THE SHERO SHIFT
When the rumors began circulating seven weeks ago that Fred Shero would quit the Philadelphia Flyers to become coach of the New York Rangers, Shero said, "I don't want to coach New York. Besides, I've got a year left on my contract and you don't walk out on a team under a contract."
Last week, 11 days after he had resigned as coach of the Flyers because, he said, he had "lost something," Shero found whatever it was he was looking for in Madison Square Garden. The Rangers, owned by the acquisitive Gulf + Western Corporation, installed him as coach and general manager at a reported salary of $200,000 a year for five years. There was speculation that Shero's sudden resignation from the Flyers was the result of tampering by Garden President Sonny Werblin.
It is ironic that no one seemed to be much troubled by the one aspect of the Shero move that will have the greatest long-term fallout. Whether or not the Rangers were guilty of tampering; whether or not NHL Commissioner John Ziegler once again proves himself indecisive by failing to clear the air; whether or not there was something terribly cynical about the Flyers acting aggrieved, then bartering Shero for a first-round draft choice and cash—that was all beside the point. What mattered last week was that Shero, a man given to moralistic utterances, had done what owners, general managers and coaches are always howling about: he had reneged on a valid contract. It is something Shero will have to live with when he is negotiating contracts for the Rangers for the next five years.
The horse-show world has been shaken by scandal involving the tranquilizer reserpine. The drug, which can turn fractious hunters into disciplined performers in the ring or make unruly horses seem better mannered to unsuspecting buyers, has long been abused by horse-show people because it is difficult to trace. Last March the American Horse Shows Association discovered a method for detecting reserpine in a horse's system, and incorporated it in routine tests.
Some two dozen positive results were obtained at several shows. And last weekend Richard E. McDevitt, president of the AHSA, was notifying the offenders and summoning them to hearings.
Those found guilty of reserpine abuse face suspension, fines of up to $1,000 and loss of all trophies, prize money and Horse of the Year points won during the testing period. "And that is just for the first offense," says McDevitt. "We haven't decided what to do with second offenders."
For all its estimated 46 million sportsmen and sportswomen, the Soviet Union has never been very big on golf. There aren't any country clubs in the USSR, for one thing, and hardly anybody has stockbrokers to play $5 Nassaus with, for another. But all that is about to change. The country's first championship-caliber course is to be built by Robert Trent Jones and his son Robert Trent Jones Jr., the renowned golf-course architects, on 191 acres 20 miles northwest of Moscow. It is scheduled for completion in the early 1980s and will have 7,000 yards of fairways amid what is now a fine virgin stand of birch and hemlock. Jones Sr. says that he plans to keep the hazards to a minimum.
Strictly speaking, this will not be the first course in the USSR. In 1960 Nikita Khrushchev had a one-hole layout built near Lake Baikal for President Eisenhower to use, but it was never played. A month before Ike's departure for Moscow, Francis Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane was shot down in Soviet airspace, and the trip was scrubbed.
American businessman Armand Hammer, who knew Lenin and has maintained a working relationship with Moscow, frequently encouraged the Russians to tee it up. Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, who once was the somewhat bewildered recipient of a golf cart given him by Richard Nixon, agreed when Hammer told him recently that golf is an international sport and should be learned by Russians.
The cost of constructing the course will be nearly $1 million, and that does not include a double-deck driving range that Jones is hoping to build in the center of Moscow. As they say down at the pitch-'n'-putt collective, Ostorozhno! folks. Fore!
Jane and Michael Stern, authors of Amazing America, think they know the longest name of any lake anywhere. As anyone in Webster, Mass. knows, it's Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggauggagoggchaubunagungamau, an Indian name, naturally. What it means is, "You fish on your side, I'll fish on my side, and nobody fishes in the middle."
In the past decade or so a considerable change has taken place in the way the world's best athletes prepare for competition. Exercise machines, many of them futuristic contraptions that look like something from Star Wars, have supplanted barbells and other simple devices as physical-conditioning tools, and as sales of these machines soar, rival manufacturing companies are jockeying for ascendancy in the field. At stake is the potentially vast revenue from the trendy growth of the health industry; manufacturers hope to produce a relatively cheap machine for mass purchasing.
At a recent meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, Arthur Jones, who developed the Nautilus exercise machine, astounded a seminar audience that was listening to a presentation by Dr. Gideon Ariel, the biomechanical-research scientist. After Ariel unveiled a new computerized machine, Jones played a tape-recorded statement in which he alleged that Ariel was guilty of "false claims, fraud, conspiracy to commit and personal involvement in industrial espionage, perjury under oath in a criminal case and a number of other similar acts." Jones maintains that Ariel, formerly under contract to Nautilus, took the idea for the computerized machine from Jones' company. Ariel denied the allegations and said that he would sue for slander.
