RAIN OF DEATH
The U.S. and Canada agreed last week to begin negotiating a treaty to control acid rain by June 1, 1981. Canada complains that much of the trouble it has been having with acid rain originates in coal-fired plants in the U.S. Emissions from those plants are borne by winds to the Northeastern U.S., Ontario and Quebec, where highly acidic precipitation results, a phenomenon Canadian Environment Minister John Roberts describes as "literally a rain of death."
Despite last week's agreement, there are fears that acid rain will become worse on both sides of the border because of the U.S. push to convert power plants from oil to coal to reduce its dependence on imported oil. Although the technology exists for keeping pollution caused by such conversions to a minimum, political support for imposing the necessary emission controls is largely confined to the Northeast. As a result, an amendment requiring stringent antipollution safeguards was defeated when the Senate approved a $4.2 billion outlay to finance coal conversion last June. The question of pollution controls will next be debated when the bill comes up in the House, probably later this month.
Tougher emission controls are being pushed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which points out that acid rain has destroyed crops and corroded buildings and monuments, including the Statue of Liberty. This is in addition to the fact that acid rain has reduced the fish population of hundreds of lakes in the U.S. and Canada; a growing number of lakes that once teemed with fish are now devoid of life.
Politicians in coal-producing states argue that emission controls should be deferred pending further study of acid rain. Such stalling tactics must be recognized as just that. In a speech two weeks ago at the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association show in St. Louis, Lennart Borgstrom, president of a Swedish tackle concern, ABU-Garcia, Inc., noted that his country has long suffered the ravages of acid rain. "We have done the research in Sweden," Borgstrom said. "The only thing that more studying will accomplish is to make this the best documented disaster in history."
Dan Tehan, who died last week at 73, was an NFL field official for 35 seasons, longer than any other official in league history. When he worked his first game in 1930, a crowd of 5,000 in the NFL was something to get excited about. By the time he retired after the 1964 season, throngs of 70,000 were routine. As professional football prospered, Tehan did all right, too. In 1946 he was elected sheriff of Ohio's Hamilton County, which encompasses Cincinnati, and he got himself reelected to that job for the next 26 years. Not bad for a Democrat in a heavily Republican county.
A tall, authoritarian figure, Tehan earned a reputation for reliability among NFL coaches. Paul Brown recalls questioning one of Tehan's decisions during a game. "I'll be back in two weeks," Tehan replied evenly. "Let me know how it turns out on the film." On his return, Tehan said, "How'd it look, Coach?" A chastened Brown was compelled to reply, "You know darned well how it looked, or you wouldn't have asked." Tehan also had a knack for minimizing the damage done by less competent officials. A zebra with whom he was working one day mistakenly blew his whistle on a play in Tehan's territory. "Whatta you got?" asked Tehan. "Pass interference," the official said. Tehan knew there had been no such violation. "I got backfield in motion," he said, thereby offsetting the uncalled-for penalty.
HE'S THE BERRIES
Darryl Strawberry, the New York Mets' $200,000 bonus baby, is playing centerfield for the club's Appalachian League farm team in Kingsport, Tenn. When the 18-year-old Strawberry arrived the other day for a game in Paintsville, Ky., the home team celebrated his local debut by offering free admission to anybody bringing along a strawberry. It also dropped strawberries from a helicopter before the game, sold strawberry soda and sundaes at the concession stand and planted strawberries in an area of the outfield dubbed for the occasion "the strawberry patch."
The promotions geared to Strawberry's name make one wonder why entrepreneurs over the years haven't done the same thing with other evocatively named ballplayers. Imagine if teams had given out free ears of corn when Ty Cobb came to town. And think of the benefits a sneaker manufacturer might have derived from an endorsement by Shoeless Joe Jackson, or the tie-in a stereo manufacturer might work up with a latter-day Tris Speaker. And couldn't Geritol somehow use the Mets' Joel Youngblood in its advertising?
Besides inspiring promotional extravaganzas, Strawberry is causing people to break out in a rash of puns. For example, a New York Post story detailing some troubles he's been having at the plate carried this headline: STRAWBERRY RUNS INTO (.210) JAM IN ROOKIE LEAGUE. As for that low batting average, an unworried Darryl vows, "I'll be hitting my stride soon." Let's hope so, before folks in the Appalachian League start dishing out raspberries instead of strawberries.
THOSE FRIENDLY FOES
Given the historical animosity between Germans and Russians, the whole thing should have come as no surprise. Still, it took the Moscow Olympics to lay bare the truth about sports relations between the Soviet Union and East Germany. Publicly, officials of those two closely aligned nations claim to be the friendliest of athletic foes. And indeed, after World War II, Soviet coaches and sports administrators gave the East Germans invaluable counsel and assistance. But the GDR has long since become a sports power in its own right, and these days neither country is particularly eager to share training and sports-medicine secrets with the other.
