Boxing is a harsh sport, the only one that permits the deliberate injury of an opponent. At its worst, it can be ugly and appalling, as it has been the past few weeks when, in succession, we saw the frightening knockout of Alexis Arguello, the death of Duk Koo Kim and the one-sided pounding of Randall Cobb.
It's awkward at such times to defend boxing, but defend it we do, remembering the extraordinary drama inherent in a good fight and the pride in human achievement that can be derived from it. Joe Louis in the ring at his peak was an exciting and admirable figure. So was Muhammad Ali. Memorable fights—such as Zale-Graziano, Ali-Frazier in Manila, the first Leonard-Duran bout—rank with the greatest of sporting events.
Part of boxing's appeal is undoubtedly atavistic, a deep, generally hidden desire in humans to attack and conquer, if only vicariously. We are civilized animals, with laws to restrain our baser instincts, but we are still animals, and mock-savage play like boxing and football is part of our heritage. But because the primitive-ness of boxing is so apparent, we are quick to condemn it after a tragic accident like Kim's death.
December 13, 1982
Yet curiously, boxing, while unquestionably dangerous, is not as dangerous as it looks, and neither death nor serious injury are disproportionate aspects of it. A report entitled "Brain Injury in Boxing" that was approved by the American Medical Association last June implies that most investigations of the sport and its problems have been limited in scope. An oft-cited British study of the "punch-drunk syndrome," published in 1969 by A.H. Roberts, was based on examinations of only 224 of the 16,731 pro boxers registered with the British Board of Boxing Control between 1929 and 1955. The AMA's report doesn't dismiss the risk of brain damage to boxers but it does say that past studies haven't taken into consideration the possible effect on the brain of alcoholism, venereal disease and the aging process, and that such studies have often failed to include control groups for purposes of comparison.
As for fatalities, the death of any athlete is distressing, but fatality rates (deaths per 1,000 participants) for various sports mentioned in the AMA report reveal that fewer boxers die in competition than do college football players, scuba divers and jockeys. The AMA cautions that it has no information on how these statistics were compiled and can't attest to their validity or reliability, but it concludes its report by saying, "Boxing is a dangerous sport that can result in death or chronic brain injury. However, other sports may also result in accidental death or brain injury.... [Boxing] does not seem any more dangerous than other sports presently accepted by society."
At the same time, the report strongly recommends stricter supervision of boxing, particularly on the professional side, and so do we. Too often, the callous greed of promoters and the political maneuverings of the underqualified hacks who ostensibly are the guardians of the sport undermine efforts to protect boxers. That should be corrected. But abandon the sport? No.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE...
In case you think financial lures to recruit college football players are something new, here's a paragraph The Herald-Independent of Winnsboro, S.C. reprinted this fall from its issue of Nov. 18, 1937 under the heading, 45 YEARS AGO. It reads, "This was overheard at the Carolina-Furman football game last Saturday. We do not vouch for the truthfulness of the statement—in fact, we hope it is false. Said a spectator: 'Two Gamecock players were talking. "Why didn't you tackle that man?" said one. "Why didn't you?" replied his companion. "You make more than I do." ' "
A BIGGER BANG FOR A BUCK?
Gun-control advocates may wince at the idea, but for several years now a handful of banks around the country have been giving away hunting rifles to folks who invest in long-term time deposits. It's something like the standard practice of giving investors premiums of dinnerware and toasters, except that the expensive rifles are presented in lieu of interest. The Bank of Boulder in Colorado has been doing this for about seven years, advertising in such magazines as American Rifleman and American Hunter, and says that over the last six years an eye-opening 30% to 40% of the money deposited in the bank has been rifle-inspired.
