ROLE MODELS AND RESPONSIBILITY
What do child psychologist Leonard Reich and World Series MVP Darrell Porter have in common? Just this: Both object to the see-no-evil glorification of star athletes. Addressing himself to the question of how publicity about misdeeds by sports stars—cocaine abuse, barroom scuffles, academic deficiencies and the like—might affect young people, Reich, who practices in New York, rejects the notion that the media should play down the news of such behavior because it supposedly sets a poor example for children.
Reich notes that the press has a "responsibility to report what is," and he maintains that such information won't necessarily hurt youngsters. "There's value in children idealizing heroes, but there's also value in portraying heroes as more 'human,' " Reich says. "It helps kids make their expectations more realistic. They see that when one reaches a high level of achievement, it isn't all a bed of roses."
Porter, whose life certainly hasn't been all roses, also thinks it's a bad idea to sweep wrongdoing by athletes under the rug, reasoning that such a practice ill serves the athletes themselves. By now most baseball fans know the story of how Porter attained his World Series success after courageously admitting two years ago that he had a drug and alcohol problem and voluntarily entering a rehabilitation clinic. What hasn't been widely reported is the fact that Porter places some of the blame for his past troubles on the public's unquestioning adoration of athletes, which, he implies, encourages the ultimately destructive illusion that they lead charmed lives and can misbehave with impunity. "One time in Kansas City I was blown away on Quaaludes and beer and my car ran into another car," Porter says. "They [the police] all knew who I was. They gave the other guy a ticket, and all I had to do was sign autographs for the policemen's kids at the station. I could have had 30 tickets, probably. They never made me responsible for my actions."
November 8, 1982
The conclusion is inescapable that while sports stars can and should be appreciated for their athletic feats, they should otherwise be treated as the normal human beings that, for better or worse, they are. Pretending that they're paragons of virtue when they're not is a delusion that can hurt everybody.
Bill Roth, a Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) High School student who serves as public-address announcer at his school's home football games, has probably done as good a job as anyone of summing up the fans' view of the NFL strike. At halftime of a game two weeks ago against Butler High, Roth was announcing scores of games played elsewhere when he slipped in this mock result: NFL Players 0, Owners 0. The crowd cheered when he elaborated: "Neither side has a point."
YAWN FROM THE HEAD TABLE
Get-well wishes are in order for Jim Crowley, 80, who is recuperating at home in Scranton, Pa. after suffering a heart attack last month. Sleepy Jim, as he's known, is linked to two of college football's most famous aggregations: He's the last surviving member of the celebrated Four Horsemen of Notre Dame, and he was head coach at Fordham when it had that storied line, the Seven Blocks of Granite. Crowley later became a successful businessman and after-dinner speaker much in demand because of his wit. For example, Crowley, who acquired his nickname because of his sometimes drowsy manner, often claimed that he suffered from insomnia. His description of his problem is a banquet-circuit classic: "I sleep all right at night and in the morning, but in the afternoon I toss and turn something awful."
NYET TO NEW HAVEN
New Haven, Conn., the home of Yale, the Long Wharf Theatre and other bastions of civilization, has suffered a blow to its civic pride from which it won't easily recover. The indignity was inflicted by Victor Nechaev, 27, a onetime member of the Leningrad Army Club hockey team who moved to the U.S. earlier this year after marrying an American visitor to the U.S.S.R. Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, Nechaev started this season with the minor league New Haven Nighthawks but was called up by the Kings on Oct. 16, thus becoming the second Russian-born NHL player; the other was Odessa-born Johnny (The Mad Russian) Gottselig, who played for the Chicago Black Hawks from 1928 to 1945. But on Oct. 22 the Kings dropped Nechaev after he balked at their efforts to return him to New Haven. Even the most rabid New Haven boosters will have trouble explaining that one away. You see, the man who refused banishment to their city is a native of Siberia.
