THE $95 MILLION SWEEPSTAKES
Last week's $49.2 million treble-damages antitrust assessment against the NFL for its role in trying to prevent the Oakland Raiders from moving to Los Angeles isn't the last word in that seemingly endless case. Still pending are 1) the NFL's appeal in federal court of the verdict last May that resulted in the aforementioned damages award to the Raiders and the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission; 2) the trial, scheduled to begin on May 16, of the city of Oakland's eminent-domain suit to return the Raiders to that city; and 3) Congressional action on a newly introduced bill to grant an antitrust exemption to the NFL that would force the Raiders back to Oakland.
As all this activity indicates, the Raiders' relocation to L.A. could still be reversed, and Al Davis, the club's managing general partner, knows it. Sensing the NFL's hand in the eminent-domain suit and the antitrust legislation, Davis last week called the league "the most powerful force in America." But Davis himself hasn't exactly been a pushover. He has won every important round in the protracted battle so far, and if he should beat back the remaining challenges and keep the team in L.A., his defiance of the NFL could wind up costing the league damages of $34.6 million to the Raiders and $14.6 million to the L.A. Coliseum, $10 million or so in interest on those sums, something like $25 million for its own legal fees and perhaps another $10 million if, as is likely, it is ordered to pick up the bill for the Raiders' lawyers.
The above costs total roughly $95 million. What's more, Davis doesn't think his team should have to pay its½8 share of any such liability. Accordingly, he's now talking about suing the NFL over that matter, too. Obviously, unless the NFL can reverse its luck in court or in Congress, it will end up paying a high price indeed for trying to keep a maverick in line.
April 24, 1983
WINNING IN A WALTZ AND A PIROUETTE
It may not have been a coincidence that the Philadelphia 76ers danced into the NBA playoffs with a 65-17 regular-season record. The Sixers, after all, have used a ballet instructor named John Kilbourne throughout the season as a flexibility and coordination coach. Kilbourne did graduate work at UCLA under the noted prima ballerina Mia Slavenska and, while there, helped condition the 1979-80 Bruin team that went to the NCAA Final Four. He later conducted clinics for the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns and moved to Philadelphia last September to work with the 76ers. He also teaches part time at the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts.
Kilbourne conducts workouts before every Sixer practice and oversees stretching routines on game days. The purpose of the workouts, which last 20 minutes and include dance moves to music by Aretha Franklin, among others, is to help the players become more limber, jump higher and avoid injury. By having the players move together rhythmically, Kilbourne also believes he helps them "concentrate as a team." Philly Coach Billy Cunningham is all for the ballet instruction. "What sold me is the way the players responded and did the exercises," he says. "In the past we did some flexibility training, but a player always led. With supervision, it's much better." All of which is vindication of sorts for Kilbourne, who took up dance only after being cut from his high school basketball team.
REELING IN A BIG PRICE
"And now the book we've all been waiting for," intoned auctioneer George S. Lowry of Manhattan's Swann Galleries one afternoon last week. The tome in question, lot 439 in the Robert Buckmaster collection of sporting books, was billed in the catalogue as "the most famous of all books on fishing," a first-edition copy of Izaak Walton's The Com-pleat Angler, published in London in 1653. The genteel cast of characters on hand, who looked as though they might have gathered to audition for an Agatha Christie play, stirred. Their number included Colonel Henry A. Siegel, the snuff-sniffing proprietor of the Angler's & Shooter's Bookshelf in Goshen, Conn., resplendent in a bold tweed hacking jacket; a rumpled publisher; several men in leather elbow patches; a bookseller whose luxuriant mustache and beard completely covered his lower face and upper chest; a Canadian enthusiast who bids under the name of Rising Trout and the white-thatched Buckmaster himself, a retired trial lawyer and broadcasting tycoon who serves as a trustee of the Museum of American Fly Fishing.
