The San Diego Chargers have had more trouble in the last couple of years than most countries. First, a disabled ex-Charger, Houston Ridge, sued his former coach, a former trainer, the team physician and the NFL, charging that drugs administered to him by the team made him vulnerable to the injury that ended his career. The Chargers and the league settled for $295,000, but not before a sordid story of drug abuse centering on amphetamines and anabolic steroids dispensed by the club between the years 1966 and 1969 had come out in depositions from several former players.
That was last year. In April of this year Commissioner Pete Rozelle imposed fines totaling $40,000 on Owner Eugene Klein, General Manager Harland Svare and eight San Diego players—the players for alleged infractions of the NFL's drug code, Klein and Svare for "supervisory omissions."
In the meantime, grasping at straws, the team had tried out a psychiatrist, Dr. Arnold Mandell (SCORECARD, April 1), who left after two seasons saying, "Pro football is not the place for a psychiatrist." The Chargers' record during the tenure of Dr. Mandell was 6-20-2.
Having broken new ground with a team shrink, the Chargers now have their very own narc, a guaranteed morale booster. His name is Jack Norris and for 22 years he was an FBI agent specializing in kidnap cases. He whimsically refers to himself as the team's "health coach." Says Norris, "I try to improve the players' health by keeping them away from drugs."
Gallows humor is apparently all the Chargers have left. Tommy Prothro, who took over as head coach at the end of the miserable 1973 season (2-11-1), admits that many of his team's top veterans ("most of the good ones") have asked to be traded, among them Dave Costa, Cid Edwards, Joe Beauchamp, Terry Owens, Doug Wilkerson, Chris Fletcher, Deacon Jones, Bob Howard, Tim Rossovich and Ron Smith. Without even a reference to the Players' Association strike, Prothro called the situation "discouraging."
We'd call it hopeless.
Mike Storen has quit his job as ABA commissioner to go into business for himself. Within 24 hours of his announcement that he would take over the Memphis franchise as its managing general partner, Storen was on his way to Tennessee to hire Bob Bass as general manager and to change the team's name from the Tams to the Sounds.
"I prefer to work by saying, "The answer is no and I don't have the time or inclination to explain why,' " says Storen. "When I was commissioner I always had to explain everything. The phone was always ringing. One Sunday Bill Daniels [owner of the Utah Stars] called to say he had a potential buyer and to come to Salt Lake. It was the most important thing in the world to him and he had every right to expect me to come. But multiply that by 10 owners and it becomes oppressive."
Although he has been approached by several owners as a possible replacement for Walter Kennedy as commissioner of the NBA, Storen is realistic about his chances for ever being named commissioner of an eventually merged league. "They can't agree on anything," he says of the NBA owners. "Besides, for all the reasons I'd be a good commissioner, I'd lose votes."
In Memphis, Storen is explaining why to nobody. "It's my franchise and I have total, absolute control," he exults. Storen reportedly has financial backing from Al Bell of Stax Records and Memphis real estate moguls Avron Fogelman and Cary Whitehead. But he can operate as he sees fit.
So Memphis, which has seldom known from one week to the next whether it was going to continue to have a basketball team, has lost the Tams but has gained the Sounds, and as Storen bubbles, "We're not having an exhibition season, we're going on a concert tour."
When Ted St. Martin of Yakima, Wash. goes out to shoot baskets, he is likely to be gone for quite a while. His personal backyard best is 514 straight free throws.
Foul shooting was merely a hobby for the 39-year-old St. Martin, a former dairy farmer, until 1971 when he learned that the existing record for free throws, as listed by the Guinness Book of World Records, was 144 consecutive shots. Immediately, St. Martin's life took on new meaning. In his first assault on the record, he took 12,099 free throws during a 24-hour period and made 10,944 of them—90.45% accuracy. He missed the record because he was unable to shoot more than 86 without a miss, but he was hired promptly by AMF-Voit as a "professional free-throw shooter."
Then it was back to the backboards until March 1972 when, during an exhibition in Riverdale, Calif., St. Martin shot his way into free-throw immortality with 200 straight. Since then, St. Martin has raised his official mark to 281 and improved his 24-hour marksmanship percentage to 90.72.
Although the closest he has come to the pros was performing in a halftime exhibition during a Phoenix Suns game last January, St. Martin feels there is a place in basketball for the designated free throw shooter. "The designated shooter would take free throws for all the players on the team," he says. "That way there would be less fouling and the game would be speeded up."
To fill his days until the pros see the light, St. Martin is indefatigably going for 700 or 800 without a miss. He does not even rule out the possibility of 1,000. "Once you get past the first 200," he says, "you can relax."
Ron Hill, the British marathoner, says that anyone with serious long-distance intentions should run 100 miles a week. But a runner with a job and a family, like Hill, has a problem finding time. Hill solves it by running to and from his work as a chemist in Droylsden, Cheshire—15 miles a day.