With the U.S. and West Germany out of the picture at Moscow, the intense rivalry between the GDR and the U.S.S.R. was only too evident. The host country won 80 gold medals and 197 medals of all kinds, the GDR 47 and 126. The East Germans were not above making excuses for coming in second. A GDR spokesman, Wolfgang Gitter, told SI's Paul Zimmerman, "We're a country of only 17,000,000. Russia has 250,000,000, 55,000,000 of whom are into sport." And Volker Kluge, a writer for the GDR newspaper Junge Welt, shrugged, "The U.S.S.R. at home is unbeatable."
For their part, Soviet athletes made it a point not to fraternize with their East German rivals. "To talk to a GDR athlete is not a good thing," explained one Soviet competitor. "You are observed, and that is not good." Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, the former long-jump star and now a Soviet coach, put the best possible face on the situation, saying, "What you see here is a natural rivalry. If five men are fighting, you don't feel it so much. But if there are only two? Well, then...." But Daniel Korica, a Yugoslav track coach, said of the East German-U.S.S.R. rivalry, "Politics says they must maintain a friendly relationship. But all the athletes know they are not friends, not friends at all."
THE MAN WITH THE VELVET GLOVE
Maury Wills last week became the major leagues' third black manager, Frank Robinson and Larry Doby having preceded him, and one of the few blacks currently managing at any level of organized baseball. On assuming his new job with the Seattle Mariners, Wills let it be known that he's different in other ways, too. Under his predecessor, Darrell Johnson, radios weren't allowed on the team bus, jackets had to be worn on travel days and hotel bars were off limits, but Wills abolished those rules. "Baseball is so traditional and stagnant in its thinking," he said. "I'm trying to relate to young people living in 1980. I can't kick their butts like they kicked mine when I was a player." Consequently, Wills said he wouldn't fine anybody. "I don't believe in anything that alienates players. I like things done out of respect."
Wills also took issue with the time-honored assumption that ballplayers shouldn't engage in levity after a loss. "That's b.s.," he said. "I take notes during the game, and afterward we talk about what we did, and then it's history. Then we can go out and have a good time." But Wills was tough enough to order the Mariners to show up for games 30 minutes earlier than usual to work on fundamentals. If that sounded like spring training all over again, so be it. The Mariners had lost nine straight games when Wills took over, and they lost five of their first seven games under him, leaving them with a 41-70 record, baseball's worst.
Andy Furman, 29, is a sports publicist with a penchant for the outlandish. At Oral Roberts University, where he was sports information director for 16 months, Furman once hyped a basketball game against the Bulgarian national team by offering free admission to fans of Bulgarian descent. He actually had some takers. Later, handling publicity for the NASL's Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Furman let uniformed dentists in free for a game against Vancouver, whose team is nicknamed the Whitecaps. He also set himself the task of personally calling everybody in the Broward County phone book to drum up support for the team. He later claimed to have made it into the "F" listings before losing interest.
Along the way, Furman typically put in 16-hour days, often sleeping on the couch in his office. Oral Roberts Athletic Director Bob Brooks called him "the hardest worker I ever knew." But Brooks also said, "We always had to hold him back. Anything to him was news. It didn't matter whether it was good or bad." Speaking of bad news, Furman claimed that Fort Lauderdale management ordered him, ludicrously, to anticipate and prevent it. This was his explanation for quitting after a year with the Strikers. Of his sometimes zany ways, Furman said, "I'm not sitting in the office doing stats. I like to make noise."
Last February, Furman was hired as the publicity chief at Monticello Raceway, a harness track in New York State. No sooner did he arrive than he tried without success to arrange a Funeral Director's Night, on which some lucky fan would win a free burial. Promotions he pulled off included a race between two elephants, an event he heralded by saying, in mock complaint, "They're sending me trotters. I wanted pacers." Furman got ink by inviting George Burns to the track to sing the national anthem (he reaped additional publicity when Burns, as expected, declined), and following the U.S.S.R.'s invasion of Afghanistan, announced that the track would no longer welcome Soviet horses, blithely ignoring the fact that Soviet horses at Monticello were about as common as Bulgarians in Oklahoma.
On one occasion, Furman invited the inmates of neighboring prisons to visit Monticello, angering many area residents. Last week, in an astonishing lapse in taste, he invited a Pennsylvania Ku Klux Klan leader and his followers to avail themselves of the track's "group party plan package" in order to attend races and hold a meeting at Monticello. Furman was thereupon fired by Monticello President Leo Doobin, who said he had instructed Furman not to send the invitation. Nevertheless, Doobin took pains to laud Furman as "aggressive, hardworking and imaginative." For his part, Furman publicly apologized for the KKK invitation, explaining that he had merely wanted to get people to talk about Monticello Raceway. Which, of course, he certainly succeeded in doing.
THEY SAID IT
•Waite Hoyt, Hall of Fame pitcher, upon learning that a limited-edition bronze sculpture of Cincinnati Red Catcher Johnny Bench was priced at $975: "In our day you could have gotten a live catcher and his family for $975."
•Ed (Too Tall) Jones, Dallas Cowboy defensive end, on his short-lived boxing career: "I have never been around so many crummy people in all my days."
•Darrell Dickey, Kansas State quarterback and son of the team's coach, on Big Eight rival Oklahoma: "The Sooners don't rebuild, they reload."