Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel got a four-year sentence last week following his conviction on charges of mail fraud and racketeering: for the latter, read playing legislative footsie with state racetrack interests. This was pretty much how it had gone four years ago for the late Otto Kerner, ex-Governor of Illinois, convicted in 1973 of mail fraud and corruption—corruption meaning that he had pushed legislation favoring racetrack interests. Kerner got three years. In both instances, the presiding judge was Robert L. Taylor, of Knoxville, Tenn.
Judge Taylor's name turned up again last week, this time in connection with a girls' basketball case. His ruling that Tennessee high school girls were to be permitted to play full-court ball was overturned on appeal, plunging the girls' game in that state back into the 19th Century.
Robert Love (Little Bob) Taylor, who is 77, would have preferred not to preside at the Mandel trial, but "Justice Burger called me up and talked to me in person. I asked if he could get another judge, by any reasonable efforts," he says, but apparently Burger would or could not.
Over the years Judge Taylor has been a jurist of flinty scrupulousness, particularly in his handling of early civil rights cases, and he has cast a clear eye on an astounding array of disputes. In 1966 he ruled that nudist camps be permitted in Tennessee—"Get Judge Darr's dissenting opinion," he advises, "and read his description of nudity. It is absolutely unique." Early this year he decided that the FDA had to return 6,700 cases of apricot pits to a man in east Tennessee (though he points out firmly, "This is not a Laetrile case"). The man was just entitled to his apricots. However, Judge Taylor was on the side of Tennessee's Tellico Dam vs. the snail darter, and still says, with evident pain, "the thing had cost $116 million!"
Taylor as a young man played basketball, football and, until a few years ago, tennis. But baseball was, and is, his favorite. He was shortstop and a second baseman in the Florida State League, and played semi-pro ball in the Appalachian League while at Vanderbilt, which in fact is how he put himself through college. (While in the Appalachian League he was making more money than his father was as Governor of Tennessee.) "I still think baseball takes more intelligence than any other sport," he says, adding much about the "hulks" who play football, though he supposes he should not be quoted.
As for girls' basketball, he huffs at the overturning of his decision. "It's prehistoric," he says. "The girls today, they're as strong as boys, they should be allowed to play anything."
With the Olympics still three years away, Congress is already sounding like a bunch of maiden aunts seeing a nephew off with the yearbook money. Admittedly, the Russians are lurking around the corner—NBC admits the Soviets have suggested that the network carry programs reflecting favorably on the U.S.S.R.—but this far in advance, it is difficult to see how NBC can give a meaningful ironclad guarantee to Rep. Lou Frey (R, Fla.) when he warns, "We don't want a lot of propaganda coming in...on how great the Soviet system is."
NBC, with $100 million on the line, can be expected to try to fend this off, and indeed it has signed contracts for decorous showings of the Bolshoi Nutcracker and Giselle ballets and the Moscow State Circus. Beyond that it would seem that the Superpowers—NBC and the Soviet Union—should just be expected to circle each other, the former with its control over all the cameras and the latter with its power to pull the plug. Anything else said this far in advance is like a promise to carry a clean handkerchief and not speak to strangers.
PLAY, BAND, PLAY!
The Severna Park (Md.) High School Falcons Marching Band is no ordinary marching band. The state high school champion, the band has performed at the Preakness, the Kentucky Derby and Jimmy Carter's inauguration. The Falcons are extra special because their bandmaster, Richard Powell, uses coaching techniques to get the most out of his 122 players.
A former cross-country and track coach, the 32-year-old Powell scouts and films the halftime programs of other bands and holds a training camp in Pennsylvania complete with bed checks. "I wasn't ready for my first camp," says Steve Schulz, a trombonist who is now president of the band. "I didn't know you had to jog." Besides running laps, band members have pregame meals together (no fried foods) and get pep talks from Powell, who says, "You have to psych them up the same as football players for a game."
The Falcons don't go in for intricate routines. "We are a drum corps style marching band playing a concert sound," says Powell. "We are precision drilled in the style of the Marine Corps marching band."
In the last five years, the band has won so many parade and festival competitions that it has its own trophy case next to that of the football team. Recently the Falcons beat out 25 other schools to win the Miss America parade competition. "We have a reputation for being good, and I have a reputation for being strict," says Powell. "Discipline is the big thing."
Although he'd been away from Monday Night Football for the last three years, Don Meredith was still too quick for Howard Cosell. This exchange followed a tackle by Kansas City Linebacker Dave Rozumek from the University of New Hampshire.
Cosell: That kid came from nowhere.
Meredith: No, he didn't. He came from New Hampshire.
Cosell: Yeah, but he came from nowhere.
Meredith: No, he didn't. He came from the outside linebacker spot.
Cosell: I know, but I never thought that kid would still be around.
Meredith: Well, he never thought you'd still be here, either.
