Basketball players hovering at or near 7 feet were very much in the news in Southern California during the last week or two. Bill Walton. UCLA's 6'11" sophomore genius, received a flood of press and electronic attention after he was arrested during an antiwar protest in front of a college building. A campus official said, "The only person we could sec from inside was Walton. The rest were all too small to be seen over the chairs, trash cans and benches piled against the doors." Los Angeles police ordered the demonstrators to disperse, and then moved in and made arrests. Walton, one of the first taken into police custody, was held for several hours until his brother Bruce, a UCLA football player, bailed him out.
Whether the arrest will affect Walton's basketball career is not yet known. University officials said the incident would be investigated and appropriate decisions made. In the past such procedures have taken months, but eventually some students have been disciplined. Basketball Coach John Wooden, asked what might happen to Walton, replied, "That's not in my bailiwick. It's out of season, and a student's conduct is out of my hands." He also said, "I was not surprised Bill was involved in the demonstration. He is an emotional youngster, and you know where he stands all the time. He is very much against the war."
Some of those who saw the showdown between police and students say Walton was heeding the order to disperse but did not move fast enough. "It was like a three-second violation," one said. "He got caught in the key."
Farther south, in San Diego, a 7-foot high school senior named Ralph Drollinger, who had been eagerly sought by more than 200 colleges, held a press conference to announce that he was going to follow Walton, who is also from the San Diego area, to UCLA. An assistant coach from San Diego State, who had been trying to recruit Drollinger, emotionally attacked the boy's decision (and later called reporters to apologize for the scene he created). Asked if there had been illegal offers or under-the-table suggestions, the 19-year-old Drollinger said, candidly, "Oh, yes. But it was kind of like breaking rules and not breaking them because the illegal stuff, the gifts and things, were offered by booster clubs and not the schools."
Had he ruled these schools out of consideration because of such offers?
His mother said, "Actually, I think UCLA followed the rules as close as anybody."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," the youngster smilingly commented.
Drollinger's candor about recruiting practices was reflected in some remarks made on the other side of the continent by an agent who drew up the early contract between the ABA and Jim McDaniels, the player who later drew widespread criticism for subsequently jumping to the NBA. In a speech at a banquet in Virginia the agent. Norman Blass, said, "I got Jim McDaniels to leave college, and I'm not proud of it. We panicked. We saw a basketball merger getting close, and we thought he'd lose a lot of money if he waited to graduate.
"Signing him early was a mistake, but keeping it secret was immoral and dishonest. We got caught, but what follows illustrates the problem. Here's a young boy who is 6'7" or 6'8" when he's 15, and some coach gives him something to play ball because the coach wants to win at any cost. And this continues." He cited a noted coach who left one college for another and who took with him to his new job a player he had recruited for the first school. And a star player who hardly ever attended class during his last college season and who was eased out of school the week the season ended. He charged that less than 35% of pro athletes have degrees.
"How," he asked, "are you going to teach a boy honesty, morality, legality and integrity?"
THAT'S OLD, MAN
Talk all you want about rebellious youth, it seems more and more that the aging are insisting upon their place in the sun. For several years there has been a championship track meet in San Diego for runners and jumpers and throwers who are past 40, and there is a National Masters competition for overage swimmers, too. Because swimmers tend to burst into national prominence before they are well into high school and are sometimes thought of as waterlogged veterans if they are still competing when they are out of their teens, the qualifying age for ancient manners is 25. Those of us on the far side of 40 are not quite sure whether this is comforting or depressing.
WELL PLAYED, SIR
Boston's South End has long been noted for its mixture of races and cultures. Irish, Greeks, Turks, Puerto Ricans, blacks and more have made their home in this unique, if poverty-level, section of the city. Now Jamaicans and other arrivals from onetime British sectors of the Caribbean are making their presence felt, notably in sport and specifically in what can only be called street cricket. This has been a late, wet spring in the Northeast, but on a rare warm Saturday earlier this month a bemused baseball fan taking a walk in the welcome sun stumbled across a slightly corrupt form of the ancient English game on a side street. His report:
"A group of mixed races talking a vaguely Jamaican brand of English commandeered one end of the street and part of an abandoned gas station. An old cricket bat was the only piece of legitimate equipment they used. The ball was an ordinary tennis ball. The pitcher's rubber (I don't know the correct term) was a beer can. The wicket was an honest-to-God empty pizza box perched on top of a battered trash can. The players took turns trying to knock down the wicket, each with one throw apiece, and the wicket was defended by one batsman with the cricket paddle. The players were spread around the street, and the ball was deftly knocked under cars and up alleys. One particularly long shot almost cleared the wall of the historical Old South End Burial Ground.
