THE TROUBLED CHAMP
One thing about Leon Spinks: he does not trot along quietly at the end of a public-relations leash. The WBA heavyweight champion is surrounded by managers and would-be managers, promoters, attorneys and advisers—but Leon doesn't listen to any of them. When the spirit moves him, he dons his gunfighter's black hat and he's gone. Last week was typical. Spinks and entourage were in Miami, ready to embark on a personal appearance tour of the Caribbean. Next thing anybody knew, Spinks had gone over the wall. He popped up in St. Louis, in trouble again.
This will-o'-the-wisp routine has been going on ever since Spinks thrashed Muhammad Ali on Feb. 15 to win the world title. The new champ has been independent to a fault: not once, but three times, he stood up the city of Philadelphia, whose mayor was waiting to present an award; he has canceled, skipped and ignored scheduled appearances. He was late for the luncheon at which The Ring magazine presented him with the world . championship belt—and he was even late for the contract-signing ceremony in New Orleans, setting up his Sept. 15 rematch with Ali. ("I always tried to be on time when I was champ," Ali said.) Spinks was sued for nonpayment of rent on his Philadelphia apartment and on March 19. the day after the WBC stripped him of half his title, he was arrested in St. Louis for driving without a license, a situation that might have gone unnoticed except that Leon happened to be driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Then came last Friday. This time, St. Louis police arrested Spinks at 4 a.m.—with a female companion. Charlean Gunn—for driving without a license ("Man, I still ain't got none") plus possession of minute amounts of marijuana and cocaine. Possession of cocaine is a felony charge that could mean up to 20 years in prison if Spinks is convicted. The trunk of the car contained several torn-up $10, $20 and $50 bills, which Spinks didn't explain and the police couldn't.
The champ was released after a few hours—two bondsmen almost came to blows over the honor of providing the $3,700 bail—promising to appear on May 5 to enter a plea. He showed up again in Miami, whence he either would or would not depart on the Caribbean tour, depending on how the spirit moved him.
In a how-do-you-react-to-all-this interview with ABC's Barbara Walters, Ali said, "It sounds like a frame-up to me," indicating that somebody wanted to get Spinks into trouble. But what was really bothering Ali should have been perfectly obvious. It wasn't Spinks' welfare, an item that has never bothered Ali before. It was the welfare of that Sept. 15 fight at the Superdome—which Ali says will be his last—and all the millions that go with it. As for the implication from Ali and several other boxing figures that somebody is trying to get Spinks into trouble, it is now clear that Leon can make his own trouble, without help from anybody.
It was a terrible time for Texas, the bald eaglet born a fortnight ago at the Central Texas Zoo in Waco. When he was two days old, he fell eight feet from his nest to the floor, saved only by the leaves and twigs on which he landed.
That near-catastrophe had Centex in a frenzy. Texas was moved into the zoo's nursery, sharing it with a baby camel and two bear cubs. Zoo officials bought an incubator, and a local deputy sheriff flew his plane 100 miles to pick up an eagle expert. Local doctors rushed over with glucose and electrolytes. Zoo employees kept around-the-clock vigil.
It was discovered that Texas had moved too close to the edge of the nest trying to get food. His parents, Ailic and Loma, were not doing the job, eating the pieces of raw quail meat intended for their offspring. Soon Texas was eating food provided by his keepers, but that presented another problem, 'if he is kept from his parents too long," said Tim Jones, the zoo's director, "he'll eventually imprint on humans and won't like eagles."
Alas, Jones wasn't able to execute a plan to reinforce Texas' eaglehood. The eaglet died at 10:55 Sunday night.
The quest for the perfect sneaker may be over. Gideon Ariel, the computer wizard of sports (SI, Aug. 22, 1977), is developing an inflatable running shoe for Pony. Someday a runner will simply slip on his shoe, fill 'er up with air, and, voilà!, have a perfect fit. He won't even have shoelaces to tie. More important, the shoe will be good for his feet, absorbing shock better and lessening the likelihood of blisters and shin splints.
Ariel and Pony have been working on the pneumatic shoe for about a year now, and Roberto Mueller, president of Pony, says it will be at least a year and a half before the first model hits the market. Mueller, who is a little afraid of letting the cat out of the bag, says, "It will revolutionize the business," especially when the shoe invades the basketball and tennis markets. Athletic shoes are now a $2 billion-a-year industry.
The inflatable shoe will be lighter than the conventional model and may only have to come in four sizes—small, medium, large and extra large. Ariel envisions the shoe as having an inflatable insert with a valve that can be filled from a can of compressed air and deflated by pushing in the valve. The laces would be replaced by an elastic band.
Ariel does foresee one small problem: "I can just see a basketball game being held up by a player who says, 'Wait a minute, I've got a flat.' We'll just have to invent the spare."
CBS, which televised the so-called "winner take all" tennis matches in which the winner did nothing of the kind, has received another jolt. Ski Racing, a small weekly put out in Fair Haven, Vt., reports that the network pulled a deceptive switcheroo in its coverage of the World Cup races at Stratton last month. In the second run of the slalom, Steve Mahre, who had the best time in the first run, skied before Ingemar Stenmark. He then waited at the bottom of the mountain to see if Stenmark could beat him. Stenmark did not; Mahre won.
