OH YE MOLDERS OF MEN
After a football luncheon last week in Ann Arbor, Dan Perrin, a 21-year-old reporter for The Michigan Daily, approached Coach Bo Schembechler with a tape recorder. Michigan had made only one of 10 field-goal attempts this season and Perrin asked Schembechler whether he was considering recruiting placekickers, something he hadn't actively done in the past. Schembechler began to answer, then exploded. According to Perrin and others who were present, the coach jabbed him with a finger, knocked his microphone away and gave him a shove. "Don't try to make me look bad, son," Bo fumed. "You understand what I say or I'll throw you the hell out of Michigan football."
Michigan had played on the West Coast 48 hours earlier and Schembechler was short of sleep, so perhaps it was not surprising that he should be showing signs of strain. Still, five days later he had yet to apologize to Perrin. Nor had anybody in Michigan's administration publicly expressed any regrets. Asked about Schembechler's conduct, Athletic Director Don Canham said, "I don't condone it but by the same token I've been irritated myself." Canham concluded, "I don't think there's a problem."
Schembechler is not the first prominent college coach to blow up. Nor are Michigan administrators the first to wink at such incivility. Too many college officials seem willing to follow the lead of Ohio State's administration, which for years studiously refrained from criticizing Woody Hayes for his excesses. It can be argued that had his superiors let him know in earlier years that such conduct would not be tolerated, Hayes might have learned to control himself and might not have ended his career in disgrace.
It may or may not be relevant that Schembechler was an assistant to Hayes at Ohio State in the 1950s and was known there as "Little Woody." What does seem relevant is something Canham said after the 1971 Michigan-Ohio State game in Ann Arbor, during which Hayes ripped a 10-yard chain from officials, tried to break it over his knee, and threw it onto the field. "That guy packs people in," Canham enthused. "He's great for the game."
HIGH-STAKES CARD GAME
"Prices are going through the roof," exulted Harmon Cooper as he looked out over a sea of buyers crowding the booths at a baseball-card convention held last weekend in Manhattan's Prince George Hotel. Cooper, the convention's co-director, was right. A 1933 Goudey bubble-gum card of Babe Ruth that fetched $35 five years ago was now being offered for $125. And a 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps bubble-gum card that sold for $600 six months ago was, startlingly, going for $1,200 (because that was Mantle's first appearance on a Topps card and the number of cards printed was relatively small). Dealers attributed the runaway prices in general to soaring demand by collectors who see baseball cards as an ideal hedge against inflation.
TOWARD FULL EQUALITY
Concerned over the years about what it felt was an excess of one-sided games, the NFL nevertheless resisted the temptation to let poorer teams use 12 men. But last season it did something similar. In a move some critics thought more worthy of a touch-football league at Camp North Woods, the NFL began drawing up its regular-season schedules according to an "equalization" formula that tends to pit weak against weak, strong against strong.
Say this for the NFL's scheme, though; it apparently works. The average victory margin, which had been 14.5 points over the three previous seasons, declined to 10.8 last year and is up only slightly, to 11 points, so far in '79. The trend toward closer games has inevitably sown uncertainty among Las Vegas oddsmakers, whose average spread for NFL games has shrunk during the same period from nearly eight points to less than a touchdown. This season's point spreads have averaged a scant 5.6 per game. In other words, if you thought you've been noticing fewer 10-points-and-over quotations than in the past, you're right.
HARMONY IN MAROON & BLUE
All but overlooked at the time, a committee of baseball club owners and general managers began meeting last year to try to resolve discrepancies in umpiring styles between the American and National Leagues. The results were decidedly mixed. The committee couldn't iron out apparent differences in the strike zone, mainly because nobody would acknowledge that there were differences. The committee also got hung up over the fact that American League umps wear maroon jackets, those in the National League blue. Committee members decided that everybody must wear the same uniform but because they couldn't agree on which one it should be, the clash between maroon and blue still exists.
But some issues were resolved. One was that a handful of American League umpires wear chest protectors outside their uniforms while the National League allows inside protectors only. It was agreed that as each of the American League umps who wear them retires, outside protectors will be phased out. Barring backsliding, other changes implemented this season will be evident in the World Series. For example, foul-line-umps in the National League used to straddle the line while American Leaguers worked in foul territory; today everybody stands in foul territory. Also, with runners on base, all second-base umpires now stand in the infield; in the past, American League umps positioned themselves on the outfield grass.
World Series watchers will note one other example of interleague dètente. At last year's fall classic the men in maroon signaled foul balls by raising their hands above their heads while the men in blue pointed to the foul line. No more. In a compromise that can only be described as Solomonic, umps in both leagues now are supposed to raise their hands above their heads, then point foul.