Many copies of the first edition of The Compleat Angler are in miserable condition, and so, despite a few shaved headlines and stains, among other flaws, the copy up for sale at Swann was described as "a fine and unusually large copy." In addition, the book had formerly been in the renowned angling library of salmon expert and author Dean Sage and bore his piscatorial bookplate giving it further provenance of some distinction. When put up for auction at the Sage estate sale in 1942, the book was bought for $975 by the celebrated antiquarian bookseller, Dr. Abraham Rosenbach, an ardent fisherman and a man who drank a bottle of whiskey a day. Rosenbach's widow then sold the book through a dealer to Buck-master. In its presale estimate, Swann figured the book would bring $6,000 to $9,000.
The bidding opened at $6,000. An early bidder was Dr. Rodolphe Coigney of Manhattan, a former director of the World Health Organization, who had sold a large part of his angling collection at Swann three years ago. The French-born epidemiologist, who recently wrote a chapter for a book that the Walton Foundation in England is publishing this year to mark the tercentenary of Walton's death, has 625 copies of The Com-pleat Angler, but his collection lacked the first edition. He dropped out when Judith Bowman, a dealer from Bedford, N.Y., bid $7,000. The bidding rose to $9,800, then $10,500, $11,000, $11,500 as Mrs. Bowman went head to head with John Daniels, a collector from Hamel, Minn. Daniels raised the amount to $12,500, but quit when Bowman came back with what proved to be the winning bid. "Thirteen thousand dollars, Bowman," Lowry announced as the crowd burst into applause over the highest auction price ever paid for a single Walton. Said a happy Bowman, who bought the book for a client, "I was prepared to go higher."
ABOUT THOSE WHITE HOUSE VISITS
The NCAA played the spoilsport last week by preventing North Carolina State's national championship basketball team from visiting President Reagan at the White House. Under a longstanding NCAA rule, schools are prohibited from underwriting postseason trips by athletes unless it's to accept a recognized award, or the distance traveled is less than 100 miles. Because a Presidential ceremony doesn't qualify as an award in the ordinary sense and because Raleigh is 260 miles from Washington, a university-financed trip, said the NCAA, was off. A Raleigh TV station, WRAL, then offered to pay for the trip, but by the time the NCAA got around to deciding whether the Wolfpack could accept the offer, the White House had to cancel the invitation because of other commitments. The NCAA finally ruled that the TV station couldn't have financed the trip in any case. The Wolfpack settled for receiving the President's congratulations via a satellite hookup over WRAL.
Bill Hunt, the NCAA's assistant executive director of enforcement, makes his organization sound a little less like a grinch than it might have appeared at first blush. Hunt points out that the rule's main purpose is to prevent costly postseason trips undertaken to generate publicity and thereby help teams in recruiting. Although White House visits are undeniably special occasions. Hunt argues that they could and surely would be used for publicity and recruiting purposes. He also notes that they might not reflect a sincere Presidential desire to honor a championship team as much as they do the amount of clout wielded by politicians from the team's home state. The White House's invitation to the Wolf-pack basketball team was arranged by North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms, whose popularity among home-state voters has been at a low ebb and who figured to get a p.r. boost from the visit. If the White House genuinely wanted to honor national champions, asks Hunt, why didn't it extend invitations to others such as Penn State's football team, Wisconsin's hockey team or USC's women's basketball team?
Unfortunately, the NCAA hasn't exactly done a great job of enforcing the rule. Trying to show that the rule had been enforced evenhandedly. Hunt claimed that Indiana's 1976 basketball champions had been prevented from visiting President Gerald Ford; in fact, the Hoosiers did visit Ford, and an Indiana official said last week that the trip was made with NCAA approval. Last year two members of Clemson's national champion football team visited Reagan at the White House, but Tiger authorities said that it wasn't until the flap over North Carolina State's proposed trip that they realized that such junkets were forbidden. Hunt said that the NCAA had only now learned of the Clemson visit.
The uneven enforcement of the rule is matched only by the Catch-22 manner in which it was interpreted in the North Carolina State case. The NCAA's decision that WRAL couldn't pay for the White House visit was based on the fact that the rule is meant to apply to representatives of a school's "athletic interests" as well as to the school itself, and one NCAA official said that if WRAL hadn't been such a representative before it made the offer, it became one "by the very act."
