Unhappily, political fallout seems to have become an inevitable part of international athletic competition. The most recent example involved the touring Russian basketball team, which twice last week became the target of demonstrations. At the University of Maryland a container of oil (supposedly Arab oil, though the significance of its point of origin was lost in the shouting) was thrown from the stands onto the floor, and the Soviet-Maryland game had to be halted for 20 minutes while the court was cleaned off. The Washington, D.C. chapter of the Jewish Defense League immediately took credit for the disruption, citing as its grievances the use of Soviet professionals in amateur athletics and "the relentless persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union." The JDL was not very specific about which of the Russian players was guilty of either charge, but a spokesman said that his group plans similar outbursts at future sporting events.
Outside New York's Madison Square Garden on Thursday, a phalanx of students distributed leaflets detailing the plight of Soviet Jewry, foreshadowing the reception the Russians received inside before their game with Notre Dame. As they were introduced, they were greeted by perhaps as many boos as cheers. A few in the crowd hooted during the Russian national anthem, shouted "KGB go home," sang a lusty rendition of Yankee Doodle and waved miniature American flags. It was not an exhibition of the glories of détente.
Since Munich, and even before, it has been obvious that sport is not immune to the bullying of political activists. If the Soviet team's strong performance was a preview of what to expect in Montreal, so were the actions of the demonstrators. It's really too bad.
December 1, 1975
DOUBLE DARE YOU
The Big Eight clearly demonstrated its superiority in college football this season by winning 28 of 32 games played against nonconference schools. No other conference came close to matching that record. Now, with all the fuss about bowl bids—resentment against Bear Bryant for picking Penn State to meet Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, instead of taking the loser of the Oklahoma-Nebraska game (victorious Oklahoma goes to the Orange Bowl as Big Eight champion)—Colorado Coach Bill Mallory has a suggestion. It is perhaps a bit prideful, but the pride may be justified. Mallory says, "They ought to take six of the Big Eight teams—Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Colorado—and send us to bowl games all over the country and see how we compare. I think the results would be something. I like that kind of challenge, and I think the Big Eight would meet it."
THE END OF SOMETHING
Inflation has finally reached Chavez Ravine. After refusing to change their ticket prices for 18 years, the Los Angeles Dodgers have finally given in. Box seats have gone up a dollar to $4.50, reserve seats up 50¢
to $3, general-admission seats up 50¢ to $2, kids under 12 up a quarter to $1.
"We're not happy about raising our prices," says Dodger President Peter O'Malley, "but our computers show that at our old scale our break-even point would be an attendance of two million. That's a little dangerous. We must operate at a profit."
WHAT'S IN A NUMBER?
Every now and then a first-magnitude star of pro football comes from an unbelievably obscure college. Take Billy (White Shoes) Johnson, the rookie sprite of the Houston Oilers. Johnson is from Widener College of Chester, Pa., which you may not have heard of but which has a fairly remarkable tradition of first-rate football. For six straight seasons Pioneer running backs, including Johnson, led the Middle Atlantic South Conference in rushing. Four of them—Johnson, Richie Weaver, Don Watkins and Jackie Long, a senior this year—have had 2,000-yards-rushing careers. And all four of them wore uniform No. 46.
Widener Coach Bill Manlove says, "We were going to retire the uniform number in honor of them, but somebody suggested instead that we try to carry on the greatness of it."
So the only thing being retired at Widener is the idea of retiring Old 46. "We've got to keep that uniform alive," says Manlove.
And find another stud to wear it. Whoever he is, he'll have to earn it, because next year the team is going to sit down and vote on who gets the magic number.
It was just a routine everyday halftime show at Provo, Utah. Lyle Bennett, a sophomore who works in the athletic office at Brigham Young University, had decided to ask his girl, Mary Shurtz, a freshman, to marry him. But Bennett is not one for doing things the obvious way. Instead, with the help of his roommate and others, he developed a secret plan. On the Saturday of the BYU-Utah game, Mary was in the crowd watching the half-time flash-card program. Suddenly, the message on the cards read, "Mary Shurtz, Will you marry me? Love, Lyle." Mary beamed and said yes, as dozens of delighted friends crowded around to congratulate the couple.
Meanwhile, unknown to Lyle, Mary, the 27,727 fans in attendance and everyone else, for that matter, a hang-glider devotee named Steve Siegel had spent two hours climbing "Y" Mountain, just cast of Cougar Stadium, dragging his 60-pound glider with him. During the half-time ceremonies he stepped off the mountain and began gliding down. Working the air currents perfectly, he soared over the walls of the stadium, circled the north end, passed over the students' section, made a final turn just over the south goalposts and gently lighted on the turf. The crowd loved it. As for Lyle Bennett, he said, "If I had known he was going to do this, I'd have had him bring the ring."
