SWIFT, FAR AND ROMANTIC
The crossing of the Pacific by the balloon Double Eagle V didn't cause anywhere near the fuss that the transatlantic flight of Double Eagle II did in 1978. The earlier flight had a Lindberghian quality about it, both because it involved a conquest of the Atlantic and because the balloon was met by 5,000 cheering Frenchmen after it touched down in a sun-dappled wheat field west of Paris. By contrast, the 26-story-high Double Eagle V had a rough landing in darkness and rain on a forested ridge 170 miles north of San Francisco, a spot so forbidding that the crew chose to stay put and spend the night inside the capsule-like, climate-controlled gondola. Further, the Pacific crossing was overshadowed by the voyage of the space shuttle Columbia. Ironically, the two flights occurred at more or less the same time only because the Columbia's takeoff was postponed (and its flight plan ultimately shortened) by various glitches; because of weather considerations. Double Eagle V's departure had been moved ahead from a desired early-December date.
None of this diminishes the fact that the 5,811-mile journey of Double Eagle V was by far the longest manned balloon voyage in history, one requiring just 3½ days to complete. The 1978 Atlantic crossing by Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman and Max Anderson, all of Albuquerque, covered 3,100 miles and took 5½ days. That record was broken last year by a 3,314-mile, four-day flight over North America by Anderson and his son, Kris. Both of those journeys followed many previous unsuccessful attempts. But so daunting was a transpacific flight that until last week none had ever been attempted.
Double Eagle V's four-man crew consisted of Abruzzo, the captain, and Newman, Ron Clark (yet another Albuquerquean) and millionaire restaurateur Rocky Aoki of Miami, a former ocean powerboater and the principal financial backer of the $1.25 million venture. They had hoped that after completing their Pacific crossing, they would be able to continue on across North America and the Atlantic. By positioning the balloon between two storm systems and taking advantage of a strong wind pattern over the Pacific, they were able to average 76 mph. Their altitude ranged between 4,000 and 22,700 feet. They might have gone farther and faster had icing problems and a tiny helium leak in the craft's polyethylene envelope not kept them from traveling in the even swifter streams of air found at higher altitudes. It was that leak and continued bad weather that forced Abruzzo and his three crewmates down late Thursday night. Search planes and helicopters didn't reach the grounded balloon until Friday morning, although crew members had let it be known via radio that they were all right.
Even though overshadowed by the Columbia flight, the journey of Double Eagle V proved, if anybody had doubts, that ballooning has a unique romance about it. That fact may well be demonstrated anew later this month: Abruzzo's old partner Anderson and Don Ida of Boulder, Colo. plan to take off from India on a 17,000-mile trip to Egypt. If all goes well, the two might go completely around the world. Why else would they have named their craft the Jules Verne?
DAVE THE RAVE
The winner of a San Francisco Chronicle contest to select a nickname for 49er Quarterback Joe Montana was announced last week. Readers suggested more than 10,000 names, including Joe Cool, Frisco Kid, Gold Flinger, Cable Car Joe, Sourdough Joe and Sir Pass. No fewer than 200 fans submitted the nickname Beaut—suggesting Butte, Mont., get it? The Pennsylvania-born Montana was allowed to select the winner himself from among 12 finalists, and he picked Big Sky, another entry that evoked the state of Montana. The lucky fan who had submitted that one received a pair of tickets to a 49er game and a T shirt autographed by Montana and his teammates.
But the contest didn't sit too well with one Chronicle reader who complained that a nickname was the last thing somebody with a handle like Joe Montana required. "What he needs is a real name," the reader said. Whereupon he suggested one: David W. Gibson.
NOW BACK TO THOSE NEW CAR MODELS
Exhibiting the kind of foresight not often in evidence among public officials, Detroit's city council has outlawed fishing in the city's 2-year-old Dodge Fountain. No matter that the fountain doesn't contain any fish. As John Conway, director of the municipal department that oversees the Detroit Civic Center, the downtown development in which both the fountain and the surrounding Phillip Hart Plaza are situated, says, "What if someone put some fish in there and then started fishing? How would you stop them?" With similar providence, the council banned animals, gambling, cooking and the use of roller skates and most wheeled vehicles from the area around the fountain. About the only thing the city fathers appear to have overlooked is the possibility somebody might try to use the fountain for surfing or scuba diving.
BEATING THE DRUMS
One of the fringe benefits of the college football season for members of the press is the fun of perusing the propaganda sent out by college publicity men who feel they have a hot candidate for the Heisman Trophy or All-America honors. Whereas fans tend to remember previous seasons for exciting games or superb plays, publicity people (a/k/a SIDs, for Sports Information Directors) recall such things as the University of Pittsburgh's great Hugh Green campaign of 1980. Green was Pitt's All-Everything defensive end, but what the SIDs speak of reverently is the four-color poster that Pitt's sports information people mailed to 2,500 members of the press, the one with the refrain: HUGH GREEN IS THE NAME/-PLAYING DEFENSE IS THE GAME/AND WINNING THE HEISMAN IS THE AIM.