"They had a great time shouting at each other, running the ashcan wicket off the street whenever traffic came through and avoiding anything that resembled keeping score. What it all seemed to prove is that you don't need a manicured Little league field to play baseball. Pardon me. Cricket."
TWO WHEELS VS. FOUR
From Boston, too, comes word that the Association for Bicycle Commuting recently held 25 races between bicycles and automobiles from various commuting points. Each race covered approximated five miles through heavily traveled Streets. The bikes won 21 races, the cars three and one ended in a tie.
THE TERM IS OLD PRO
A comparison of the average height, weight, age and playing experience of the 26 NFL teams shows, surprisingly, that bigness is not all that important, despite publicity stress on 280-pound behemoths and coachly comments that a bright draft choice will be all right as soon as he adds a little beef. The heaviest team in the AFC, the Buffalo Bills, had a 1-13 season, and the five bulkiest AFC squads, all with losing records, included the four weakest members of the conference. In the NFC only two of the five heaviest teams (the Cowboys and Rams, admittedly) won more than they lost, but four of the six lightest did, including the puniest of all, the Falcons, who averaged 11 pounds less per man than the Packers. The Packers, the heaviest team in pro football, lost twice as many as they won.
Height had no bearing on success or failure, but age or, more particularly, playing experience, turned out to be a remarkably precise barometer. Of the six AFC teams with most experience per man, rive had winning seasons. The seven clubs with less experience all lost more than they won. A similar pattern held in the NFC. Five of the six most experienced teams had winning records, while all but two of the other seven were losers.
George Allen could have told you.
The disputatious Mineral King project, the proposed Walt Disney recreational area in California's Mineral King Valley, has been altered considerably, and now appears to be going full steam ahead. The major change is elimination of a $35 million access highway. In its stead will be a narrow-gauge electric railroad that will run from California state highway 198 into the heart of the valley. Under the new plan the number of visitors to the area at any one time will be limited. A Disney official says, "This will allow us to reduce the number of recreational facilities, such as restaurants and ski lifts."
The Sierra Club, which fought the original proposal, has not yet abandoned legal challenges to the project, but it was pleased with the revisions. A spokesman said, "These changes seem to constitute an admission that previous plans were overblown. By scaling down the development and abandoning the destructive road, the promoters are at last recognizing there are ecological limits to what the area can sustain."
A DOG'S LIFE
An ecologist named Alan Beck has been studying urban dogs, learning how a city stray "survives, gets its food, breeds. dies and interacts with other animals, including man." He found that strays are concentrated in low-income areas, probably because there are more people there and food is readily available. All dogs eat garbage, he says, and knock over cans to get at it. They find shelter under cars, porches, bits of shrubbery in doorways, inside vacant buildings. Strays are generally young animals. Beck reasons that this is because dogs tend to be killed by cars before they can reach a venerable age.
City dogs tend to stay in relatively small home areas. Half are loners and another 25% have one companion. Fewer than 10% run in packs of four or more. Baltimore, the city he studied, had 7,000 reported dog bites last year, and it is estimated an equal number went unreported. That averages out to nearly 40 dog bites a day.
Free-running dogs pose a problem and not just in the cities. It is likely that much of the damage in rural areas that is blamed on coyotes and even wolves is the work of dogs. But no one has tackled the problem. Beck says, because "the dog is definitely the sacred cow of the United States. Everywhere I found unshakable devotion and protectiveness for the animal, apparently because dogs seem to fill the gamut of human needs. They offer companionship, especially to older people living alone, and they often afford the only contact some people have with other living things. For many, walking a dog can be the sole excuse for going outdoors."
Right. When you get down to it, who cares about spilled garbage and a few bites?
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Palmer. Baltimore Oriole pitcher, revealing that one facet of baseball troubles him: "I don't know how to keep a scorecard. I should learn, but they number the guys wrong. By the time I figure out the numbers, I forgot where the batter hit the ball."
•Bill Bradley, sounding slightly stunned after the Knicks' loss to the Lakers in the fourth game: "I'll be playing this one over in my mind for a long time. It's the first time I've played a game over in my mind since my rookie year, when I learned you shouldn't played a game over in your mind."
•John Laux, team manager for Indy driver Lloyd Ruby, on the wings now prominent on racing cars: "Ours are so wide I'm afraid we're going to be hijacked."
•Foster Brooke, comedian, after playing in the Byron Nelson Classic Pro Am: "I played so bad I thought the only way for me to help my team would be to have a heart attack. Then I realized that would be a stroke, too."