The enmity between the football people at the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City press, which erupted last year when the Oklahoma City Times correctly reported that the NCAA was conducting an investigation into charges of ticket scalping by players (SI, Dec. 13, 1976), has flared up again. This time Coach Barry Switzer has barred Walt Jayroe, a sportswriter for the Daily Oklahoman, from practices and from interviewing players. This bit of childishness came about after Jayroe refused to heed Switzer's request that writers suppress the fact that Defensive Tackle Phil Tabor missed the Thursday practice before the Texas game because of a knee injury.
"I asked all three papers who were here that day not to run the story," says Switzer. "The other guys didn't mention it. Walt said he felt he had to write it. It's gotten to be a one-way street with him."
Jayroe reported the news of Tabor's injury in the last paragraph of an eight-paragraph story and noted that Switzer planned to play Tabor against Texas. "I'm a reporter," Jayroe says. Dean Bailey, another writer barred by Switzer for one afternoon because he works for the Daily Oklahoman, says, "People here don't understand that reporters aren't supposed to be fans."
Bing Crosby, who died last week after a round of golf in Spain, was a sportsman. A fine golfer who had 13 holes in one during his life, he started a small tournament for his friends, and it grew into the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am. For some years he maintained a racing stable. His favorite horse was Meadow Court, which won the Irish Derby in 1965, just a day after Bing bought a one-third interest. He bought and built up (and later sold) Del Mar racetrack. He thought up the track's slogan, "Where the Turf Meets the Surf," and occasionally did the track announcing. He was a part owner and a vice-president of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He was a skilled fisherman in both fresh and salt water, and for 16 years he held the world record for a rainbow runner on 12-pound-test line. He was a hunter who shot for the table, not for the wall. An ardent conservationist, he generously lent his name and efforts to causes in which he believed.
THE MIGHTY ATOM
One of the most remarkable strong men in the world is also dead. Joseph L. Greenstein died in Brooklyn at the patriarchal age of 84, and right up to last May he had been performing feats of strength.
Known as the Mighty Atom because of his diminutive size (5'4½", 145 pounds), Greenstein was born in Poland and was trained by a circus wrestler. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1911, became a roustabout in the Texas oil fields and eventually went on the vaudeville circuit. He could twist horseshoes with his bare hands and break chains with his chest, but he was best known for more bizarre feats of strength. By lifting weights with his hair, which he wore shoulder length, he built up a half-inch layer of muscle on the top of his skull. "Putting your hand on the top of his head was like touching a man's arm muscle," says Ed Spielman, the creator of TV's Kung Fu and author of a forthcoming biography of the Mighty Atom. With a chain attached to his hair, Greenstein pulled a loaded truck weighing 32 tons, a record, and on another occasion he used his hair to prevent an airplane from taking off.
The 1976 Guinness Book of World Records credited the Mighty Atom with having the world's "strongest bite," because he could chomp wrought-iron nails in half. "Bring your own nails," he would tell skeptics. Around 1962, Greenstein fractured three molars after some wise guy slipped him a tempered spike, and shortly afterward the Mighty Atom showed up at the offices of Strength and Health in York, Pa., where he announced, "I think I'll bite the last nail for you people." The nail is now on exhibit at the York Hall of Fame.
An early student of the martial arts (he studied jujitsu in Japan in 1912), the Mighty Atom was not one to back down in an argument. Years ago in Texas, an assailant shot Greenstein between the eyes with a revolver. The bullet flattened itself on bone above his right eye and Greenstein, who suffered only a deep wound, carried the slug as a watch fob.
As biographer Spielman says, "The Mighty Atom was a little man with a giant spirit."
It has been said that football players should have a sense of the visceral, but some people in Florida are taking it a bit far. Chris Duffy, a center at Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale, gained 20 pounds before the season by blending the brain of a cow, the pancreas of a pig, the liver of a Black Angus, the spleen of a sow and occasionally a cow's heart or a pig's kidney with apple juice, and then drinking the concoction.
"I had to hold my nose to get it down," says Duffy, who has suspended the diet temporarily. "There's really no way to describe the taste. I used to drink it maybe four, maybe five times a day, and then eat one big meal at night." No one dared ask Duffy what he ate at the big meal.
Then there is Larry Canaday, coach at Eau Gallie High. School officials have ordered him to stop biting off the heads of frogs during pregame huddles. "Our kids loved it," Canaday says. "They would say, 'Look how wild the coach is, let's get wild, too.' Last year we were winners, 9-1, and people loved it. But now we are losing, 1-3, and certain intellects will use this as an excuse to pick on football."
The National Hockey League's waiver draft, designed to help have-not teams by stripping talent-rich teams, flopped last week. When the draft was approved last June, Clarence Campbell, the retiring NHL president, said, "What we want is to move bodies around." But only three bodies moved last week: Goalie Wayne Thomas from Toronto to New York and penalty killer Dave Forbes from Boston to Washington, for $12,500 each, and Center Paul Woods from Nova Scotia, a Montreal farm, to Detroit for $50,000.
Colorado, which can use players, passed. So did Cleveland. "We offered some very good hockey players," says Sam Pollock of Montreal. "I'm surprised that only one of them was taken. People accuse me of having all the best players, so I was willing to spread some out—and still there were no takers."
