When it was revealed last week that President Carter had to fend off a ferocious swimming rabbit while he was fishing in Plains last spring, skeptics argued that it couldn't have been a rabbit because the furry little critters don't swim. Carter insisted that it was, in fact, "a fairly robust-looking rabbit, swimming apparently with no difficulty." What's more, the White House said an unreleased photograph distinctly showed it to be a rabbit.
Well, according to Dr. E. Raymond Hall, professor emeritus of zoology at the University of Kansas, highly respected author of Mammals of North America and a man who clearly knows his rabbits, "Most kinds of rabbits do indeed have difficulty swimming and rarely enter the water voluntarily. But there are two species, Sylvilagus aquaticus and Sylvilagus palustris, the swamp rabbit and marsh rabbit, that swim regularly and easily, and live in places other kinds of rabbits wouldn't. The two species are found only in the southeast U.S. and are fairly common in parts of Georgia.
"It makes sense to me, given these rabbits' proclivity for swimming, that the President might have encountered one of them," Hall says. And, Professor, what stroke do rabbits do? "I guess you could call it the bunny paddle."
TENNIS' CLOSE CALL
The toughest ticket at the U.S. Open last week was for the second-round confrontation between Ilie Nastase and third-seeded John McEnroe. The match had all the ingredients for the brouhaha it turned into—poor scheduling, the game's two most explosive players, a boorish, beered-up crowd and a flamboyant umpire in the chair. And everyone involved must share the blame for what resulted: the ugliest incident in the history of American tennis.
The tournament committee scheduled McEnroe-Nastase as Thursday night's second match in the stadium. It was preceded by a women's match that went on for nearly two hours, and when it finally began at 9:45, the crowd of 10,549 was already restless. And, some of it, intoxicated. The ushers had no control over the spectators, who wandered through the aisles during play, often for the purpose of bringing six-packs of beer—which was being sold in cans, an unheard-of practice at other sporting events—back to their seats. From the outset, Nastase was the crowd's favorite. McEnroe's errors were cheered, and he responded with taunts and, at one juncture, an obscene gesture, all of which was fine with Nastase. What didn't please Ilie was his opponent's excruciatingly slow play. A player is allowed 30 seconds between points, and McEnroe seemed to be taking the full 30. Nastase responded by clowning with spectators, pretending to nap behind the baseline, and quick-serving McEnroe in jest. None of his carrying on was obscene or vicious, as it often has been in the past, and he did not question a single call. Yet, in the opinion of umpire Frank Hammond, Nastase was the culprit. Hammond has officiated tennis matches for 32 years and is one of the best in the business. But on this evening, Hammond's determination to maintain control only aggravated matters. He repeatedly reprimanded Nastase, often into a live microphone, provoking the crowd, which obviously believed that the wrong player was being scolded. Hammond also failed to explain the penalty system to spectators, a good many of whom had no idea such a system even exists. If a player fails to heed warnings from the chair, the umpire can award a point, then a game and, finally, the match to his opponent. When Hammond penalized Nastase a game in the fourth set for stalling, the crowd erupted with boos and catcalls that stopped play for 17 minutes. Fights broke out, beer cans and other debris were hurled onto the court and hecklers shouted obscenities at the players and Hammond. Police surrounded the court, and Hammond and tournament referee Mike Blanchard pleaded with Nastase to resume play. When he refused, Blanchard told him he had 30 seconds to serve. After 58 seconds, Hammond announced game, set, match—McEnroe. At that moment tournament director Bill Talbert approached the chair, rescinded the default and ordered Blanchard to take Hammond's place, a move that should have been made much sooner. The match was completed, McEnroe winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
"Frank is a showman, and he made the mistake of becoming a character in the play," said Talbert afterward. "I thought replacing him was the only way to quell the crowd. He did a fine job of carrying out the rules, but he lost control. Under the conditions of the evening, Frank wasn't flexible enough. If the rules are upheld and someone gets hurt or is killed, what then...?"
For "the conditions of the evening"—the scheduling, the beer, the officiating, the players, the crowd control—a lot of people are culpable.
LOVE AT FIRST SNAP
When Chris Foote, the center for the top-ranked Southern Cal football team, married Suzy Campbell (USC '78), it was the biggest wedding of the summer. Some 300 people were invited to the ceremony and reception, which was held in the City of Industry, Calif., but it was the size of the guests, not the guest list, that made it such a tremendous occasion. Naturally, some of Foote's teammates attended. In fact, many of the Trojan offensive linemen were members of the wedding. Offensive guards Roy Foster (6'4", 260), Scott Fraser (6'2", 240), Allen Pugh (6'4", 245) and Brad Budde (6'5", 253); offensive tackles Steve Moyer (6'7", 250), Joe Murray (6'5", 260), Keith van Home (6'7", 250) and Anthony Munoz (6'7", 280) were all decked out in powder-blue tuxedoes.
The size of the wedding party didn't faze the bride. After all, Chris (6'4", 250) and Suzy (5'4", 120) met when he was coaching the Delta Delta Delta powder-puff team, and she was—happy coincidence—the starting center. But outfitting some of the linemen was another matter. Chris is a "regular 48," but best man Munoz wasn't so lucky. The rental shop had to send out for special pants for his tuxedo, and then had to entirely remake a size 51 jacket to fit him.
