POLITICAL GOLF BALL
Jimmy Carter's sporting interests are coming in for attention. His well publicized participation in softball games during the campaign served as something of a counterbalance to Gerald Ford's equally well publicized career as a center on the University of Michigan football team. Now that Carter is taking over the Oval Office, an aide was asked about the President-elect's other sporting interests, specifically golf, which both Ford and Richard Nixon are so fond of playing. "Golf?" the aide said, as though Carter had been charged with creeping Republicanism. "No, Jimmy never took much to golf. He plays tennis a bit, loves fishing and is crazy about auto racing. But golf? Forget it."
ONE MAN'S OPINION
Jacques Laperri√®re was an outstanding defenseman with the Montreal Canadiens for 11 seasons. More recently he was coach of the Montreal Juniors in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Two weeks ago he quit.
"That's not my idea of hockey," he said after his team and the Sorel Black Hawks were penalized a total of 334 minutes. Previously, he had said, "Hockey is a physical game, and I played it that way. But violence? There is no room for violence. By telling kids to fight, to intimidate, to concentrate on stuff like that, we are doing an injustice. We are not teaching hockey. We are creating goons."
November 22, 1976
Three days before the Sorel game, Laperri√®re's club had been in a similar brawl with Trois Rivi√®res. "It started before the game," he said. "Some of their players told ours, 'Watch your heads tonight.' When the game started, the threats became real. When it got out of hand, I called my team off the ice. I had no intention of keeping them off. I just wanted the league to recognize a protest, to know how strongly I felt."
Laperri√®re was fined $1,000 for that, even though his players had obeyed his precept of fighting "only to defend yourself." The donnybrook had been started by a rival player.
"It was clear who was the aggressor," Laperri√®re said, "and the aggressor rule is automatic. He is supposed to be put out of the game. But the aggressor was given four minutes in penalties—two minors. That's why I made my protest."
Then came the Sorel game, and Laperri√®re decided enough was enough. "The league is a good league," he declared, "and the rules are there to make the hockey good. But if other coaches and owners feel it can survive only with violence, then I want no part of it."
What was the worst team in baseball history? The 1962 New York Mets? Not a bad pick. In their first year of existence the last-place Mets won 40 games, lost 120 and finished 60½ games behind.
Next year, pitching coaches on major league teams will include Roger Craig of the San Diego Padres, Galen Cisco of the Kansas City Royals, Al Jackson of the Boston Red Sox and Bob Miller of the Toronto Blue Jays.
You know what Craig, Cisco, Jackson and Miller have in common? They all pitched for the 1962 Mets.
THIS YEAR'S CROP OF MISSES
If you have the feeling that pro football teams are missing an awful lot of extra points this year, you're right—in a sense. Through the first nine weeks of the season, 11.2% of all extra-point attempts failed, compared to 7.7% last year and 8.7% in 1974, the year the goalposts were moved from the goal line to the back of the end zone. If you are impressed by percentages, the increase in failures this year is startling—nearly 45% more than in the previous season. Perfectionist coaches are driven crazy by figures like this, particularly since no one seems to agree on the reasons for the increase.
On the other hand, if you look at the situation from a quantitative point of view, the number of extra points being missed isn't all that startling. In the 126 games played through the first nine weeks, 65 extra-point tries were blown, which works out to only one miss every two games. Moreover, if you compare that with the failure rate for the past two years, you'll find it means about one more miss every six games, which isn't anything to get excited about.
Unless, of course, you happen to have a bet on a team to win by seven and it flubs the kick and wins by six.
Winning is the only thing, Vince Lombardi is supposed to have said. Maybe he did and maybe he didn't. And maybe it is and maybe it isn't. The other day Barbara Roche, the star of Northwestern's women's field hockey team, broke a 0-0 tie in the second half of a game with Valparaiso by dribbling down the left side, cutting toward the middle and deftly putting a short flip shot into the lower left corner of the net. The officials signaled a goal, it was so noted by the scorer, and the players on both teams moved toward midfield to line up for a face-off. All except Barbara Roche, who went up to an official and said, "It wasn't a goal. I hit it off the back of my stick." Hitting the ball with the back of the stick is illegal in field hockey.
The official blinked once or twice but declared it no goal and gave the ball to Valparaiso to put into play from its end of the field. Fourteen minutes later Northwestern scored (on a rebound of a shot by Roche) and held on to win 1-0.
Asked after the game about her "non-goal," Roche said, 'I didn't think it was right. The referee didn't see it, but I did." She refused to say anything more about the incident, declaring that she did not want to sound "too religious."
Her coach, Mary DiStanislao, said, "About Barbara's goal: I love to win, but you've got to be honest. She did the right thing."
The Outland Trophy, given in honor of an old University of Pennsylvania tackle named John H. Outland, is awarded each year to the outstanding lineman in college football. It is a well-deserved salute to those talented, hardworking, under-publicized players who don't have a prayer of even being considered for the glittering Heisman Trophy.
