Magic Is Back
Magic Johnson ended his retirement last week when it became obvious that it was the first thing at which he had ever failed miserably. After he announced last November that he was HIV-positive and was ending his career as a Los Angeles Laker, Johnson made cameo appearances during which he played so well that he was named MVP of the NBA All-Star Game and won an Olympic gold medal. Now he will resume playing for the Lakers on a limited basis—perhaps up to 60 regular-season games, though never on successive nights. But even if his health holds up, will he be able to perform as well as he used to?
One person who has reason to suspect that Magic will have difficulty is Bill Walton, the former NBA star who attempted a similar comeback with the San Diego Clippers during the 1982-83 season. In January '81 Walton had been told by doctors that because of chronic foot injuries his career was over, but by the following year his feet began to feel better. He returned to the court and appeared in 33 games, never playing two nights in a row. "It was a problem to some extent," Walton says. "I had to learn that your body does not function on the NBA schedule, and it will tell you what you can and can't do."
Laker opponents are already clamoring to know whether they will be selling tickets to Magic games or non-Magic ones. "Who's going to decide which games Magic's going to sit out?" Walton wonders. "It's a difficult situation." And what of his teammates, who will be playing with the NBA's career assist leader one game and someone else the next? "The other players will have to adjust to him," says Walton. "It's not ideal." By the way, the Clippers finished the '82-83 season at 25-57, 33 games behind the Lakers and their 23-year-old point guard, Magic Johnson.
The NCAA last week loosed a toothless set of sanctions against the Syracuse basketball program—two years of probation, some recruiting restrictions and a one-year ban from the NCAA tournament, but no limitation on lucrative TV appearances. On top of that, the Big East is expected to allow the Orangemen to play in the conference tournament this season. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim responded with a grudging acceptance of responsibility but no discernible sign of contrition. "I'm the coach from the opening tip to the end of the game," Boeheim said, conveniently narrowing the scope of his authority. "But I was not aware of anything that happened, therefore I could not have prevented it."
The university tried to buy its way out of even the one-year basketball tournament ban by offering to donate $364,000—its share of tournament revenues last season—to charity. When the NCAA didn't bite, the idea of a donation was quickly dropped.
The NCAA uncovered at least 15 rules violations, including Christmas cards to players stuffed with cash from a booster. "I think the basketball coach should have been aware some of these problems were occurring," said David Swank, chairman of the NCAA infractions committee.
Should have been and probably was. So how about this? From now on coaches whose programs are corrupt should be fired, just as the head of any business would be if implicated in such slimy doings. Why isn't cheating considered a greater disgrace among coaches? If you want to reduce cheating in college sports, off with their heads.
No Bonilla Bonanza
Before this season the New York Mets signed free agent Bobby Bonilla to a five-year, $29 million deal and got a player whose hitting proved to be erratic, who was frequently injured and who was often surly with umpires and the press. The Mets finished fifth in the National League East, 24 games behind Bonilla's former team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were supposed to collapse without him.
There's a movie opening this week that makes fly-fishing look so wonderfully seductive, even nonfishermen who see it will want to rush out and buy one of those funny hats festooned with flies and fishhooks. But A River Runs Through It, which has been adapted with meticulous care from Norman Maclean's achingly evocative novella, is no more simply about fishing than was Moby Dick or The Old Man and the Sea.
A River Runs Through It is the story of two sons of an uncompromising Scots Presbyterian minister who settled in Montana near the Big Blackfoot River shortly after the turn of the century. "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing," says the film's narrator, repeating the novella's famous first line. "If our father had had his say, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him." In the dance of the river's bright waters, these men stand twirling their lines—spidery filaments of light that connect them, one to another, in ways their lives do not.
The movie is best when it doesn't stray too far from the river, which director Robert Redford has invested with a kind of terrifying poetry. The performances of Craig Sheffer and the young, Redford-handsome Brad Pitt as the sons seem just right. But it is the narration of Redford himself that forms the majestic spine of the movie. It is seamless filmmaking, and it flows effortlessly off the screen and into the imagination. "Eventually, all things merge into one," the narrator says, "and a river runs through it."
Battle of the Bays
Baseball has sullied itself by allowing an eye-gouging match between two otherwise civilized bay areas, Tampa and San Francisco, to drag on over the Giants. Last week any chance San Francisco may have had to keep the Giants probably went up in the smoke being blown by a group of local investors who—with the backing of Charlotte Hornet owner George Shinn—claimed to have the money to match the $111 million bid made in August by a group that hopes to move the team to St. Petersburg, Fla. One baseball executive in a position to know described the local group's effort as "a charade from the start, with stalling tactics very much part of the strategy" to drive off the Florida suitors.
Not to be outdone, the St. Petersburg group in August began paying a New York public relations firm $55,000 to wage a campaign to discredit Shinn and thereby damage San Francisco's chances of retaining the Giants. The p.r. firm churned out almost daily press releases in recent weeks detailing allegations of fraud against Shinn's businesses lodged by a Charlotte, N.C., television station and the Federal Communications Commission Mass Media Bureau when he sought an FCC license two years ago. Shinn eventually withdrew his application and was never directly implicated in any wrongdoing. If this is what passes for hardball in St. Petersburg, getting a team won't be enough to make it a big league town.
There Will Always Be an England
A tournament exclusively for golfers 80 and older was played in England this summer on the Moortown championship course in Leeds. The event was the idea of millionaire Lawrence Batley, who is himself 82, and attracted a field of 88 men, the oldest of whom was 90. An English friend who was in the gallery writes: "Each competitor was considerately handed bags of potato crisps on the first tee and a miniature bottle of whisky 'in view of the chill air.' One of the youngest competitors, 12-handicap Charles Mitchell, won the tournament with a gross score of 81, one stroke over his age. Sadness tinged the proceedings when an 81-year-old player, Frank Hart, was taken ill while playing the fourth hole and died on the way to hospital. Despite the tragedy, the tournament continued after organiser Bob Wilkinson said all competitors felt this was what Hart would have wished."
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (JOHNSON)
Johnson will be directing traffic again soon.
RONALD C. MODRA (BONILLA)
Bonilla batted .249 and led the Mets to fifth place.
DAVID STOECKLEIN (PITT)
Pitt hooks the big fish, then the audience.
MICKEY PFLEGER (EXCAVATION)
The pitcher's mound is little more than a memory of what was baseball in San Francisco.
They Said It
Elaine Johnson, women's professional golfer, after her tee shot in a recent tournament caromed off a tree and into her bra: "I'll take a two-stroke penalty, but I'll be damned if I'm going to play the ball where it lies."
Sammy Lilly, out-of-work NFL cornerback who had just interviewed for a job at a nuclear power plant in Georgia, after getting a call to play for the Los Angeles Rams: "I'm thrilled about this. I'm glowing right now."