NATIONALISM AND THE GAMES
The U.S. Olympic Committee has given its blessing to a combative advertising campaign by the Miller Brewing Co., the sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. In TV commercials and ads that have appeared in 10 magazines, including SI, Miller is soliciting donations to the center with this ringing exhortation: LET'S WIN THE GAMES AGAIN.
That's hardly the first chauvinistic note to be injected into the Olympics, of course. The founder of the modern Games, Baron de Coubertin, wanted athletes to participate as individuals rather than as members of teams representing countries, a spectacularly unrealistic dream still echoed in a section of the IOC charter that describes as "dangerous" to Olympic ideals "certain tendencies" toward the "national exaltation of the results gained." That the IOC itself allows the playing of national anthems and the raising of national flags during Olympic medal ceremonies hasn't exactly discouraged those tendencies. At any rate, nationalistic exaltation of Olympic deeds isn't limited to any one country, witness the patriotic fervor following the Soviet win in basketball in 1972 and the U.S. ice hockey victory in 1980.
But the idea of a country "winning the Olympics," as distinct from winning a basketball or hockey game, is another matter. A national winner has never been officially selected at the Olympics, and efforts by the press to designate one unofficially by means of points haven't worked out very well. There's the question of how many points to assign placings in events; if one country wins 38 gold medals and 22 silver medals and another country 31 golds and 35 silvers, which has "won?" And should victories in team sports such as basketball and soccer count as one medal or multiple medals? What about countries like East Germany, Hungary and Finland, which may not win the most medals but do exceptionally well on a per capita basis?
February 14, 1983
For a long time such considerations were no impediment to those bent on declaring national triumphs. The U.S. was accepted as the "winner" of most of the early summer Olympics, and in 1948 the USOC actually included in its official report press-compiled point totals indicating that the U.S. had outscored runner-up Sweden 759 to 435¼ in that year's Summer Games in London. The Soviet Union began competing in the Olympics in 1952, and soon Soviet officials were talking openly of "winning" the Games. In fact, except for 1968, when the U.S. fared better overall, the U.S.S.R. probably would have "won" every Summer Olympics since 1956 had there been official standings.
With the easing of Cold War tensions, though, an odd thing happened. Not only did the USOC stop printing point totals—given the U.S.S.R.'s athletic prowess, that's not surprising—but the world press has pretty much stopped doing so, too, generally confining itself instead to the tabulation of comparative medal counts. And for all the importance they continue to attach to strong Olympic showings by their athletes, even Soviet officials seem to speak less openly these days about "winning" the Games. Indeed, the reigning Olympic etiquette now seems to frown on bold assertions of national victory.
According to Todd Clay, a spokesman for Miller High Life, USOC officials resisted before giving their consent to Miller's "let's win the Games again" pitch. "They said, 'Wait a minute. America doesn't win the Games, individuals do,' " Clay relates. "But we felt it would be easier to raise money if we worked the national pride angle."
It's possible to argue that Miller's ad campaign merely reflects the nationalistic realities of the Olympics. But a case can also be made that, in view of the rampant jingoism that otherwise infects the Games, the taboo against talk of national Olympic victory is worth honoring. Miller and the USOC probably would have been better advised to do just that.
DON'T SELL GREG SHORT
By way of touting West Virginia Guard Greg Jones for All-America basketball honors, the school's acting sports information director, Joe Boczek, has circulated among sportswriters a rundown of the player's stats under the heading, The Greg Jones Average, a play on the Wall Street figures put out by Dow Jones. The release also contains testimonials from rival coaches like Ohio State's Eldon Miller, who says, "When the game is on the line, Greg Jones is amazing," and Marshall's Bob Zuffelato, who says, "You can't stop Greg Jones. You can only hope to control him." In what may be the most forthright admission ever made by an SID, Joe Boczek refers to these remarks as "stock quotations."