At least one hockey league has become fed up watching games turn into donnybrooks and has taken strong action to stop it. No, it is not the National Hockey League, where the status remains quo, nor is it the World Hockey Association, which seems content to follow the senior league's lead in behavior patterns.
The enlightened circuit is the North American Hockey League, a minor league in the Northeast. Last year its championship was won by the Johnstown (Pa.) Jets, who, like the NHL champion Philadelphia Flyers, racked up a fearful number of penalty minutes.
That was last year. This year Commissioner John E. Timmins boosted fines and added automatic suspensions to all misconduct penalties. The first misconduct means a one-game suspension; the next, two; the third, indefinite. The more serious game-misconduct offense brings an automatic two-game suspension, and a match misconduct (generally assessed for what appears to be an intentional attempt to injure) brings four games. Repetitions of either eventually result in indefinite suspension. In addition, a match misconduct requires that the offender's team play shorthanded for five minutes, no matter how many goals are scored against it in the meantime.
"Eliminating behavior that results in misconduct penalties will not diminish the quality of the game in the least," says Timmins. "Misconducts don't add to skating, don't add to stick handling, don't add to shooting, passing, checking or even fighting. Who needs it? If the other leagues want it, let them have it. We don't and we won't."
Muhammad Ali, who was such a smash at the Frankfurt Book Fair in West Germany (SCORECARD, Nov. 3), has been wowing 'em in his current tour of American bookstores. In Washington, for example, he attracted nearly 5,000 people to an autographing session and sold 700 copies of his new book in less than two hours.
"I'm amazed," said one salesclerk. "When Bob Hope was here the crowd was so small we had to push employees through the line so he wouldn't feel embarrassed. George Jessel came here and didn't sell one book. The only person who spoke to him asked where the eighth floor was."
Ali was inundated by people, not all of them booklovers. One young man, who called himself Shaka Ali, fell on his knees before the heavyweight champion and cried, "You are God."
"I pray to God," Ali said, genuinely disturbed. "I'm not God."
"I would die for you," the young man said.
"That's scary," Ali replied.
Later he complained about his public appearances. "I'm overexposed," he said. "They're cheapening me with all the TV cameras. I'm going to declare a one-year moratorium on my mouth soon. I don't want to become like some guy you see on every talk show."
Harness racing may have its problems like the rest of the economy, but you couldn't tell it from the results of the Standardbred Horse Sales at Harrisburg, Pa. Yearlings, which made up more than 70% of the sale, brought a record total of $7,413,000, more than $1.5 million over the previous high set a year ago. The average price for a yearling jumped more than $1,000 to $13,830, the highest being $140,000 for a trotting colt named Courtney Hanover. A 6-year-old mare named Somewhere My Love brought $67,000, and the total spent for all 740 horses was $9,333,100, compared to last year's $7,857,400.
GIRLS WHO WEAR GLASSES
Poor old COJO. You remember COJO. Montreal's organizing committee for the Olympic Games. You know all the trouble it's been having—strikes, delays, cost overruns, the Quebec provincial government taking over, a shaky future. Now its problem is women.
The fuss started when Mrs. Nancy Gelfand, a 26-year-old graduate student at McGill who speaks both French and English and apparently has all the other necessary qualifications, was turned down when she applied for a job as a hostess at the Olympics. The reason, Mrs. Gelfand says, is because she wears glasses. "The guy took one look at me and said, 'Sorry, dear, but you wear glasses. There's no use even filling out an application.' "
Pressing elsewhere for an explanation, Mrs. Gelfand was told that behind the glasses rule was a feeling that women who wore glasses were unattractive, and that unattractive women were not to be hired as hostesses. "I was absolutely stunned," she says.
She protested, loudly and clearly, so much so that the matter reached the Canadian Parliament. M.P. Gordon Fair-weather said her rejection was "insensitive, sexist and outrageous." The Minister of Labor, John Munro, had to assure the House of Commons that his department would look into the matter. The Minister of Health, Marc Lalonde, whose department is responsible for the status of women, would also be investigating.
An embarrassed COJO official, smarting under the criticism, declared there was no rule about glasses. But a woman member of COJO, speaking anonymously to the Toronto Globe and Mail, said, "They try to keep it quiet around here, which is natural because of the feminist movement, but they are really looking for the cuties."
In all, COJO plans to hire 1,000 cuties—er, hostesses—and has already signed on about 30. A male chauvinist newspaperman who met some of them said they were real dolls.
THEY SAID IT
•Al McGuire, Marquette basketball coach, on the touring Soviet Union team: "It's strange to see so many tall, thin white guys with 1936 uniforms on."
•Elliott Oppenheim, Community College of Baltimore football coach, praising his players after a loss: "They have accepted all the responsibilities of football players like men. We got our heads handed to us in the homecoming game, but every one of them showed up at the dance."
•Joe Theismann, on what it's like being a third-string quarterback for the Redskins: "It's like when you have three wheels for a bike and you only need two. One has to lean against the wall. Well, here I am."