Shoppers startled last week by high prices in Sears stores weren't looking at merchandise but at a ticket-order brochure for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. The brochure, available at more than 3,300 Sears stores across the country, as well as at branches of sponsoring banks in Southern California and metropolitan New York, is a handsome 32-page catalogue of everything from the opening ceremonies on July 28 through the closing ceremonies on Aug. 12, from preliminary rounds in fencing and field hockey to finals in track and field and swimming. Ticket prices to each event are listed, along with ordering instructions.
Although tickets to the opening and closing ceremonies, which are considered separate events, cost $50, $100 and $200 each, the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee says that almost half of the 5.6 million tickets available to the public for the days in between cost $10 or less. However, a glance at the brochure reveals that most of the inexpensive tickets are for preliminaries or for low crowd-appeal sports like archery and team handball. Track and field tickets for the afternoon-evening sessions when most of the finals take place cost $25, $35 and $50 each—for each session. And there are eight days of track and field competition.
Swimming tickets are even steeper: $40, $60 and $95 apiece for each of the six final sessions. The various gymnastics finals are priced the same, as are the big games in basketball. In fact, the cheapest seat during the last five days of basketball competition (except for one morning of also-ran games) is $25. For quarterfinal bouts in boxing, seats go for $25, $35 and $60; that jumps to $40, $70 and $95 for the finals—and the finals are split into morning and evening sessions. If you want to see all the title bouts, you'll need tickets to both sessions.
Even some of the fringe sports have eye-opening prices. While the Los Angeles Dodgers charge only $2 to $6 a seat for their home games, tickets to Olympic baseball in Dodger Stadium—consisting of demonstration games between amateur teams—range from $5 to $20. Tennis, another demonstration sport, is limited to amateur players and professionals who have not yet reached their 21st birthdays (presumably to ensure fiduciary innocence), but will command $35 to $50 a seat for the finals.
But what the heck, give it a shot. Applications must be in Los Angeles by Aug. 15 of this year. Filling the orders will be a complex process, but, essentially, tickets to all but the most popular events will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. A form of lottery will decide who gets the most highly prized tickets. Full payment must accompany orders, including a 6% Olympic Games Ticket Distribution Tax and a $1 handling charge for each ticket ordered. Money will be refunded for orders not filled, except for the handling charge.
Those taken aback by the prices should note that in its introduction to the brochure the LAOOC says that corporate support of the Games "enables us to offer you tickets...at much lower prices than otherwise would have been possible."
Hey, you're getting a bargain.
AND NOW FOR THE FIRST DELIVERY
The Cincinnati Enquirer's entry in the city recreation commission's Sunday-morning softball league is called the Bad News Bearers.
TESTING THE COMPETITION'S WARES
Jack Nicklaus has used a MacGregor golf ball most of his career, and his loyalty to the brand is such that last year he bought the company that makes the ball, Atlanta-based MacGregor Inc. That's why eyebrows were raised on the Tour when Nicklaus played three tournaments this spring with the new Tour 384, a ball manufactured by archrival Titleist. Quite a few touring pros have switched to the 384, which is said to travel farther because of its aerodynamically designed pattern of 384 dimples—60 more dimples than the conventional pattern. But why did MacGregor's boss seemingly endorse a competing ball by using it on the circuit?
Nicklaus explains that MacGregor was about to introduce a new ball and that he wanted to check out the competition's ball for himself before giving the go-ahead to his company's new product. Nicklaus, who's not exactly an impartial witness on the subject, says that the 384 did indeed travel farther but "was too hot around the greens. I lost control of the ball. I didn't play well those three weeks [he finished ninth, 28th and 23rd]." At any rate, MacGregor introduced its new ball, called the Jack Nicklaus Muirfield, at last week's U.S. Open at Oakmont (page 28), and whatever the relative merits of the two balls otherwise, the Nicklaus Muirfield surpasses the 384 in at least one respect: It has 392 dimples.
WELL WORTH THE BOTHER
Commander Gerald Forsberg writes a slightly breathless column for The Swimming Times, a British publication, in which he chronicles the perils as well as the pleasures of long-distance swimming. Forsberg recently reported that one race was "9.3 miles across complex tidal system. Flat calm, mainly cloudy, water 57 degs F. Exceptionally low tide at start—competitors had to run 150 yards before getting to swim depth." On another event: "Thunder and lightning and torrential rain. A year's supply of heavy hailstones in 15 minutes—agonising on bald heads without swim caps." Through it all, Forsberg conveys the impression that the indignities that long-distance swimmers sometimes must endure are well worth it. Of another race, he wrote: "Presumably they also invited every jellyfish on the South Coast to come and enliven the big occasion. Little wonder the times were so fast!"