49 YARDS AND A CLOUD OF NEWSPRINT
The nation's capital has gone bonkers over its Super Bowl champion Redskins, and so has the hometown newspaper. The Washington Post. Though that prestigious and otherwise unparochial publication always goes happily overboard when it comes to the Skins, it clearly outdid itself in the editions of Jan. 30. That, of course, was Super Sunday, the day Washington would beat Miami 27-17 in Pasadena. The Post marked the occasion by running no fewer than 33 advance stories on the big game, including features on Coach Joe Gibbs, on the Redskins' favorite sandwiches—Dave Butz favors tuna fish with either relish or mayonnaise, which sounds more like the ladies' shopper's special than sustenance for a 295-pound defensive tackle—and on storied Redskin teams of bygone years.
To appreciate just how extensive the Post's pre-Super Bowl coverage was, it helps to know that the paper ran 22 stories on Jan. 20, 1981 on the release of the American hostages in Iran and 22 stories on March 31, 1981 on the assassination attempt on President Reagan, to name two other big news events of recent years. Counting photographs, drawings, charts, rosters and statistical matter, the Post's Super Sunday coverage added up to 1,767 column inches. That works out to 49 yards, 15 more than the total yardage gained by the Dolphins in the second half of the loss to the Redskins.
A year ago in this space (SCORECARD, Feb. 15, 1982) we reported that for four straight years the last NFL club to beat a Bum Phillips-coached team had gone on to win the Super Bowl—the Steelers in 1978 and 1979 (winners over Phillips' Oilers in the AFC championship game each time), the Raiders in 1980 (winners over the Oilers in the AFC wild-card playoff game) and the 49ers in 1981 (winners over Phillips' New Orleans Saints in the regular-season finale). Omen seekers please note that after losing to the Redskins 27-10 in the penultimate game of the 1982 regular season, Phillips' Saints proceeded to beat the Falcons in the season finale but didn't qualify for the playoffs, which means that Phillips once again suffered his last loss of the season to the eventual Super Bowl winner.
Another Super Bowl coincidence—or portent, if you wish—is that the underdog has now won three years in a row. And coming on the heels of the Super Bowl triumph by the Joe Montana-led 49ers in 1982, this year's victory by Joe Theismann's Redskins will no doubt inspire future Super Bowl speculators to put considerable stock in Notre Dame quarterbacks named Joe—assuming, of course, that any more players meeting that description come along.
You've heard sportscasters covering exciting events say, "Boy, this one's a heart-stopper," but there was one college basketball game recently that came close to literally fitting that ordinarily figurative description. During a 59-53 upset of Purdue, South Carolina Basketball Coach Bill Foster, 52, finding the action a little too much to take, complained a couple of times that he wasn't feeling well. Foster was examined by the team physician right after the game, and was rushed to a hospital. Four days later he underwent a quadruple coronary bypass operation. Foster, recovering nicely, is now back home but isn't yet ready to resume coaching.
By coincidence, just a few days after Foster's heart attack, physicians from the Washington (D.C.) Cardiovascular Institute conducted an experiment during a Georgetown-American University basketball game. This, too, was an upset, with American defeating the Hoyas 62-61. Before the game the doctors fitted American Coach Ed Tapscott with a portable heart monitor, a device about the size of a pack of cigarettes, with electrodes that were affixed to his chest.
Twenty-two minutes before game time, Tapscott's heartbeat was 68 to the minute, just about his normal rate, but at tipoff it had risen to 74. It continued to rise, reaching a high stress point with 13:44 left in the game, at which juncture American led by 13 points. Tapscott was stalking tensely up and down the sideline, and as the Hoyas' Patrick Ewing picked up his fourth personal foul, the heart rate touched 170.
But it was back down around 130 as the game ended, despite a furious Georgetown rally that turned the game into a cliffhanger, and it resumed its normal rate in reasonable time. The cardiologists indicated that, unlike Foster, the 28-year-old Tapscott, who is in top physical shape, was none the worse for his stressful evening. One of them, Dr. Richard N. Scott, said, "A pulse rate of 170 isn't uncommon for someone with a limited outlet for cardiovascular energy, in the sense that he is not a participant. I suspect Patrick Ewing's heart rate didn't go over 70 or 80. But Eddie Tapscott didn't have a release except by pacing up and down."
SIGN OF THE (HARD) TIMES DEPT.