Green didn't win the Heisman, but he made such an impressive run for it for a defensive lineman that other SIDs are eagerly following Pitt's example. Even before this season began, the University of Richmond launched a Heisman barrage on behalf of its star running back by mailing Barry Redden T shirts to 200 selected journalists. And San Jose State began pushing Tailback Gerald Willhite with a glossy four-page brochure called "See the Light...Vote Willhite." While chances were remote that either of those players would ever win the Heisman, San Jose State pointed out that Willhite is Gale Sayers' second cousin. What more could anybody want?
More recently, Duke has begun promoting the All-America prospects of Wide Receiver Cedric Jones with a sheaf of stats and interviews ("When I was growing up, my grandmother used to say I was a special child....") labeled "Confidential Report" as though it were an FBI dossier, the idea being that Jones is extremely dangerous to rival secondaries. Another ACC receiver, Clemson's Perry Tuttle, is pictured on a mock record-album cover that features ersatz song titles meant to highlight his exploits; the notes under "Dawgin' Around" recount Tuttle's eight receptions for 92 yards last season against Georgia.
Hot on the heels of its Hugh Green campaign, Pitt is now beating the drums for Quarterback Dan Marino with a brochure containing breathless accolades ("amazing...incredible...the best"), a statistical breakdown of every one of his college games, testimonials from awed rivals, plus such tidbits as the fact that he was born on Sept. 5, 1961, is the son of Dan and Veronica Marino, was 10th in NCAA passing as a freshman and has turned in the second, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th and 19th best single-game passing performances in Panther history. Tucked away in the five jam-packed pages of material is an invitation to contact Pitt football SID Joyce Aschenbrenner for what, under the circumstances, seems an order impossible to fill: "More information on Pitt Quarterback Dan Marino."
IMAGINE, IF YOU WILL...
What if Utah Jazz Guard Carl Nicks asked the Philadelphia 76ers' Steve Mix for tickets to an NBA game in New York and got turned down? Easy, says Detroit Free Press columnist Mike Downey. The whole thing would wind up in Variety under this headline: SIXERS' MIX NIXES KNICKS' TIX FOR NICKS.
The Wall Street Journal last week took note of what it said was a dramatic increase in "heretofore unrecognized syndromes," by which it meant such ailments as "Celtics fever" (an irregular heartbeat that afflicts fans of Boston's NBA team when it falls behind), "Space Invaders wrist" (attributable to too much time spent playing video games), "jogger's nipples" (chafing caused by running bra-less), "cyclist's palsy" (a numbness of the hands brought on by pressing too hard on handlebars of racing bicycles) and "scrum strep" (a bacterial infection transmitted by rugby players during their huddle-like scrums).
The Journal noted that those unusual and highly specific maladies were reported, sometimes tongue in cheek, in the correspondence section of the august New England Journal of Medicine. Although the ailments also include the now well-known "Chinese restaurant syndrome," a term referring to ill effects believed to be caused by the monosodium glutamate often used in the preparation of Chinese food, most are associated with sports and recreation, witness such other examples as "hooker's elbow," a soreness induced by the repeated jerking of the arm in ice fishing, and "disco felon," an infection in the middle digit caused by finger snapping during disco dancing.
And you probably were only worried about contracting tennis elbow and athlete's foot.
THE FARGO-MOORHEAD BLITZ
It doesn't seem likely that you could find three Top 10 college football teams in a community with a population of barely 90,000. And you'd think it impossible that the same community could produce not two, but three state high school championship finalists. But when the "community" consists of twin cities that happen to be situated in neighboring states, it's more than just possible. The real-life situation has most of the aforementioned 90,000 folks going slightly wild over football.
One of the twin cities is Moorhead, Minn., whose 29,925 citizens have a lot to cheer about. There are the Moorhead High Spuds, who beat Wayzata 24-7 Friday night to improve their record to 10-1 and qualify to play Rosemount in this week's championship game in Class AA, which includes Minnesota's biggest schools. Then there's Moorhead State University, which is ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division I and ended its regular season with a 10-0-1 record. And there's Concordia College, which is No. 4 in NAIA Division II and finished at 9-0-1.
Suffering a similar embarrassment of riches, the 61,281 people who live across the Red River of the North in Fargo, N. Dak. are proud that Fargo Shanley and Fargo South made it to the championship final in Class A, which covers the biggest schools in that state. Throw in Fargo-based North Dakota State University, which is ranked seventh in NCAA Division II and ended the regular season with an 8-2 record, and the picture is complete: six championship-caliber teams within five miles of one another.
Moorhead State Coach Ross Fortier allows, "This is a good area for football." But, he adds, "The trouble is, most years we knock each other off." That's a problem, all right. The only blemish on the records of unbeaten Moorhead State and Concordia is the 3-3 tie they played against each other on Sept. 12. And on Saturday, Fargo Shanley beat Fargo South in their showdown for the North Dakota state championship, 21-3.
THEY SAID IT
•LaVell Edwards, Brigham Young football coach, after suffering a 33-20 loss to Wyoming in a snowstorm in the Cowboys' War Memorial Stadium: "I'd rather lose and live in Provo than win and live in Laramie."
•Vince Dooley, University of Georgia football coach, explaining why his players next season will be awarded helmet decals in the shape of bones instead of stars: "If a dog makes a good play, you throw him a bone, right?"