New York politicians have been whiling away the dog days of summer nattering about what a fine thing it would be if the 1984 Summer Olympics were held in New York City. They have raved about the psychological boon the Games would be to the people and the financial boon they would be to the economy and the obvious boon they would be to the construction industry. Not once have they mentioned any benefit that would accrue to the Games from being played in New York. It may be going too far to say that a politician would not know a balance beam from a basketball, but it is safe to say the appreciation of New York's politicians for the Olympic tradition is primitive at best.
Finally, however, one of them has raised his voice, if not in behalf of brotherhood and pure sport, at least on the side of reason. Congressman Herman Badillo, one of six candidates in the Democratic Party's primary for Mayor Abe Beame's job, called a press conference last week and told the five reporters who showed up that to bring the Olympics to New York would be a "joke," that "this is not the time for bread and circuses in our deeply troubled city" and that "it's hard enough to get money [from Congress] without squandering it."
Not many cities, least of all New York, are in easy enough circumstances these days to contemplate a fling of Olympic dimensions. If any of Badillo's colleagues need reminding of what is entailed in playing host to the Games and how many things can go wrong and what can happen to unrealistic financial forecasts, they need only address a query to Jean Drapeau, l'H√¥tel de Ville, Montreal. Better include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, however. Montreal may not be able to afford the postage.
If a pro football bettor were shipwrecked on a desert island with no information available to him beyond this season's NFL schedule and last season's won-lost records, and if, in spite of this handicap, he were planning to get his bets off to his bookie—by bottle, presumably—he could do worse than to jump on the New England Patriots as the year's surest thing.
Based on the 1976 record of their opposition, the 1977 Patriots will play the NFL's easiest schedule. The won-lost record of the Pats' opponents is 52-88, a .371 percentage. That is 200 percentage points lower than the winning percentage of the teams facing Kansas City (88-66, .571), which has the toughest schedule. Only three times all season will the Patriots have to play a team that had a winning record last year.
By the same reasoning, division titles would go to the Pats (of course), Cincinnati and Oakland in the American Conference, and to Washington, Chicago and, get this, New Orleans, in the National.
The system isn't foolproof, but desert islanders can't be choosy.
WINNER LOSE ALL
Rumor has it that John Brodie, a scratch golfer who quarterbacked the San Francisco 49ers in the off season for 17 years, lost a lot of money at golf recently, some of his own and some of the people who backed him.
The bet was that Brodie could shoot 85 or better at the Lake Merced Golf and Country Club in San Francisco, playing the worse of two balls. If one of his tee shots ended up in the fairway and the other behind a tree, he had to play the one behind the tree. If he sank a long putt, he had to do it again from the same spot. He might have won all bets, except that the wind came up, as it is wont to do in that part of the world.
One version of the story has it that Brodie won the bet the first time around but, unable to resist a second try with the stakes doubled, he lost it all.
The other version is even better. Brodie, having shot a 50 on the front nine and anxious to cut his losses, bet as much as he could that he would shoot 45 on the back nine. And he did it, but only after sinking two 12-foot putts on the 18th green.
MONKEY SAY, MONKEY SEE
Abandon hope, all ye who think if you glare at your TV screen long enough Howard Cosell will go away. Three schollarly researchers from the University of Massachusetts and Indiana University—Paul Comisky, Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann by name—have published the results of a study they made of sports commentary and its influence on the television viewer's perception of the game he is watching.
For their study the researchers used two 12-minute videotaped segments of a Boston Bruin vs. Detroit Red Wing hockey game at Olympic Stadium in Detroit last season, one segment with a normal amount of rough action (three incidents of "hard hitting") and one with an unusual amount of rough action (11 incidents), plus the commentary as it was broadcast by the Boston Bruins' Network. The researchers discovered that their subjects, 139 UMass undergraduates, were considerably more influenced by what they heard from the lips of the announcers than they were by what they actually saw.
During the normal-action segment, say Comisky, Bryant and Zillmann, the announcers had taken pains to convince the audience that it was watching "rough and tough ice hockey at its best, with the action threatening to turn into fisticuffs at any minute, when in fact there was little action." In contrast, during the second segment, when the action was truly violent, the announcers "let the action carry the game with little commentary of a dramatic sort."
The student guinea pigs were divided into four groups, shown the two segments, with and without the audio, and asked to rate them on a scale of 0 to 100 for perceived violence and entertainment. The outcome was that the students rated the normal-action segment, with its dramatic commentary, most violent and most entertaining, while they rated the same segment, without the audio, least violent and also least entertaining. The truly rough segment was perceived as somewhat less violent when it was accompanied by no commentary, and a lot less violent when accompanied by the commentary.
