 mountain-bike patrolmen on the Seattle force. "We can respond much quicker to emergency situations on bikes. And people seem to find officers on bikes more approachable than those in cars." Bikes are also quieter and less conspicuous, allowing officers to sneak up on suspects.
In 1987 Seattle's department became the first to use bike patrolmen, at the suggestion of officer and cycling enthusiast Paul Grady. Now some 60 cities (among them, Miami Beach, Sacramento and Tucson) have bike patrols, and at least one bicycle manufacturer produces an extra-durable, high-performance "police model" mountain bike.
To bring together the best of the riders in uniform, Seattle has just put on the first National Police Mountain Bike Squad Competition, outside the Kingdome. Four-officer squads from 10 cities competed in full uniform over an obstacle course and in relay and team strategy events. In the team strategy competition, volunteers acted out a purse snatching, mugging or drug deal, and officers were judged on how adeptly and swiftly they arrested suspects and gathered evidence. "You wouldn't know what crime you would get," says Hart. "You'd just pedal and go, coming across a crime in progress."
While Seattle won the overall title, Fort Worth earned the only perfect score in the team strategy event. Because the Fort Worth unit has been using donated equipment since its inception last year, the Seattle force gave it two new bikes as a goodwill gesture.
By the way, police-bike patrolmen only occasionally have their cycles stolen and—because of their watchfulness and ability to give chase—have helped hold down the overall rate of bicycle theft in their cities.
BACK TO REALITY
An event called the Steroid Games is scheduled for this summer in London. The sports contested will include track, swimming, volleyball and cycling, and all the competitors will be on anabolic steroids—but only because they need the drugs for regenerating muscle tissue. The participants in the games are all recipients of transplanted organs.
While the goal of the games is to raise awareness of the need for organ donors and show that organ recipients can lead active lives, they also remind us of how powerful steroids are and of how misused they are in sports. We might keep the transplant recipients in mind the next time a healthy young athlete tests positive for steroids and then claims that he "needed" to take these potent drugs to recover from some minor sprain.
BO MEETS GATOR
Hoping to take a gulp of the $500 million-a-year market for sports and exercise drinks, a field long dominated by Quaker Oats's Gatorade, the Pepsi-Cola Company is now test-marketing a carbonated beverage called Mountain Dew Sport. To promote the drink in three cities (San Diego, Minneapolis and Eau Claire, Wis.), Pepsi is airing a 30-second TV commercial featuring Bo Jackson and Morris, a 650-pound alligator from a California animal ranch.
In the spot, Jackson, who has had mixed luck battling Gators over the years (his Auburn football team went 1-3 against Florida during his college days, but he was 2 for 2 against now retired New York Yankee pitcher Ron Guidry), takes on Morris in sprinting, basketball and football before climbing onto the starting blocks next to him for what shapes up to be a potentially deadly swimming race. We won't tell you what happens after that, but don't be alarmed: Neither Jackson nor the gator utter the dread words, "Bo knows."
A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME FOR THE DISABLED
Last year, when a Little League Baseball task force chaired by Senator Robert Dole recommended the establishment of a Little League program for physically and mentally disabled children, no one imagined that the program would blossom as swiftly and resplendently as it has. The so-called Challenger Division, which was launched with five pilot leagues last spring, now boasts 317 leagues in 34 states, with an estimated 10,000 disabled children taking part. "It has taken off like you wouldn't believe," says program director Jim Ferguson, who says several foreign countries are now planning to start Challenger leagues.
Under Challenger rules, outs are generally not recorded and there is no set number of innings. Players dress in full uniform, use standard Little League equipment and are assisted by volunteer buddies—local players from a conventional Little League. Buddies push wheelchair-bound players around the bases, help them field grounders, give instructions and look out for their disabled counterparts' safety on the field. Most important, the buddies are truly buddies. "It's as therapeutic for the buddies as for those playing," says Little League spokesman Steve Keener. "The buddy gets a better appreciation for people with disabilities, and it gives the disabled child a new friend."
"My 11 -year-old son, Joshua, has cerebral palsy, and this is his first experience in any kind of sports," says Joan Winston, who works for the city of Cherry Hill, N.J., as an ombudsman for the disabled. "When he hit his first home run, I can't begin to tell you what it did for his spirits, let alone my own." Cherry Hill has embraced Challenger ball so enthusiastically that Mayor Susan Bass Levin proclaimed last Wednesday to be Challenger Day and presented awards to the town's 20 Challenger players, who range in age from six to 17.
The Challenger program has helped the disabled participants gain both confidence and athletic skill. "The first day we put the kids together on the field, they wouldn't come out from behind their parents," says Pat Leonard, vice-president of Cherry Hill's Challenger program. "On Opening Day, kids cried coming out of the dugout. But the growth has been phenomenal. Now you see a real baseball game."
Challenger players work with able-bodied "buddies."
THEY SAID IT
•Roger Craig, San Francisco Giants manager, extolling the determination of paunchy pitcher Don Robinson: "His heart is as big as his stomach."