As a boy Mike Ferraro's idols included Frank Crosetti, the Yankee infielder and longtime third-base coach. When Ferraro, after flings as a big league infielder and minor league manager in the Yankee organization, himself became the Yankees' third-base coach in 1979, he naturally measured himself against his hero. If a Yankee got gunned down at the plate, Ferraro would ask fellow Coach Yogi Berra, "Did Crosetti ever have guys thrown out?" Berra would reply reassuringly, "Sure, good third-base coaches always do." Then came the fateful 1980 American League championship playoff loss to the Royals, during which Ferraro waved Willie Randolph home at a critical juncture. Randolph was out, and so was Ferraro; the following season, owner George Steinbrenner demoted him to the first-base coaching box, where he has languished ever since.
Now there's speculation that Ferraro will be named manager of either the A's or, more likely, the Indians. The question arises whether Ferraro, if he does become a big league manager, would be tempted to perform double duty as his own third-base coach. In the old days major league managers often handled that chore—Leo Durocher was still doing so for the Giants in the 1950s—but not anymore. By remaining in the dugout, skippers now have more time to talk to players and concentrate on strategy and, perhaps more important, are spared the taunts of second-guessing fans.
Ferraro says that if he does become a manager, he'd almost certainly have somebody else coach third. But he adds that managers still frequently double as third-base coaches in the minors and notes that he served in that dual capacity for four different teams in the Yankee farm system. And he says he would conceivably do the same in the majors "if there were no experienced third-base coaches available."
Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson didn't run in this year's New York Marathon. So what, you ask? They didn't play in the World Series, either, right? Yes, but they'd hoped to have a go in New York. The erstwhile ring opponents are both into running these days, and they launched a promising new rivalry on June 6 when they and some 8,400 other entrants ran in the Stockholm Marathon. Johansson, a native of Sweden who now lives in Pompano Beach, Fla., had run in the Stockholm event last year (SCORECARD, Aug. 31, 1981), and a Swedish newspaper got the idea of bringing Patterson over from his home in New Paltz, N.Y. to run "against" his old boxing foe in the '82 race.
It was no contest—in more ways than one. Patterson, 47, who was running his first marathon, was in fighting trim at 182 pounds, and he braved 86° heat to cover the Stockholm course in 4:22:55. Johansson, who turned 50 on Sept. 22, weighed 246 pounds and reached the finish line in 4:55. He was lustily cheered by spectators, and so was Patterson, whose wife is Swedish. To the disappointment of fans and photographers, however, the two never saw each other during the race, although they were able to compare notes when they got together for dinner later that evening.
A marathoning duel in New York, where Patterson and Johansson waged two of their three heavyweight title fights more than two decades ago, would have been a natural, but Patterson abandoned plans to compete in this year's event when he didn't receive confirmation of his invitation, the result of an acknowledged oversight by race director Fred Lebow. Johansson, who finished the 1981 New York Marathon in 4:30, had planned to return but attended a boat show on the West Coast instead. It seems inevitable that the two old prizefighters will make another joint marathon appearance sooner or later, if only because of the gauntlet thrown down by Johansson, who vowed after the Stockholm race, "Next time I'm going to beat him."
ACCUSATION AND AMPLIFICATION
Following Clemson's 38-29 win over North Carolina State on Oct. 23, the coaches of the two teams, Danny Ford and Monte Kiffin, met on the field in Raleigh for what reporters, fans and other onlookers assumed would be the customary postgame handshake. A testy exchange ensued. Clemson has been under NCAA investigation for some time for possible recruiting violations, and Ford was unhappy that NCAA officials had visited the North Carolina State campus to question Wolfpack players who'd also been recruited by the Tigers. Ford's dialogue on the subject with Kiffin was picked up on tape by Raleigh (N.C.) TV station WPTF:
Ford: "My ass you didn't turn us in.... They [the NCAA] have been up here three times...."
Kiffin: "I didn't tell them.... I didn't tell them."
Ford: "Who did?"
Kiffin: "I never did. I never turned you in.... They came up here. I don't know how they got here."
