"Zone Xavier and get something to eat."
—Texas Basketball Coach Abe Lemons, after he was asked what he planned to do in Cincinnati.
Let the banquet begin. Let it be long, as in 30-foot leaps, seven-game Series, five-lateral kickoff returns and eight-week strike negotiations. And let it be lavish, for this has been no forage-and-porridge year.
How else might our banquet resemble the past year's feast? The tablecloth would start off white and end up soiled, the way Rickey Henderson's uniform looks different on third than on first. At the head table we'd seat Joe Paterno and Dean Smith for the very first time and serve them New Orleans-style gumbo. Guess who's also coming to dinner? Dennis Green and Calvin Peete. There'd be Miller in the bottle and Bud on tap, to honor the Suds Series cities. The consommé madril√®ne would quiver like a Yankee manager after two straight losses. Whatever we'd put before Larry Holmes, he'd cut down to size. Our choice of salad would include Stanley Cup with Thousand Islanders and World Cup Italian, we'll pass on the cheesecake, thanks, in light of Chris Evert Lloyd's more just dessert, her sixth U.S. Open title.
And, as at many banquets, there'd be occasion for postprandial kudos:
February 16, 1983
Fireman of the Year Award: To Astros Relief Pitcher Frank LaCorte, who burned his jersey in the clubhouse after walking the bases full, giving up four runs and thereby blowing what had been a scoreless game with the Expos. LaCorte said that he suspected the jersey, No. 31, was responsible for his tendency to run the count to 3 and 1.
Leadfoot of the Year Award: To Formula I racing champ Keke Rosberg, who drove with a steel sole on his throttle foot, ostensibly to prevent cramps.
The Anything You Say, Coach, Award: To Gerald Johnson, a reserve on the Oral Roberts basketball team, who was reprimanded in practice by an assistant coach for throwing up wild shots and told to shoot only from where he'd find himself in a game. Johnson ran to a bench, sat down and shot from there.
Official of the Year Award: To the functionary at the New Hampshire state high school track and field chamionships who disqualified a shotputter when the athlete's soaked jersey number flew off in mid-toss during a driving rainstorm. He cited a rule that forbids any part of the body or uniform touching the ground outside the circle.
The David stockman Award, for playing hardball with your budget: To Pembroke (N.C.) State Baseball Coach Harold Ellen, who asked that an 8-8 game with UNC Charlotte be called after nine innings on account of hunger. Ellen said that the dining hall was about to close and that he couldn't afford to buy his players substitute meals.
The What, Me Hurry? Award: To the City of Rochester, N.Y., whose Amerks lost the longest game in American Hockey League history, 3-2 to New Haven in four overtimes. Teams from Rochester have also been involved in this country's longest games ever in pro baseball, pro basketball and pro soccer.
The Not Now, Honey Award: To the nightclub doorman in Austin, Texas, whose wife filed for divorce at least in part because he did nothing but watch ESPN.
The Bain of Our Existence Award: To the more than 7,000 people, mostly Iowans, who flooded the office of Big Ten Commissioner Wayne Duke with letters protesting a foul call by Referee Jim Bain that led to Purdue's defeat of the Hawkeyes and Minnesota's winning the conference basketball title. "There's probably one in there from my father," said Duke. "He still lives in Iowa."
The And Money's a Distant Third Award: To the 38.1% of the women and 23.3% of the men polled, who told The Runner magazine that, forced to choose, they'd sooner give up sex than running.
The Spit and Polish Award: To Fran Hirschy, a former pitcher in the Padres' chain and co-author of the forthcoming The Load to $ucce$$, who held two spit-balling clinics for youngsters on New York's Staten island last August in hopes of promoting the spitter as an alternative to the curve, which has proved deleterious to young pitching arms.
The Never on Sunday, or Any other Time, Award: To Francesco Salvatore, a 40-year-old Italian expatriate now living in Glyfada, Greece, who was arrested and imprisoned for 15 days after he exulted nude in the town square following Italy's world Cup victory.
The But Wait Till Dean Smith Starts Carrying Craig Stadler's Clubs Award: To former Georgia Tech Basketball Coach Dwane Morrison, who resigned after the Yellow Jackets went 0-14 in their first season of Atlantic Coast Conference play and became J.C. Snead's full-time caddie on the pro golf tour.
The Money Can't Buy Me Love Award: To the folks at Chevrolet, who spent approximately $200,000 to provide the pace car for the Indy 500, which was won by Gordon Johncock in a Ford-powered racer; and to those at Pontiac, who spent somewhat less to provide the pace car for the NASCAR circuit, the championship of which was won by Darrell Waltrip in a Buick.
The Sure They Call It Nordic Skiing, but the English Eat French Toast, Too Award: To various humorless Scandinavians, left in a powdery wake by Bill Koch, the first American ever to win the cross-country World Cup. For esthetic reasons, or something, they're trying to ban Koch's unorthodox technique of removing one ski from the groove and pushing off fresh snow alongside the track.
The Please Get on the Beamon Award: To National Sports Festival officials, who called a dubious foul on—and didn't measure—what was probably a world-record 30-foot-plus long jump by Carl Lewis.
The Thank Goodness There Were No Clemson Middle Guards in the Woodwind Section Award: To former Ohio State Football Coach woody Hayes who, before guest-conducting the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in The Stars and Stripes Forever, likened himself to Toscanini. "Wasn't he the one who used to get mad and throw things and stomp on his baton? He had the so-called artistic temperament. Now he was great."
The But Can Doris Day Slamjam Award: To the Philadelphia 76ers' Julius Erving, for his plaintive rendition of Que Sera, Sera in a Los Angeles hotel lobby at 3 a.m. after the Sixers had lost to the Lakers in the NBA finals.
The First Annual Folger Shakespeare Library's Sportsmen of the Year Awards: To Kevin Lagasse, a fullback for Swarthmore College, whose parents were so opposed to his playing football that he was listed in the school newspaper as Thisby, a character in A Midsummer Night's Dream, to keep them from finding out. (When Swarthmore won its fourth straight game, he decided it was better to be Lagasse than not to be.) And to Oriole Manager Earl Weaver, known chiefly for his midsummer's night screams, who upbraided Miami Herald columnist Edwin Pope for attributing "This above all: To thine own self be true" to Horatio. "Edwin," said Weaver, "if Polonius didn't [bleep] say it, I've lived the last 35 years of my life backwards."
The Marvelous Marvin Hagler Name Improvement Award: To Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., which replaced its nickname of longstanding, wombats, with Thoroughbreds, supposedly because the plucky marsupial "lacked the image of an athlete."
The That's Peters Township Not Peter Townshend Award: To the five members of the Bethel Park (Pa.) High School varsity soccer team, who skipped a game with Peters Township High to attend a performance by The Who in Pittsburgh. They were dismissed from the team.
The A Pitcher's Supposed to Get His Signs from the Catcher Award: To the Atlanta Braves' Pascual Perez, whom Manager Joe Torre had to scratch as a starter when he didn't show up for a home game on time. Seems that the Dominican righthander had just gotten his driver's license and couldn't find his way to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
Red Auerbach is lighting up a (close-but-no) cigar, and Abe Lemons, who was fired at season's end, looks well sated but ill-fated. As for leftovers, how 'bout them Dawgie bags?