A week later, when CBS showed the slalom on its Sports Spectacular, the network reversed the running order. As the race was shown, Stenmark went first, then Mahre skied down the course to beat him and win the slalom.
Says Ken Squier, producer of the telecast: "The order was unintentionally reversed. In fact, when I first heard about the mistake from Ski Racing, I was positive they had made a mistake."
CAN OF WORMS, TO GO
The menu is fast-food—hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs—except for a few curious items at the bottom. Worms, for instance, and fishing gear. The restaurant is Diver Dan's Diner, a 26-foot floating eatery opening soon near Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Bill Osborne, its owner, has long made a living as a commercial diver, but now he is surfacing.
"In warmer months the waters are crowded with boats," explains Osborne. "You can almost walk across the bay on them. And the people out there get hungry. I know. I've been out there and run out of things and wished I had some place to go. Now there will be. I guess my place will be a sort of floating McDonald's."
Revenge is sweet, but what Memphis State did to Delta State in a baseball game last week was ridiculous. On Monday, Division II Delta State embarrassed MSU, the ninth-ranked team in Division I, 19-5. Two days later Memphis State scored 11 runs in the first inning, took a 26-0 lead into the fifth and set or tied five NCAA records on the way to a 39-3 win over Delta State. And because the game was played at Memphis State, the Tigers didn't even bat in the ninth inning. The heroes were Third Baseman Doug Granger, who went 7 for 9 and scored seven runs, and Designated Hitter Dave Parks, who was 6 for 8 with eight RBIs and six runs.
Delta State Coach Boo Ferriss, twice a 20-game winner for the Red Sox, said he saw the handwriting on the wall when his second batter hit into a double play, stumbling over his bat on the way to first base.
Soccer's World Cup is less than two months away, but the playing surface of the River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires, where the big games are to be played, is a near-disaster area. Bare patches and yellow grass greeted SI's Clive Gammon when he visited River Plate last February, but he was assured that all would soon be well with the field, which cost $600,000 to lay. By mid-March what grass there was had turned yellow, and the press was barred from inspecting the stadium. Now it has come to light that the field had to be dug up because of a defective drainage system.
Artificial turf for the World Cup is banned by FIFA, the ruling body of soccer, and the Buenos Aires organizing committee will not comment on whether a new natural surface can possibly be ready for play. There is another, smaller stadium in Buenos Aires, but it would be unfortunate if the big games cannot be played at River Plate, which was designed to be the centerpiece of the tournament.
For two seasons the Golden State Warriors, with the backing of San Francisco Bay Area Buick dealers, have offered a Buick Regal to the first fan to sink a basket from midcourt—43 feet—during halftime at a Warrior home game. As of April 8, 57 selected fans had tried, three per night with two shots apiece, and failed. "Usually the ball would land at about the free-throw line," says Bob Bestor, the Warriors' PR man.
On the night of the last home game this season, the Warriors and the Buick dealers decided to throw caution to the winds. They picked 15 fans from the 5,000 who had filled out market-research questionnaires on their way into the Oakland Coliseum Arena, gave each one a single shot, then sat back and watched as the first 14 blew it.
Then Ken Gaal, a 38-year-old college math teacher from Davis, Calif., stepped to the line, the last shooter of the season. He bent his knees, lowered the ball, and lobbed a perfect two-handed chest' shot into the basket without so much as grazing the rim.
"The place fell apart," said Bestor. "It was the biggest cheer I've ever heard," said Stephanie Salter, who covers the Warriors for the San Francisco Examiner. "My brother spilled coffee all over the people sitting around him," says Gaal.
Later, while awaiting delivery of his prize, Gaal stopped at the showroom of the Buick dealer in Davis to see what a Regal looks like. "I don't care what kind of deal you made, I can top it," said an enterprising salesman.
"Wanna bet?" said Gaal.
Every fall, four high school basketball coaches in northern Michigan—Jim Cooper of Harrison High, Phil Odium of Alma, Dave Luther of Farwell and Roy Johnson of Beaverton—visit a major-college basketball power to pick up tips from the coach. In 1975 they visited Indiana, in 1976 they went to Marquette, and last fall they went to Kentucky. So what's the big deal? It's this: each college the four visited went on to win the NCAA championship the following spring.
Right now Cooper and his colleagues are trying to pick the school they'd like to visit next fall and thus bless with their good luck. Says Cooper, "Four plane tickets to Duke would make that choice much easier."
THEY SAID IT
•Graig Nettles, one of the four Yankees who were fined $500 for missing a welcome-home luncheon for charity: "If this club wants somebody to play third base, they've got me. If they want somebody to go to luncheons, they should hire George Jessel."
•Raymond Clayborn, New England Patriot halfback, who is back at Texas rooming with Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell: "I must answer the phone 25 times a day, and it's never for me. I came to Austin to work on my phys ed degree and I wind up being an answering service."