JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS
The dispute that erupted last week between the New York Knicks and the New York Nets over where the Nets will play next season is potentially more important than a simple local squabble. Even during the ABA championship seasons, when Julius Erving was in full flight, Roy Boe's Nets didn't draw well at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. So Boe wants to move across the Hudson River to the New Jersey Meadowlands, where Sonny Werblin & Co. would be happy to build a 20,000-seat arena for him. The Knicks say no, citing an agreement on territorial rights that, they claim, bars the Nets from making such a move.
Last week NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien had the two sides in to his office for an hour of fruitless discussion, during which they both declined his suggestion that the conflict be arbitrated. Then the Nets went off to court and filed a two-part action.
First, they said, the agreement with the Knicks does not prevent them from moving to New Jersey. The wording of the agreement is complicated enough so that a court might have to interpret it. O'Brien and the NBA could, if need be, tolerate that. That is hard enough for them to swallow.
What left them aghast, and what has shaken owners and commissioners in every pro sport, was the second part of the Nets' action, which asserted broadly that the whole idea of enforcing territorial rights was unconstitutional. This, according to O'Brien, is an attack on the core of professional sports. "Without territorial rights," he said, "a league cannot survive." Moreover, given the tenor of recent decisions on matters involving the special position of professional sports, there is nothing the NBA relishes less than having an issue of this magnitude bobbing around in the courts.
O'Brien's style is to resolve disputes through patient and quiet negotiation, as he did when the legality of the college draft was challenged by Oscar Robertson. He now must summon those considerable talents again—and not only on his own behalf.
TOO MUCH TOGETHERNESS?
An odd couple walking arm in arm these days is ABC Sports and fight promoter Don King. The two strolled earlier this year: King lined up the fighters and arranged the U.S. Boxing Championships: ABC picked up the tab and put the bouts on the home screen. Soon, however, there were reports of boxers' records being phonied, kickbacks and other misdeeds. ABC suspended the tournament in April, promised a thorough investigation and looked darkly in King's direction.
A report on the network's investigation is supposed to be ready next month. In the meantime, ABC is back with King in the promotion and telecast of the Nov. 5 bout in Las Vegas between Ken Norton and Jimmy Young. (King, who has contracts with both boxers, sold the television rights to their fight to ABC.) On the surface, this smacks of going partners in a new business with a guy you suspect of running around with your wife.
Jim Spence, ABC vice-president in charge of sports planning, says, "We discussed at length whether we should do this with King. We do hold him responsible for some of the previous problems, but he is not accused of any personal wrongdoing. The main thing is Norton-Young is an outstanding fight and we're in the business of presenting outstanding fights."
What isn't so outstanding, on the face of it, is that while the network is having King et al. investigated, it is, at the same time, cozying up with him.
For millions of people who live and die by gambling on numbers combinations (lotteries, horse races, etc.), nothing could have been more promising than last July 7. For when reduced to numbers, that date is 7/7/77. And by reputation, no number is luckier than 7.
That's precisely what the management of The Meadows harness track near Pittsburgh thought. They promoted July 7 as "The Luckiest Day of the Century." Came the seventh race and the favorite was the 7 horse, Speech Writer. Perfect—until shortly before the race. At which time, lightning scored a direct hit on the tote board, heavily damaging it and forcing the track announcer to read off the odds.
The symbolism was not lost on the bettors, who, as a breed, are most superstitious. They backed off Speech Writer en masse. So, naturally, he won.
As part of the promotion, the track had given away three Trifecta wheel tickets worth $84 each on the seventh race, but nobody picked 7 to win. Pity. The Trifecta paid $1,294; a $2 win ticket on Speech Writer, $11.20. "After the lightning," says track publicist Tom Rooney, "nothing we could do would get people to play 7, not even letting them bet with the track's money."
Speech Writer also is the seventh foal of Widow Adioway. And what about unlucky 13? For Speech Writer's driver, Dale Ross, it was his 13th win of the season at The Meadows. Says Rooney, "We've thought it over and decided not to promote 8/8/88."
As sudden and unpredictable as summer lightning is an ill wind that blows out of North Africa at this time of year and stirs up all kinds of mischief along the southwestern coast of Spain. Called the levanter, this "wind of depression" is said to cause sane men to do crazy things, like throttling their wives or setting out to sea in small boats on improbable quests.
That at least is one explanation of what happened to Dr. Bob Magoon, the intrepid eye surgeon from Miami who hoped to drive a speedboat across the Atlantic in a record 72 hours, clipping some 10 hours off the mark set by the liner S.S. United States in 1952 (SI, June 27). Magoon and his three crewmen left the U.S. Navy base in Rota, Spain on schedule. But unlike Columbus, who launched the Santa Maria in these same waters, Magoon and his 36-foot Citicorp Traveler, the most expensive, sophisticated outboard ever built, failed to reach the New World.
