NFL teams don't probe just the bodies of prospects
The NFL can't seem to get enough of Elvis Presley. First, Jerry Glanville, then the coach of the Houston Oilers, left tickets for him. Now comes the news that the New York Giants are using the King to find out how suitable college prospects are for their team. Cal quarterback Mike Pawlawski took the personality and intelligence test that the Giants administer to potential draftees, and he says that one of the 480 questions on the exam was, "Do you believe Elvis Presley is alive?"
"The Giants' test is 15 pages," says Pawlawski, who was eventually selected in the eighth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "It's a little dehumanizing." The Giants won't comment on specific questions in their exam, but general manager George Young does say, "You can't look at the questions individually. You have to see the question as it relates to a series of questions about different facets of a guy's personality." So let's put the Elvis question in context. Another question on the test that Pawlawski took was, "Do you like your carrots crunchy or boiled soft?" Another: "Do you believe apples taste better than oranges?"
NFL teams start probing psyches at the scouting combine in February, when 450 prospects take the Wonderlic Personnel Test. Here are three questions from the 12-minute, 50-question Wonderlic:
"If person A is introduced to Person B and Person B is introduced to Person C, can you deduce that Person A has been introduced to Person C?"
"Reap is the opposite of a) obtain, b) cheer, c) continue, d) exist, e) sow."
"A car travels 16 miles in 30 minutes; how many miles per hour was the car going?"
After the scouting combine, all the teams interview players, and more than half follow that with psychological tests like the one the Giants gave Pawlawski. The Washington Redskins, for instance, put players through their mental paces using pegboards, blocks and dot patterns.
"When you talk to scouts and you strike them as an independent thinker, I think that throws them off," Pawlawski says. Young defends his tests. "I've often said this isn't a business for the well adjusted," he says. "But you can't have too many oddballs on a team and be successful. One thing we need to find out is how maladjusted you can be and still be a good player."
A magazine with punch honors a man with one
Last weekend 260-pound George Foreman was honored for his lighter side by the Harvard Lampoon. The "world's oldest humor magazine" brought the world's oldest heavyweight contender to Cambridge, Mass., to make him its Man of the Year.
Why? Said Stephen Lookner, a Lampoon editor, "George Foreman at age 43 is the most likable guy in sport." And why did Foreman accept? "My 11-year-old daughter [Natalie] is a straight-A student," he said. "She'd be very disappointed in me had I passed up the chance to go to Harvard."
Although Foreman dropped out of high school, he felt at home at Harvard. During a dinner in his honor on Friday, he was served a main course of two tiny shrimp and three zucchini wedges. After what was for him an interminable wait, he was brought dessert: 140 McDonald's cheeseburgers and hamburgers, 100 pieces of Kentucky Fried Chicken and one steak.
The next day a crowd of 200 gathered outside the Lampoon's famous castle to watch the former champ spar with the magazine's 140-pound terror, Rick (the Stick) Nagurski—a.k.a. Sean Kelly. In another test of machismo, the two combatants read selections from poet Ezra Pound while eating doughnuts.
The big guy used the occasion to throw his hat into a different ring. As Lampoon staffers handed out GEORGE FOREMAN PRESIDENT buttons, Foreman declared he was running on a split ticket. "Whenever you order a banana split, they never give you the whole banana," he said. "If I'm elected, there'll be a whole banana in every split."
Toasting a Chess Nut
A Westerner will challenge for the world chess title
It was a victory for England and rock 'n' roll. British grandmaster Nigel Short, former bassist for a garage band called the Chess Nuts, beat former Soviet apparatchik Anatoly Karpov last week in the world chess championship candidates semifinals in Linares, Spain. Short will next play Jan Timman of Holland in the finals in January. The winner of that match will challenge reigning champ Gary Kasparov in Los Angeles later next year. The elimination of Karpov, who dominated the game from 1975 to '85, ensures that a Westerner will play in the title match for the first time since Bobby Fischer did so in '72.
Born in a Lancashire mining town, the 26-year-old Short has been hyped as a chess prodigy since he was seven. At 11 he was the best player in the world for his age; at 12 he beat Jonathan Penrose, the 10-time British champ, in a game of just 41 moves. At 19 he became the world's youngest grandmaster.
