Newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations were flooded with mail after the Winter Olympics, much of it bristling with concern for American competitors. "Our amateur best are sent to win, lose or draw against a world of professional athletes," one letter protested. "Our part-time skiers and skaters compete with European counterparts who were born and raised 50 feet from giant downhills and state-run ice rinks where they ski and skate 51 weeks a year, with one week off to make cheese...."
Part-time? Bill Koch, the 20-year-old cross-country skier whose accomplishments at Innsbruck were so impressive, has done almost nothing else for four years but train. "I train all the time," he says. "I don't work. My family finances me." The family of gold-medal speed skater Peter Mueller moved to suburban Milwaukee so that Mueller could be near the Olympic-sized speed-skating rink at West Allis. Mueller says it cost $5,000 each for him and his fiancée, Leah Poulos, who won a silver medal, to train against topflight competition in Europe last fall. The mother of Dan Immerfall, a bronze-medal speed skater, says she went for $20,000 over a 10-year period to finance her son's training. Cindy Nelson, the 20-year-old downhill skier who won a bronze, does not work, does not go to school. Figure skater Dorothy Hamill, the most publicized American gold-medal winner at Innsbruck, moved with her mother from their home in Connecticut (leaving the rest of the family there) so that Dorothy could be under the direct supervision of her coach in Denver.
Despite the famous statement to the contrary by Baron de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, many people feel that winning is more important than taking part and has been for a long time. Olympic athletes have learned that winning a medal, even coming close to winning a medal, requires that training become a full-time job, or almost so, in America as in the rest of the world. For better or worse, there is little room for the dilettante athlete on the Olympic victory stand.
March 22, 1976
UP IN THE AIR
Whatever happens in baseball's tangled labor dispute, the same old clear thinking that led to it seems likely to prevail when the teams get into the season. As evidence, we offer the Minnesota Twins' schedule for the latter part of June. A 10-day home stand, during which Minnesota plays every day (or night), ends with a game against the Tigers on Sunday, the 20th, after which the Twins fly to California, where they play the Angels on Monday and Tuesday, the 21st and 22nd. Then they fly right back to Minnesota for a two-day, three-game set with the White Sox on Wednesday and Thursday. After that they get on the plane again and zip out to Oakland for three games with the A's on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then they trudge wearily—beg pardon, fly briskly—home to play three games with the Royals on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
That wraps up June, fellas. Now in July....
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
It turned out not to be so, which is a shame, but for a time rumors had it that a monthly newsletter published by the Professional Golfers Association was to be called Preferred Lies.
At Florida's Derby Lane greyhound track there has been considerable confusion this season over a dog named Cilohocla. Since the dog was bred and named in Ireland, it was at first assumed that Cilohocla must surely be some lovely and secluded Irish lake, or perhaps an ancient heroine in Gaelic folklore. Then someone noticed that the truth is considerably less romantic; Cilohocla is nothing more than alcoholic spelled backward. The owners claim the dog was bred in partnership by an Irish law officer and a man he once arrested for disorderly conduct and persuaded to join AA, of which he himself was a longtime member. Now the question is how Cilohocla should be pronounced. With a hard c, as in alcoholic, and therefore Kilohocla? But the rules of English phonetics dictate that a c before an i is always pronounced as an s, which would make it Silohocla. (You never hear people calling themselves kitizens of Kinkinnati.) Whether Kilohocla or Silohocla, the dog has delighted his followers by finishing in a number of quinellas, and when he loses there is always a ready explanation. To a fan tearing up losing tickets on Cilohocla after a recent race, a companion said, "What could you expect? He's not a greyhound; he's a booze hound."
KLAMMER AND THRONGS
Never in the 30 years of Colorado's Roch Cup had so many spectators turned out, more than 10,000 lining the hillside above Aspen. What's more, many of them were obvious nonskiers wearing topcoats and street shoes, folks who ordinarily would no more watch a downhill than they would race in one. The mob scene was typical of the sport's newest passion. They were there to watch Franz Klammer take a mountain apart. And failing that, just to watch Franz Klammer.
Naturally, Austria's Olympic hero won the race. And naturally, he won recklessly, which is his trademark. Klammer took the top section of the two-mile course a bit too easily and then had to pour it on in the final schuss, much as he did in his breakneck dash at Innsbruck, this time beating Switzerland's René Berthold by .12 of a second. Having done the expected, Klammer seemed stunned by the adoring crowd surrounding him at the finish. Not since the days of the dashing Jean-Claude Killy has a skier so seized the public fancy. And far from being dismayed by the poor performances turned in by American skiers (our best racer came in a dismal 21st), U.S. Alpine Director Hank Tauber jubilantly declared that the lure of a star like Klammer would attract kids everywhere to the slopes. Klammer, he said, "may be the best thing that's ever happened to American ski racing."
The victory was Klammer's fifth in eight World Cup downhills this winter (not including his Olympic triumph), which locked up the title in that division. Next year, Klammer said, he'll win them all, "but I will try to keep away from the public more so that I can keep my mind on racing." And with that, he was engulfed again.
