TAXING THE IMAGINATION
Just speculating idly, the man suggested that since the Internal Revenue Service has confiscated equipment from this defunct World Football League team, uniforms from that one and gate receipts from another, what organization is in a better position to field a new professional football league in 1975 than the IRS? The names are naturals. The Tampa Tax Shelters, the Washington Withholders, the Denver Deductions, the Juneau Joint Filers, the Wilmington Write-Offs, the Rochester Refunds. The IRSFL would be better financed than the old WFL and obviously it keeps better books. So the man said.
THE CUP SPILLETH
The U.S. loss to Mexico in the Davis Cup this week carries a great deal more significance than did similar defeats the U.S. and Australia suffered in earlier rounds of the competition last year. Then the two top nations had excuses: they were trying to sneak by with second-stringers on faraway foreign courts. Against Mexico, Captain Dennis Ralston did make what appears, from hindsight, to be a curious choice by playing Stan Smith in the singles with a bad leg while using Wimbledon semifinalist Dick Stockton to replace him in the doubles, instead of using Stockton in the singles and leaving the Smith-Bob Lutz combination intact.
But Mexico is a genuine winner. Not only did Raul Ramirez and Vincente Zarazua beat a most representative U.S. team—although Arthur Ashe had a tournament commitment—they did it on U.S. soil, only the second time in history that we have ever lost a preliminary Davis Cup match at home. Which should now make it clear to everyone that we cannot expect to beat lesser cup teams, let alone the Australians, without playing our best. And that means Jimmy Connors.
February 10, 1975
Citing his usual array of petty personal and political slights (real or imagined), Connors has refused invitations from Ralston to play for his country except on his own terms; he requires some sort of right of refusal over Davis Cup team officials. In Las Vegas for the Rod Laver match (page 18), a wonderfully entertaining but easily movable feast, Connors' manager, Bill Riordan, declared baldly, "We have simple conditions. The present administration of the team must be changed—specifically, Dennis Ralston."
It is a sad situation when the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association must succumb to a form of extortion in order to obtain the services of its best player.
HARDEST ROWS TO HOE
One of those little-known facts that everyone knows so well it has become a cliché is that with respect to physical ability there is no more demanding discipline than ballet. The corollary is that Rudolf Nureyev may be the best athlete alive.
With that out of the way, we may now proceed to the most difficult forms of athletic endeavor, as ranked by Dr. Paul Hunsicker of the University of Michigan in the book Fitness, Health, and Work Capacity. He rated each sport in 10 different categories—strength, endurance, body type, flexibility, coordination, speed, agility, balance, intelligence and creativity—and gave points according to the importance of each category to a sport (e.g., three points to a sport in which strength is a high requirement, two points if it is moderately required, one if only mildly so and none if no strength is required at all). Of the 40 sporting pastimes rated, basketball comes off with highest marks (23), with wrestling, fencing and soccer close behind. Team sports such as football, rugby, rowing and lacrosse, high in the strength and endurance departments but low on creativity, intelligence and balance, occupy the middle ground, while the endurance sports—swimming, bicycling and distance running—show the way only to quieter pursuits like fishing, curling and archery. Lowest rated are bowling (5) and, of all things, hiking (6), which should give the walkers something to think about the next time out on one of those long, undemanding treks.
CALL OF THE WILD
It was cold, icy cold. Patches of ice gleamed on the road. Inside the truck it was warm, soda-biscuit warm. Technician Arthur W. Sedlack glided through the frozen land, past the tall pines—Big Sky country. There would be no snowmobiles this day. Park road. Not allowed.
And then the alarm. There, just ahead—snowmobiles! Two of them, parked. Sedlack hits the brakes. His truck spins once, then spins again. A jolt, hard against the mountain, then silence. Sedlack steps out in the cold Montana air. No flashing lights. No uniform or badge. Just Sedlack, his truck, his revolver—drawn. No smiles.
"Get away from those machines," he orders the drivers, softly. They step back. Sedlack raises his arms. He aims. Pow!
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Arthur W. Sedlack, technician, Walton Ranger Station, Glacier National Park, Mont. Shot a snowmobile to death.
DISASTER AT DARDANELLE
The language of the reports made last year to the Atomic Energy Commission was disarmingly prosaic. "During routine fish impingement monitoring...an environmental occurrence...corrective action was taken in accordance...." What made them about as dull as the perilous everyday life of the Colt 45 man on TV was their profusion—all in 14 days—and this chilling reassurance: "The fish that were collected were disposed of through landfill operation."
It takes a lot of dead fish to make much of an impression on a landfill operation. In this case, estimates attorney Angus Macbeth of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the number amounted to about five million or almost 25% of the total fish kills reported for the entire United States by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1972, the last year for which records are available. "Very dramatic," Macbeth comments dryly, "for 14 days on one lake in Arkansas."
