The National Hockey League's decision to crack down on fighting and related violence by introducing more stringent penalties, notably that a player who starts a fight will be summarily thrown out of the game, produced surprising approval from an unexpected source—Bobby Clarke, star center of the hard-hitting Philadelphia Flyers, president of the Players Association and three times the league's Most Valuable Player.
After the new rules were approved last week, Clarke told a group of sportswriters that his only objection was that the NHL had not gone far enough. Clarke felt the rules committee should have heeded the advice of the player representatives, who had voted 16-4 in favor of having all those who take part in any fight ejected from the game, not just the obvious aggressors. "Spontaneous" outbursts, in which two men flare up at one another, also will be tolerated.
"Hockey is good enough on its own that it doesn't need fighting," said Clarke, "yet apparently the owners and managers think the threat of violence is necessary to sell the game. But all the brawling hasn't made hockey popular. I know fans in Philadelphia—the best fans in the league now—who have been turned off by the mayhem. We've lost the TV Game of the Week in the States, and crowds are falling off. I think the message is there. I think hockey can be a lot better when you let the talented players perform without fear of getting worked over."
Clarke argued that if everyone were aware that all parties to a fight would be automatically ejected it would "prevent guys like Dave Schultz from trying to get a player like Guy Lafleur out of the game. This way, if Lafleur wants to, he can skate away with grace."
Scotty Morrison, the NHL's refereein-chief, doubted that. "I don't think our current players are ready to turn the other cheek," he said.
Still, Clarke approved the new rules. "I don't mind taking my hits in a game," he said, "but I don't appreciate it if a guy who scores five goals a season and is six inches taller than I am is beating on my head all night. Now the little guy will get a chance to play hockey again. Dave Schultz? Well, he's shown that he can play hockey, and now he'll have more of an opportunity because he won't be in the penalty box for 300 minutes a season."
The NCAA and the AAU have finally agreed on something. They both are mad at the President's Commission on Olympic Sports, which was created with the idea of bringing some sort of order and reason to the governing of amateur athletics in this country. "The AAU has accused us of favoring the NCAA," says Mike Harrigan, executive director of the commission, "and the NCAA says the commission is loaded in favor of the AAU."
Since a good many athletes and coaches are disenchanted with both the AAU and the NCAA, it follows that the President's Commission must be doing something right. We look forward with anticipation to the group's final report, due later this year.
Calvin Griffith, famous for his tight-budget baseball operation with the old, old Washington Senators and more recently with the Minnesota Twins, fulminated at his fellow owners both before and after he traded away the Twins' pitching star Bert Blyleven because of what Griffith felt were outrageous salary demands. Blyleven wanted a $1.2-million, four-year contract or a reasonable facsimile thereof, and Griffith told him to go make a deal for himself. To the press the Minnesota owner said, "Blyleven says he wants to play on the Coast but I imagine he'd play anywhere they're silly enough to pay him that much." The silly area was Texas, the Rangers agreeing to give Blyleven something like half a million over three years. A few days later Griffith turned his fiscal attention to the situation in Boston, where despite the Red Sox reputation for high salaries Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk and Rick Burleson remained unsigned. Showing little sympathy for the American League's defending champions, Griffith said, "Let's face it. People in my type of situation have always considered the Red Sox the team that screwed things up for everyone else the way they pay."
ALL IN FAVOR SAY EYES
What makes your eyes burn in a swimming pool? Too much chlorine, right? Wrong. It's too little chlorine. This intelligence is provided by Jack Nelson, the U.S. Olympic women's swimming team coach, writing in The Swimming Times, a British publication.
Nelson explains that there are two forms of chlorine. The first burns the eyes and has the smell we associate with chlorine because it is combined with ammonia and nitrogen. The other form, which is nitrogen-free, destroys ammonia compounds, does not irritate the eyes and has no odor. According to Nelson, your eyes burn when there isn't enough free chlorine in the water to disintegrate the chlorine-ammonia compounds. Free chlorine also makes water pellucid by chemically destroying sweat, body oils and other substances that make water cloudy.
Simple? Well, no. And because the chemistry of pool water is so complicated, more and more swimming-pool operators are using automated devices that distinguish between "good" and "bad" chlorine and keep the "bad" under control by holding chlorine residuals at the right level.
A beneficial side effect of automated control is the astonishing clarity of the water. During the 1975 NCAA championships at Cleveland State University, TV cameras shooting through underwater windows picked up details in tiles 50 meters away. The Olympic pools at Montreal will be similarly automated, which should enhance the competition in the eyes of the beholders as well as in those of the swimmer.
