TRYING TO ICE THE OLYMPICS
With 2½ years to go until the Lake Placid Winter Olympics, there is talk—again—about how to avoid a financial disaster. Montreal started off with a $310 million project and a plan for intimate Games for the athletes. By the time all the bills had come in, the Olympics had mushroomed into a $1.4 billion extravaganza. Lake Placid, a town of 2,800 in upstate New York, claims to have learned from the Montreal experience.
For starters, the wary Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee already has signed a no-strike agreement with the unions involved. This is to avoid the kind of labor disputes that wrecked Montreal's construction budget and caused delays that threatened to force cancellation of the Olympics. Then, Lake Placid invited bids from construction companies and made them public. The lowest bids got the nod.
Now for the revenue. Since the Olympic Village will later be used as a minimum-security prison, the entire $22 million project, including transformation costs, will be paid by the U.S. Department of Justice. Lake Placid also has received a $49 million federal grant for other building costs. And a $13 million grant from New York State will be used for the improvement of the facilities on state-owned land, including the bobsled and luge run, the cross-country and biathlon courses and the downhill runs on White Face Mountain.
Lake Placid already has nailed down ABC television for $15.5 million and is negotiating with the European Broadcasting Union, the European TV network. Placid is asking $10 million from Europe; EBU says it will pay about $1 million. "We are willing to go down, but they will have to raise their offer," says Ed Lewi, spokesman for the organizing committee. "What we don't want is to get stuck with a $20 million loss [involving television rights] like Montreal."
The last Winter Games, at Innsbruck in 1976, cost $400 million. "The Lake Placid Organizing Committee is hoping to bring the whole thing in for under $100 million," says Lewi. "Our theme is: 'The Olympics in perspective.' " That sounds familiar.
The state of Maine is seeking to help its deer population, and in typical governmental style, the bureaucrats will attempt to do it with mirrors.
The problem is that the deer persist in crossing highways without looking. In 1975, the last year for which complete figures are available, 1,400 deer were killed by vehicles on Maine's highways. The state has decided to install 2,000 five-inch-square mirrors of polished metal at 66-foot intervals along a section of Interstate 95. Then, theoretically, the headlights of vehicles reflecting in the mirrors will distract and confuse the deer, causing them to pause long enough to allow cars and trucks to pass before continuing their potentially deadly journey.
Parts of the 18-mile stretch of expressway will have the mirrors, parts won't. State officials say they'll study the results to see if the mirrors make any difference. Cost for the first year is estimated at $30,000. Maintenance and monitoring for additional years is estimated at $11,000 to $15,000 per.
Deer are notoriously bad readers, witness the futility of the DEER CROSSING signs, which seldom seem to be where deer cross. It remains to be seen if deer show any more interest in looking at bright lights in mirrors. Meanwhile, deer that decide to go jaybounding in daylight remain strictly on their own.
GETTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
Five former University of Southern California running backs gathered the other day on campus for a photo session. It was a starry group: Clarence Davis, a hero of Oakland's Super Bowl win over Minnesota; O.J. Simpson, NFL single-season rushing leader; Ricky Bell, first draft choice of Tampa Bay; Anthony Davis, alltime career rushing leader at USC, and Sam Cunningham, last season's top rusher for New England.
O.J. had his big dog with him and Cunningham took to making enormous fun of the beast. O.J. countered by criticizing Sam's little dog—11 inches tall and four pounds. "Why don't you get a bigger dog?" laughed Simpson. Sniffed the 6'3", 224-pound Cunningham, "I don't need a bigger dog."
QUADRUPLING THE FUN?
David R. Foster, chairman of the board of the Colgate-Palmolive Co., thinks that the men's pro golf tour events are becoming boring because of their sameness. He includes in this criticism the one his company will sponsor in late August, the Colgate-Hall of Fame Golf Classic at Pinehurst, N.C.
For this tournament, Foster had wanted to make it match play instead of the conventional stroke play. Phooey, said PGA Commissioner Dean Beman.
Undaunted, Foster says he'll spring another idea on Beman at Pinehurst—for next year. Foster wants four tournaments to be run concurrently—men pros, women pros (total prize money: $350,000), men amateurs, women amateurs. And he wants the playing groups to be mixed, so that Jack Nicklaus and Judy Rankin and an unknown amateur or two might play the final round together, although not competing against one another. "Golf," says Foster, "desperately needs something new."
Whether golf will agree that this is the something new it needs is questionable. Even Foster thinks the chances his idea will be accepted are only 50-50. He says: "Men pros don't like to play with women, especially women amateurs. But I think that if you're a pro, you would welcome the chance to prove yourself, not only over all types of courses but in all kinds of circumstances."
Before a recent Yankee-Oriole game, New York Mayor Abe Beame bet five gallons of Manhattan clam chowder on his team, while Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer wagered the same amount of Maryland crab soup on the Orioles.
The Birds won and Schaefer set about lauding crab soup (Babe Ruth "used to soak his bat in it," he said, and H.L. Mencken drank it before writing epigrams) and making fun of the Manhattan chowder ("It has never been known to inspire even a chemist, but I realize it's the best they've got").