No one doubted Short's ability; the question was whether he had the motivation. "He does not seem ruthless enough," Karpov once said. The lack of a killer instinct caused Short to be upset in the 1989 championships by friend and countryman Jonathan Speelman. After that defeat Short's ranking fell from No. 3 to No. 18, and he resolved to get ugly. The uglier he got, the higher he rose—he is currently No. 4.
The new, nasty Nigel admits to deriving pleasure from humiliating his opponent. "Now I enjoy playing positions where I can torture the guy slowly," he says. "Slowly is important.... Certain people are prepared not just to beat you, but to walk over your face with boots on." Should Short get by the 19th-ranked Timman, he will face Kasparov, who has left his bootprints on many a grandmaster. Kasparov would be a heavy favorite to beat Short, but as Lev Alburt, the three-time U.S. champion, says, "Short could create some mischief."
The American Plan
The offspring of a Japanese legend is a rookie in Florida
Imagine the expectations that would have greeted the son of Babe Ruth. Then imagine the disappointment if he had hit .230 with just a few home runs. That is what happened to Kazushige Nagashima, the son of Shigeo Nagashima, the most celebrated baseball player in Japanese history. And that is why the 26-year-old Kazushige has left Japan to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers' Class A team in Vero Beach, Fla.
"Shigeo Nagashima is an eternal hero to the Japanese," says Masurao Ikie, the author of several books about baseball in Japan. Nagashima hit 444 home runs and batted .305 during his 17-year career, which started in 1958. He was most valuable player five times and, with fellow-legend Sadaharu Oh, led the Yomiuri Giants to nine consecutive pennants.
Although Kazushige batted only .225 in college, the Yakult Swallows drafted him in the first round in 1987. He was hounded by the media, and a comic book was even written about him. He played third base, as his father had. And like his father—and Ruth—he wore number 3.
Kazushige played four seasons with the Swallows, but he never really made the grade. "The only way I could survive was if I went to the U.S.," he says. "I wanted to start over."
As a favor to Shigeo, who called owner Peter O'Malley in March, the Dodgers agreed to give Kazushige a chance. "He's trying to adjust," says Vero Beach manager Glenn Hoffman. "He wants to be perfect, and you're not always perfect."
Through Sunday, Kazushige was batting .242 for Vero Beach. He plans to go home after this season to play there again. He says he would be satisfied to be remembered in Japan as a solid, every-day player. "I must be myself," Kazushige says. "Having a great father doesn't help me at all."
Foreman really hit it off with members of the "Lampoon" staff.
Short beat Karpov, but he would be a long shot to beat Kasparov.
Nagashima didn't like the limelight in Japan, so now he wears Dodger Blue in Vera Beach.
[Thumb Up]To American Golf Corp., for establishing a day-care center at Us course in Lake Forest, Calif. The company hopes the center will encourage more parents to play golf.
[Thumb Down]To New York Ranger coach Roger Neilson, for sending four of his most belligerent players onto the ice for the last few seconds of Game 6 of the Rangers' playoff series against the New Jersey Devils, who already had the game sewn up. Predictably, a brawl ensued.
[Thumb Down]To the California Angels, for eliminating the family seating section at Anaheim Stadium. The Angels turned the 2,600-seat area, in which alcohol had been prohibited, into box seats and raised the price of tickets.
Brave New World
At a recent autograph show in Atlanta, Hall of Famer Warren Spahn was called upon to sign 800 autographs. Current Braves outfielder Tommy Gregg, who batted .187 last season, signed 1,400.
THEY SAID IT
Matt Elliott, Michigan center and the last player picked in the recent NFL draft, on Ohio State linebacker Alonzo Spellman, the Chicago Bears' first-round selection: "Physically, he's a world-beater. Mentally, he's an eggbeater."
Mitch Williams, Philadelphia Phillie reliever who's known for his inconsistent control, after pitching a one-two-three inning: "Don't gel used to it."
Replay: 15 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Seattle Slew was front and center on the cover of our May 16, 1977, issue on his way to winning the 103rd Kentucky Derby. We also wrote about the Philadelphia 76ers, who took a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference final series against the Rockets. Attempting to dispel the idea that his team was becoming overconfident, Sixer guard Lloyd Free said, "We were not overconfident against Boston. We are not overconfident against Houston. And we will not be overconfident in the finals."