LEARNING TO BE LIKE HUCK FINN
The psychiatric institution in which suspended Baltimore Colt Quarterback Art Schlichter is being treated for compulsive gambling. South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, N.Y., was founded in 1882 but didn't begin dealing with people who suffer from Schlichter's affliction until a year ago. It wasn't until 1980, in fact, that the American Psychiatric Association classified compulsive gambling as a mental disorder. Despite this belated recognition, there's no question among authorities today that pathological gambling is both a serious illness and a major social problem.
The psychiatrist responsible for referring Schlichter to South Oaks, Dr. Robert L. Custer, chief of treatment services and mental health for the Veterans Administration in Washington, D.C., is a pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of compulsive gambling. Custer's research indicates that most problem gamblers become involved in betting before the age of 21, that they may have initial gambling successes that give them an almost magical sense of omnipotence and that the condition is more common among men than women. In past statements on the subject, Custer has provided a composite description of compulsive gamblers that sounds strikingly similar to a profile of Schlichter.
Noting that many of his patients were "highly competitive, bright, energetic guys" who nevertheless had low self-esteem, Custer said that they were inclined to use gambling "to show off." Once they began losing, "they tried to chase that money, and eventually they reached the point where they needed financial assistance to get them out of a situation that would ruin their reputations or cost them their jobs or their freedom. We found that once somebody paid off the bill for them, then they were really hooked, and they would start gambling even more heavily, because that was like having another big win."
June 5, 1983
Custer said that putting down bets gave compulsive gamblers the same rush drug addicts might receive from a stimulant, a tranquilizer and a pain-killer rolled into one, adding, "Nobody's invented a drug that effective." Underscoring the similarities between the two types of addiction, Custer and other authorities say that compulsive gamblers are subject to withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by drug addicts, including sweating, nausea and the "shakes." The experts further say that the two addictions are often difficult to tell apart and that some people suffer from both.
South Oaks is a 280-bed facility with long experience in treating alcoholics and drug addicts. The privately owned hospital, which charges patients $310 a day plus doctors' fees that run another $40 or so, occupies a cluster of white-brick buildings on attractive, well-shaded grounds on Long Island. The hospital has admitted its share of celebrities (among them: entertainer Donald O'Connor, who was treated for alcoholism), and Robert Cahill, director of patient services, says that the staff goes to considerable lengths to treat them like anybody else. "We try to separate their celebrity status," Cahill told SI's Brooks Clark last week. "Some of them can try to use that status to resist treatment."
Patients in South Oaks' compulsive gambling program typically spend four weeks or more in the hospital, after which they undergo out-patient treatment and attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings. Upon admission they quit gambling cold turkey, receive medication if necessary—the doctors refer to these steps in the process as "detoxification," the same term used for drug or alcohol abusers—and go through an orientation regimen that includes films and lectures detailing the nature of their illness and dealing with such topics as "How to Sabotage your Treatment." They subsequently undergo group and individual therapy and are encouraged to maintain a log in which they discuss their illness.
South Oaks' patients aren't allowed to play cards, which the doctors consider to be a gambling "tool," and they can watch television only in a central room, from 9 to 11 p.m. Thus, while Schlichter may have caught some of the NBA playoffs, he presumably missed the Preakness. Patients are allowed to make calls from a public phone, and Dr. Richard Zoppa, the medical director of the compulsive gambling program, concedes that they could call bookies. "They might then come to us and say, 'I had a slip,' " Zoppa says. "We'll say, 'Let's talk about it, what happened?' " The hospital tries to provide patients with neither too little activity nor too much. "Gamblers get bored easily," says Zoppa. "They need to be constantly stimulated. But we don't like to keep them too busy because that's what they do [with their gambling]. We want them to learn a little boredom, because that's real life. They have to relax. They have to learn to be like Huck Finn and watch the river flow by."