After Louisiana Administration Commissioner Charles Roemer revealed that two business groups had expressed interest in buying the Superdome, the following "real-estate ad" appeared in agate type on page one of the New Orleans States-Item:
"Custom-built home on corner lot in CBD [Central Business District], still good as new, located on 52 spacious acres, landscaped with 450 trees, 500 plants and 10,000 ground-cover plants—a gardener's delight. Must be seen to believe. Luxury multi-level home is place elegante. Need room for the kiddies? There are 64 private suites, 88 bathrooms and six giant-screen televisions to accommodate their every need. Parking garages beaucoup—5,000 of them in split-level sections to allow your guests at your housewarming bash to exit in luxury. Thirty-two escalators and 10 elevators will carry you to every corner of your dream come true. For exercise, there are colorfully carpeted concourses and ramps, plus basketball court and football field. More than 15,000 lights will brighten up every day. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. $165-million—will accept offer. Contact Charles Roemer, State Division of Administration, Baton Rouge, for details. Immediate occupancy available."
Details might include the fact that the Superdome incurred a deficit of $12 million in its first year of operation and that only a reshuffling of funds by Louisiana Governor Edwin W. Edwards kept the place open past April 1. Still, that might mean you could swing the deal for substantially less than the $165 million the Supe cost to build. If you can just get your hands on a mortgage....
YOU'RE THE TOP
A baseball statistic called Runs Produced, which first appeared in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED 20 years ago, is based on the premise that runs are what count most in baseball. The figure is arrived at by adding the runs a player scores to the runs he bats in and then subtracting from that amount the number of home runs he hits. Players at or near the top in Runs Produced invariably are the ones who win ball games, those who get on base and score, those who drive other base runners in. For example, last year's Runs Produced leaders were Joe Morgan of Cincinnati in the National League and Fred Lynn of Boston in the American. Not by coincidence, each was voted Most Valuable Player in his league, even though neither finished first in any of the so-called Triple Crown categories—batting average, home runs, runs batted in.
If you are wondering why the Reds are moving away from the pack, or why Texas and Kansas City are running one-two, here are this season's top Run Producers in each league, through games of last Friday:
The bottom line has won out on California's Monterey Peninsula. Macadam cart paths have been laid alongside the fairways of the Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the five or 10 greatest American golf courses and the site of the 1972 U.S. Open.
Like the other fine old courses, Pebble Beach is an unreproducible combination of unique landscape and inspired architecture, but unlike most of golf's shrines it is operated as part of a profit-making enterprise that includes the Del Monte Lodge and vast real estate holdings. Pebble Beach has shareholders rather than members. Therefore, when the problem of damage to the turf arose, as it always does where golf carts are used and play is heavy, the directors of the corporation chose the path of greatest profit. They retained the golf carts for the sake of their revenue (instead of expanding their caddie program) and installed hard surfaces for them to roll on (instead of, say, decomposed granite) because hard surfaces cost less to maintain.
No matter that hard paths can alter the configuration of a golf shot by causing a ball to ricochet or that they may require drops that can move the ball as much as five club lengths from where it originally came to rest. No matter that the aspect of a hole from its tee is a vital element of the game and was never intended to include a black stripe running up one side.
The deed is done. Perhaps the perpetrators did not understand that they were tampering with a national treasure. As a California observer sputtered the other day, "They had a responsibility that transcended that damn bottom line."
People are forever complaining about rotten shows that TV keeps on the air while it shoots down programs of superior quality. But evidence continues to come along to demonstrate that TV knows what it's doing, however awful that is. Viewers, baby. Ratings. Numbers. For instance, in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago a tasteful telecast of a women's boxing match between Dianne Syverson and Princess Red Star—no, Muhammad Ali hasn't fought either of them yet—boosted ratings on station KCOP substantially and came close to matching the audience for an NBA playoff game on network TV the same night. And you wonder why The Six Million Dollar Man survives.
THEY SAID IT
•Tommy John, Los Angeles pitcher, after the Dodgers had been crushed by Philadelphia 14-2: "I think the Phillies have reached a point where they are now better than Cincinnati, but that's like comparing the atom bomb to the hydrogen bomb. They both kill you."
•David Pickett, of Northeast Louisiana University, who was picked ninth in the NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers: "I feel like I have just as good a chance as the first man chosen, and I'll be a lot less expensive."
•Joe Frazier, New York Met manager, chastising his slumping pitching ace Tom Seaver for boisterous behavior on the team bus: "You're talking 70 and shooting 90."
•George Foreman, before his bout with the other Joe Frazier: "Boxing is sort of like jazz. The better it is, the less amount of people can appreciate it."