The women also staged a downhill in Aspen. Austria's Brigitte Totschnig won and Cindy Nelson tied for fourth. After the race, the Associated Press reported, Cindy's skis were stolen from the rack on her car. It figures. The cops were probably still watching Klammer.
PLAYING LEFT FIELD
Sasquatch? The Abominable Snowman? Missing Link? What was the strange apelike creature being exhibited at animal shows around the country? New York attorney Michael Miller really wanted to know, so he bought the animal for 58,000, named him Oliver and announced his acquisition to the world, or that part of it whose attention he could get. Hoax, cried the press, as it waited two months for close access to the beast. Finally, Miller introduced Oliver at his formal debut at a press conference at the New York Explorers' Club. No, it was not a publicity stunt for a new King Kong flick. Oliver was real, all right, but a real what, no one seemed to know.
According to Miller, a laboratory examination revealed that Oliver has 47 chromosomes, one more than man, one less than apes, which could make him an ideal missing link—except that chromosomes are naturally paired in higher animals, and Oliver could well be nothing more than an aberrant chimpanzee. As a matter of fact, he looks like a chimpanzee, a bald-headed chimp with the face of a Sasquatch who has looked upon life and hasn't much liked what he's seen.
But although Oliver is just a kid, he already stands 4½ feet tall, normal for an adult chimpanzee, and walks erect, unlike a chimp, who sort of scrambles along on hands and feet.
End of report. Oh, one last thing. Contrary to rumors, Oliver has not been signed by Bill Veeck. Not yet.
SEE NO EVIL
Some politicians, particularly those struggling with budgets, have a tendency to look upon legalized gambling as a panacea, a sure-fire means of raising money, while overlooking the problems that invariably accompany its introduction. In Maryland recently, State Senator Meyer Emmanuel introduced a bill to establish state-run gambling houses. "This is not Las Vegas," Emmanuel said of his proposal. "I'm talking about well-built, well-designed casinos with very expensive restaurants that would attract those who can afford to lose a few hundred dollars an evening."
Vigorously opposed to the bill was State Senator Julian L. Lapides. "I don't think this would create the kind of environment I want to live in," he said, declaring that legalized gambling would attract "undesirable elements."
Replied Senator Emmanuel, "I am naive enough to believe that if they are government owned and operated, you won't have those kinds of influences."
"Then you are terribly naive," said Senator Lapides.
ETTES IS OUT
Members of Yale's women's crew were granted the locker-room facilities they wanted after they stripped in protest in the office of the women's athletic director. Now another pressing problem faces women in intercollegiate sport: the matter of nicknames. If a woman plays for Texas Christian, does she really want to be called a Horned Frog? Does she want to be a Blue Hen (Delaware), a Lord Jeff (Amherst) or a Razorback (Arkansas)?
Some colleges simply prefix the nickname with the word "Lady." Thus we are blessed with Lady Seminoles, Lady Trojans and even Lady Rams. Lady Rams? Shouldn't that be Ewes? Does a Lion become a Lioness, a Bull a Cow, a Brave a Squaw?
Of course, some schools have it easy, thanks to the language of the '70s. Orangemen are suddenly Orangewomen; Statesmen are transformed into States-women. But does this help matters at Massachusetts and Oberlin? Can there be Minutewomen and Yeowomen?
Washington & Jefferson is one school that should have little trouble making the switch. Its teams—its men's teams—are known as the Presidents. And their female counterparts? The First Ladies, no doubt.
LONG, COLD ROAD
The problems some colleges and high schools have in scheduling opponents pale next to those confronting Barrow High School, which is on the shore of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska. Barrow is the only high school in the North Slope Borough (equivalent to a county), which has an area of 88,284 square miles, larger than the whole state of Idaho. Its nearest rivals are in Fairbanks and Nome, each a 1,500-mile round trip, and other opponents are hundreds of miles farther away. Barrow has only 110 students, 65 of whom are on the school's basketball, cross-country, track, volleyball, wrestling, badminton and gymnastic teams. They travel 27,000 miles a year to compete and spend $65,000 doing it; the students themselves help raise $10,000 a year to supplement the athletic department's budget.
Athletic Director John Danner says his teams sometimes play seven opponents in eight days when they are on the road. "We may not win any state titles," says Danner, "but we are competitive, and we're proud of that."
THEY SAID IT
•Roland Carter, pole vaulter, on his first 18-foot effort: "It wasn't any more of a thrill than the first time I cleared 15 or 16 or 17 feet. I just had more time to enjoy it on the way down."
•Donna Maiello, head swim coach at Carnegie-Mellon University, on why she feeds her swimmers gumdrops as a reward for good practices: "I used to use taffy, but it took too long to chew. So did licorice. But I can take gumdrops to the side of the pool and drop them in the swimmers' mouths, and they won't miss very much practice time."
•Johnny Miller, the golfer: "I've got a Ford Pantera, a Porsche Carrera, two BMWs, a Mercedes roadster, a de Tomaso Mangusta, another Porsche, another Mercedes, a station wagon, a jeep. I guess I'm a nut about cars."