SKI AT YOUR OWN RISK
Ski-area operators traditionally have sold their product with the message that skiing was fun and glamorous. The possibility that someone might actually get hurt on the slopes was an unmentionable. Bad for business, it was thought.
Well, it still may be bad for business, but things are changing. At least one generous court settlement for skiing injuries has snapped ski-area owners into an entirely different posture (SCORECARD, Sept. 26, 1977). Joe Kohler, president of Bristol Mountain, N.Y. and president of Ski Areas of New York, says, "To protect everyone, we have to change our approach to the whole sport. It's a little like the message on cigarette packages."
Thus, a campaign is under way to place warning signs on ski slopes that will say, in effect: SKIING CAN BE DANGEROUS UNLESS YOU EXERCISE GOOD JUDGMENT. Whether or not this offers a defense against lawsuits, it is at least a recognition of the facts of the sport. As Kohler says, "We have always known there is a real risk in skiing. But now, who knows? The idea of danger might attract more people than it scares away."
February 6, 1978
A BELL RINGER
It starts off with Muhammad Ali and Superman having this fight to save the world from being blown up by green, weird-looking aliens. Then things really go crazy.
This wonderful sports action involving our two favorite unreal characters takes place in a LIFE-size comic book, Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali (DC Comics, $2.50).
It's a magnificent example of comic-book art, a massive, detailed production that has an initial press run of 650,000. Boxing Promoter Don King was closely involved with the project, and DC publisher Jenette Kahn says, "Don was charming but alarming. He hustled, we haggled. He was outrageous, we were courageous. When he demanded 700%, we held firm and walked out. More phone calls." All Herbert Muhammad, Ali's manager, wanted was for the champ's calves to be drawn fatter.
But will it sell? Says Kahn, "Interest in the comic has reached a pitch of childishness only adults can generate."
GREED ISN'T PRETTY
For the past year, the Cosmos soccer team has been dipping into college ranks to man its franchise, which, of course, has the colleges up in arms. Now the entire North American Soccer League is going after the high schoolers, which will further enrage the colleges. In the recent draft, 16 high school seniors were picked, including the best prep player in the country, Perry Van Der Beck, a midfielder from Aquinas High in St. Louis. After maneuvering, Tampa Bay got him in the third round.
If it turns out the high school draftees are not good enough to make the pros, they still will retain their college eligibility, assuming they follow NCAA rules. But in this country, where soccer proficiency has a long way to go, it can be safely assumed that a lot of the best high school players can make it in the pros. That hurts college soccer.
Better that the NASL adopt a procedure more like pro basketball's and pro football's, which although not perfect, does enable both college and professional interests to prosper.
To try to get the players more interested in the often dreary season-ending Pro Bowl, the NFL not only jumped the winner's share from $2,500 to $5,000 but also agreed to pay expenses for wives. There then ensued a discussion over whether the league should also pay the bills for girl friends. Ram Linebacker Isiah Robertson argued that his girl friend means more to him than wives do to most players.
The NFL certainly had no interest in pursuing that allegation, but it did decide that girl friends, however much loved, were not eligible. At which Robertson sniffed that if he had known that, why, he wouldn't have brought her. This shows, of course, how easy it is—contrary to popular belief—to put a dollar value on an emotional relationship.
HONK IF YOU LOVE PENNSYLVANIA
Southeastern Pennsylvania has become the In place for tens of thousands of Canada geese that once only stopped off there en route to Maryland, Delaware and the Carolinas. Now the geese have taken up winter residence. This is because farmers are planting more fall crops, and the bountiful food supply makes the longer trip south unnecessary.
Everyone is furious because—as tourists sometimes do—the visitors are taking over the place and making a mess. People say the birds pollute the water, foul the beaches, pull up the farmers' wheat and do unspeakable things on the golf courses. In French Creek State Park there's no more swimming, partly because of what the geese have done to the water and beaches. The assistant director of a small hospital that uses reservoir water says, "Wouldn't you be concerned about a flock of a thousand geese defecating in your drinking supply?"
A state official says there are 60% more geese in the area than there were six years ago. As many as 50,000 geese at a time now come to Chester County's Octoraro Reservoir and stay and stay and stay.
The problem is mounting because geese tend to migrate back to their birth-place, which for increasing numbers is southeastern Pennsylvania. Last spring, the state trapped some goslings and packed them off to South Carolina in the hope they'd consider that home. They probably won't because everyone knows geese are smarter than bureaucrats. At least, these geese have been. The state tried trapping them and sending them to western Pennsylvania; the birds flew back. The experts tried using a noisemaker to startle the birds; they got used to it. Helium balloons were put up to frighten the birds; the balloons deflated.
Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending on which side you are on—the state does have a 90-day goose season and has upped the limit from two a day to three.
When a horse named Dentures got loose on the track at Balmoral Park, Ill. and was scratched, the announcer intoned. "Pull Dentures from the first race."
RICHARDS VS. OTHERS
Renee Richards, the transsexual tennis player, ultimately will be one of history's footnotes. Which is appropriate for a 43-year-old woman with very average ability. But once again, other women pros are making too much of her.
In a Columbus, Ohio tournament, Helle Viragh, 21, was one point from losing to Richards when she walked off the court in protest. Viragh was fined $500, but was hardly repentant. "I'd do it again," she said. In the next round, Beth Norton, 20, was way behind when she, too, walked off. She was fined $5,000, which shows the price of protest is spiraling.
Viragh was miffed because Richards, as a result of legal rulings, does not have to take a sex-determination test like all the other players. Norton feels it's unfair to compete against a middle-aged person who used to play men's tennis. Norton also says that it's against her religious and moral convictions to play someone like Richards.
But would either have abandoned the court had she been winning? Of course not. Moral and philosophical indignation do not run that deep.
It's aggravating to be beaten anytime, and perhaps even more aggravating to be beaten by Richards. But temper tantrums are not the proper remedy; playing winning tennis is.
USING THE OUTDOORS
For about a decade there has been a furor over the potential development of a ski area in the Mineral King Valley in the Sierras, northeast of Los Angeles. Conservationists, who oppose it, became alarmed when Walt Disney Enterprises and the U.S. Forest Service started talking about developing the area.
Over the years, development estimates rose from $3 million to $80 million. While such monumental and presumably gaudy commercialization of a lovely area would be a desecration, it's also true that Southern California skiers desperately need more slopes relatively close to home. The nearest facility, Mammoth, is overcrowded.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that the 25-square-mile valley be annexed to Sequoia National Park. This proposal would have allowed some skiing development, but two-thirds of Mineral King Valley would have remained wilderness. The Carter Administration decided to reject Agriculture's plan, however, proposing that the Park Service take over the land and that there be no development for wintertime use—skiing or anything else.
The skiing needs of Southern Californians remain to be addressed.
If the New York Yankees are starting to say hateful things about one another again, the baseball season can't be far behind. Sure enough. Catfish Hunter, the sore-armed pitcher whose mood has been none too good anyway since going 9-9 last year, showed up in Greensboro, N.C. the other day to make a speech. He put the knock on owner George Steinbrenner ("If he says, 'Jump in a lake,' he thinks you're supposed to do it") and Manager Billy Martin ("Martin lets the superstar get away with stuff and picks on the other guys").
But he was especially intemperate when it came to teammate and World Series star Reggie Jackson: "He could be better if he'd just stop talking about what he's going to do and do it."
DOING IT RIGHT
Last week we told you of Lucky Maury, the greyhound that ran the wrong way and caught the rabbit at the Florida track.
The other day Lucky raced again. He broke nicely, raced without difficulty, caused no problems and showed exemplary manners. A perfect sweetheart. But his good behavior was unrewarded: he was seventh in a field of eight.
A FINE LINE
At the Baltimore International tennis matches, a young lady was enthusiastic about getting the players to sign her jeans and the players were enthusiastic about obliging her.
Soon she had all the names except that of Zeljko Franulovic of Yugoslavia, who declined, saying, "I'm sorry but we're not allowed to endorse clothing."
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Addressing himself to the air pollution that may be contributing to upper respiratory ailments in horses that race at the Meadowlands (SI, Jan. 2), Irv Brechner has a suggestion that at first seems preposterous: "Don't let the horses breathe the polluted air."
Brechner, one of the owners of UltraAire, a Livingston, N.J.-based company, says his firm makes a negative-ion generator, a machine designed to electrically enrich the air. Brechner says it makes breathing easier, increases mental awareness, decreases fatigue and leads to more alertness. Which can't be all bad for a horse.
According to Brechner, polluted air upsets nature's balance of negative and positive electrical charges, called ions. The ion generator, which is about the size of a table radio and sells for $350, enriches the air by restoring its proper balance. The idea is to put the generators in the horses' stalls.
Dr. Jill Beech of the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center for veterinary medicine is enthusiastic about the machine and plans to test it. UltraAire's other owner, Alan Weinstein, says he will arrange free testing for horsemen. "If it does what we say," he says, "isn't it worth it?"
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Neer, University of Rochester basketball coach, on playing against North Carolina and its superstar, Phil Ford: "How can you expect to win the game when three of our starters wanted Ford's autograph?"
•Bert Blyleven, Pittsburgh pitcher, on why he quit catching: "When I started to throw the ball back to the pitcher harder than he was throwing to me, we changed positions."