Salaries were one reason for little spending. Detroit offered Goalie Eddie Giacomin, who is in the $100,000 a year class, and Chicago made Dennis Hull, who also earns a six-figure salary, available. Another reason is that with each team allowed to protect 18 players and two goalies, there are not enough good players left to warrant drafting.
FATHERS AND SONS
Shades of Horse Feathers, in which Groucho helps his son (Zeppo) and the rest of the Huxley College football team to victory over archrival Darwin. For one reason or another there is a plethora of father-and-son acts in football this season. On occasion, the sons' heroics almost match the Marx Brothers'.
To wit, on the same Saturday last September, the sons of two Pennsylvania college coaches helped win games with an identical amount of time remaining. Jack Kopnisky, the son of Grove City Coach Joe Kopnisky, caught a 54-yard touchdown pass to beat Bethany 20-14, with only 32 seconds left, while some 70 miles away, as the football flies, Steve Neal, son of Indiana (Pa.) University Coach Bill Neal, threw a three-yard rollout pass to defeat Juniata 14-7, with 32 seconds left.
It doesn't always work that way. Coach Bob Commings of Iowa benched Bob Jr., a freshman quarterback known, naturally, as "the second Commings," after he had a miserable first half against UCLA. As dad says, "Having his old man as coach didn't help him keep the starting job, did it?" Strong Safety Jonathan Claiborne of Maryland, the son of Coach Jerry Claiborne, was distraught after two long touchdown passes were caught by his man in a loss to West Virginia. Says Jonathan, "I'm sure it must be tough on him [dad] not only to have his safety blow the coverage, but also have his son blow the coverage. But just as I have to accept it, he has to accept it."
Coach John McKay of the NFL's Tampa Bay has one son, J. K. McKay, playing wide receiver for him, and another son, Rick, is a freshman quarterback at Princeton. There are a number of sons playing, but not for their fathers. Ted Marchibroda Jr., son of the Colts coach, is a wide receiver for Virginia, but he has caught only two passes for the hapless Cavaliers. Assistant Coach Dick Bielski of the Colts has two sons, Ricky, a fullback, and Randy, a safety, playing for Towson State near Baltimore. Randy, who also placekicks, booted a 22-yard field goal to nip Randolph-Macon 3-0, then the next week missed a 22-yarder that would have beaten Guilford. Stu Stram, son of Hank Stram of the Saints, is a reserve quarterback at the University of Louisville, and Mike Grant, son of the Vikings' Bud Grant, is a tight end at little St. John's University in Minnesota.
Tim McVay, son of Coach John McVay of the NFL Giants, has been a four-year starter at strong safety for Indiana University and captain this year and last. He is only the fourth IU player to be captain for two years. McVay also holds for field goals and extra points, and last year he beat Wisconsin 15-14 by running the ball on a fake extra-point kick play. Rick Morrison, son of Joe Morrison, coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is the leading receiver for Ball State University.
Georgia Quarterback Jeff Pyburn is the son of Georgia Assistant Coach Jim Pyburn, and Paul Hamilton, a freshman quarterback at Appalachian, is the son of Rusty Hamilton, an assistant at The Citadel, a traditional rival. Gary Petercuskie, son of John Petercuskie, an assistant coach at Princeton, is a defensive halfback at Penn State and a potential All-America.
And then there is Joe Restic Jr., Notre Dame's punter, who is the son of the Harvard coach. Whenever reporters ask, "How come you didn't go to Harvard?" Notre Dame Trainer Gene Paszkiet butts in to say, "Because he didn't want to go to a football factory."
NEUTER? NO, SIR
Girls may play baseball, football or other sports with boys, but Richard Oles, coach of the Tri-Weapon Fencing Club in Baltimore, will only admit boys from ages 10 to 17. "Boys today are in danger of becoming emasculated, of being rendered totally neuter, an endangered species," says Oles. "Boys need a place in their formative years where they can go and be boys without pulling punches. They need a place where they can go and learn to become men, where they can acquire the virtues of men: self-reliance, bravery, love of adventure, personal responsibility, honor, loyalty, honesty, respect, chivalry and, yes, heroism."
Oles, who notes that he is not promoting a "dumb-jock macho image," treats the boys as though they aspire to be knights of old. After 16 weeks of introductory courses, a novice fencer becomes a "squire," then "knight-errant" and finally "knight." Admittance to knighthood requires more than ability to fence. After conferring with a boy's parents, Oles assigns him to a task that he doesn't like, such as keeping his room neat, for one month. The boy must do the task well and without complaint. Finally, Oles formally dubs the boy, and the new knight receives his personal foil, saber or épée.
"If you get something for nothing, you throw it away," says Oles. "It's meaningless unless you yourself sweat for it. I look on being on the team as a privilege."
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Wohlford, Milwaukee Brewer outfielder, on baseball: "Ninety percent of this game is half mental."
•Mike Newlin, Houston Rockets guard, on teammate Calvin Murphy's shooting ability: "He could get his points if you put him in a tin can and closed the lid."
•Chuck Mills, Wake Forest football coach: "You know what a football fan is, don't you? He's the guy who sits 40 rows up in the stands and wonders why a 17-year-old kid can't hit another 17-year-old kid with a ball from 40 yards away. Then he goes out to the parking lot and can't find his car."