OLYMPIC TEST CASE
The U.S. Olympic Committee is trying to bring some sense to the Olympic amateur code, that mess of bureaucratic porridge so contaminated by inconsistencies, hypocrisy and outright fraud—state support of athletes and under-the-table payments have become a way of life almost everywhere—that it has long been unpalatable. Declaring his intention to bring the Olympics "into the 20th century," USOC President William E. Simon announced during Olympic meetings last week in Los Angeles that the committee had ruled that Renaldo Nehemiah, the world-record-holding hurdler who now plays pro football with the 49ers, was being reinstated as an amateur in track and field. Although the ruling was to apply only to domestic meets, Simon said he hoped it would be a first step toward restoring Nehemiah's eligibility for international competition as well—and, ultimately, toward liberalization of antiquated amateur rules generally.
The International Olympic Committee is expected to take up eligibility matters at its 86th Session in New Delhi in late March, but prospects for significant reforms are uncertain, largely because of opposition from the U.S.S.R. and East Germany, which feel they have an advantage under the present system. As things now stand, the IOC sometimes seems confused as to exactly who's in charge of eligibility standards, itself or the various international sports federations, whose rules differ widely. As Simon noted in announcing the Nehemiah decision, the international skiing federation's liberal standards allow some supposed amateurs to openly make fortunes in endorsements. In recent months there has been a move within the international soccer federation to declare some younger professionals eligible for the Olympics. Unlike Nehemiah, the soccer players would be competing as amateurs in the same sport in which they've been professionals. It isn't certain, though, whether they'd be considered eligible for the '84 Games. The same uncertainty hangs over Jim Craig, the hero of the U.S.'s Olympic hockey triumph at Lake Placid. Craig played professionally as recently as last season, but world ice hockey federation rules are sufficiently liberal that he's now back playing as an amateur.
In declaring Nehemiah eligible for domestic competition, Simon was bucking the international track federation, the IAAF, and its president, the insufferably pompous Primo Nebiolo of Italy, who likes to say, not entirely in jest, that "the Olympics don't go on without me." Nebiolo argues that Nehemiah can't be eligible for domestic meets at the same time that he's ineligible internationally, a laughable assertion given the fact that several track athletes banned by the IAAF from international competition for illicit drug use have routinely gone on competing in their own countries. Nebiolo reacted to the USOC's reinstatement of Nehemiah with a get-tough declaration that foreign athletes representing U.S. colleges or clubs would endanger their amateur standing if they competed in meets with Nehemiah. That ruling cast into jeopardy Nehemiah's invitation to compete in this week's Millrose Games. For his part, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch said his body "must support the IAAF" but blandly added, "I'm sure that the IAAF and the USOC will reach an agreement."
It's hard to feel much sympathy for Nehemiah, who, in signing an NFL contract, knew full well that he was forfeiting his amateur standing. At the same time, the USOC has probably seized on as good a test case as any for challenging the muddled amateur rules, especially when it's recalled that, at Simon's urging, the IOC has posthumously restored the two gold medals Jim Thorpe won at the 1912 Olympics but later forfeited because he had played professional baseball. As Ron Stanko, Nehemiah's attorney, wryly notes, the only real difference between that case and his client's is that "Thorpe is dead."
DAUGHTER OF HEIDI
A mix-up occurred on WICU-TV, the NBC affiliate in Erie, Pa., during the Jets' 17-14 NFL playoff victory over the Raiders on Jan. 15 that was reminiscent of the Heidi Game episode, the NBC foul-up in 1968 in which an executive ordered the network to switch from a nationally televised game, also involving the Jets and Raiders, to the movie Heidi. As a result, most viewers missed seeing the two touchdowns that gave the Raiders a 43-32 come-from-behind win, and NBC was deluged with phone calls from an infuriated public.
In the Daughter of Heidi incident, viewers in Erie, along with the rest of the country, were watching as the Raiders, trailing 17-14 with barely two minutes to play, recovered a New York fumble. Without warning, WICU switched away from the game. By the time it returned, the Jets somehow had the ball back and all the Erie audience saw was Jets Quarterback Richard Todd falling on the ball to end the game. WICU's audience missed both the Raiders' suspenseful drive into Jets territory and Lance Mehl's interception of a Jim Plunkett pass that sealed the New York victory.
Erie viewers weren't happy about the interruption. "The switchboard lit up like the sky on the Fourth of July," said WICU Program Director John Ivan Tomcho. "The calls didn't stop. They were irate calls. No, they weren't just irate, they were obscene. No, they were very obscene."
There were two significant differences, though, from 1968. For one thing, WICU broke away, not for a movie but for its regular live showing of the Pennsylvania Lottery's Saturday drawing. For another, says Tomcho, no executive decided to make the switch. On the contrary, he said, the station had notified AT&T, which is responsible for the switching of feeds to the station, to cancel the lottery feed. But, he added, "all the switching is computer-controlled and the computer switched it to us anyway."
We don't think it's overstating matters in the least to suggest that the Erie incident symbolizes the course that humanity has followed these past 14 years—from a human error that resulted in our seeing a tender story about a little girl to a computer error resulting in our being huckstered by a state-run gambling enterprise. This is progress?