One of the latest banks to pursue this offbeat bonanza is First Citizens National of Newport, N.H. (pop. 3,500). First Citizens gives high-quality Ruger rifles ($345 to $480) made right there in Newport by Sturm, Ruger and Co., Inc., the town's largest employer. "The strategy," says First Citizens President James McLaughlin, "is to attract nationwide investors with a product made in our small town by many of our own customers. We are, in effect, a gun wholesaler." In fact, like the other rifle-distributing banks. First National had to acquire a federal license as a firearms dealer.
One Newport woman withdrew her account from the bank in protest, McLaughlin admits ("She didn't want to walk into her friendly community bank and see rifles in the lobby"), but he says that hers was the only discouraging word. He has no qualms about offering rifles. "We're marketing specifically to responsible people who handle guns correctly," he declares.
It was one of the curiosities of the past baseball season that the National League's home-run champion had a lower batting average than its Cy Young winner. The slugger/ non-hitter was the Mets' Dave Kingman, who had 37 home runs but hit only .204, well under the .218 average of Cy Young recipient Steve Carlton of the Phillies. Contrary to what one might assume, though, two earlier home-run champions have been similarly shamed. In 1959 Harmon Killebrew, the American League's co-leader in homers with Rocky Colavito—each had 42—batted .242 vs. Cy Young winner Early Wynn's .244. In 1970 Johnny Bench, who led the National League with 45 home runs, hit .293 while Cy Young awardee Bob Gibson batted .303.
Of course, it's one thing to be aced out by somebody who hit .303 or even .244, and quite another to be outdone by somebody who batted .218. It's hard to figure out how Kingman can be at once so robust yet so anemic.
The Reagan Administration has opposed legislation to control acid rain because it says more research on the subject is needed. But last week the Office of Management and Budget ordered funds for the Advanced Utility Simulation Model Program (on which $2 million has already been spent) to be slashed from $650,000 to $150,000. Environmentalists have declared that if the cut goes into effect, the study will come to an end just when it appears to be nearing answers—the answers about the cost of controlling emissions from coal-fired electrical generating plants that everyone involved in the acid-rain debate has been looking for. Stack gases from such plants are believed by most environmentalists to be the single largest cause of acid rain (SI, Sept. 21, 1981 et seq).
"The purpose of the study," explains Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, "is to understand the economics of emissions-control programs and to develop a 'least-cost' program for dealing with acid rain."
"I'm quite puzzled why the OMB would want to cut research," says Dr. Duane Chapman, professor of resource economics at Cornell and one of six principal investigators on the project. "A reduction of funds of 50% would effectively scrap the model," he said.
Edwin L. Dale Jr. of the OMB, noting that "It's a tiny item in terms of bucks," says the program is being throttled because the Environmental Protection Agency already has a model for estimating environmental control costs for utilities, and what's needed now is a model for industrial pollution. But Dr. James Stukel, an engineering professor at the University of Illinois, and one of Chapman's colleagues on the project, says, "If they have one, I don't know about it. Why would they spend $2 million on ours if one already existed?"
Chapman says that if the reduction goes through, then Congress and the EPA, in making decisions about acid-rain legislation and regulation, will be "dependent on privately owned models that have strong financial ties to the electric industry." Oppenheimer warns, "A budget cut will make it more difficult to design a least-cost program, and the burden on utility ratepayers may become larger than necessary." And Richard Ayres, chairman of the National Clean Air Coalition, charges that the Administration is being hypocritical. "It argues against action on the grounds that we need more research," he says, "and then it orders a cut in the research."
Despite OMB's decision, Congress is still free to appropriate the funds. Says Republican John Chafee of Rhode Island, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Environmental Pollution, "I think reported plans to cut acid-rain research are an outrage. I doubt Congress will let it happen."
IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM
Joe Morgan's three-run, seventh-inning home run on the final day of the 1982 season not only gave the San Francisco Giants a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it also gave the Atlanta Braves the National League West Division title by one game over L.A. Morgan had never been a particular favorite of Atlanta fans, but suddenly he was being toasted up and down Peachtree Street. Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young showed his city's gratitude by making Morgan, an Oakland resident, an honorary citizen of Atlanta.
