12 MILES TO FORT ERIE
The wisdom of letting youngsters participate in Little League baseball, peewee football and other rigidly structured, parent-dominated sports programs has long been open to serious question. The latest to express misgivings about over-organized children's sport is Scotty Bowman, who coached Team Canada in the recent Canada Cup tournament. The Canadians were routed by the Soviet Union 8-1 in the championship game, and Bowman, general manager and coach of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, suggested that the formidable Soviet hockey program had benefited from—and this will surely surprise some people—the U.S.S.R.'s unregimented approach to the sport, at least as far as kids are concerned. Bowman told Montreal Gazette Columnist Ted Black-man that on a visit to Moscow last March, he had been struck by the contrast between what he found there and the situation in U.S. and Canadian cities.
"You walk around neighborhoods there...and between every apartment...is a concrete lot flooded with water and kids skating, skating, skating for hours and hours," said Bowman. "And you know, they don't even start organizing the kids into teams until they're 12 or so. Not like here. My kid, Stan, is only eight years old and they got him playing a 62-game schedule in Buffalo this year with road trips to Boston and Toronto. Parents are killing hockey here with organization.
"We've got to get the kids back to having fun skating and handling the puck. I call 'em weekend hockey players. They get 'em all dressed up in $500 worth of equipment Saturday morning, they get an hour's ice in the arena and each kid gets—what?—maybe 20 minutes' ice time. Cripes, by the time he's 14 he's sick of the game or can't keep up with those who learned to skate well by accident. The parents love the whole trip, but is it good for the kids? My kid's coach wants to "bring the team here to play a Montreal team. Eight years old. I told him, 'Drive 'em across the bridge 12 miles to Fort Erie. [Stan doesn't] even know where Montreal is.' "
Bowman further argued that youngsters could best learn to skate by holding off on playing hockey for a while and concentrating instead on figure skating. But it's his intimation that this may also be the best way to avoid burning kids out that seems most compelling. In a later column, Blackman quoted retired NHL great Bobby Orr as saying, "I agree totally with Scotty Bowman. Parents are ruining our hockey by organizing kids into teams and leagues at too young an age."
The surging Red Sox won two of three games against the Yankees last weekend, to move within one-half game of first place in the American League East and raise the possibility that they'll be one of the league's four intradivisional playoff teams, along with the Yankees, A's and, in all likelihood, Royals. Yankee boss George Steinbrenner will then be able to boast—and no doubt will—that all four playoff managers, Ralph Houk, Bob Lemon, Billy Martin and Dick Howser, have skippered the Yankees during the eight years he has owned the team.
Despite a history of success on the field and court, University of Maryland football and basketball teams suffer the box-office blahs. Last season's 8-3-0 football team sold out 45,000-seat Byrd Stadium only once—for Penn State—in six home games. And while the Terps had a 21-10 record in basketball and had no trouble selling out for the North Carolinas and Notre Dames on their schedule, 14,500-seat Cole Field House had empty seats for the Fairleigh Dickinsons and the Georgia Techs. So Maryland has launched an ambitious ad campaign to fill those seats. The campaign is supported by a hefty $90,000 budget, $40,000 of which is being paid to the unlikely star of the ads, Rodney Dangerfield.
The chronically put-upon Dangerfield does his tie-tugging, brow-mopping, eye-bulging, neck-squirming best to persuade potential Terp fans to get on the shtick. Dangerfield's woebegone likeness graces billboards on which he says, "I don't get no respect, but Maryland does." In newspaper ads, the comedian is quoted as saying, "Tailgating with the Terps is what I call a respectable way to spend a Saturday." Then there's a 30-second radio-TV spot in which Dangerfield appears with Maryland football coach Jerry Claiborne, who has sometimes been accused of being short on charisma.
Dangerfield: "Hey, Jerry, you and your guys, you get respect all over. How do you do it, eh? Because I don't get any respect at all. My twin brother, he forgot my birthday."
Claiborne: "Well, Rodney, we get respect with seven bowls in eight seasons, national rankings...."
Dangerfield: "Jerry, move it along, will ya? I hope your guys run faster than you talk."