The Outland is an admirable award and has achieved a certain distinction, so much so that it is now the subject of a parody called the Outlandish Trophy. The Outlandish is the creation of a fledgling San Diego journal called The Sports Page and salutes the man who might euphemistically be called the most extreme player in the National Football League. The winner of the Outlandish is—who else?—Conrad Dobler of the St. Louis Cardinals, who has been charged with, among other things, biting an opposing player in the heat of battle. Dobler's coach, Don Coryell, defending his star lineman's tactics, says, "He may bite a little, but that's not going to end a guy's career," and Dobler's mother insists he is misunderstood. "Conrad is a very compassionate boy," says Mrs. Dobler, "a kind person."
Be that as it may, behind Dobler on The Sports Page's list of kind, compassionate NFL folks are the following, in order: 2. Harvey Martin, Dallas; 3. Ernie Holmes, Pittsburgh; 4. George Atkinson, Oakland; 5. Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh; 6. Joe Greene, Pittsburgh; 7. Emmitt Thomas, Kansas City; 8. Jack Tatum, Oakland; 9. Lyle Alzado, Denver; and 10. John Vella, Oakland.
If you're looking for a Christmas present for that high jumper or pole vaulter on your list, you might get in touch with Anthony Nelson in Montreal. Nelson represents COJO, the Organizing Committee of the Montreal Olympics, and he has some Olympic-quality landing pits for sale at bargain prices. The PORTaPIT Company donated the pits for the Games and they were allowed through Canadian customs duty-free on the condition that they would be out of the country again by the end of November.
COJO has run ads for the pits in the sports section of The New York Times. "They brought us some solid inquiries," says Nelson. "Most came from schools, but two fathers called about buying pits for their high-jumping sons."
The things don't come cheap. A high-jump pit goes for $1,150 American, compared to the $1,900 it costs new, installed, and a pole-vault pit goes for $1,400, compared to $3,100 new, installed. Of course, the prices are FOB Montreal, with shipping and gift wrapping extra. On the other hand, there is a certain cachet to being able to point toward your very own Olympic landing pit and say, casually, "Dwight Stones slipped here."
In football, the idea of changing to the metric system is usually laughed at ("Hey, first down and 9.1 meters to go, right?"). Yet, as Dr. Andrew Hulsebosch of the Eastern Analysis Institute points out, switching football from yards to meters would be easy to do. Hulsebosch has devised 90-Meter Football, played on a field 90 meters long by 50 meters wide with nine-meter end zones. Those are nice easy numbers to remember and they translate well. Such a field would be almost precisely the size of the present field: 1½ yards shorter between the goal lines, less than a yard wider on each side, the end zones a scant 5½ inches shorter than they are now.
But what about "First down and 10 yards to go"? Simple. Stripe the field every five meters instead of every five yards. First and 10 would be first and 10 meters (11 yards) to go. The only radical change Hulsebosch recommends has to do with the yard markers—sorry, meter markers—on the sidelines. He'd have them carry double sets of numbers, one batch in red, the other in white. The red numbers would measure the distance in meters one team has to go from its own goal line to a touchdown, while those in white would measure the same distance in reverse for the other team. Thus, the meter marker at one goal line would have a red 0 and a white 90, and as you move upheld the markers would read 5/85, 10/80, 15/75, 20/70, 25/65, 30/60 and so on. Midfield would be 45/45, and the other goal line would be 90/0. Not only would this spotlight the new metric values, it would emphasize the distance of a long kick or run ("Simpson breaks loose! He's to the 65! The 75! The 85! And it's a touchdown!").
A realist, Hulsebosch knows there is little chance of persuading the NFL or major colleges to try the idea, at least not yet. But he believes a few small colleges, especially those in an academically oriented league like the Midwest Conference (Carleton, Lawrence, Chicago, et al.), might repaint a field and experiment with 90-Meter Football. Try it for a year, he says. You'll like it.
Kapaa High won the interscholastic football championship of the Hawaiian island of Kauai this year.
It was Kapaa's first championship in the 31 years the league has been in existence.
There are only three high schools in the league.
As Kapaa Coach Glenn Hayashi said, amid exuberant hand-slapping congratulations in the winners' locker room, "We've been waiting 30 years for this, and the pressure was beginning to build."
THEY SAID IT
•Steve Sloan, Texas Tech football coach, after his unbeaten Red Raiders squeaked past winless TCU: "I've always said the sun doesn't shine on the same dog every day. But we sure as heck didn't expect a near-total eclipse."
•Greg Buttle, New York Jet linebacker, explaining his contractual obligations: "They pay me to practice. Sundays I play for nothing."
•Grant Teaff, Baylor football coach, after his team was idle for three weeks: "I think the layoff was the greatest thing to happen to Baylor football. I'll figure out why later."
•Bobby Bowden, Florida State football coach, on 5'8", 135-pound freshman Placekicker Dave Cappelen: "When we stick him in the whirlpool, we gotta have a lifeguard there."