THE JOYLESS GAMES
When President Carter proposed his Olympic boycott on Jan. 20, he said that the U.S. was prepared, if necessary, to stand alone in passing up the 1980 Summer Games. But Carter also said he would try to enlist "as many nations as possible" in the boycott movement, in hopes of persuading the International Olympic Committee to move, postpone or cancel the Games. At last week's deadline for submitting entries to Moscow, the Olympic committees of West Germany, Japan, Canada and some 50 other countries had declared their intention to join the U.S. in staying away from Moscow. But the committees of 70-odd other countries had announced plans to compete in Moscow, including, to the White House's keen disappointment, those of Britain, France, Australia and the Netherlands. Barring dramatic new developments, the Olympics appear destined to take place in Moscow on schedule and at a generally high level of competition.
The apparent failure of his campaign to move, postpone or cancel the Olympics is a partial defeat for Carter—as is the quiet death of his scheme for an alternative games. And his boycott movement has set an unfortunate precedent that will make it easier for others to place political roadblocks in the path of future international sports events. But none of this should obscure the fact that the provocation for Carter's action was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which the United Nations General Assembly condemned in January by a vote of 104 to 18. Neither should it hide an unsettling truth about the IOC: that it was prepared to stage the 1980 Olympics at virtually any cost. The Games must go on, even in a moral vacuum.
There is also reason to be disturbed by the expediency of some of the national Olympic committees that voted to go to Moscow. Advancing the familiar argument that sports should be kept forever separate from politics, committees in at least 10 countries went so far as to defy the entreaties of their governments to join the boycott. One of those countries was Great Britain, where Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher last week chastised Moscow-bound national Olympic officials by asking, "Would they still believe, were we invaded by Russia, that the athletes of France or anywhere else should just say, 'That's nothing to do with us. We're only interested in sport'?"
The athletes who compete in Moscow run the risk of being remembered, everlastingly, as indeed having been interested only in sport. To avoid such a stigma, some of them may conceivably try to use the Olympics as a forum for publicly protesting the Afghanistan invasion, a course of action widely proposed in recent weeks as an alternative to a boycott. Such demonstrations would scarcely endear the athletes to their Soviet hosts, who, besides subjugating the Afghans, have been busily clearing Moscow of dissidents in preparation for the Olympics. Either way, athletes' protests or no, this figures to be a less than joyful Olympics. Which is another way of saying that, in spite of everything, the boycott's impact will be felt.
ABOARD THE KRYPTONITE EXPRESS
It isn't often somebody succeeds in silencing Muhammad Ali, but a quick-witted airline stewardess accomplished just that during this exchange at the start of a recent flight from Washington, D.C. to New York:
Stewardess: Mr. Ali, please fasten your seat belt.
Ali: Superman don't need no seat belt.
Stewardess: Superman don't need no plane, either.
SINGING THE WORLD RECORD BLUES
If you want to break world records, you need to work hard and persevere. This, in essence, was the message of the theme song, entitled Dedication, of a recently taped British television show loosely based on the Guinness Book of World Records. Yet the seemingly inspirational song may have helped prevent an athlete from setting a world mark.
The would-be record-breaker, American powerlifter Jan Todd, went to London to appear on The Record Breakers, which will be aired in August. The taping was scheduled to take 2½ hours, during which Todd intended to break unofficially Ann Turbyne's world record for total weight—squat, bench-press and deadlift combined—of 1,179 pounds.
Todd's three lifts were to be spaced around and between attempts at records in plate spinning, rope jumping and other diversions. She got off well, lifting 529 pounds in the squat and, after a 25-minute rest, bench-pressing 204. Then she began psyching herself up for the deadlift, in which she hoped to heft 474 pounds—for a record total of 1,207. But the taping fell behind schedule, the 2½ hours elapsed, and as Todd watched helplessly from the wings, it was all over—big finale, the theme song and so long, audience. A devastated Todd rejected suggestions that she complete her record attempt in the now-empty studio. "She was too disheartened," her husband, Terry, said. "It would be like completing three laps at a world-record mile pace only to have the timers suddenly get off their stand and the crowd go home."
BBC officials expressed regret over the scheduling snafu but claimed that technicians refused to work beyond the time allotted for the taping. They said that because the show had not been edited, they didn't know whether Todd's appearance would be excised altogether. As for the song, it apparently never occurred to anybody that dispensing with it might have freed enough time for Todd to complete her lifts. Says Todd, "For them not to afford an athlete in the process of setting a world record 60 seconds out of a 2½-hour show to do what they were singing about was unforgivable."
THEY WON BUT CAME UP SHORT
If there had been a baseball strike, the 1980 season might have ended for good last week. Accordingly, SI's Jim Kaplan had planned to give out "end-of-season" awards. Rather than deprive honorees of their moment in the sun because of the labor settlement (page 48), it seems only fair to go ahead and announce some of Kaplan's choices. So imagine, if you will, that the season did end after last Thursday's games and that...