Not to be outdone by the city fathers in the showing of appreciation, the Braves last week signed free agent Terry Forster to a three-year, $1.5 million contract. The lefthanded Forster served Morgan the pitch that clinched the title for Atlanta. Reminded of his inadvertent part in the Braves' success, Forster said, "I felt awful. I'm paid to get the guy out in that situation. I made five good pitches, but.... " Said Braves Executive Vice-President Al Thornwell, "Terry said he wanted to go to a winning team, and we're certainly that."
MOM'S BEST FRIENDS
While visiting the home of one All-America he was ready to sign, Faust was startled to hear the boy sharply reprimand his mother for turning down the stereo. "So I gave him a little forearm in the ribs and told him not to talk to his mother that way," says Faust, who subsequently withdrew the scholarship offer....
—From an April 13, 1981
SI story on Notre Dame Coach
Once, when a promising player told his mother to "shut up," Sherrill ended the interview abruptly, though he'd driven 200 miles for the visit...
—From a Sept. 27, 1982
story in PEOPLE on Texas A&M
Coach Jackie Sherrill.
A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE
Harness-racing driver Ben Webster and two other men, professional gambler Wayne (Babe) Donoway and attorney Anthony Genovese, who had been on trial together in Newark on charges of fixing four races at the Meadowlands in 1981, were absolved last Friday after the prosecution finished giving its evidence. U.S. District Court Judge H. Curtis Meanor dismissed the charges, saying, "This is the thinnest case I've ever seen the United States government present in this court."
Much of the evidence brought forth by the government during the trial consisted of taped phone conversations between Webster and his co-defendants, which New York Post sportswriter Ray Kerrison had a field day with. During one of the phone calls, Donoway and Genovese were trying to select likely horses for an exacta bet and asked Webster about an animal called Trone Hanover. "I don't like him," Webster said. "He's a bastard." Trone Hanover won. Another time Webster was enthusiastic about Osborne's First. "He'll win," he told Genovese on the phone. Osborne's First finished eighth. Webster also liked Bambi Almahurst and Allegate. Both lost.
Webster and his pals bet Gee Jay in three successive starts and lost all three. When Gee Jay was entered in another race, Donoway and Genovese asked Webster if they should bet it a fourth time. Forget it, the driver said. Gee Jay won and paid $43.20. And Webster drove the horse.
A few days later, Donoway and Genovese asked Webster about a horse named Nickylou, which he'd also be driving. No chance, Webster said. Nickylou won and paid $22.40. Soon thereafter, Donoway asked about the horses Webster would be driving on that night's program. Well, he had seven horses going, Webster said, but none of them was any good. He won the second race with Be Sly ($13.80) and the eighth with Furman's Pop ($28.60).
As Kerrison wrote, the one case the tapes seem to make is that Webster may be the worst handicapper ever to tout a horse.
THEY SAID IT
•Earl Strom, basketball referee, when Elvin Hayes broke the NBA record for career fouls: "I felt like stopping the game and giving him my whistle."
•Skip Caray, Atlanta Hawks broadcaster, with the Hawks 20 points behind the SuperSonics and only three minutes to play: "If you promise to patronize our sponsors, you have our permission to walk the dog."
•Hugh Durham, Georgia basketball coach, on the SEC's new 45-second clock: "That won't be a factor for us. We'll either shoot the ball or throw it away by then."
•Steve Shutt, Montreal Canadiens forward, after scoring two goals in a game in which he played only briefly, asked if he thought the Canadiens would continue to use him sparingly: "I don't know. I don't think. I'm a hockey player."
•Hal Needham, onetime movie stunt-man turned writer-director, after giving the Smithsonian Institution his Budweiser Rocket car, which set an unofficial land-speed record of 739.666 mph at Edwards Air Force base in 1977: "Ever since I was a kid, everyone's told me I belonged in an institution. I never thought it would be the Smithsonian."