THE VARSITY DRAG
The NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee has decided to reduce the number of time-outs each team can take during televised games from five to three. The purpose is to speed up play at the end of games. Coaches tend to hoard their allotted time-outs for the final moments of play, and because extra official time-outs are allocated for commercials, the action at the end of televised games can be painfully drawn out.
In another rule change, one affecting all games, whether on TV or not, the committee directed that teams in the bonus situation during the last two minutes of regulation time and overtime be automatically awarded two free throws. That junks the current arrangement of one-and-one on ordinary fouls and two shots only on intentional fouls. The idea is to spare officials from having to make difficult distinctions between intentional and unintentional fouls. But another purpose is to discourage fouling, which might also speed things up.
In the case of TV games, SI's Kansas City correspondent, Ted O'Leary, provides evidence that speeding up is indeed necessary. O'Leary put the stopwatch to a number of TV games last season and found that it took 24 minutes to play the last 2:23 of Notre Dame-DePaul on Feb. 26, 12 minutes for the last 1:27 of Virginia-Boston College in the NCAAs on March 24 and 14 minutes for the last 1:56 of the Kentucky-Indiana NCAA game on the same day. Three other games produced similar results, and even the most exciting ones tended to turn into a drag at the end. College basketball statisticians reckon that, as a rule, it takes roughly 40 minutes to play a 20-minute half—or two minutes for every minute of action. The fact that, in the waning moments, this ratio soars to 10 to one or even more is a strong argument for the latest rules revisions.
THE BILLERICA MASSACRE
We'd be remiss in letting the hockey season melt away without speculating about what recent events in Billerica, Mass. imply about the rivalry between the two leading U.S. hotbeds of the sport, Minnesota and Massachusetts. For years Minnesota has been thought to have it all over Massachusetts in the production of hockey talent, an edge generally attributed to colder winters (which facilitate outdoor play), more rinks (ditto indoor play) and the stimulative effects of Minnesota's hotly contested high school tournament (SI, March 7). Further proof of Minnesota's supposed dominance was the fact that the triumphant 1980 U.S. Olympic team had a disproportionate number of players from that state and that in last year's NHL draft, 25 high school players from Minnesota were taken, compared with only seven from Massachusetts.
But Minnesota's presumed superiority has been cast in doubt by a three-game series in Billerica in which a high school all-star team from the state was wiped out by one from Massachusetts by scores of 14-3, 6-2 and 8-0. In defense of Minnesota hockey, it should be noted that the home team had practiced together four times, with the emphasis very much on teamwork, while the Minnesotans skated together just once, partly because their coach, Jim Knapp, viewed the series as "a showcase for our individual players and less as a team thing." Also, Minnesota high school athletic rules prohibited non-seniors and participants in spring sports from playing in the game. The Massachusetts team labored under no such restrictions.
But nobody's taking anything away from the Massachusetts boys. Minnesota North Star Assistant General Manager John Mariucci, honorary coach of the Minnesota squad, points out that Massachusetts has been closing the gap with Minnesota in many ways, and says, "A lack of facilities hurt New England, but now the region has the facilities, talent and the interest." Hartford Whaler scout Dave McNab attributes the greater popularity of Minnesota players in last year's NHL draft to what he feels was an exceptionally good crop from that state and a flukishly thin one from Massachusetts. McNab predicts that in next week's draft there might be as many players drafted from Massachusetts as from Minnesota. He concludes, "Anyone who's been doing his homework knew there were great players in Massachusetts."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the civil rights activist who's thinking about running for President, last week became the first black since Reconstruction to address a joint session of the Alabama Legislature. In his well-received speech, Jackson repeatedly employed one of his favorite rhetorical devices. On unemployment: "We have put too much focus on the schoolyard and lost sight of the shipyard." On the need for blacks to exercise more political power: "We can go from the outhouse to the statehouse, from the courthouse to the White House." Pleading for reconciliation between the races: "It is time that we leave the battleground behind us and seek a common ground, then move on to higher ground." Calling for greater trust in God: "He will raise us from the guttermost to the uttermost" and "from disgrace to amazing grace."