Asked about this exchange with Ford, Kiffin at first denied it had taken place but changed his tune when informed that the tape existed. Ford was a bit slippery, too. After first trying to claim that his confrontation with Kiffin had been "a private conversation"—a curious objection, considering it had occurred amid a milling crowd—Ford said, "Ain't no telling what I said after the game. But if I said it, I said it." Having thus acknowledged (well, sort of) that the conversation had taken place, Ford and Kiffin next addressed themselves, with equally enigmatic effect, to the substantive issue of whether Kiffin had, in fact, blown the whistle on Clemson. The word from Ford: "I don't know if he did it or not. If he did, that's his business, and if we turn them in, it's our business." And Kiffin: "I didn't turn him in. But if I had, I wouldn't have been wrong." On the fact that Ford had dared accuse him of such a thing, Kiffin added, "I don't think he probably necessarily meant it."
A BIRD DOG MAKES SOME POINTS
In a speech in New York the other day, George Steinbrenner got off a good one. Referring to Willie McGee, who starred in the World Series after being traded by the Yankees to the Cardinals, Steinbrenner said, "He's with St. Louis now—and so is the scout that told us he'd never make our team." Even before the quip could find its way into THEY SAID IT, however, a story in the Long Island newspaper Newsday put the McGee deal in a somewhat different light.
It turns out there really is an ex-Yankee scout with the Cardinals, Wilfredo Calvino. Contrary to what Steinbrenner joshingly implied, it also happens that Calvino left the Yankees in 1980, well before McGee was traded and, of course, before he became a World Series star. Far from counseling the Yankees that McGee would never make the team, Calvino said he told then-Yankee General Manager Gene Michael that McGee had the makings of a "great player." After Calvino joined the Cardinals last October, he recommended McGee to Cardinal General Manager Whitey Herzog, who heeded his advice.
Besides setting the record straight concerning McGee, Calvino told of another onetime Yankee prospect. "We had an opportunity to get him for $40,000," Calvino said. "Some time later the Dodgers had to pay over $100,000 to sign him." The prospect: Fernando Valenzuela.
NONBOXERS OF THE WORLD, UNIGHT!
If you liked the baseball and NFL strikes, you'll positively love the walkout staged in Fort Lauderdale the other evening by a fighter—make that a nonfighter—named Dennis Marsella. Just four days before Marsella was scheduled to enter the ring for a four-rounder at War Memorial Auditorium, the bout was canceled because, the promoters said, they'd belatedly discovered that Marsella had never fought before. Marsella, a 31-year-old lifeguard, admitted to this small gap in his curriculum vitae, but claimed that the real reason the fight was scrapped was that he'd alienated the promoters by making too many demands. For example, he wanted to be paid $300 instead of the $150 he was offered. He also was unhappy because his name had been misspelled "Marcella" on the card's posters. At any rate, after the decision to cancel the match was announced, Marsella carried his protest to the streets. On the night the fight was to have been held, he picketed the auditorium in his boxing trunks for more than two hours.
We can't help admiring the nerve of a fighter who's never fought going on strike. Ordinarily, we'd even argue that such a stalwart had an inalienable right to help proofread fight posters for possible spelling errors. But we admit to being a little uneasy on that particular score after receiving a letter from Marsella in which he enumerated his many grievances against the promoters and signed off with this ringing declaration: "Someday, I will fite!"
THEY SAID IT
•Archie Manning, Houston Oiler quarterback, as the NFL strike neared the six-week mark: "I miss football, even the interceptions."
•Joe Mowad Jr., 9-year-old son of the Cambridge (Ohio) High football coach, asked if he thought he'd get to play for his father someday: "No, he only has a two-year contract."
•Dan Doyle, coach of Ireland's national basketball team, invited by University of Maine Coach Skip Chappelle to exchange written scouting reports before a Nov. 8 game between their teams: "I'm in total agreement. I just hope Skip can read Gaelic."
•George Sheehan, the physician-author who almost mystically extols the supposed pleasures of long-distance running, after withdrawing from the New York Marathon at 13 miles with a pulled muscle: "There is no bad experience in running. But it will take time to figure out why this is a good one."