When they joined forces in the early '60s, Bobby Orr was a 15-year-old hockey prodigy and Alan Eagleson an obscure Toronto lawyer. Their fortunes soared together. Orr, who became the best defenseman in NHL history, made a lot of money, thanks in part to Eagleson's acumen as his agent. That in turn helped Eagleson become hockey's leading agent and head of the NHL Players' Association. Eagleson liked to joke that tour guides in Toronto referred to his elegant home as "the house that Orr built."
Now Orr and Eagleson have parted company. Over the years Eagleson has been front and center at almost every father-and-son banquet Orr attended, but the agent was conspicuously absent last month when Orr, who retired from the NHL early in the 1978-79 season because of his ailing knees, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. And last week Orr was named special assistant to NHL President John Ziegler, a job he apparently arranged without benefit of Eagleson's counsel.
Fueling speculation about a rift between the two were rumors that some of Orr's Eagleson-engineered investments had gone sour and that Orr was miffed because the agent had committed him to deals without first consulting him. There also were reports that while negotiating his new job with the NHL, Orr had found it prudent to cool his friendship with Eagleson, whose ofttimes abrasive style offends some league officials. Eagleson said simply that Orr "has more time on his hands, and he wants to learn to handle his own affairs."
OUT OF THE VOID
Greg Jacobs, a soccer-style football place-kicker at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., converted all 40 of his point-after-touchdown attempts last season but, to his dismay, hit on only three of 10 field-goal chances. After the season Jacobs, a psychology major, became interested in "sensory isolation" tanks, which are enjoying a vogue around the country as aids to meditation and relaxation. As a result of that interest, Jacobs feels that his field-goal kicking has improved this season.
The idea of sensory isolation is that by floating in salt water inside a blackened, soundproof and temperature-controlled tank, an environment in which one hears and sees virtually nothing and has little sense of touch, a person supposedly can experience a deeper sense of self. Jacobs and another Lawrence student raised $700 and built a bubblelike, five-foot-high tank and covered the bottom with 10 inches of salt water. Jacobs has since been spending an hour each day lying suspended on his back, nude, in the water. Much of the time, he says, he thinks about placekicking.
"I mentally 'rehearse' my kicking by visualizing in my mind the perfect technique," Jacobs says. "Being in the tank is like floating in a black void and produces a deeply relaxed state of mind that makes possible almost total concentration. Then, when I go out to kick, it's like auto-suggestion."
Now a senior, Jacobs is using the isolation tank in a university-approved research project involving 30 fellow students. As for himself, Jacobs this season has kicked 19 straight PATs, extending his streak to 59, within striking distance of the NCAA Division III record of 75. He also has made five field goals in 11 attempts, and while that may seem scarcely better than last year, he notes he has had several near misses at long distance. "Last year I was bothered by crowd noise and pressure," says Jacobs. "Now I'm able to tune out everything when I'm kicking. I've got more distance on my kicks and also more accuracy. I've even kicked a 50-yarder in practice, something I wasn't able to do before. I'm convinced it's all because of the tank."
A RANK ACTION
Since May 1977, when he was transferred to New Jersey's Rahway State Prison to serve a 30-to-40-year sentence for armed robbery, James Scott has fought five matches behind the walls of that institution, rising to second in the World Boxing Association's light-heavyweight rankings. Now, just as he appeared ripe for a title fight against WBA champion Victor Galindez, Scott suddenly finds himself shorn of his ranking.
According to Mandry Galindez, the organization's former president and still a member of its executive committee, the WBA dumped Scott after deciding that as a prisoner he does not set a "good example." Whatever the merits of this position, the objection certainly could have been foreseen when the WBA began ranking Scott a year ago. So could the WBA's claim that Scott's opponents are put at a decided disadvantage by the fact that they can fight him only in prison. Of course, all this is assuming that these are the real reasons for the WBA's action. In Scott's view, he was dropped because of the pervasive influence wielded within the WBA by Bob Arum, who promotes fights of some of the other light heavyweights ranked by that organization. Scott says Arum offered him a promotional contract earlier this year but that Murad Muhammad, who had been promoting his fights, persuaded him to reject it. "Murad Muhammad didn't look after me," Scott says. "If I'd gone with Arum, I'd have a title fight." Instead, thanks to a belated and dubious action by an organization that strung him along for a year, he has nothing. In bitter acknowledgment of that fact, Scott says he is quitting boxing.
THEY SAID IT
•Art Modell, Cleveland Browns owner, on the fact that he and other NFL bosses equally share TV money and gate receipts: "We're 28 Republicans who vote socialist."
•Ken Harrelson, Boston Red Sox TV announcer, on why he made a practice of catching the ball one-handed during his playing days: "When you have hands as bad as mine, one hand is better than two."
•Sylvester Stallone, filmdom's Rocky: "Boxing is a great exercise—as long as you can yell 'cut' whenever you want to."
•Art Baker, The Citadel's football coach, on Ronald Hale, Vanderbilt's 6'6", 310-pound offensive tackle: "I wasn't that worried about him until I read in their press guide that he was born on November 1st, 15th and 16th."