As the Dodgers and Phillies prepared for Game 1 of the National League playoffs, San Diego Relief Pitcher Rollie Fingers appeared at Dodger Stadium to accept the Fireman of the Year award, which goes to the major league pitcher with the most saves. After nine seasons at Oakland, in which he helped the A's win three World Series but never led the league in saves, Fingers finally got individual recognition while pitching for a fifth-place team. He topped all relievers in both leagues with 35 saves, three shy of John Hiller's major league record.
One reason why Fingers never led the American League in saves at Oakland is that he had a little help from his bullpen friends—Paul Lindblad, Darold Knowles and Jim Todd. This year, though, he had a friend in the dugout—Manager Alvin Dark. In an attempt to help Fingers get the record, Dark used him exclusively in save situations; in fact, Fingers only worked more than two full innings five times after June 27.
Such managerial collusion is far from unprecedented. In 1972, when Clay Carroll set the NL record of 37 saves, Sparky Anderson kept bringing him in in the final innings. And, as it happens, Fingers really needed Dark's help—the save rule has been changed since Carroll's record-setting year. In 1972 the only requirement for a save was for a pitcher to finish the game. Now a reliever has to face the tying run either on base, at bat or on deck, or protect a lead of no more than three runs for at least an inning.
Dark, of course, claimed he had a nobler motive. "I decided not to use Rollie for more than an inning or two," he said. "I want him strong and healthy two years from now when we become contenders."
Congratulations, Fingers. And to Alvin, lots of luck.
BAN THE TRAMP
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that trampolines not be used in competitive sport and that they be banned from physical education programs in schools and colleges. Citing a survey of high school and college sports injuries for 1973-75, the academy found nine cases of permanent paralysis caused by spinal-cord injuries suffered on the trampoline and 25 cases of temporary paralysis. Dr. Harvey Kravitz, a Chicago pediatrician who drafted the academy report, surveyed schools in his area in 1975 and found five additional cases of permanent paralysis.
According to Dr. Kravitz, paralysis occurs after improperly executed back flips or somersaults when "the head is forced forward against the chest and the spinal cord is pulled or torn." He stresses that this type of injury occurs on the trampoline, not from falling off it, and no number of spotters can prevent it. "It's just plain logic to ban it," Dr. Kravitz says. "We've all but conquered paralytic polio in this country, and what's the point of immunizing against one crippler if we permit our children to risk paralysis as the result of trampoline accidents?"
David Fry, of the Illinois High School Association, says that the trampoline has been dropped as a boys' gymnastic event in the 1977-78 state tournament. "This doesn't mean we are telling schools to ban the trampoline," says Fry, "but certainly dropping it as a competitive event in the state does not encourage it."
Ken Vick, the track announcer at Waterford Park in West Virginia, got to make a switch on a time-honored call at the races. Just as the horses were about to reach the starting gate, it malfunctioned and had to be towed away. After a long wait, another one finally arrived, and Vick intoned, "Ladies and gentlemen, the starting gate has reached the horses."
On the basis of their performance to date, the Buffalo Bills are one of the worst teams in the NFL. And why should that be? Maybe because other teams have some of their best players. The Buffalo Courier-Express reports that 26 former Bills are playing with other teams, 15 of the alumni being starters. Among them are two quarterbacks, Scott Hunter at Atlanta and James Harris at San Diego, and five wide receivers, Ahmad Rashad, Minnesota; J. D. Hill, Detroit; Wallace Francis, Atlanta; Haven Moses, Denver; and Ray Jarvis, Detroit.
PANS FANS' PLANS
Columnist Mike Royko, of the Chicago Daily News, doesn't think much of the plans of FANS (Fight to Advance the Nation's Sports), Ralph Nader's new consumer group formed to combat cold hot dogs, warm beer, unpopular trades and high ticket prices. Royko writes, "Apparently Nader doesn't understand what the average sports fan really wants, and what upsets him if he doesn't get it. It isn't a gourmet hot dog or parking space or a cheap ticket. What he wants is victory.
"Fans don't riot because there isn't enough mustard on the hot dog. They don't pelt opposing players with garbage because they couldn't find a place to park. They don't toss bottles at officials and threaten to tear the joint apart because they think ticket prices are too high. But they have done all those things when their favorite team has lost.
"So if Nader wants to make sports consumers happy, he has to think of a way to play the games so that there will not be any losers."
Despite the recent scandal involving phony ratings of fighters in The Ring magazine and non-existing fights in the 1977 Ring Record Book, the so-called Bible of boxing, editor and publisher Nat Loubet reports that his business is "better than ever." According to Loubet, the Record Book has sold out about a month ahead of its usual selling period, and the national circulation of the magazine has jumped from 135,000 to 150,000. Loubet attributes the increases to the extensive coverage given to the scandal, and he says, "I can only say that I thank the publicity."