As President Carter says, bigger is not necessarily better, and one of the things that have grown too big is the Boston Marathon. Its 81st running the other day was the biggest ever, with 2,807 officially entered men and 126 officially entered women—plus numerous race crashers and assorted coeds in hot pursuit of Paul Newman, who was shooting footage for a marathon movie.
The back end of the field was so far from the starting line that it took the last entrants 3½ minutes to jog and push up to it. And since the weather was ideal for watching, the road from Hopkinton to the downtown Prudential Center was mobbed by an estimated 800,000 to 1,000,000 spectators, many spilling onto the road. Traffic was tied up all day and one official remarked, "It's like Kenmore Square after a baseball game."
For the serious runners, the race had a nightmarish beginning. Winner Jerome Drayton, 32, of Toronto said, "The organizers ought to make up their minds whether they want quality or quantity. At the start, the first thing I knew there were 50 guys pushing from behind. One guy was grabbing my shirt and pulling me down. I was jostled, kicked and booted around. Twisted my ankle and got kicked in the calf. I almost went down in the first 15 yards." Miki Gorman of Los Angeles, the 41-year-old winner of the women's division, said, "I started too fast. I had no choice. Everybody was rushing and I had to rush along, too. Otherwise, I would have tripped and fallen."
In a postrace debate with Jock Semple, a veteran race official, Drayton said, "All you have to do is seed the first 50 runners, put a rope behind them and let the others start later."
"I handle the whole thing," Semple said, "and I think there are too many bloody entries. But when we cut down, we get flak from the road-runners clubs and all the other clubs in the country. I got flak that I didn't put a man with a wooden leg in. I lost 14 pounds organizing this thing."
Qualifying times for Boston have been in effect since 1970 but the stampede of runners keeps growing. Drayton's solution—to let the few world-class runners compete ahead of the pack—may have merit if Semple can find a rope that will test, oh, some 500,000 pounds.
Pro football fans will recall that George Atkinson, the Oakland Raiders' defensive back, kayoed Lynn Swann of the Steelers last season on a play that generated controversy, countless replays and, for Atkinson, a $1,500 fine from NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
On May 21, Atkinson will be one of 21 Northern California athletes entered in a "Superpros" decathlon for the March of Dimes. Each contestant is sponsored by a business firm or an organization, which donates $500 to the MOD. In the draw for athletes, Atkinson was picked to represent the San Mateo Law Enforcement Agencies. San Mateo is Swann's hometown.
DIOGENES, LOOK HERE
One of the first lessons taught a racetrack neophyte is to always count your money before you leave the window—the inference being that pari-mutuel clerks are more than happy to have anything you leave behind in the excitement of betting. But maybe it's a bum rap.
When fire broke out during the sixth race at New Jersey's Garden State Park on April 14, there was about $1.4 million in cash scattered about. As flames swept through the clubhouse, sellers, cashiers and concessionaires were seen stuffing bills into their pockets, grabbing bags full of cash and running. "Goodby, money," thought many a bettor.
But the next day, at temporary headquarters set up at the Cherry Hill Inn across from the racetrack, the money started coming back—in suitcases, boxes and brown paper bags. One mutuel clerk, who returned $3,959.40 had written a will the night before, saying that the money in his safe-deposit box belonged to Garden State. Others had deposited the money in their checking accounts and brought in checks. But most of the clerks had slept with their money and were still trembling the next morning. Concession, admission and parking employees brought in more cash. And by last week, all but about $200,000 had been accounted for. Everything considered, a return of 86¢ on the dollar isn't bad.
SCHOOL FOR THESPIANS
When the Dempsey School of International Wrestling ran an ad appealing for students who wanted to become professional wrestlers, the Dallas News smelled a nice feature story and got a former SMU football player, Horace Derry (6'4", 260 pounds), to enroll. The paper paid his fees: $100 down, $20 a lesson.
The first lecture was by Headmaster Guy Dempsey, who told the class of about 30, "Pro wrestling is a closed sport, a very tight organization where you don't find too many who are willing to give a newcomer a hand."
Dempsey then gave the class a bit of "rassler" jargon to chew on—such expressions as "working" (both wrestlers fake it throughout a match), "getting blood the hard way" (a wrestler agrees for $50 extra or so to make a prematch cut in his forehead with a bottle cap, then allows it to be pounded until blood flows furiously in the bout) and "baby face" (a wrestler who plays the good guy).
Young Derry was instantly nicknamed Baby Face. "They made it clear from the beginning that they were going to teach us the theatrical approach," he reports. "They said that the important thing was to protect yourself as well as your opponent from injury. They showed us how to react to punches to make them look more punishing than they really were. They showed us how to cradle an opponent's head when you throw him, so he doesn't hit the mat hard enough to hurt.
"They taught us that the philosophy of the sport is that there is no way anybody can make any money if everyone gets hurt and can't work."
Dempsey disagrees only with Derry's semantics. He says, "We're not teaching theatrics here. We're teaching what we call 'crowd identification.' "
Among the instructors were a few well-known pros: Ivan (The Terrible) Bulba, Irish Jack Kennedy and Buddy Farmer. Along with the formal lectures, the oldtimers occasionally entertained their scholars with anecdotes. Kennedy recalled that once he was wrestling under the nom de ring of Benny Schwartz and when a match was over, an admirer yelled, "Great match, Benny! What are your plans for Yom Kippur?" To which Irish Jack replied, "Yom Kippur? How the hell do I know? I've never even seen him wrestle."