"These findings are suggestive of the great potential of sports commentary to alter the viewer's perception of the sport event," was the upshot of it all from the scholarly point of view. For the rest of us, a horrible question arises: Could it be that Cosell is both the medium and the message?
The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association passed a rule recently that forbids the slap shot in the league play of children 13 years old and under. The penalty will be two minutes. Kids, it was thought, were imitating the big guys and forgetting, or never learning, the fine art of stickhandling. Officials feel the rule will help restore finesse to hockey, and if it works this season, the age limit may be raised to 18 next year.
When the landmark agreement between the NBA owners and players association was reached 18 months ago, it was applauded on all sides as the first sensible solution to a labor-management problem in professional sport. Now, it appears, a hitch may be developing.
Under the terms of the agreement, if a player's contract had expired by the end of the 1976-77 season, he could become a free agent if he chose to. Some 30 or 40 players have. The trouble is, nobody's phone is ringing. In fact, there has been so little activity in the free-agent market that Larry Fleisher, the general counsel of the players association, has begun to smell a rat.
"That would be very difficult to show," Fleisher told The Boston Globe recently, "but there is no question that something is going on. It's unconceivable to me that a team that finishes 22nd or 21st or 20th in the league isn't interested in signing or even talking to one of these free agents. Can you tell me that a Jim Cleamons or a Geoff Petrie or a Sidney Wicks couldn't help a club like that?"
The problem, if there is one, is compensation, the NBA version of the old Rozelle Rule. In order to reach their agreement with the owners, the players' association made a temporary concession in the matter of compensation that allows the prevailing method to continue until 1980. According to this method, the team that signs a free agent must give his former team either players, draft choices or money. If the teams cannot agree on amounts, the commissioner steps in. For the time being, therefore, a team that signs a Cleamons might have to give up, say, a Rudy Tomjanovich.
An unidentified official of an Atlantic Division club (probably Ted Turner, the Atlanta Hawks' owner) said recently, "Nobody wants to take the plunge and risk being made an example of by the commissioner. There's no precedent—and that's a little scary."
One wonders why the commissioner, Larry O'Brien, would be interested in "making an example" of one of his owners if the owner were merely transacting business according to the rules.
YOUR MONEY OR YOUR FINGER
Only two Easters ago he was a cute little gray-and-white bunny. Now he is Harvey the Attack Rabbit, 4½ pounds of meanness if crossed, but a whiz of an athlete and an effective fund raiser for the ASPCA.
So far Harvey has bitten Willis Reed, two Playboy Bunnies and Duncan Wright, his keeper and the director of the New York ASPCA. He did not bite Billie Jean King or Virginia Wade, although he might have, because they were all together for a tennis fund raising at Madison Square Garden not long ago.
Harvey was a normal rabbit at birth, but unmerciful teasing by his first owners turned him aggressive at an early age. He has lived at the ASPCA in Manhattan since May, and like many disturbed youths, he has responded to kindness and understanding.
In fact, he has responded so well that on Sept. 8 he will begin a 45-city fund-raising tour. From Boston to San Diego Harvey will demonstrate his athletic skills for the edification of schoolchildren, and push the sale of T shirts that say THIS PROPERTY PROTECTED BY HARVEY THE ATTACK RABBIT. If all goes well, the ASPCA will come out ahead financially.
Harvey's act includes tossing his yellow food bowl two feet in the air and catching it in his teeth (the latter half of the act is not yet perfected) and centering a tennis ball through his legs (his hind legs still tend to get in the way).
Folks had better ante up, or Harvey will know the reason why.
A TEAM WITH HEART
Major league ball parks average three spectator deaths a season from heart attacks, according to Bob Hope, public relations man for the Atlanta Braves. But Atlanta Stadium is an exception. No one has died watching the Braves play since the middle of the 1975 season, which is as it should be, since the Braves, typically, are 41-73 and 28 games out of first. "There's no tension here over who will win or lose," says Hope. "We know."
However, just in case stress levels should rise in Atlanta one day, the Braves will be ready. They maintain a first-aid unit that allows the condition of a heart-attack victim to be monitored by a nearby hospital. A doctor, a nurse and two paramedics are on duty during games, and the ushers, ticket takers and part-time help have all had a two-day course in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.
Hope, being a resourceful PR man, is meanwhile hard at work trying to make a silk purse from a sow's ear of a team. "Baseball," he says, "should be fun and enjoyment. Have a good time at the game and go home alive."
THEY SAID IT
•Pete Rose, on Cincinnati teammate George Foster: "George has got to hit 50 homers, just like everybody's saying he will. Foster doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke, he doesn't curse, he doesn't fool around. Like Joe Morgan told him, 'Heck, you're supposed to hit 50 home runs if you live that way. Why don't you go out and fool around a little and have some fun and hit just 40?' "