DOWN THE DRAIN
And so it ended, quietly, in midseason, with hardly enough of an impact to make headlines. Indeed, the biggest news about the end of the World Football League concerned not the WFL itself but the disposition of the handful of good players it had. Would Csonka, Kiick and Warfield return to Miami? (The possibility that the mellifluous trio might be split up—with Csonka here, Kiick there and Warfield somewhere else—was seldom discussed.) What about Anthony Davis, who was drafted last year by the New York Jets? Where would Willie Spencer go? A homegrown WFL star who did not go to college, Spencer has never been drafted by a National Football League team and as a free agent would get an impressive bonus for signing.
But, apparently fearing litigation with WFL owners who still claim contractual control over their players, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle decreed that no WFL player could join the NFL this season. The ruling was made primarily to avoid trouble with John Bassett, the wealthy owner of the WFL's Memphis club, who had lured Csonka, etc., away from the NFL and who made it clear that he felt they still belonged to him.
Rozelle could have difficulty with Bassett on another front, since the Memphis owner has made noises about applying for membership in the NFL. Rozelle doesn't think much of that idea, but Bassett can argue that he is eminently qualified, since he has: 1) the money; 2) a club; 3) a complete roster of players as good as and probably better than any NFL expansion team is likely to come up with; 4) a city; 5) a stadium; and 6) no league to play in. Because the NFL has a monopoly on pro football, where else can Bassett do business?
And despite Rozelle's ukase, the NFL could have legal problems anyway with individual players who feel they are free of contractual obligations. If one of them—a talented one, say, like Spencer—is arbitrarily denied the right to sign with the NFL, he might seek legal recourse. "They're denying me a chance to earn my living at my trade," he might claim.
It begins to look as if the WFL could cause the NFL more trouble now than it did when it was alive. Like a freshly killed shark, its future is nil, but it can give you a nasty bite if you're not careful.
Joni Huntley, the American women's champion and record holder in the high jump, indoors and out, went to a high school in Sheridan, Ore. that did not have a track. Inspired, one assumes, by its heroine's exploits, the local school board finally got around to building one this year. At the first meet 40 kids showed up to compete. And 32 of them entered the high jump.
A few years ago a chemist and a physicist in California found themselves fascinated by an article on the aerodynamics of golf balls in an old science magazine. As most golfers suspect (and a few know), the dimples on the standard golf ball are there for a reason, not just for decoration. They create minute turbulences that cause drag but also provide aerodynamic lift. A smooth ball has less drag but develops negative lift.
The Californians, chemist Daniel Nepela and physicist Fred Holmstrom, figured they could design a ball with the best features of both laminar (smooth) and turbulent (dimpled) surfaces. They filled in some of the dimples and left others the way they found them, and after quite a bit of experimentation produced a ball with a wide "equator" of dimples and smooth areas at the "poles." This combination, they say, produces an aerodynamic effect that combines smoothness with turbulence to give you the best of both possible worlds. What their ball does is wiggle imperceptibly from side to side, correcting itself, so to speak, whenever it starts to go off line. The result is a remarkably straight flight, with great resistance to what we know all too well as hooking and slicing.
It sounds like a terrific idea—for hackers. A touring pro, on the other hand, one of those artists who can fade or draw a ball at will, depending on hole and circumstance, would probably hate it.
The continuing battle between men's sports and women's sports triggered by Title IX, the Federal legislation that says colleges must provide reasonable opportunities to both sexes in intercollegiate athletics, has cost the University of Maryland a basketball coach and an athletic director.
No, Lefty Driesell did not quit his hoopsters in a huff, nor did Jim Kehoe give up his job. The one who left was Dorothy McKnight, coordinator of women's athletics and women's basketball coach at Maryland for 11 years. Did she leave because of male resistance to women's rights? Not at all. The athletic committee of the school's board of regents passed a resolution that scholarships should be granted to women athletes, and the full board will vote on the measure in a few weeks. But McKnight feels that the idea of athletic scholarships for women is a mistake, and she wants no part of it.
Her reasons are simple. She says she does not want to sit on a recruit's doorstep the way the men coaches have to, and she feels things will come to that.
"I figure we'll be into the buying and selling business," she says, "and I can't do that. I don't believe this is being done only for the girls. There's going to have to be something coming back. I've had pressure already, without scholarships. Pretty soon they'd be telling me I have to win, or that I better get that guard or that pitcher. I don't need it."
McKnight says her main objection to athletic aid is that it more often helps the coach or athletic department than the man or woman it is supposed to assist. "Right now," she says, "I ask a girl, 'Can we help you?' Under this new program, I'd be asking, 'Can you help us?'
"I just don't believe what's happening. I mean, we finally have the men cutting back on financial aid, and now they want to get women into it. To me, it's asinine."