HOW SOON THEY FORGET
In The Blue Book of College Athletics for 1982-83, the ordinarily authoritative guide to almost everything you'd want to know about college sports, the address of Ohio State's athletic department is given as "410 Woody Herman Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43210."
FOREVER LANDRY, SUDDENLY GIBBS
As the Redskins were whipping the Cowboys 31-17 in the NFC championship game last Saturday (page 20), we couldn't help but reflect on the vastly dissimilar records of the two coaches. Because he looks just about the same as he did two decades ago, Dallas' Tom Landry doesn't seem like an oldtimer, but his record of longevity in the volatile world of pro football is amazing.
When Landry began coaching the Cowboys in 1960, his fellow coaches in the NFL and the AFL—then beginning its first season—included George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Paul Brown (then coaching Cleveland; it would be eight years before his Cincinnati Bengals would make their debut) and Weeb Ewbank (then of the Colts; it would be eight seasons before his Jets would upset Baltimore in Super Bowl III). Also coaching in Landry's first season were Sammy Baugh, who was running the New York Titans (later the Jets), Bob Waterfield of the Rams, Buck Shaw of the Eagles, Jim Lee Howell of the Giants and Eddie Erdelatz of the Raiders.
In 1965, Landry's sixth season with the Cowboys, Allie Sherman was coaching the Giants, Al Davis the Raiders, Blanton Collier the Browns, Joe Kuharich the Eagles. That seems so long ago, yet Landry was there. Go another five years to 1970, and you find Don Shula starting his first year with the Dolphins, Chuck Noll his second with the Steelers, John Madden—who has now been retired for four years—his second with the Raiders. In the dozen or so years since then, Super Bowl coaches have come and gone: George Allen in Washington, Red Miller in Denver, Ray Malavasi in Los Angeles, Dick Vermeil in Philadelphia, Bill Walsh (apparently) in San Francisco. Since Landry began at Dallas, that other Texas team, the Oilers, has had 10 coaches. Through it all, Landry goes steadily, silently, successfully on. Maybe he didn't make it to the Super Bowl this time, but he has been there five times before.
On the other hand, the Redskins' Joe Gibbs is going to the Super Bowl in only his second season as an NFL coach. A shorter story, but also sweet.
"Not the first hit in his career, certainly, but a ringing one." So raved The New York Times music critic Donal Henahan in his review of Willie Stargell's performance in Carnegie Hall last week as narrator in New Morning for the World, subtitled Daybreak for Freedom, a new work by Pulitzer prize-winning composer Joseph Schwantner. The composition was performed by the University of Rochester's Eastman Philharmonia, and Stargell was on hand to recite from the writings and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King. What made Stargell's appearance all the more striking was that until his five-city, five-concert tour with the Eastman Philharmonia began on Jan. 15 in Washington's Kennedy Center (it concluded later last week in Rochester), the former Pittsburgh Pirate star had never even attended a symphony concert. Having retired from baseball after the 1982 season, Pops may well be the Rookie of the Year of the concert stage.
Stargell's only previous involvement with music was when he briefly played tuba in his high school band, an experience he doesn't particularly cherish. "It made your lips sore, and you had to wear padding when you played," he recalls. To prepare for the tour, Stargell studied with a voice teacher and in December went to Rochester to rehearse with the Philharmonia. He admits to having experienced "extreme nervousness" before each of his five appearances, but he also says, "I'd never been to a concert before, and now I know I'll be going back. I do love this music." He will indeed be going back. He has already accepted an invitation to provide the narration when the Pittsburgh Symphony performs Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait on Feb. 26.
Joggers have bored non-joggers for years talking about the "natural high" they get, or claim they get, from running. Now there's another possible plus for them to natter on about. It's called "jogging fever," and it doesn't mean enthusiasm for running. It means an old-fashioned temperature, the kind that reads at 98.6 if you're normal. According to a recent edition of Advance, a publication of the University of Michigan Medical School, Hospitals and School of Nursing, joggers on the run have an average temperature about four degrees above normal, and a temperature a couple of tenths above normal persists for several hours. And, say physiologists Joseph G. Cannon and Matthew J. Kluger, this lingering excess body heat may actually be good for them, in much the same way that a mild fever—or, rather, the endogenous pyrogens that trigger fever—fights off infection.
This possible benefit of "jogging fever" is based on the widely held belief that people who jog or otherwise regularly exercise get sick less often than more sedentary folk. Cannon and Kluger caution that no one really knows whether this is so, because detailed research in that area hasn't been undertaken. But Cannon, a marathoner himself, says, hopefully, "If you talk to people who used to be sedentary and now exercise, they claim they get sick less often."
THEY SAID IT
•Paul Householder, Cincinnati Reds outfielder, who hit .211 last season, after confirming that he'd become engaged on New Year's Eve: "With the kind of year I had, I'm ready to try anything."
•Jack Elway, San Jose State football coach: "John Elway is a great football player. He used to be my son. Now I'm his father."
•Stan Simpson, Middle Tennessee State basketball coach, after a 103-58 loss to Alabama. "We got beat by one bad call—the one our athletic director made to Tuscaloosa to schedule this game."