Beame not only failed to show up for the game—he had said he would—but he has not yet defended the honor of Manhattan chowder nor has he paid off his losing wager. A Schaefer aide pooh-poohed Beame's excuse for his tardiness: "It was something about how busy he had been because of an electrical blackout in New York City. A likely story."
"Coach Bryant always told us that education came first," said Alabama football player Tommy Parkerson. Indeed, that phrase was being repeated often after Bear Bryant was forced the other day to ax nine players from his team, including Parkerson, in order to get down to the new NCAA limit of 95 scholarship athletes.
Bryant called the decision the hardest in his 32-year coaching career. But to Alabama's credit, the university did offer academic scholarships to the players who received pink slips—providing they were deemed qualified.
Said Bryant in a form letter to the Nixed Nine: "I sincerely hope that your experience as a University of Alabama football player will in some small way be helpful throughout your life." Certainly the athletes learned life can be a jungle and that promises cannot always be kept. But Parkerson, who accepted an academic scholarship, was philosophical: "I am not going to let this ruin my life. I can live without football."
THE SECOND TIME AROUND
Shreveport's Baptist Christian College opened in 1960. By 1974 it considered itself ready to play college football. After its first six games Baptist Christian had been edged by a cumulative score of 334-0. Then it went on to fashion a 0-9 season mark, drawing crowds of under 500 in a 50,000-seat stadium. Football was promptly booted out.
This year Baptist will try again. The new coach is candid and excited Billy Fowler, who says, "I really put my foot in my mouth. I told the school, 'If you let me pursue my plan. I can build a program for you.' I didn't think they'd say put up or shut up."
His recruiting budget, he says, was six tanks of gas. The entire season is budgeted at $50,000. Says Fowler: "The kids think they will be 10-0. I think we could win five, but more likely three." Whatever, Fowler and everyone else at Baptist Christian hope that after this season, 1974 will not be looked back on as "the good old days."
Sportswriters have been known to get hungry, and their bosses have been known to complain about how much it costs to fill them up. C. B. Fletcher, 40, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, seems to have solved both problems with a masterful stroke that has made him the envy of his colleagues.
He is an occasional "food taster" for hundreds of restaurants under the corporate canopy of Shoney's Inc. These include Shoney's Big Boys and Captain D's, both far-flung fast-food operations. Actually, the company calls Fletcher a "secret shopper." Whenever Fletcher wants to, he goes into any of the restaurants, orders, eats and pays. Then, like the 250 other Shoney secret shoppers, he mails in an evaluation form on the food and service—along with a meal receipt, for which he is reimbursed.
He figures he spends between $10 and $20 a week at the various restaurants, often when he is out of town on a sports assignment, and he makes a lot of critical comments: "I'm afraid if I don't, they might take me off the list." It is true there might not be much future for a fired secret shopper.
Biggest foul-up at Shoney's is failure to keep the water glass filled. "I'd say they miss on that 95% of the time," says C.B. His worst experience? In Memphis he had to wait 20 minutes to even get a menu. Says a miffed Fletcher, "I nearly had a seizure."
For years, basketball fans were confused as to which of the Van Arsdale twins was Tom and which was Dick. Their blond heads bobbed up and down basketball courts for 18 years, most recently for the Phoenix Suns, and while their faces were amazingly similar, so were their talents.
Larry Connor of The Indianapolis Star tells just how similar: during their three years of high school basketball, Dick averaged 16 points, Tom 15.66; in three seasons at Indiana University, Tom averaged 17.38, Dick 17.22, and while Tom had 723 rebounds, Dick had 719; in the NBA (where both played 12 years), Dick averaged 16.4 points per game, Tom 15.3; each made the NBA All-Star team three times.
Their best season was 1970-71, when Tom averaged 22.9 points and Dick 21.9. Their worst was 1976-77, when Dick averaged 7.7 points and Tom 5.8—which is why they are now retiring to desks that are side by side in a Phoenix real-estate office. Without having the rigors of travel, they will be able to spend more time with their families. Each has one son and one daughter.
THEY SAID IT
•Shug Jordan, former Auburn football coach, after a street was named for him: "I had visions of $100,000 homes and expensive condominiums lining the parkway. Then I read in the newspaper the other day that Auburn was taking bids. They're going to put a bull-testing laboratory there."
•Andrea Kirby, Baltimore television sportscaster, on why she feels females definitely have been an asset in her occupation: "We smell better than the other sportscasters."
•Willie Mays, paying tribute to Jackie Robinson, major league baseball's first black: "Every time I look at my pocketbook I see Jackie Robinson."
•Tony Oliva, Minnesota Twins coach, recalling a suggestion that he return to his native Cuba to manage: "All I know is if Castro says bunt, I bunt."
•Wade Phillips, Houston Oiler defense coach and son of Head Coach Bum Phillips, on what he will say if things go wrong: "I'll just plead heredity."