Though the levanter struck on the eve of Magoon's departure, stirring up the Atlantic, U.S. Navy weathermen felt he could outrun the wind and escape to the calmer seas predicted for the remainder of the 3,345-mile voyage. But just a few hours out of Rota the boat was battered by 10-foot waves that caused a fuel-tank leak and badly bruised one of crew member Rick LaMore's ribs.
Powered by four 200-horsepower Mercury engines, Magoon's boat had expended so much fuel climbing the swells that it was in danger of ending up dead in the water. Fortunately, Magoon was able to overtake a Danish tanker, which towed the boat like a dinghy for seven hours until a Portuguese Navy corvette arrived to haul the craft into the Ponta Delgada harbor in the Azores. Standing on the dock, Magoon aborted the mission, saying. "The ocean was bigger than we were."
But not better, he insists. Undaunted, last week Magoon was busy planning a second assault on the Atlantic. "Next summer," he said, "we'll take a more southerly route, the way Columbus did, to get better weather. I don't like to quit a loser." People who know him well don't expect that he will.
WHERE DID EVERYONE GO?
Eight-year-old Wesley Paul, of Columbia, Mo. was running a marathon the other day in Edwardsville. Ill. when he got the distinct feeling he definitely was a lonely long-distance runner. That's a feeling easy to come by when lost—as Wesley was. He got back on course but got lost again.
After Wesley finally crossed the finish line, it was computed that he had run 33 miles in 4:16—unquestionably a record for 8-year-olds, if such records were kept (which they aren't) for the 33-mile event (which doesn't exist). "They said there would be arrows pointing the right way." says Wesley. "There weren't."
His father, Ali Paul, says of his two searches for his missing son during the race, "I thought he had quit." Sniffed Wesley, "I never quit." Indeed, he already holds the national 8-year-old marks for the one-mile (5:36.4) and three-mile (17:59.6). His intention had been to break the age-group marathon mark of 3:15:42. Was Wesley miffed? No, he admitted, just "a little tired."
EVERY GAME COUNTS...
As a counterpoint to today's often outrageous and unamusing player-management confrontations, Philadelphia Phillie boss Ruly Carpenter likes this story:
In 1950, after the Phillies clinched the National League pennant on the final day of the season, Milo Candini, a right-handed relief pitcher with a 1-0 record, asked Ruly's father, Bob, then the club's owner, for a raise. Carpenter protested, "But Milo, you only had one win." Said Candini, "Yeah, but we only won the pennant by one game." Despite such logic. Carpenter turned Candini down.
...EVERY BITE COUNTS
In a considerably more favorable negotiating stance than Milo Candini was Leonard (Truck) Robinson, the former Atlanta Hawk forward. He recently signed a five-year no-cut contract with the New Orleans Jazz, reportedly for $1.5 million, plus a bonus.
After agreeing to terms, Jazz GM Lewis Schaffel suggested dinner at Antoine's where the tab for two can easily reach $50. But, Schaffel says, "He didn't seem impressed, so I told him to pick any restaurant in town." Robinson selected a fast-food spot, Popeyes, where dinner for two can easily reach $4.
Says Schaffel, "We wound up discussing the language of the contract over 24 pieces of fried chicken."
ILLEGAL USE OF HANDS?
Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett already is a big hit in Dallas where he will play for the Cowboys—if you believe bartender Sammie Emerick. Loosening up for the season ahead, Tony was having a few coolers in a disco, 3 Lift, when a dispute arose over whether Dorsett had paid for the drinks and whether he was standing in the way. Ugliness followed. Emerick says, "Dorsett just reached across the bar and punched me."
Dorsett was charged with two counts of simple assault. (A barmaid says he threw a glass that cut her.) "If I hadn't been Tony Dorsett," complained the star running back, "nothing would have been made of it." Which is a problem he must adjust to. For with a $1.2 million contract over five years, he is different.
Dallas knows. It has gone berserk over Dorsett. Already, season ticket sales are more than 3,000 ahead of last year's, which means $300,000; Tony's salary averages out at $240,000. "Never in my life," says Cowboy executive Gil Brandt, "have I seen as much interest in one player as there is in Dorsett."
Which means there are going to be a lot of folks in a lot of bars wanting a shot at him. There's no need for Dorsett to accommodate their egos. Or his own.
A COOLING THOUGHT
For those of you who have been thinking that what this country really needs is another pro hockey league, you're in luck. Later this month the Pacific Hockey League will have its organizational meeting. Plans are to have teams in such hockey hotbeds as San Diego, Long Beach and, perhaps, Tucson.
It will be a minor league, and salaries are not supposed to run more than $10,000. "If players don't want to sign for that kind of money for six months in the West," says Peter Graham, one of the backers, "then well find plenty of others that will." That's not the problem, of course. After all, when was the last time you went to a game and there weren't enough players? The key is whether fans will view the league as a solid concept or one with a high mush content.
THEY SAID IT
•Woody Hayes, Ohio State football coach, explaining why there is no place for women in the game: "To play football you need a bull neck and I don't like women with bull necks."
•John Curtis, San Francisco Giant pitcher, on the difficulties of managing: "Between owners and players, a manager today has become a wishbone."