As Brad Berry, a down-on-his-luck radio-TV time salesman and sometime broadcaster in Phoenix, tells it, "I was lying in the sun, drinking a beer, waiting for the mailman to come with my unemployment check and facing the dilemma of being out of work, when I realized, 'Hey, I got to do something to get myself involved in the community again.' " Thus was born the Unemployed Co-Ed Slo-Pitch Softball League. The city parks department waived the usual fee for a playing field, a sporting goods store provided free equipment and another concern came through with trophies. The new league has 65 players and this eligibility rule: Players lucky enough to land jobs are bounced.
THE NEW MATH, PENGUIN-STYLE
As of Sunday the Pittsburgh Penguins had a 12-35-7 record, the worst in the NHL, and their fans—what few (barely 9,000 per game in the 16,033-seat Pittsburgh Civic Arena) there were of them—were restive, as evidenced by the banner on display at a recent home game: NO CLASS PLUS NO PRIDE PLUS NO SCORING PLUS NO MUSCLE PLUS NO GUTS PLUS NO WINS EQUALS NO PLAYOFFS PLUS NO FANS.
Everyone knows that when the New York Yankees don't win, owner George Steinbrenner treats his players like dogs. But how does Steinbrenner react to dogs that don't win? The answer came Saturday night at the Palm Beach (Fla.) Kennel Club where Army Brat, a bitch owned by Steinbrenner's wife, Joan, and two other individuals, finished seventh in a field of eight in the World Series of dog racing, the $120,000 Greyhound Grand Prix. Following the race, which was won by Comin Attraction, a bitch owned by Bob Riggin of Abilene, Kans., Steinbrenner turned to his wife and said sweetly, "You've got to realize that you won't win 'em all the time, honey." Now if George can only remember that when the Yankees start chasing the American League rabbit six weeks from now.
WHAT DOES YOUR FATHER DO?
The Seattle area has become home territory for quite a few former NBA players, and the offspring of some of them are beginning to make their presence known on local basketball courts. For instance, Troy Miles, son of Eddie Miles, the Seattle University star of the early 1960s who went on to become an NBA sharpshooter, is scoring 24.7 points per game for O'Dea High. Michael Bryant, son of former NBA guard and former SuperSonics Assistant Coach Emmette Bryant, has a 14.9 average at Franklin High. Kevin Love, whose father. Bob Love, starred with the Chicago Bulls and ended his career with the Sonics, is scoring 10.4 points a game for suburban Inglemoor High. Former NBA and ABA All-Star Center Zelmo Beaty's 6'4" son Darryl is a forward at Sammamish High; Dorie Murrey Jr., whose father was a Sonic for a couple of seasons in the late '60s, is a backup center for Interlake High in Bellevue, and Sonic Coach Lenny Wilkens' son Randy plays guard for the junior varsity team at Lakeside, an academically tough school on Seattle's northside.
It should be noted that some of these NBA offspring have interests other than the sport that so dominated their fathers' lives. Randy Wilkens, for example, plays soccer, too, and Dorie Murrey Jr. is better in football than in basketball. As Marilyn Wilkens says, recalling the boyhoods of her husband, Lenny, and his friend Zelmo Beaty, "Lenny and Z grew up playing in the street. They played basketball every minute they could. These kids all have other things to do."
Still, Seattle obviously has a bumper crop of NBA-bred schoolboys. There's also at least one schoolgirl, Debbie Murrey, Dorie Murrey Jr.'s 5'8" sister, who starts at forward for Sammamish High's girls' team. And there are other youngsters coming along who may also be expected to find their way onto local basketball courts. Current Sonic Guard Fred Brown and former NBAers Bob Hopkins, Rick Barry and John Tresvant all have sons in the Seattle area in grades three through eight.
THEY SAID IT
•Joe Morrison, the new football coach at South Carolina, on moving to Columbia after having coached at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and the University of New Mexico: "At least I can spell it. I spent five years learning to spell Chattanooga, then we moved to Albuquerque."
•Joe Altobelli, who required hospital care last month after falling off the dais at the first of several banquets he attended upon being named the Baltimore Orioles' new manager: "I'm on a streak. This is the fourth banquet in a row where I haven't fallen off the dais. Of course, the first two don't count because they handcuffed me to the head table."
•Jack Berkshire, basketball coach at Oglethorpe University: "We've been a little up and down all season, but I'd call that consistency."