Senator William Proxmire squeezes five miles into each of his work days, running between his home in northwest Washington and the Senate Office Building. Joe Viverito, a New York public relations man who lives on Long Island, more than 18 miles from his job, was already running 12 to 15 miles a day last winter when, inspired by the gasoline shortage, commuting on foot occurred to him. "All I'm doing is switching my running time and adding a little extra mileage," he says.
Runner's World magazine in its survey of these and other dashing commuters found that their biggest problem was what to do with their work clothes. One carries them in a small nylon pack strapped to his back, another holds them in each hand, rolled up like batons. Another says, "There is no ideal solution to it. I'm forever forgetting my belt, socks, etc."
There are compensations, though, aside from the obvious ones, such as saving gas, beating the traffic and being in shape. Marathoner Ted Corbitt of Manhattan, who has been running to and from his job for years, passed two men on a street corner, one of whom he heard say to the other, "Man, that cat's late for work every morning!"
THREE'S A CROWD
The story may be apocryphal, but it is said that a Toledo sportswriter once described a poorly attended baseball game as follows: "The crowd wore a sport shirt."
In a loosely related incident Debbie Goldstein, publicist for the Washington Diplomats of the North American Soccer League, was fired July 6 in the middle of a home game against the Miami Toros because she had not lied to the press. She admitted to two reporters that the game's announced attendance, 3,325, might have been exaggerated—by about a third. "It's so obvious," she said. "The seats were vacant."
Goldstein's was clearly a serious indiscretion. Where would this country be if publicists went around not lying to the press whenever they felt like it. Tradition demands that sports-page readers be protected from the knowledge that the Washington Diplomats may have drawn closer to 2,000 than 3,000 on the afternoon of July 6.
She who acted in haste is now at leisure but unrepentant. "I think reporters are sick and tired of being lied to," she said. "I know it is done all the time but I don't want to get into that."
Diplomat Owner Mike Finci—who fired his general manager the same day saying, "It was a mutual parting of the way, by my request"—announced attendance of 3,140 at his team's next game. All other figures are inoperative.
This year the National Sporting Goods Association, an arm of the sporting-goods industry, took its first consumer survey of patterns in the purchase of sports equipment for the information of its members, and the survey turned up some interesting trends and odd facts. For instance, did you know, or would you ever have guessed, that the largest projected increase in sporting goods sales for 1974 will be in archery equipment?
Further. Families on the $11,000-to-$15,000 income level were the biggest buyers of sporting goods, the main purchasers of almost every traditional item from basketballs to ice skates. The $8,000-to-$11,000 group was second overall and led in camping and table tennis. And in spite of what one hears about the democratization of tennis, it was still the affluent ($20,000 and above) who bought the most tennis gear.
The survey divided the country into nine geographical regions, and it was the Great Lakes states that led the nation in sales. But here is a fact to ponder. The South Atlantic region (D.C., the Carolinas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia), though it ranked high overall in total sales, actually led the country in only one category—exercise equipment (barbells, sweat suits, exercise bikes and the like). While the South may not rise again, in the historical sense, it is quite obviously shaping up.
If patents granted in the U.S. during the past few months are any indication, the wave of the future is under water. Consider, for instance, a jaw relaxer for snorkelers who have been down there all this time chewing hard on their bits and surfacing with tired jaws. A Washington man has fashioned a mouthpiece with a soft curved flap that stays in place without biting.
The Navy has solved the problem of speech being made unintelligible by the helium-oxygen mixture that its divers breathe at depths of 200 feet or so. Words spoken in normal tones into the diver's face mask can now be recorded, then played back at a speed determined partly by the depth and the mixture, but largely by the movement of the diver's tongue.
And finally, a way to heat a diving suit unmechanically, devised by a mechanical engineer: a vortex tube and heat exchanger that release air in hot and cold streams are attached to the diver's tank. Without getting technical about it, heat is created by the friction of air molecules on each other.
It is still too early to pick up this gear at the local tuck shop, but the opportunity to become a warm person, with a relaxed jaw and perfect underwater diction, is certainly worth waiting for.
THEY SAID IT
•Alex Hawkins, WFL telecaster, after learning that ABC-TV will use head coaches as analysts on NCAA games this fall: "Coaches think the game's complicated, but it isn't. Either a play works or it doesn't. I'd rather listen to a bad minister than a coach talk about football."
•Greg Lee, former UCLA basketball player: "I had to adjust when I came to UCLA. When I played well, we won. When I was mediocre, we won. And when I played badly, we won."
•Henry Cooper, former British heavyweight champion, on the interview he underwent before going to work for Lloyd's of London: "Mostly they wanted to know about Cassius Clay."
•Al Campanis, Dodger vice-president, talking about a staff meeting last spring: "When we went over our needs, we agreed what we needed most was a third-string catcher. That's when I knew we were in good shape."