Southern California last week suffered through its worst siege of smog in nearly a quarter of a century. Day after day a brownish haze hung over the land, causing respiratory problems and prompting the Los Angeles school system and a number of other districts to cancel high school football games and other athletic events. At the Los Angeles Coliseum, where UCLA went ahead with its Saturday night game against Purdue, Boilermaker Fullback Mike Augustyniak, an asthmatic, experienced difficulty breathing, apparently because of the smog, and had to be sidelined periodically.
The severe smog was caused by a combination of sweltering temperatures—they ran as high as 108°—and an "inversion layer," a cushion of hot air that settled over the Los Angeles basin like an enormous lid, trapping pollutants underneath. Conditions were aggravated by brush fires and a bus strike that resulted in heavier-than-usual automobile traffic. "Second-stage smog episodes," the term used when ozone readings average more than .35 parts per million over a one-hour period, occurred daily. During second-stage episodes, industry must reduce the emission of pollutants, and residents are advised to curtail driving, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise.
One worry raised by the plague of foul air was the question of what might happen if similar conditions prevailed in Los Angeles during the 1984 Olympics. Although dates for those Games have not been set, the likeliest ones would be in late July and early August, when hot weather is probable. Dr. Steven Horvath, an exercise physiologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has researched the effect of air pollution on athletes and concluded that at ozone readings of .50 parts per million, which were approached last week on a number of occasions, performances would decrease by 8% to 10%. Of the prospect of smog-bound Olympics, Horvath said, "At the very least there would be a marked decrease in performance in distance events. But certain combinations of heat and smog could create a disaster, and I'm talking about athletes keeling over. Symptoms would include acute chest pain, breathing difficulty and burning eyes."
September 23, 1979
It is hoped that last week's apparently freakish siege won't recur. Still, smog in some quantity or other is very much part of the Los Angeles environment. Accordingly, Horvath suggests that organizers consider holding the '84 Games when the weather is likely to be cooler—in the spring, for example—or at least scheduling distance events at night. That idea was echoed by Dr. Stanley Rokaw, a Los Angeles pulmonary specialist, who said, "I would be fearful of having marathon runners compete in smog like this."
WAIT TILL SOME YEAR
Boston's Fenway Park and Chicago's Wrigley Field are the smallest and quaintest parks in the major leagues. The teams that play in them, the Red Sox and Cubs, have endured an extraordinary succession of almosts and might-have-beens and have elevated the late-season collapse to high art. The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, the Red Sox in 1918—with a six-game defeat of the Cubs. Nevertheless, the two teams are blessed with some of baseball's most loyal, knowledgeable and resilient fans; they boo, second-guess and die a thousand deaths, but they go out to the ball park, hoping that sooner or later a season will have a happy ending.
This year brought typical disappointment. In mid-July the Cubs and Red Sox appeared poised to take over first place in their respective divisions, and their fans were showing early symptoms of pennant fever. But both teams have since gone into their accustomed swoons. Last week Boston was 14½ games out of first and on the verge of mathematical elimination, and only Carl Yastrzemski's quest for his 3,000th hit (page 46) enlivened things at Fenway. The Cubs, who were on the road, were also 14½ games out and they, too, faced elimination.
But wait till next year—or the year after, or the year after that. The Boston Globe ran a cartoon the other day in which the Red Sox were represented as a pack of cigarettes. In the manner of cigarette ads, in one corner of the cartoon was the warning that "being a Red Sox fan is depressing to your health." The drawing also showed a Boston rooter who could just as easily have been a Cub fan. Wearing a helpless expression, the fellow said, "I just can't kick the habit."
WIN ONE FOR THE NIPPER
Colleges reeling under the high cost of football might be interested in the approach being tried at Phillips University, a small (enrollment 1,350) liberal arts school in Enid, Okla. Founded in 1906, Phillips fielded strong teams in its early days and boasts among its alumni Steve Owen, who played guard on an undefeated 1919 Phillips team that beat Texas 10-0 in Austin. Owen later gained fame as a longtime (1931-53) coach of the New York Giants and was inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame. But in 1933 Phillips found the costs of football burdensome, and dropped the sport.
The school still doesn't field a team, at least not one made up of burly, scholarship-consuming college lads. But Phillips is sponsoring an entry in Enid's YMCA league for third-and fourth-graders. Like many other private colleges, Phillips has been having trouble attracting students, and the administration felt that the novelty of a "college" football team consisting of 8- and 9-year-olds might help draw attention to the school. And so the Phillips squad, with an offensive line averaging 75 pounds, has joined a six-team league that includes teams sponsored by Pizza Inn, Enid Mack Trucks and Arrington Elevator.
Last Saturday morning the university's pint-sized team beat Mack Trucks 8-0 in an exhibition game that marked Phillips' return to the gridiron after an absence of 46 years. With the regular season scheduled to start this week, complimentary "season tickets" are being distributed to local merchants and to high school students interested in attending Phillips. Win or lose, the university doesn't anticipate any pressure from alumni and it feels it can easily handle the expense of football. The school provides jerseys, but its young players supply the rest of their equipment themselves. Phillips' total outlay for the season: $150.
