A MODEST PROPOSAL
Some of our best athletes have been involved in sad endings to their college careers. Not athletically. Academically.
First there was James Street, Texas quarterback who dropped out of school for the semester after the Cotton Bowl with the explanation that he was so far behind he probably would flunk several courses. Then Pete Maravich and his LSU teammate, Danny Hester, were suspended for cutting classes. Pete's father and coach, Press Maravich, explained that "for the first nine weeks of the semester Pete could only attend classes periodically because of the games." (Since the cuts occurred early in the semester one must wonder why Pete and Danny were not suspended until after the basketball season.) Then Rick Mount dropped out at Purdue after the basketball season was over and after signing with the Indiana Pacers for a reported $1 million.
Coaches do not hesitate to impose their wills on players in many areas—length of hair and sideburns—and one must wonder why, if they can butt into private matters by requiring mass prayers, for instance, they can't see to it that their players go to class, buckle down and get their degrees.
Some few do. Adolph Rupp takes the position that "the day my seniors played their last game they finished their obligations to me but I hadn't finished my obligations to them."
"Of course," he added, "a coach has to make them think of degrees long before the senior spring term."
Here's a proposal. For every player who fails to graduate within nine semesters (that gives them an extra one), subtract one athletic scholarship that the coach can offer in the next academic year.
MOBY DICK LIVES
Captain Jack Knowles, who operates a 60-foot party-fishing boat out of Panama City, Fla., tells it with conviction. He has the busted boat to prove it. He had just set anchor, with 22 customers aboard, when one of the fishermen, no light-tackle fancier, yelped as his rod bowed and the drag on his electric reel proved totally ineffective against the pull of something monstrous. In due course, his 130-pound-test line snapped.
"The next thing we know," says Captain Knowles, "this giant sunfish—must have been 10 feet long and four feet wide—jumps right out of the water beside the boat, hooks still dangling from its mouth. It rammed the boat and busted a 10-inch hole in the inch-and-a-half cedar planks on the bottom."
Knowles radioed for help and, with Gulf water washing over the sides, the Coast Guard eventually rescued all hands.
All this is vouched for by the Rev. L. C. Stuart of Phillips Drive Baptist Church, who led the passengers in prayer during the 55 minutes it took for the Coast Guard to come alongside. But no one who knows the giant ocean sunfish would doubt the possibility that it could wreck a big boat. One of the curios of the sea, it grows to 11 feet and can weight a ton. Even a four-footer weighs about 500 pounds. Related to the porcupine fish and the puffers, it resembles not at all the sunfishes of freshwater ponds. Rather, it has been described as "a huge head to which the fins are attached."
THE LAW AND THE PROFITS
Southern Florida's big three racetracks—Hialeah, Gulfstream and Tropical—are under siege. But insiders liken the attackers to Don Quixote and are betting on the windmills.
What's happened is that Richard Gerstein, Dade County State Attorney, wants to have the licenses of all three operators revoked because of alleged indirect donations to a gubernatorial candidate six years ago. According to Gerstein, the three tracks gave $100,000 to an Ocala breeder, who passed it on to the candidate. The statute of limitations makes criminal prosecution impossible now.
There a couple of reasons why no one is betting $2 on the attorney. For one, a legislator observes, the law Gerstein is using probably would be ruled unconstitutional since jai alai and harness track operators are not included under it and they are allowed to give openly. For another, the lands on which the tracks are situated would be worth much more as housing developments than as thoroughbred ovals. And if the owners turned them over to housing, what would the state of Florida do to replace the millions it would lose in tax revenues?
THE HIGH SEAS
The Rest and Aspiration Club of San Diego has a motto: "We don't aim at nothing, so we can't hardly miss." Members of the corresponding Balboa Punting and Sculling Society neither punt nor scull. "We just drink mostly," says Writer-Cartoonist Dick Shaw, "and drinking can be pretty strenuous." Once they shipped a yacht to Las Vegas with the idea of sailing in a swimming pool. But they were distracted. The pool had a high chorine (sic) content.
Now they have taken to having tugboat races without tugboats. The Punting and Sculling entry is an old mackerel smack, which Shaw first saw when she was underwater. He bought her for a reported $5. The Rest and Aspiration's flagship is from the old San Diego-Coronado ferry fleet.
As the starting gun boomed over San Diego Bay, there were 200 aboard the S.S. Aspiration. The Punters' vessel, renamed the S.S. Michigan, had a light impost, a crew of 15. The race was supposed to be over a one-mile course. Nobody measured it. Nobody cared.
The two boats were nose and nose for a while, then the Aspiration pulled away near the finish. Some said she won by a fathom. Others insisted she won by a magnum. No one counted the number of Mai Tais consumed and the race could have been considered a tie in this respect. There was a potted geranium plant aboard the Michigan, symbolic of the occasion, and the crew, expressing concern for ecology, watered it with ice cubes.