Maryland athletic officials think the Dangerfield ads will pay for themselves in two or three years. This year, at least partly because of the new campaign, Maryland sold 1,000 more season football tickets—at up to $50 each—than in 1980, and big things are expected from a new 30-second spot in which Dangerfield's foil is the Terps' baldish, garrulous basketball coach, Lefty Driesell.
Driesell: "We're sold out of season tickets. But we got tickets to St. Peter's, LIU, Ohio U., George Mason...."
Dangerfield (in basketball shorts and wearing a tie over a Maryland T shirt): "Hey, don't you ever stop for a comma? Hey, by the way, you need a new center? How about using me on the team?"
Driesell (throwing Dangerfield a bunch of used towels): "Sure. Have these back by game time."
Dangerfield: "Very funny. And where do you get those haircuts with the hole in the middle?"
NOTHING'S WHAT IT SEEMS
Back in July at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, a 2-year-old filly named Savilla Lobell, the favorite, was disqualified after finishing first in the $700,000 Sweetheart Pace. Another driver objected that Savilla Lobell had moved in and collided with his horse, Belanda Hanover, throwing her off stride and causing her to finish last. After examining patrol films of the race, the track judges upheld the complaint, stripped Savilla Lobell of victory and awarded the winning purse of $350,000 to runner-up Willow Bust.
So far, a routine racetrack story. Objections are common at the races, and disqualifications are hardly rare. But Savilla Lobell's owners were convinced that driver John Kopas hadn't let her interfere with Belanda Hanover, no matter what the films showed. Their lawyer, Ralph J. Pocaro, appealed to the New Jersey Racing Commission.
Pocaro once worked for a TV station and understands something about camera angles. He had experts analyze the films, survey the track and plot the precise courses of the two horses as they came together. He based his case on the mysteries of parallax, which is defined by Webster's as "the difference in apparent direction of an object as seen from two different points not on a straight line with the object." In other words, Pocaro argued that what the judges saw on film wasn't what happened on the track. His case was helped when the official presiding over the hearing asked, "Can you explain to me why the trailer in back of these pictures [a trailer beyond the outside rail that was in the background of the films] seems to move from picture to picture?"
One of Pocaro's expert witnesses, NBC cameraman Fred Himmelfarb, explained. Using blowups of dozens of still shots made from the patrol films and demonstrating parallax distortion with masking tape and a felt-tip pen, he asked the judges to watch how the trailer appeared to shift position as one of the cameras filming the race moved to follow the horses. The same distortion applied to Savilla Lobell, Himmelfarb declared. To the untrained eye it appeared that she was bearing in. But, he said, "because the cameraman moved the camera to the left at the same instant as the collision, Savilla Lobell only appeared to go toward...Belanda Hanover." In short, the contact between the two horses hadn't been caused by Savilla Lobell. The commission agreed and last month overturned the disqualification. Savilla Lobell was declared the winner.
The case ought to give pause to those urging the use of TV replays as an aid in sports officiating. Far from being infallible, the camera does lie. And oh, what a can of worms the decision may have opened for racing, flat and harness alike. Track officials depend strongly on patrol films for the strict policing of the sport. Heretofore, decisions based on what the judges saw in the films have seldom been challenged. Now, though, when a jock or a driver is accused of committing mayhem on the far turn, can't you hear the cry go up, "Parallax, judge, it was parallax! I never touched him."
Several Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledges at the University of Nevada-Reno were water-skiing recently on Pyramid Lake, 30 miles north of Reno, when they persuaded Jeff Britton, an active member of the fraternity, to go to a nearby grocery store to buy a six-pack of beer. In an act of reverse hazing, the pledges then drove off, leaving Britton to get back to campus as best he could. Finding himself abandoned, barefoot and with just 15¬¨¬®¬¨¢ in his pocket, Britton began hitchhiking along the little-traveled desert road that led to Reno. After a while a car appeared but it didn't stop. A moment later, however, a small plane buzzed overhead and, flagged by Britton, landed on the highway. "Where you going?" asked the pilot. The stranger flew the grateful Britton to Reno. Imagine his tormentors' surprise when they drove up to the SAE house and learned that Britton had already phoned from the airport, having arrived in Reno well ahead of them. And, oh yes, he kept that six-pack to himself.