...Minnesota's Ken Landreaux (.366), who came to the Twins in the Rod Carew deal, won the American League batting title. The Cardinals' Ken Reitz, a .263 lifetime hitter known for his fast starts, was going into his usual late-season swoon but held on to win the National League title at .367. The Dodgers had the most wins in the majors (24) but fewer than any pennant winner in history. Other individual leaders were Landreaux and Garry Templeton in hits (53 each), Steve Garvey in RBIs (36) and Robin Yount and Bump Wills in runs (tied at 33). Four pitchers—the Dodgers' Jerry Reuss (5-0) and Boston's Chuck Rainey, the Yankees' Ron Guidry and L.A.'s Don Sutton (all 4-0)—made history by going all season without losing. Oakland's Mike Norris had the lowest earned run average (0.52) ever, and Houston's Craig Reynolds lowered the National League season record for fewest errors by a shortstop from nine to two....
But the honors wouldn't have been confined to players. Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver would have earned kudos for having survived an entire season without being ejected. And the Executive of the Year award would have gone to Oakland owner Charles O. Finley for keeping the A's in Oakland and hiring Billy Martin. Of course, notes Kaplan, Finley "might just as easily win the same award in another season for moving the club and firing Martin."
Congratulations to all the honorees for a job well, if only partially, done.
THE BIG BLOWOUT
The eruption of Mount St. Helens killed at least 35 people, left more than 90 unaccounted for and created scenes in Washington, Idaho and Montana that might have been lifted from a science-fiction movie. Take, for example, the thick layer of ash that blanketed Spokane, Yakima and smaller towns in eastern Washington and threatened to turn the Evergreen State into the Evergray State. Try to sweep the ash away and it swirled around and settled somewhere else. Hose it down and it turned to a cement-like substance. The accursed ash clung to everything, clogging sewers and waterways, gumming up automobile engines, so darkening the skies that midday seemed like midnight. Residents likened it to being in a windless sandstorm. About the only ones who had anything good to say about the ash were Yakima police, who found it helpful in nabbing a suspect in a grocery-store robbery; they said he left a trail of footprints leading to his home in the volcanic dust.
Residents of Yakima and neighboring towns either stayed home or wore surgical masks when they ventured outside. Washington State's spring football game was canceled, as was a three-game Pacific Coast League series between the hometown Indians and the Ogden A's in Spokane's Indian Stadium, where the grass was covered by what wags were calling Ashtroturf. Last Monday Spokane was supposed to start celebrating Non-Polluter Commuter Week, during which citizens would be urged to leave their cars at home and ride bicycles to work. But with most stores and businesses closed, residents wound up not going to work at all.
Wildlife affected by the blowout included the Roosevelt elk herd that usually grazes in the Spirit Lake area at the foot of Mount St. Helens. Some of the elk were presumed killed, and with their range destroyed, the fate of survivors was uncertain. The eruption also spewed hot ash and mud into the Toutle River, a tributary of the Columbia rich in steelhead trout and salmon. The water temperature, normally 52° at this time of year, reached 100°, leaving the Toutle a dead river. Also dead was the Cowlitz River downstream from the point at which the Toutle flows into it. Even without the high temperatures, fish probably would have been killed by silt clogging their gills. In any case, at least 10 million young Chinook and Coho salmon were destroyed. Worse, streams that formerly were gravel-bottomed now had cementlike bases, which will likely disrupt the food chain on which spawning depends. Also, with at least 1,300 feet of its 9,677-foot peak ripped away, Mount St. Helens may no longer be tall enough for the formation of the glacial ice that, during summer thaw, feeds spawning streams. The effect on local fisheries could be calamitous.
THE BUTE SUIT
The death of Jockey Robert Pineda of injuries suffered in a spill during a race at Pimlico in 1978 cast harsh light on the widespread use of Butazolidin, an anti-inflammatory drug, on horses. The accident occurred when a horse named Easy Edith, who had been given Bute as treatment for sore knees, snapped a leg, causing a chain-reaction pileup of four horses, Pineda's among them. Pineda's family brought a $10 million negligence suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against Pimlico and Easy Edith's owner and trainer, alleging that Bute numbed the horse, posing "a great danger to all other horses and to all jockeys because such a horse cannot respond normally and properly to its own injuries."
Last week that case was settled out of court. Ben Cohen, one of Pimlico's owners, called his track's contribution to the settlement "peanuts," adding, "So we pay them what we would have paid the lawyers." But other sources said the full settlement was for $350,000, a sum that didn't seem negligible at all. The settlement made it all the more welcome that the Maryland Racing Commission last week issued a virtual ban on the racetrack use of both Bute and another much-abused drug, Lasix. The commission's action could avert serious accidents in the future—and possibly spare some horsemen and tracks from having to shell out more peanuts.
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Marshall, Minnesota relief pitcher, who has been booed by the fans this season: "If they worked as hard at their jobs as I do at mine, this country wouldn't have the inflation problem it now has."
•Darrell Johnson, Seattle Mariner manager, on how he knows when it's time to change pitchers: "You just listen to the bat and ball come together. They make an awful noise."