THE MOST HAZARDOUS GAME
For the past year, seven suburban Chicago high schools have kept track of injuries suffered in nine different sports, the idea being to find out which are the most dangerous and to take steps to prevent the most common injuries.
Surprisingly, according to this sampling (admittedly a tiny one), the sport causing the most injuries is volleyball. Dr. Richard Dominguez, an orthopedic surgeon who compiled the statistics, found that 31.4% of the students participating in volleyball suffered an injury. Finger injuries led the list. It must have been a terrible year for the Illinois spikers because no other sport even came close in percentage of kids hurt.
The rest of Dominguez' findings: football, 10.9% hurt; gymnastics, 9.3%; wrestling, 8.1%; soccer, 8.1%; basketball, 3.3%; tennis, 2.5%; golf, 1.4%; track, 1.1%.
A new do-it-yourself tactic emerged in basketball recruiting this spring—highly sought athletes paying their own way to visit colleges. The University of Texas had one such visit from Guard Vinnie Johnson of Waco's McLennan Community College, the No. 1 junior-college prospect in the state.
There is method in this apparent madness. "The NCAA visitation limit is six," says Texas Assistant Coach Barry Dowd. "If an athlete pays his own way, it doesn't count against his official-visit limit. That leaves such exotic places as Hawaii or Las Vegas for expense-paid visits."
Chess, it would appear, can count among its devotees a sizable number suited to the game in both mind and moniker. The U.S. Chess Federation's 1976 list of rated tournament players, for example, includes a Paul E. Castle, seven Bishops and 13 Knights. No Pawns and only one Queen made the ratings, but the list also included 53 Kings and one Board.
The Atlanta Braves had a problem—no one to throw out the first ball at their home opener. The team PR director, Bob Hope, had asked some really big names: Jimmy Carter, Miss Lillian, Jerry Ford. All said no.
Hope then called Hollywood to try to get King Kong. He was told that the great ape currently is stored in several hundred separate pieces in a Hollywood warehouse. "It would take at least $40,000 to reassemble him," said Hope. "Then we'd have to ship him. They also warned us that if his control panel wasn't perfectly checked out, instead of throwing out the first ball his arm could go crazy and wipe out several dozen fans."
Hope's next idea was to have a contest—$500 to the fan who could pick a worthy celebrity and then persuade him or her to throw out the ball. A local paper ran the story and the next day phones at the Braves' office almost rang off the wall. The list of celebrity suggestions ran into the hundreds.
Also, an aide of Alabama Governor George Wallace called Hope at two o'clock one morning and said the governor would be willing to do the job. By then, however, it had been decided that Paul Newman, who happened to be in Atlanta for an auto race, was the best choice. Newman agreed.
Ah, but then President Carter called and said that even though he or his mother couldn't make it, he was sending Attorney General Griffin Bell and Budget Director Bert Lance, both longtime Braves fans, to the opener. Said Hope: "It's the same with the President as it is with a 10-ton gorilla—when he asks you to do something, you don't say no."
S O S THROUGH SPACE
A retired space engineer, James L. Baker of Sherwood Forest, Md., has developed a satellite-bounced communications system that would allow small-boat operators to transmit emergency messages over hundreds of miles instead of being limited to the 25-mile range of most small-craft radios.
Baker tested his system in the Bermuda Triangle area this winter during a 30-day cruise on a 33-foot sloop. Communications from his boat were relayed via NASA's Nimbus 6 weather satellite to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Baker said he hopes his invention can be widely produced—and perhaps do something to save at least a few of the 1,200-odd people who lose their lives each year in small-boat accidents in coastal waters.
Baseball managers have been fired for a variety of reasons, but Tom Zimmer, son of the Boston Red Sox pilot, Don Zimmer, may be the first manager ever to fire the franchise. When Zimmer the Younger quit as manager of the Minnesota farm club at Wisconsin Rapids in the Midwest League, he cited inadequate lighting, ill-fitting uniforms and poor lodging in the area. "The lights aren't fit to play under," he said, "the uniforms don't fit and I won't let my players play in them."
Baseball teams that oppose unbeaten Edison (N.J.) High School may be forgiven for doing a double take. The reason is Edison's No. 1 battery of Steve and Larry Korczyk, who are identical twins. The batter who gazes at Pitcher Steve and then at Catcher Larry is usually discombobulated by the sight.
"I thought I was seeing double, too," says Edison Coach Mike Krychowecky. "It was a long time before I could tell them apart. I still blow it sometimes."
THEY SAID IT
•Arnold Schwarzenegger, six-time Mr. Universe, on what it is like to be beautiful: "Many times at the beach a good-looking lady will say to me, 'I want to touch you.' I always smile and say, 'I don't blame you.' "
•O. J. Simpson, asked his opinion of Joe Namath's potential value to the Los Angeles Rams: "Namath would take the Rams straight to the Super Bowl. He can't make an average team good, but he can make a good team great and a great team even greater."
•Al McGuire, on his replacement at Marquette, Hank Raymonds: "My successor is a perfectionist. If he married Raquel Welch, he'd expect her to cook."
•David Brenner, comedian: "I don't like to watch golf on television. I can't stand whispering."