BACK HOME IN INDIANA
It really wasn't much of an incident. Indiana's Jim Wisman had made a couple of bad plays in the course of the Hoosiers' 72-67 overtime defeat of Michigan. Coach Bobby Knight, in abruptly taking Wisman out of the game, had grabbed him by the jersey and pulled him to the bench. Lots of coaches show fits of temper during games, but Knight is especially volatile, and an alert Indianapolis Star photographer got pictures of the annoyed coach tugging the abashed player. They were good pictures, a lot different from the standard run of basketball action, and the Star ran them on page one. The AP and UPI, also impressed, sent several photographs out on the wire, and pictures of the "great jersey pull" appeared in newspapers all around the country.
Knight was furious. He criticized the Star on his TV show the next day, blaming the paper for publicizing one brief flaw in an otherwise superior game and asking why it could not have run a picture of Kent Benson tipping in the basket that sent the game into overtime. Knight's loyal listeners bombarded the Star's office with indignant phone calls. Photographer Jerry Clark received a hefty batch of critical mail, including several threats of physical punishment. The rival Indianapolis News ran an editorial "commentary" in defense of Knight, whose team is currently ranked No. 1 in the country.
The next day the Star ran a riposte "commentary," declaring that while Knight was indeed winning, his antic behavior was losing friends for basketball and Indiana. It also published the coach's home and office phone numbers and suggested his fans call him and tell him of their support. Knight threatened to ban all photographers from Indiana's next game (a ban he rescinded before putting into effect).
February 23, 1976
The ridiculousness of the whole affair soon became evident. Bob Collins, sports editor of the Star, surrendered. "I believe Bobby Knight is the best basketball coach in the country," he wrote. "I know he has the most loyal followers in the known world. I fired from the hip. And they fired back. It was no contest. I lost." Knight calmed down, and the furor did, too. Wisman, the player involved, had no criticism of the coach's behavior. "It didn't bother me a bit," Wisman said. "I understand Coach Knight. What bothered me was the mistakes I made." At practice a day or so after the Michigan game Knight reduced his squad to helpless laughter when he cheerily called out to Wisman, "Jimmy, either you're going to learn our offense against the press or you're going to get a tearaway jersey."
To his credit, Knight also said, "If I'm going to accept praise, I've got to accept criticism." It's unlikely, however, that he will go so far as to agree with Indiana Football Coach Lee Corso, who said in a TV interview a few days after the hassle, "But it's only a game."
Basketball is certainly stimulating the way Indiana plays it, but for all-out excitement you had to be in Spartanburg County, South Carolina a couple of weeks ago at a game between girls' teams from Mabry and D. R. Hill junior highs. D. R. Hill broke from the barrier with a rush, dominated play and at halftime led by 26-0. Undaunted, Mabry came back fighting, turned things around (boy, did they turn things around!), scored 28 consecutive points and won 28-26.
Let's see Bobby Knight top that.
The Roman Catholic diocese of Trenton, N.J. is into big-time golf. The diocese, which includes eight counties and, with nearly one million Catholics, is the sixth largest in the country, is sponsoring the 1976 LPGA Classic, to be played this May at Forsgate Country Club in Jamesburg, N.J. The diocese hopes to make the tournament an annual event.
"We look upon this tournament as both a fund raiser for our numerous charities and as a catalyst for all our activities," says Peter Busatti, a former New York City publicity man who is the diocesan director of development. "We picked it because we felt it was very dignified." Sure, but even though golf is a staid, dignified game, the diocese had better get ready for a flood of one-liners on the church-golf relationship. You know, things like "holy water hazards" and "Make straight the fairways of the Lord." And all the old stories, too, like the one about the Cadillac division of General Motors getting into financial difficulties and bailing itself out by raffling off a Catholic church.
Still, it beats bingo.
Ordinarily, high jumping is considered a difficult but not exhausting event. That is, you don't see high jumpers bathed in sweat, gasping for air. But at the Los Angeles Times indoor meet a couple of Fridays ago the high jump turned into a marathon. Tim Woods and Dwight Stones were the only jumpers left in the competition after clearing 7'4", and the bar was raised to 7'6", a quarter-inch over Stones' indoor record. Each jumper took three tries at that height, and each missed all three times. The event appeared to be over, with the two tied in height cleared, number of jumps attempted, number of jumps missed.
But the rules call for a jump-off when there is such a tie. Each was given another try at 7'6"; each missed. The bar was lowered to 7'4"; each had one try at that height, and each made it. Back went the bar to 7'6"; each missed. Down went the bar to 7'4"; each cleared that height for the third time. Again the bar went up to 7'6"; again each missed.
Once again the bar was lowered to 7'4", but this time neither of the weary jumpers could make the height, and the bar was lowered farther, to 7'2". Woods got over the bar, but the exhausted Stones, who had spiked himself earlier in the competition, could not.
"It was a strange night," said the victorious Woods. "At first, all it seemed to mean was getting a few extra tries at the world record, but after awhile it got to be sort of an obsession to see who was going to win."