Perfectly clear, Wolfpack fans?
THE EARS HAVE IT
At the crack of the bat the centerfielder turns to his left, takes four or five long strides and hauls in the ball in the right-centerfield alley on the dead run. Analyzing this seemingly routine athletic feat of catching a fly ball, scientists have generally assumed that the fielder accomplishes it by visual means. By watching the flight of the ball, he somehow solves the trigonometric problem that allows him and the ball to arrive at the same spot at the same time. But now it turns out, according to the current issue of Scientific American, that those scientists may be wrong.
The magazine takes note of a study by physicist Peter Brancazio of Brooklyn College that found that air resistance commonly distorts a fly ball's trajectory so as to make it impossible for a fielder to determine how fast and in which direction to move simply by watching the ball's flight. When Brancazio studied how people ascertained the position in space of a moving object, he observed that they moved their heads as well as their eyes in following it. This gave him his answer. The key factor, he concluded, was not visual information but signals from inner-ear sensors set off by movements of the head. In other words, says Brancazio, "We may actually be judging fly balls by ear."
So now coaches can holler at rookie outfielders, "Keep your ear on the ball, kid."
PINE VALLEY YES, OLYMPUS NO
Last May, ABC-TV executives announced with appropriate fanfare that the network intended to carry 207½ hours of programming on the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. That would have been by far the most extensive Olympics coverage ever. The Games would have been on from 10:30 a.m. until 2 a.m. EST each broadcasting day, save for a 90-minute breather from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for the news and a similar half-hour respite from midnight to 12:30.
ABC has now decided to cut back its schedule by about 10%. During the first five weekdays, July 30 to Aug. 3, the games will be off the air from 2 to 4 p.m. EST. During the next five weekdays, Aug. 6 to 10, they will disappear from 1 to 3. Was concern about possible overexposure of the Olympics the cause of the cutback? Hardly. The reason was that indestructible American institution, the soap opera. ABC decided it had only one life to live during the daytime hours, and that if the soaps weren't shown, at least in abbreviated form, the network's daytime ratings would be in the general hospital. If that happened, all my children couldn't put those ratings together again. And nobody at ABC, let alone Ryan, would have much hope.
"We were concerned about audience defections [from the soap operas]," says John Lazarus, vice-president for sports sales. "It was done for the good of the corporation. Sports didn't object because we knew the importance of keeping continuity in the afternoon. Nobody wanted to lose female viewers because of a two-week hiatus."
As things now stand, ABC plans to show Olympic updates at the end of each soap and to cut into the programs if something of sufficient importance happens—say an American breaking a world record. ABC officials point out that the 187½ hours they now plan to show still will exceed the amount of air time devoted to any previous Olympics. But it seems to us there's an important sociological lesson here. The Olympics are the Olympics, but All My Children is All My Children. And in a relay race, Greg and Jenny will win every time.
FREE ENTERPRISE, NFL-STYLE
As expected, John Elway has let it be known that he doesn't want to play for either the Baltimore Colts or the Houston Oilers, which have the first two picks in next week's NFL draft, but would prefer joining a West Coast team or the Cowboys. Elway, who's also being courted by the USFL and the New York Yankees (SI, April 11), was merely spurning one prospective employer in favor of another, something that highly qualified job seekers ordinarily find it perfectly possible to do under the free-enterprise system. This is a fact evidently overlooked by General Manager Ladd Herzeg when he said of Elway's decision to rule out the Colts and Oilers, "It's a sad situation when someone can call the shots like that. If that's how John feels, let him go play baseball."
THEY SAID IT
•Ned Colletti, Chicago Cubs assistant public relations director, after the team's opening game against the Expos was rained out: "This fouls up our playoff rotation."
•John Montefusco, San Diego Padre pitcher, who has tried to change his brash image since marrying and having two children: "I hope they burn all the newspapers before my kids grow up. I wouldn't want them to know what a jerk I was."