We're happy to report that John Beresford Tipton, the elusive, million-dollar coho salmon that was the object of an intensive fish hunt waged by some 12,000 pursuers on Puget Sound (SCORECARD, Sept. 21), is no longer on the lam. In a promotion-charity scheme sponsored by a Seattle auto-supply company, anglers were given 12 hours on Sept. 6 to catch the specially tagged fish and pocket $1 million in prize money. Tipton didn't bite that day, but various parties later posted lesser rewards for its capture. Last Friday, Forrest Sondrud, a 30-year-old U.S. Forest Service hydrologist, caught Tipton while fishing with a friend not far from the spot where the fish had been released. Sondrud received a total of $12,405 in prize money. He hadn't been looking for Tipton—wouldn't you know it?—and didn't learn for sure that he'd caught the valuable fish until he brought it ashore several hours later.
CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK
As a boy, Roy Booth Jr. trudged through the Oregon woods with his dad, a timber faller who does contract work for Boise Cascade. He hunted, fished and learned the ways of the forest, and soon was begging his dad to teach him how to sling an ax. "I wanted to do everything Pop did," Junior says.
Father, son and other family members traveled from their La Grande, Ore. home to lumberjack shows across the Pacific Northwest, with Roy Sr. entering and dominating pro events; Roy Jr. showing promise in the novice, or sportsman, category; mother Joan participating in lumberjill competition; and daughter Jolene, six years younger than her brother, taking part in logrolling. The family practiced by sawing, chopping and boring in their backyard. "The logs we go through heat our home all winter," Joan says.
Roy Jr., who's now 20 and works with his father and has married and lives in a mobile home next door to his parents' house, is starting to think he may have gone too far in emulating Pop. In 1978 and 1979, Roy Sr. won the first two Homelite Tournament of Kings world chain-sawing championships in Charlotte, N.C., but a year ago, Roy Jr., having qualified for the first time for the tournament, which is sometimes called the Lumberjack World Series, dethroned his father, who finished fourth. In the process, Junior broke the older man's world records in speed cutting and the steeplechase. (The tournament's other events are speed boring, precision cutting, tree felling and disc stacking.)
Roy Sr., 48, views his defeat with equanimity. "If I had to be beaten by anyone," he says, "I'm glad it was my son." But Roy Jr. says, "All my life I looked up to my father—and then, just like that, I beat him. I couldn't believe it. Some of the competitors said Dad had let me win. That not only took away from what I had accomplished, but it darkened his integrity. I felt kind of bad."
Roy Jr. will defend his Tournament of Kings title this weekend in Charlotte against Roy Sr. and 18 other challengers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Finland and France. The contestants will be vying before an expected crowd of 10,000 for $10,500 in prize money, including $6,000 for first place. Roy Jr. continues to have mixed feelings about competing against Pop. "I have an edge practicing against the King every day," he says of his dad, who will always be the King even if he isn't the reigning champ. "I know exactly where I stand at all times." But he also says, "I never do my best against him. I get too nervous. I want to please him. After all, he is my dad."
KEEP THOSE PESETAS COMING
Some sort of immutable law holds that if you give a government—any government—a lucrative enough source of revenue, it will cling to it like a guttersnipe to a found diamond. So it was that when Spanish soccer players went on strike earlier this month and forced a postponement of the start of the season, the national soccer pool was held as scheduled, with 36 lucky fans "accurately" selecting the outcome of all 14 league games. No matter that those games weren't played. Mindful that revenues from the pool can reach $8 million on a normal week and reluctant to see the government lose their take from that sum, authorities invited fans to fill out their pool predictions as usual. Winners then were determined on the basis of team names drawn from a bingo basket.
And to think that during the baseball strike, betting on the major leagues simply stopped. íCaramba!
THEY SAID IT
•Elvin Bethea, Oiler defensive end, asked what he had said to Brian Sipe after sacking the Cleveland quarterback in a 9-3 Oiler win: "I told him I had to go now, but that I'd be back to see him later."
•Fred Akers, Texas football coach, who played all his quarterbacks except his son, Danny, a Longhorn freshman, in a 31-3 win over Rice: "I'll probably hear from his mother about that."