Stones' cut required 25 stitches afterward, but the world-record holder said, "It was taped tightly right away, and it didn't affect my jumping as much as the fact that I'd stayed up till four in the morning the three previous nights moving into my new apartment. I think that's what finally got to me."
Both Stones and Woods agreed that the jump-off system, unwieldy though it may be, was a good thing. "It's the only way to decide it," said Woods. "It's do or die—you make it or you don't."
"I think it's a good rule," said Stones. "It certainly made for great competition here. I really enjoyed it."
Horse racing may be a spectator sport, but there is little doubt that it survives and flourishes primarily because it is a vehicle for gambling. The ordinary racing fan may like horses, may even enjoy watching them run, but he likes betting windows even more. This serves to explain two recent developments in horse racing, neither of which has to do with improvement of the breed. At Bowie in Maryland, self-service betting windows have been installed on an experimental basis. So far, the handle has been modest, but as an American Totalisator Co. designer says, "The machines reflect an ongoing policy to accelerate and simplify the overall wagering operation for the fan." A track executive claims, "These machines are tin lizzies compared to what can be developed if the public accepts them." A member of Bowie's mutuel department declares, "We could have smaller, more sophisticated machines throughout the plant, including private ones in all of the box-seat sections."
And in Littleton, Colo., near Denver, the Centennial Race Track has a drivein betting window so that a man on his way to work doesn't even have to get out of his car. Betting slips, called "counter cards," are available at 200 locations in and around Denver. The bettor marks his choices, drives up to the window, makes his bet and proceeds to his job for his second cup of coffee.
Now if someone will just develop an electronic tout.
YOU GOTTA LIKE THE POINTS
Before the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo vs. UCLA women's basketball game a couple of weeks ago, Cal Poly's Sports Information Director Wayne Shaw compared the records of the two teams and blithely predicted that UCLA would win by 62 points. Shaw's outrageous forecast was given a banner headline in the San Luis Obispo Telegram Tribune—"UCLA 62-Point Pick Over Cal Poly Coeds"—and fans of Cal Poly's women's basketball fumed. Shaw was called a male chauvinist wise guy of the worst kind. Then the game was played. The final score: UCLA 97, Cal Poly 35. No matter how you add or subtract, that comes out to precisely 62 points.
Next week Cal Poly travels to Los Angeles for a rematch. Shaw, citing UCLA's homecourt advantage, has picked the Uclans again, this time by 77 points.
The Women's Sports Foundation, a charitable organization in San Mateo, Calif. founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, is trying to raise money via a mail auction. More than 100 notables from the sport and entertainment worlds have put memorabilia up for sale, and the proceeds will be used for "the promotion of women in sports at all levels and for all ages."
Billie Jean has put up the tennis racket with which she won her sixth and final Wimbledon singles title last summer (other rackets she has donated to charity have sold for as much as $2,000). Elton John, part owner of the NASL's Los Angeles Aztecs, has given one of his tasteful concert suits, complete with sequined piano keys on arms, legs and collar (original cost: $3,000). O. J. Simpson has autographed a football ("From a women's sports fan") and the renowned distance runner Bobby Riggs has put up the shoes he used in his slow but financially successful race in Death Valley. Bob Griese has sprung for an autographed chin strap, Olga Korbut for autographed gymnastic slippers, Francie Larrieu for a pair of green size-five track shoes. There's a Rosie Casals tennis dress, an autographed Joe DiMaggio bat, a pair of Joe Namath's jogging shorts. There are 102 articles in all, including such nonsport items as a lithograph of the White House donated by Betty Ford and, for some unexplained reason, a full dental impression of Marilyn Monroe's teeth. The auction runs until March 31. Hurry, hurry, hurry.
SAY IT WITH FLOWERS
"Giant Roman Candle Explodes, Fails to Break World's Record," read the headline in The Southampton [N.Y.] Press. The man responsible for the dud was George Plimpton, who in the past has bombed as a major league pitcher, a quarterback for the Detroit Lions and an opponent for Archie Moore. Plimpton, a longtime fireworks buff (SI, June 30), was trying to gain entry to the Guinness Book of World Records with the world's largest fireworks display, supplanting the existing mark held by the Ogatsu Fireworks Co. of Tokyo. Ogatsu fires its champion from a 36-inch mortar. Plimpton had high hopes that his 40.5-inch, 720-pound Roman candle, known as Fat Man, would rise 1,000 feet and illuminate the skies over eastern Long Island with one million twinkling stars in the configuration of a chrysanthemum. But Fat Man sat heavily on the ground, sizzled, smoked and then exploded, leaving a gaping hole 10 feet deep and 35 feet wide.
Said the chagrined Plimpton, staring at the smoking hole in the ground instead of a record-breaking chrysanthemum in the sky, "I don't believe it. It's an absolute failure."
THEY SAID IT
•Lord Killanin, 61, president of the International Olympic Committee, voicing his approval of the IOC's rule that members must retire at the age of 72: "I don't want the Olympics to be run by a bunch of old men."
•Johnny Carson, on another aspect of the Olympics: "The Russians won three times as many medals as the United States, but it's nothing to be ashamed of. We can be proud because it proves our wheat makes good athletes."