Jeff Heath, an associate professor of linguistics at Harvard, told SI that the type of verbal association used by Jackson might be called, for want of a better term, "a semirhymed parallelism." The reason we're interested is that Jackson, who played football at North Carolina A&T, also fills his speeches with a great many sports references. Thus, he tells young blacks that they and the late Dr. Martin Luther King began life "in the same starting blocks." He also likes to speak of the lessons he learned in sports, to wit, "that if the least of my blockers doesn't do the job, I can't make it," that "the game played on Sunday is won, lost or tied on Thursday" and that "when the star player is hurt, you don't forfeit, you count on the laws of compensation and move on." Jackson also has at least one sports-related semirhymed parallelism in his declamatory arsenal. Maintaining that sports is one of the few areas in which blacks have an opportunity to succeed and that they're often exploited even there, he says that over the past century, "We've gone from carrying cotton-balls to carrying footballs."
A TOUGH ONE FOR JUDGE AGLIANO
Testimony continued last week in Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas, Calif. in a trial to determine whether the city of Oakland can force the Raiders to return from Los Angeles under the power of eminent domain. That power is normally used by governments to seize real property for use as roads, parks and the like, and Oakland's efforts to invoke it to bring back the Raiders met with resistance from the team, which argued that if the city can seize a privately held sports franchise, it might do the same with, say, Kaiser Aluminum Corp., one of its biggest employers. Judge Nat A. Agliano was expected to listen to two more weeks of testimony before reaching a verdict, but attorneys for the city and the team, David Self and Moses Lasky, respectively, had already quickly gotten to the nub of the dispute.
Noting that Oakland's citizens had developed "an intense attachment" to the Raiders, Self maintained that the hypothetical situation cited by the Raiders was absurd. "People do not dance in the streets when Kaiser Aluminum turns in a good quarter," he said. "People do not go into the Kaiser Building on alternate Sundays and watch Kaiser employees battle Alcoa employees."
This prompted Lasky to ask: "A person is to have his property taken away from him because people want to dance in the streets?"
Good luck, Your Honor.
LEGAL BLUES FOR THE NHL
There would have been no thought of such an eminent domain suit on Oakland's part, of course, if the Raiders hadn't first won a federal antitrust proceeding that allowed them to move to L.A. over the NFL's objections. The NFL lost that suit—and a resulting treble-damages judgment of $50 million—even though it could argue, accurately, that the Raiders had a rabid following in Oakland and had made tons of money there.
What, then, is one to make of the federal antitrust suit that Ralston Purina Company, which owns the St. Louis Blues, filed in U.S. District Court last week against the NHL, whose board of governors had rejected the proposed sale and relocation of the team to Saskatoon. Saskatchewan? By contrast with the Raiders' situation in Oakland, the Blues, according to Ralston Purina, have lost $19 million in the six years that the firm has owned the club. Thus, the Blues may have even more justification for wanting to move than the Raiders did.
Discussing Ralston Purina's lawsuit, NHL President John A. Ziegler Jr. noted that under NHL rules the Blues' relocation required approval of three-quarters of the league's 21-member board of governors but had received only three favorable votes. "I'm not aware of anything that suggests we've not acted in accordance with our rules and regulations," Ziegler said. Just as NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle had done in the Raiders' antitrust case, Ziegler appeared to have missed the point. The issue to be resolved by the lawsuit isn't whether the NHL violated its own rules but whether it breached a more compelling set of rules: those embodied in the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
THEY SAID IT
•John Tonelli, New York Islander left wing, who was arrested on a charge of driving while impaired the night the Islanders won the Stanley Cup, when asked what he and President Reagan talked about when the team visited the White House: "I asked him for a pardon."
•Buddy Bell, Texas third baseman, commenting on the Rangers' stronger-than-expected showing so far this season: "We're not so bad as people thought, although that's not saying much."