A trophy had been put up for the occasion, and Harry Green, commodore of the Aspiration, proudly accepted it—a bent elbow.
PASTOR IN THE PASTURE
It is said of Father Francis Tierney, a winner when it comes to driving standard-breds, that "he drives like the devil himself was after him." Father Tierney, a Catholic priest who is as much at home in a sulky as in a pulpit, holds a provisional license from the U.S. Trotting Association and is pastor of St. Mary Magdalen's church in Wilmington, Del., a hotbed of harness racing. At the end of 18 lifetime starts he has won five races, finished second four times and third twice.
Father Tierney's advice to racing drivers: "A good prayer and a good horse."
A manufacturer of baseball bats took a two-page advertisement in The Sporting News to depict more than 550 players' autographs with the claim that "these famous sluggers follow baseball tradition by using Louisville Sluggers." Among the autographs are those of 1969 Montreal Expo teammates John Boccabella and Floyd Wicker. Their batting averages last year: .105 and .103 respectively.
COACH TASKER'S SUCCESS SECRET
One of the consistently superior high school basketball teams in the country is the Hobbs (N. Mex.) High School Eagles. This season Coach Ralph Tasker's kids averaged 114.6 points a game, and those were 32-minute games, of course, against Grade A schools in bigger cities like El Paso, Alburquerque, Lubbock and Abilene. The Eagles won their third straight state championship this year, their seventh in recent years.
Naturally, Coach Tasker is being badgered to tell his secret. Does he have an extra-tall team? Not really. He used 13 players in every game and they average an even 6 feet. The Eagles' top scorer, Larry Robinson, is only 6'5". And the team's best presser, Duane Henry, is 5'10" and weighs a mere 115 pounds.
In an age when playgrounds are padlocked much of the time and schools are guarded like banks, Tasker's answer is refreshing. He says community support is responsible.
"You see," he says, "the folks in Hobbs believe that the gym—and the other school facilities—should be left open for the public to enjoy. So these little kids come in and play three-man basketball whenever they feel like it. We feel we should encourage kids to come off the streets. If they can direct all their energy to sports, they can stay out of trouble.
"We don't coach them [the non-varsity players]. There's just enough supervision to care for the building. But our taxpayers believe that once the gym is built, it ought to be used. No use locking it up and saving it for tomorrow. It's needed now."
Right now. Everywhere.
HOW TO BEAT THE RACES
There really is a way to beat the races. It works—for a time.
The discovery was made last January, when Santa Anita's pari-mutuel machine operators refused to open their windows without a $3-a-day pay increase. So while the operators were walking the picket line, discoverers of the perfect system made off with one of the dormant gold mines, American Totalisator Co. Machine No. 9355. It was as if someone had walked into the San Francisco mint and made off with the $10 bill plates.
When racing resumed in February, the discoverers were ready. Each day they would repair to their hideaway in a camper or motel and start punching out yellow win tickets. Within minutes they would be at the cashiers' window exchanging their bogus tickets for legal tender.
Eventually accountants began to be suspicious. Their totals were consistently wrong. They checked for forgery but could find none. Thousands of dollars worth of winning tickets had been sold at a window that did not exist.
It took the Totalisator people a little while to discover that one of their precious machines was missing. So were a $2 plate, a $10 plate, an inker and two Santa Anita plates. The number of the errant machine had been filed down to 935, from 9355. Clerks were warned to look out for tickets marked 935.
The mutuel machine kidnapers struck again late in the day. A clerk spotted one of the tickets. Authorities moved in.
Still, it must have been fun while it lasted.
PISTOLS AT LONG RANGE
Because of the great tracksters who run out of San Jose, it has come to be known as "Speed City." Now the San Jose Invitational meet on May 2 is being billed as a superduel in the quarter mile between Lee Evans and Martin McGrady.
The duel has already begun. McGrady, from his Washington, D.C. residence: "It's time for someone to blow Evans into oblivion, and when I come out to the West Coast on the 2nd of May it will be with one intention in mind—to give Evans a sincere farewell." Evans: "I don't intend to start losing now, especially to some loudmouthed indoor board champ."
THEY SAID IT
•Abe Lemons, Oklahoma City University basketball coach, on why he does not have a curfew for his athletes: "When you have a curfew, it's always your star who gets caught."
•Calvin Murphy, 5'10" Niagara basketball star who will play in the NBA with the Rockets: "I'm not really short. I consider myself average. It's just unfortunate that I have to play against people who are not average."
•Mickey Lolich, whose turn at bat was interrupted when President Nixon arrived at the D.C. opener and who thereupon took a third strike with bases loaded: "The next time the President messes up a rally, he'll have to bat."
•Derek Sanderson, Boston Bruin center, asked to name the greatest hockey player he ever has seen: "Me. On instant replay."