Muhammad Ali, the author, was the star of the recent Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's biggest gathering of publishers. More than 4,000 representatives from all over the world were in the German city for six days, and more than a quarter of a million book titles were on show. Ali, stopping by on the way home from his triumph in Manila, checked in with Random House, publishers of The Greatest, which was written for Ali by a professional ghost named Jim Durham. Random House was peddling foreign rights to the book and doing a land-office business. Droemer, a German company, paid $200,000 to put it out in German, and this did not include the fee the magazine Der Spiegel will pay for serializing it. British, French, Swedish and Turkish publishers got into the swing of things, sending the figure toward the half-million mark, and Random House expected it to go beyond that when a deal for a Japanese version was completed.
And Hemingway thought he was a heavyweight.
A lot of people interested in the Montreal Olympics were frustrated in early efforts to buy tickets to the Games. Everything seemed to be gone simultaneously with the announcement that they were on sale. Now Montgomery Ward, the official U.S. ticket distributor, has received a second allotment from the Montreal Organizing Committee. More than 400,000 tickets to next summer's fun and games will be on sale from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31—but don't get too excited. Unless you are intensely interested in soccer or some of the so-called minor sports, the pickin's are slim. Events for which good seats are available, besides soccer, are archery, canoeing, equestrian sports, field hockey, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, shooting and yachting. You might find tickets for basketball, boxing and team handball, but not for the finals.
In track and field, the backbone of the Olympics, most seats are gone for those sessions in which final events are scheduled, but you still can get in to see the finals of the 100-meter dash, the 800-meter run, the 400-meter hurdles, the 20-kilometer walk, the shotput, the discus, the women's long jump, the women's javelin and the women's 100 meters. And you can still find tickets to the women's final in basketball.
When cross-country skiing began to boom a few years back, it was mostly because it was cheap and easy to do. No expensive fiber-glass skis, no plastic boots, no sleek, skintight ski clothes, no crowded slopes, no freezing hours on lift lines. Just put on some baggy, old-fashioned knickers, a sweater and knit cap, buy a pair of wooden langrenn skis for something like $39.95 and take off for the woods—and peace. You didn't need a groomed trail or a lot of technique. Anybody who could walk could ski cross-country.
But all things change. Fiber-glass skis for cross-country began to appear about three years ago, and now every manufacturer makes them. They are faster than wooden ones and don't require as much waxing. Today there is not a single cross-country racer in the world who does not compete on them. And what the racers use, the recreational skiers covet. The shops are filled with fiber-glass models at $100 and $150, and skiers will go faster and farther on them, which means they will need wider, safer trails, which will require more maintenance, which will cost more. Cross-country skiing seems to be falling into the expensive, structured ruts that have come to characterize Alpine skiing. No more peace and quiet. No more simple life. You know what will disappear next? Those knickers. You watch.
Oberlin, never a football power even though John Heisman of trophy fame once coached there, hit rock bottom after the controversial reign of Athletic Director Jack Scott and Football Coach Cass Young Jackson. Jackson's departure particularly hurt, because when he left for Morris Brown College in Atlanta he took the crack passing combination of Willie Martinez and Jay Greeley with him.
This year Oberlin faced a six-game schedule with the tatters of a squad. After losing 28-0 to Centre, 35-13 to Carnegie-Mellon and 21-6 to Hamilton, Coach Dick Riendeau had only 16 men available for a game with Kenyon a couple of Saturdays ago. Out of necessity, Riendeau uses a basic lineup—the team's nickname, fittingly, is the Yeomen—that plays both offense and defense.
"It's twice as hard to prepare kids to go both ways," Riendeau said before the Kenyon game, "and it's a much larger burden on the squad. These kids are giving too much of themselves now."
Yet the Yeomen upset Kenyon 14-6, scoring their winning points opportunely. A bad snap from center on an intended extra-point kick led to an improvised pass for a two-point conversion; a 58-yard runback of an intercepted pass in the fourth quarter gave Oberlin the touchdown that clinched the game.
What is particularly cheering about all this is the campus reaction. Professor George H. Andrews of Oberlin's mathematics department even wrote to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED about it. "Needless to say," Professor Andrews declared, "we are very proud of our courageous 16."
THEY SAID IT
•Arnold Palmer, on his desire for relief from the intensity of being Arnold Palmer: "I just wish I had enough money so that I could do nothing but fly my plane and play a little golf and go walking in the woods."
•Frank Hughes, of the Houston Aeros, on what it means to have Gordie Howe back for the 1975-76 WHA season: "Probably about $13,000 in the playoffs."
•John Hall, Los Angeles Times sports-writer, on how spiking the football after a touchdown seems to be diminishing a bit: "Dignity got so far out it's in again."
•Julius Erving, after his teammate and best friend, Willie Sojourner, was cut from the New York Nets squad after his four-year, no-cut contract had terminated: "The only thing hurting him is his first four years."