Apart from this incident, there is a rising tide of "dirty tricks" within the industry. Rival firms regularly attack each other in trade magazines and journals, misrepresent competitors' products during sales presentations, encourage university coaches to become stockholders and grant research funds to scientists to prove the validity of their claims. Unhealthy is the word for it.
Ronald Bradley, 21, recently was sentenced to three years in prison in Dade County, Fla. for burglary. Bradley, who had made a point of wearing gloves on the job, was puzzled that his fingerprints were found at several break-in locations. Prosecutors pointed out to him that the golf gloves he was wearing have no fingertips.
THE GUTHRIE AFFAIR
When the Indianapolis 500 boiled to a halt two weeks ago, a lot of crusty old chauvinists along Gasoline Alley found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to say nice things about Janet Guthrie—who had finished the race ninth—or explain why they hadn't done better than she. Most went the easy route and chose to be nice, but 500 winner Al Unser, who wasn't too happy that Guthrie got as much attention as he did after the race, remained uncharitable and unmoved. "She was just trying to finish," said Unser. "I'd like to see her challenging for a lead with any of the top drivers, then we'd know what kind of driver she really is. I know I drive hard. I don't think she does."
Unser was also peevish about Guthrie's postrace revelation that she had broken her right wrist in a tennis tournament two days before the race, then kept the injury to herself. Guthrie admitted later that she had deliberately concealed the fracture from USAC officials, had taken a pain-killing injection before the race and had accelerated her 190-mph car from the pits into Indy's traffic using her left hand to shift gears. "If that was the case," asserted Unser, "she didn't belong on the track; she was a menace to the other drivers."
There was some question in track physician Tom Hanna's mind that Guthrie's wrist was really broken, even though early last week a cast was applied to her forearm. Still, it was a dangerous game Guthrie was playing with her own credibility as a serious competitor. "I certainly don't like the statements she made about concealing the injury from me," said Dr. Hanna.
Janet Guthrie wasn't alone in her Indy infirmity: 180 people were treated at the track hospital on race day, many of them for heat stroke. Three kilted members of the Scarsborough (Canada) Bagpipe and Drum Corps collapsed from blowing too much hot air. But perhaps the most poignant incident of all is recounted by James G. Rimmer, 22, of Peru, Ind. Rimmer was on his long-awaited first date with Debra Rush, 19, of Frankfort, Ind., who was standing trackside for the national anthem when the clammy heat finally overcame her. "She keeled over like a sack of potatoes," said Rimmer, who sat out the race in the infield hospital with his prostrate friend. "I've had better first dates."
TOO MUCH GUSTO
The hottest controversy in Venezuela is not the upcoming presidential election but the right of citizens to smoke and drink at sporting events. Promising to separate "vice" from sport, the Minister of Youth, Baldo Casanova, has proposed a law banning the sale of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages at athletic events and prohibiting the advertising of these products on radio and TV sports broadcasts.
On the surface, the law—or at least the section relating to alcohol—has much to recommend it. Venezuelan baseball fans have been known to express their loyalty by tossing beer cans at opposing players. Stadium fights, fueled by drunkenness, are commonplace and, a league official recently admitted, "Fans here have gone crazy the last few years."
Nonetheless, when the law was proposed, the six-team Venezuelan Baseball League screamed foul. It turned out that two-thirds of the league's income came from concessions and ads—the majority of which are for whiskey, beer and cigarettes—and several teams have threatened to fold if the law is enacted.
"There's no way we could continue," said Oscar Prieto, owner of the Caracas Lions. "Without the concessions and advertisements we couldn't pay our rent."
Meanwhile, in Boston last week there was a move afoot in the city council and in the Massachusetts state legislature to regulate the sale of beer in the stands at Fenway Park and the Boston Garden. State Senator Michael LoPresti Jr., who went to a recent Bruin playoff game and left after the first period, decided to take action after witnessing a fairly typical melee. "There was beer throwing, fist fighting and every profanity in the book," LoPresti said.
LoPresti and State Representative Royal Boiling Jr., co-chairmen of the legislature's Special Commission on Spectator Violence at Sporting Events, have opened hearings on the matter and hope to come up with corrective legislation.
WATCH THE BIRD
Short on money and confined to amateur status, U.S. badminton players have been struggling for years to fight off the notion that their sport lacks pizzazz.
Last month the International Badminton Federation allowed the sport to go open, and now, with the prospect of tournament purses, world-class players from Denmark and Sweden will probably display their fast indoor game in the U.S. "We hope to have an international tournament this fall," says Paul DeLoca, president of the U.S. Badminton Players Association. "If all goes well, we could be competitive with major badminton countries in six to eight years."
HE SAID IT
•Sparky Lyle, New York Yankee relief pitcher, on battery mate Thurman Munson: "Munson's not moody, he's just mean. When you're moody, you're nice sometimes."