At the world swimming championships last summer in West Berlin, the Americans overwhelmed the heretofore powerful East German women, winning nine of 14 events, while the GDR won but one. With this debacle still fresh in their minds, the East Germans were looking forward to the U.S.A. Women's International Competition last weekend at Harvard as an opportunity to see whether recent changes in their training methods had improved their performances. But that was not to be.
First, many of America's leading swimmers were not there, some of whom—including Tracy Caulkins, the 16-year-old sensation who won five gold medals at the world championships as a 15-year-old—are serving short suspensions for curfew violations during a meet last year. Thus, even though the East Germans posted victories in seven of 14 events at the meet in Cambridge, it was not that stern a test.
"It was inevitable that bigger countries like the U.S. and the Soviet Union would catch us." Eberhard Mothes, one of the East German coaches, said before the meet. "We aren't so arrogant as to think that a small country like ours can win everything." But the coaches are doing what they can to assure that the GDR will win its share of medals.
For one, East Germany is concentrating on finding prospects built more along the lines of the tall, skinny Caulkins. "We've begun to realize that big, muscular girls develop quickly but don't last very long," said Horst Kleefeld, another GDR coach. "The thinner girls tend to survive. Ulrike Tauber has managed to stick around as long as she has because she is fairly thin. And Caulkins will last, too."
In their rush back to the drawing boards, GDR coaches have been particularly concerned that few of their women swam as well at the world championships as they had at their own nationals six weeks earlier. In hopes that it will help sustain top performance over a longer span, they have increased daily workloads in the case of medley specialists Tauber and Petra Schneider, for example, from 10,000 to 13,000 meters. More important, training has also become more intense.
One change that the coaches insist is not related to the poor showing at the world championships is the demotion of Rudolf Schramme, the national swim coach through three Olympic Games. Schramme masterminded East Germany's climb to the top of women's swimming and the official line is that after last summer's world championships, he "volunteered" to step down. Be that as it may, it is intriguing that Schramme's successor. Dieter Schulze, is a onetime GDR horse show-jumping champion who knows so little about swimming he didn't even bother to come to Boston. Schulze's forte is research in endurance training. The fact that somebody of his background has been named national swim coach suggests that further changes are afoot.
After noting that his Los Angeles Lakers had been accused of playing a zone defense, which is illegal in the NBA, Coach Jerry West said, "Let God strike me dead, we don't play a zone." Which prompted Joe Axelson, president and general manager of the KC Kings, to write West. "Please don't test the Almighty in this fashion. I would like to think He has more important things on His mind than the NBA, but don't tempt Him. Besides, just because [referees] Bavetta and Saar and Hollins don't know a zone when they see one. He might."
In his syndicated football column, "The Bottom Ten," Steve Harvey turns the glare of national publicity on the worst teams and biggest foul-ups.
Recently, Harvey wrote a column on 1978 "lowlights," making great fun, for example, of UPI's naming a UCLA player. Center Brent Boyd, to its All-West Coast team even though Boyd missed the season with injuries.
Harvey also discussed Army's firing of its coach, Homer Rice. Fine. Except that Homer Rice was, and is, the Cincinnati Bengal coach. Steve may have had in mind Homer Smith, who was fired by Army. Or maybe he didn't. What the heck, they sound alike—Smith, Rice—and as Harvey might explain, at least both names have four letters.
A BETTER WAY?
There are several things that could be learned from the International Ice Hockey Federation's recent Friendship Tournament in Peking. The first is that China plays deplorable hockey. It won only one game in a tournament that included teams from Japan, Finland, West Germany and Romania. But let's be fair. In China, there are only 4,000 hockey players and three indoor rinks. And remember, too, that it was only 30 years ago that the now powerful Soviet Union was taught the rudiments of the game.
Of more significance, the average per-game attendance was 18,000. In the NHL, the average is 11,842. And those who got in waited all night for their tickets. Which brings us to their price. Top was 30¬¨¬®¬¨¢. The cheap seats were 20¬¨¬®¬¨¢. In the NHL, the average is $8.65. Hmm.
The Chinese attitude also is instructive. Hal Trumble, executive director of the Amateur Hockey Association of the U.S., went to the tournament and says of the Chinese, "They're such nice people that they want to be nice to everybody. Before they took up hockey, they had never seen a game that had a penalty box." In a game between China and Japan, fans started cheering body checks, which prompted a reprimand over the loudspeaker: "We must be good hosts. We mustn't be rude, or disrespectful of our guests." Imagine how that would play in Philadelphia!
WOMEN VS. MEN—SORT OF
Last week, for the first time in this country, men and women competed against each other in a regular-format (more or less) golf tournament, the $100,000 Spalding Invitational Pro-Am on the Monterey Peninsula.
For most of the men, it served as a warmup before the official start of the 1979 PGA Tour, which tees off with this week's Bob Hope Desert Classic. But the four women who accepted the invitations of Tournament Chairman Harold Firstman—LPGA stars Amy Alcott, Sally Little, Hollis Stacy and Debbie Massey—were there for the challenge. Actually the women were given the advantage of shorter yardage on some holes, in some cases as much as 30 yards.
Alcott turned in the second-lowest round of the tournament, a 66 at Rancho Ca‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±ada-East, and had the best finish among the women, 40th out of a field of 78. Little finished tied for 55th; Stacy came in 66th and Massey 73rd.