An auto license plate seen in Westport, Conn. reads: OUI-SKI.
Ever since Bill Walton signed with the San Diego Clippers on May 13, everybody in the NBA has been waiting to see what compensation the Clippers would give Walton's former team, the Portland Trail Blazers. It has long been apparent that the two clubs couldn't work out a deal on their own, which leaves it up to NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien to resolve the matter. Having obtained affidavits from Portland and San Diego officials and other basketball people, O'Brien held two days of hearings last week. He was expected to rule on compensation this week.
According to the New York Post's Peter Vecsey, who saw some of the 200 pages of affidavits in the case, the two clubs could scarcely have been farther apart in what clearly amounted to non-negotiations. Vecsey says that Portland offered to buy back Walton's contract for $1 million. Alternatively, the Blazers demanded as compensation Forward Kermit Washington plus a guard (Randy Smith or Freeman Williams), a center (Swen Nater or Kevin Kunnert), San Diego's top draft choices for the next four years and $1 million in each of the next five seasons. Cleveland Cavalier owner Nick Mileti, whose views were solicited, called that demand "grossly excessive," and added, "No player who has ever played in the NBA even approaches [in value] what Portland is asking." But Milwaukee Buck Vice-President Wayne Embry said Portland's demand "falls short of restoring the Blazers to what they were with Walton."
In a laughable counterproposal, San Diego reportedly offered Portland either 1) Smith and next year's top draft pick or 2) Smith and Nater. The Clippers had learned a lesson from the experience of the New York Knicks, who last year signed Seattle Center Marvin Webster and then made the Sonics a realistic compensation offer of Lonnie Shelton and a No. 1 draft choice. The Knicks played their best hand too early. O'Brien wound up sweetening the package by ordering New York to throw in $450,000 with Shelton and the pick, which greatly discomforted Knick management.
There is obviously something wrong with a negotiating process in which both sides find it prudent to adopt unrealistic positions and then refuse to budge. The situation presumably will be corrected after the 1980-81 season when an NBA team will be at liberty to sign a free agent without making any compensation at all. The player's current club will merely have the right to match any offer.
A PATCHY JOB
After the noted bleeder Matthew Saad Muhammad successfully defended his WBC light-heavyweight title against Britain's John Conteh last month in Atlantic City (SI, Aug. 27), ringside observers agreed that he couldn't have done it without veteran cut-man Adolph Ritacco's masterly patching of a nasty gash over Saad Muhammad's left eye. But Conteh's corner cried foul. The New Jersey Athletic Commission had decreed that only petroleum jelly and well-diluted adrenalin chloride could be used on cuts, and the challenger's trainer, George Francis, claimed that Ritacco had employed more potent concoctions.
New Jersey authorities confiscated Ritacco's cut medicine after the fight and, following lab tests, said it contained "substances other than those agreed upon." After a hearing last week, Jersey Joe Walcott, the state athletic commissioner, suspended Ritacco for two months and Nick Belfiore, Saad Muhammad's trainer, for three months. Belfiore drew the stiffer penalty because he had attended a pre-fight meeting at which the restrictions on cut preparations were announced.
Ritacco dismissed the commission-approved substances by saying, "That stuff works about as good as a styptic pencil." He acknowledged having used a preparation more to his liking—but insisted that it consisted of little more than ground-up tea leaves. Walcott was notably unsympathetic. Noting that, without Ritacco's resourceful cut work, the Atlantic City fight would almost certainly have been stopped and Conteh declared the winner, Jersey Joe said he would urge the WBC to require Saad Muhammad to grant the challenger an immediate rematch.
People who live along the Michigan-Indiana border refer to the area as Michiana, a hybrid name that implies that these two states share a common destiny. Insofar as big-time college sports are concerned, their joint purpose at the moment appears to be to bully the other 48 states. In basketball Michigan State and Indiana State finished one-two in the 1978 NCAA tournament, while Indiana and Purdue did likewise in the NIT.
Michiana is now packing a similar wallop in college football, having placed no fewer than four teams among the nation's top 10 in last week's Associated Press poll—Purdue fifth, Michigan sixth, Notre Dame ninth and Michigan State 10th. Purdue's subsequent 31-21 loss to UCLA and Notre Dame's 12-10 victory over Michigan will necessitate changes in that list. Still, considering that the six Michiana schools herein mentioned are crammed into an area roughly one-twelfth the size of Texas, their prowess is impressive indeed.
THEY SAID IT
•Walt Michaels, New York Jet coach: "Everyone has some fear. A man who has no fear belongs in a mental institution. Or on special teams."
•Jack McCloskey, Indiana Pacer assistant coach, after the NBA team released Ann Meyers: "She gave me a little peck on the cheek and a hug. It meant a lot to me. I've never gotten a kiss from a player who got cut."
•Jim Marshall, discussing his job as manager of the last-place Oakland A's: "It makes you rethink the importance of being in the major leagues."