The apparent cause of the disaster was a decrease in water temperature that sapped the strength of threadfin shad, which made up 95% of the victims. Unable to do equal battle with the intake current of the circulating water pumps, they were swept to their deaths in the works of the Arkansas Power and Light Company on Dardanelle Reservoir in the northwest section of the state.
The "occurrence" might have gone unreported had not Macbeth and the vigilant NRDC brought it to public light and smell. Macbeth believes all federally licensed plants should be required to report fish kills publicly and on a weekly basis. Corrective action might be brought to bear immediately, and the resultant publicity lead to more sanely planned power projects. Wholesale destruction of fish hurts not only anglers. It needlessly devastates ecosystems and destroys valuable sources of protein. The average food shopper needs that as much as the next quantum leap in the electric bill.
The tinkerers have been at it again. If first results are a guide, they're going to have to raise the rafters one more time to accommodate the pole vaulters.
First aluminum replaced the old bamboo pole. Fiber glass with its slingshot bend followed that. Now the bend is being built in. Using a prebent pole—it is called the banana—Steve Smith set a world indoor record of 18'2½" several weeks ago at a professional track meet in Montreal, and that was only fitting. He and his father, a project engineer for Hughes Helicopter Corporation, invented it.
"It takes a lot of energy to start a straight pole bending," explains Smith, "so my father figured if you prebent the pole it would give you back more thrust, and that's how it works. I helped with the redesign of the glass patterns to make the pole stronger."
Fellow Californians Casey Carrigan and Bob Richards Jr., Antti Kalliomaki of Finland and Kjell Isaksson of Sweden have cleared 17 feet or better with the banana. Smith thinks everybody using it will be going up higher, but it is not going to be any easier to transport around the world. Bananas can be tricky things.
Charlie McCoy and the Jordanaires cut a record in Nashville for release this month with some pretty fair country drivers: Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip. One song: a lively version of Dead Man's Curve.
TOM'S SWIFT LIFE
"It was like having the best of both worlds," Tom McMillen was saying last week in his digs at Oxford. Also, the onetime All-America admitted, it had been something of a rat race since he turned down rich offers from the Buffalo Braves and the Virginia Squires to lead the double life of a Rhodes scholar and a professional basketball player. "These have been the most difficult weeks of my life."
Considering his schedule, small wonder.
McMillen's team, Virtus Sinudyne of Bologna, plays at least 50 games. So far this season it has been to Israel and Leningrad and this month has games in Le Mans, France, and Split, Yugoslavia. In a typical week, McMillen will fly out of London on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning for a European Cup game, return Thursday morning for classes, fly to Italy Friday night for practice on Saturday and a league game Sunday, then home. When his return to London is fogged in—winters in northern Italy are times of mists and lowering clouds—he is driven to Rome for a 6 a.m. Monday flight. He taxis 40 miles to Oxford; then it's back to work on his degree in philosophy, politics and economics.
In all, McMillen commutes 16 to 32 hours a week. He takes his books with him, and does most of his reading en route to someplace. Two weeks ago, he says, he was stranded at the Rome airport, and spent from midnight to six studying Disraeli and Gladstone for his political institutions tutorial Monday morning. When studies and travel conflict, he adds, his tutors understand.
Italian League teams are allowed only one American player, and Sinudyne clearly considers McMillen a prize, all 6'10½" of him. Averaging 32 points a game, he has led the team from near the bottom of the league to top contention and helped sell out the 9,000-seat stadium for every game. For the season he is getting approximately $100,000, including a traveling allowance, a car and an apartment in Bologna. There is also a $5,000-a-year stipend from the Rhodes trust.
McMillen will lead the good but busy life for another year, then return to the U.S. to play pro ball, a better player withal, he says, since he has spent more time at forward than he did in college, handled the ball more and developed his outside game. "I think I'll be further along for the pros after getting my Oxford degree next year than I would have been had I entered fresh from Maryland. The caliber of play in Italy is on a very good college level. The top teams could do very well in the NCAA, and the Italian game is much rougher than college ball."
THEY SAID IT
•George Blanda, Oakland's superannuated placekicker, on the changes he has seen: "In 26 years in the pros I haven't noticed many. The players are faster, bigger, smarter and more disloyal to owners. That's about it."
•Hugh Durham, Florida State basketball coach, only slightly piqued after an 84-78 overtime loss to New Mexico in Albuquerque: "They let people jump over the backs of players to rebound. I'm sure if we took trampoline lessons for a couple of weeks we could adjust to the officiating."
•Bob Zuffelato, Boston College basketball coach, explaining the pressures of recruiting: "Sometimes it's frightening when you see a 19-year-old kid running down the floor with your paycheck in his mouth."
•Bum Phillips, new Houston Oiler head coach, asked if he played college football: "I thought I did, until I looked at some old game films."
•Paul Wiggin, Kansas City Chiefs' new head coach, reassuring reporters he will not object if his players hold hands in the defensive huddle: "It's fine by me as long as all of them do, not just two of them."