Even with the decreased yardage, distance was the main bugaboo for the women players. "At Laguna Seca, the 9th hole is 406 yards, uphill," said Little. "I hit a good drive and a three-wood and was still 20 yards short of the green. I'm not trying to make excuses, though. Everyone was terrific to us and I really enjoyed it. Maybe I didn't win [Al Geiberger did, in sudden-death] but I didn't finish last, either."
The National Hockey League All-Star team that will play the Soviet national team next month has all the earmarks of being a disaster. Voting for the team ends in mid-month and it is hoped there will be some thoughtful ballot-stuffing before then. If not, the starting team the U.S. will put on the ice Feb. 8 for the first of three contests in Madison Square Garden will be woefully inadequate.
The problem is an age-old one: balloting by the fans instead of by the coaches or fellow players. This enriches the league's coffers (Wilkinson Sword paid the NHL a reported $75,000 for the right to advertise on the ballots) but it impoverishes the game.
No thanks to shilling by the Rangers, four of the six leaders at this point are New Yorkers, some by huge margins. They include wings Pat Hickey and Anders Hedberg, Center Ulf Nilsson and Defenseman Ron Greschner. The other two are Chicago Defenseman Phil Russell and Goalie Tony Esposito. Not one of these qualifies as a first-team all-star.
General Manager Bill Torrey and Coach Scotty Bowman will select the rest of the team, giving them the opportunity to add the better players the fans have ignored. Yet those selected by the fans (with the exception of the goalie) must play a shift in the first game and that's a lot of ice time.
LIFE'S A KICK
Baylor University spent $1,250 last season for a punting machine to use in practice. Coach Grant Teaff loved it. After all, the machine could easily kick 60-yarders and never had one go off the side of its ball bearings. In fact, Teaff loved it so much he took to telling his real-life punter, Luke Prestridge, "This machine moves better than you, kicks better and doesn't eat as much." Said Prestridge. "Actually, he's right." Teaff also thought the machine was better-looking. Luke sulked.
But in a game against Kentucky, the ball was snapped far over Prestridge's head. He ran back, scooped it up and got off a 62-yard punt. Said Luke to Teaff, "Let's see your machine do that."
Tobacco chewing has gone collegiate. Mark Flexter, a two-pouch-a-day man who founded the first college tobacco-chewing club at Wabash College last year, reports that former members now have started clubs at Vanderbilt, Arizona State, TCU and the University of Chicago. "Someday there could be an intercollegiate tobacco-chewing championship," he says. "This thing is really taking off."
Flexter was 19 and a sophomore when he began chewing after seeing Clint Eastwood chomp in the movie The Outlaw Josey Wales. "Eastwood was so cool the way he did everything," Flexter says, "I went right out and bought a plug of tobacco. I took it nice and easy and forced myself to like it. Then I got my friends to chew with me. Chewing tobacco is a very good alternative to smoking. We want to make people think of chewing tobacco as a gentlemanly art. In the old days a gentleman never smoked in front of a lady."
A week after the club was formed at Wabash, Flexter and another club member, Andy Robertson, staged a chewathon at a local shopping mall and raised $800 for muscular dystrophy. "We chewed 27 straight hours," Flexter says, "and swallowed our plugs at the end for an extra $50."
Texas produces the best high school football players in the country. Period. Shut the book and amen. The last two Heisman winners, Earl Campbell and Billy Sims, are from Texas; so are the most recent winners of the Outland Trophy, for the nation's best lineman, Brad Shearer and Greg Roberts.
Comes now the next Texas phenom, 6'2½", 202-pound Eric Dickerson, whom recruiters see as already having Heisman inscribed on the back of his jersey and National Championship on the front. He's from Sealy, 50 miles west of Houston. This year he led his undefeated high school team to a state championship. He rushed for a career 5,889 yards. He runs the 100 in 9.4, blocks, catches. He is probably the most sought-after high school footballer in the nation.
An opposing coach, Jerry Shaffer of Wylie High, says, "In terms of size and speed, Dickerson has more going for him than Billy Sims." Eric's own coach, Ralph Harris, says, "He's faster and taller than Campbell."
He is, it would appear, fast, strong, durable, intelligent, mature, alert and quick to learn and he washes his hands before dinner. Who will get him? Oklahoma desperately wants him to further his education in Norman. Texas, though, may have the inside track; Coach Fred Akers says, "Eric's our No. 1 prospect." And everyone else's. Dickerson has visited Southern Cal, where many running backs have found happiness. He'll favor other schools with a look-see. But Dickerson has had enough. "I'll be glad when this is all over," he says. "I'm just an old country boy who enjoys quiet." With his future, he'd better buy earplugs.
THEY SAID IT
•George Raveling, Washington State basketball coach, on life in the Northwest: "I won't say it's remote up here, but my last speech was reviewed in Field & Stream."
•Frank Gifford, ABC announcer, on quarterbacks: "They're the most poorly conditioned athletes we have. They're also old and crotchety."
•Dick Versace, new Bradley basketball coach, on his explicit vocabulary: "To those people I might offend by my language, I say, I am your new coach, not your new Pope.' "
•Jim McConn, Houston mayor, on Earl Campbell: "He ought to run for President, because if he runs for mayor he'll beat me."
•Ken Payne, Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver, when told a woman sportswriter was in the dressing room: "Uh, oh, I'd better put my teeth in."