SLACK & FIELD
Foreign stars have dominated college track in the U.S. in recent years, prompting periodic attempts to bar them from the NCAA championships. The controversy over the use of imported trackmen now is being fueled by word out of Brazil that Joao Carlos de Oliveira, the world-record holder in the triple jump, is thinking about enrolling at Southern Cal. But an embarrassment suffered recently by the University of Toledo suggests that track coaches who go after foreigners without carefully checking them out do so at their own peril.
Toledo's trouble began when Track Coach John Flaminio received a letter last year from a Kenyan who identified himself as Daniel Kimalyo and said he was interested in attending the Ohio school. Because Kimalyo was the 1978 Commonwealth Games gold medalist in the 400-meter hurdles, Flaminio naturally wondered why he would want to attend Toledo, which hadn't scored a point in the NCAA championships in the last decade. Flaminio phoned the letter writer, who mumbled something about becoming a big fish in a small pond, and last January a beaming Flaminio welcomed a beaming "Kimalyo" to campus.
The newcomer ran in five meets for Toledo during the indoor season and didn't do very well. "I just figured the guy was out of shape," Flaminio says, "and that he was having trouble adjusting from running on grass, as they do in Africa, to hard surfaces." Then Toledo's prize import was sidelined by an injury, and it wasn't until Flaminio spoke with a visiting Kenyan coach in June that he learned that Kimalyo was still in Africa. The runner Flaminio had recruited turned out to be Nicholas Mukeka, an undistinguished hurdler. His scholarship was revoked, and he dropped out of school and disappeared.
This was not the first time a U.S. track coach had been stung by an impostor. When Cleburne Price Jr., now the coach at the University of Texas, was at Dallas Baptist College in 1970, he awarded a scholarship to a fleet Nigerian sprinter. As Price ruefully tells it, "He couldn't run a lick. He couldn't even outrun me. The guy had one suit of clothes and one carry-on bag when he got off the plane. He looked about 40 years old. Later we went to a meet, and an African coach came running up and asked, 'Who's the African?' When I told him the sprinter's name, he said, 'Oh, no, that's not him.' As it turned out, the prospect we recruited didn't want to leave home. So he gave his papers to his cousin. And the cousin had never run track before."
A PERFECT RACE
It is every bettor's dream to find a race on which he's assured of making money, no matter what the outcome. That happened in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 11, Ray Kerrison of the New York Post has discovered.
This is how it can come about: assume a race with an overwhelming favorite, show betting and a small field. Assume, too, that the track is required, as it would be in New York, to pay at least five cents on one dollar, no matter how short the odds are on a horse that runs in the money. If all but a very small percentage of the money in the show pool is bet on the favorite, then the extremely short odds on it and the very long odds on the other horses make it mathematically impossible to lose money if you bet heavily on the favorite and lightly on the other entries to show. If the favorite runs in the money, the bettor will make around 3%; if the favorite is an also-ran, the bettor would receive a bigger payoff. Perhaps an astronomical one. Do your arithmetic carefully and you can't lose.
Only one bettor, a savvy track regular known to insiders as Clyde the Clipper, saw the "hole" in the show pool for the Alabama, which had a field of five. Clyde bet on every horse to show, putting $24,000 on the 1-to-5 favorite, Davona Dale, and $200 apiece on the other horses. Davona Dale ran second to It's in the Air, and Mairzy Doates was third. Even with 27-to-1 odds on Mairzy Doates, all three horses paid $2.10 to show. Clyde came out $820 ahead.
Don Drew, who supervises mutuels operations for the New York Racing Association, says, "The perfect race is a rare situation. It's obvious only to the people who look for it, and it will only pay off if you have a lot of cash to bet. A sophisticated bettor would be watching the 60-second cycles on the tote board, where we update the off-track and on-track show pools." Drew is surprised that Clyde was the only horse player to take advantage of the Alabama situation, but he is quick to add that Clyde would have lost a bundle if Davona Dale had run out of the money, because he erred in his arithmetic and did not bet quite enough on the other horses.
Drew points out that the same rare circumstances occurred on June 30 in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont, in which Davona Dale was also the favorite. There the show pool totaled $493,503, of which $482,553 was riding on Davona Dale. "But no one bet the system," Drew said. "It's remote, but sure, it could happen again."
Isn't that what dreams are made of?
THEY SAID IT
•John Campana, guard for the Bucknell football team, when asked about superstitions: "I don't like to jump from tall buildings before big games."
•Tommy John, Yankee pitcher, discussing his arm surgery of five years ago: "When they operated on my arm, I asked them to put in Koufax' fastball. They did. But it turned out to be Mrs. Koufax'."
•Bill Rodgers, premier American marathoner, after wilting in the heat and finishing 15th in Montreal's Elite marathon: "I wish they'd run the Olympic marathon at the Winter Olympics."
•Don Meredith, former Dallas quarterback, on Cowboy Coach Tom Landry: "He's a perfectionist. If he was married to Raquel Welch, he'd expect her to cook."
•Don James, University of Washington football coach, on the advantages of having a player named to the Playboy preseason all-star team: "I like it because it's the one month out of the year my wife lets me buy the magazine."