When George Steinbrenner, during the latest Yankee upheaval, fired Pitching Coach Art Fowler last Friday, Manager Billy Martin was separated from his longtime friend, confidant and right-hand man. Some observers were surprised that Martin hadn't quit after the dismissal of Fowler, who had been with him for 14 years, following faithfully along as Billy went from Minnesota to Detroit to Texas to the Yanks to Oakland and finally back to New York. At the start of the season Martin said of Fowler, "A billionaire couldn't get him away from me," meaning presumably that he and Art would stick together through thick and thin. While nobody has ever called Steinbrenner a billionaire, it's at least possible that the $1.25 million contract Martin has has influenced Billy's thinking. At any rate: So long, Art.
Last week, after a two-year investigation involving 80 federal and state wildlife agents, about 50 individuals were charged with killing or trafficking in bald and golden eagles, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Federal officials said that some 300 birds hid been killed in the last three years to supply raw materials for a "lucrative black market in Native American artifacts." A warbonnet of eagle feathers can bring as much as $5,000; a single eagle can be worth $1,000 to its killers.
Interior Secretary James Watt flew to Sioux Falls, S. Dak. to announce the crackdown. Standing behind a table covered with eagle carcasses, he called the killing of the bald eagle, the national symbol, "revolting and repulsive." Praising Operation Eagle, as the investigation had been dubbed, he said, "Protecting the national bird was worth the cost."
The acts that Watt decried are indeed reprehensible and the crackdown is to be applauded, but if the secretary is now convinced that Operation Eagle's funds were well spent, he didn't always feel that way. During his first two years in office, he cut the budget for enforcement of the Endangered Species Act by $987,000 each year—nearly 45% of the law-enforcement field budget. Each time Congress reinstated the funds. Again this year he tried to cut the same $987,000. but Congress, with far less fanfare than attended the doings in Sioux Falls, is once more in the process of putting the money back in the budget.
"If Watt's budget cuts had gone through each year," says Amos Eno, Director of Wildlife Programs of the Audubon Society, "it is unlikely that Operation Eagle could have succeeded."
Oh, these emotional athletes. You may recall the incident (SCORECARD, June 13) in which a Michigan Panther, after intercepting a pass near his own goal line with the score tied in the last minute of regulation play, almost lost the game then and there when he triumphantly—and prematurely—spiked the ball.
Now the danger of letting it all hang out has been brought home again by another athlete in a markedly different sport—bowling—in which spiking is definitely a no-no.
Don Genalo, apparently near victory in a PBA tournament final, rolled the first ball of his last frame and was disheartened to find himself left with a 4-6-7-9-10 "Greek church" split. Thinking he had blown the match, the dejected Genalo half-heartedly tossed his last ball and it landed in the gutter. And then he discovered that he had needed to knock down only three of the five pins left standing in the split to salvage victory. Instead, he lost 214-212.
INTERESTING, VERY INTERESTING
Last week the tale of Shergar, the Irish racehorse kidnapped in February from the Aga Khan's stud farm at Ballymany in Ireland, took another twist. Lloyds of London announced that its underwriters were going to pay the theft insurance—a reported $10.6 million—to 20 of the 34 members of the ownership syndicate who were so covered. Not life insurance, understand, although the Irish police have given up their massive search for Shergar because they believe the 5-year-old stallion is dead.
According to reports, a Lloyds spokesman said last week that the underwriters, on the advice of their lawyers, were paying the theft claim "despite areas of possible doubt." Syndicate members insured only against the death of the horse would still have to press their claims. The stories about the insurance payoff created something of a sensation because Lloyds reportedly disclosed that until a month ago it had had "communications from people purporting to be the kidnappers" through a third party, and that the decision to pay the insurance was made after no further word, "directly or indirectly with whoever may have been responsible for the kidnapping," was forthcoming.
That there had been any contact with the kidnappers came as quite a surprise to police and syndicate members who had been trying in vain for the past several months to communicate with them. Had the kidnappers really been talking, however indirectly, with the underwriters? And if so, why?
The next day Lloyds "categorically" denied that it had been in touch with the kidnappers, but like the masters of intrigue in novels of suspense, it refused to divulge anything more.
THE GRIDDER AND THE SWIMMER
There have been a couple of big milestones in John Elway's life of late. One of them was academic. He received his bachelor of arts degree in economics from Stanford, becoming one of the few No. 1 picks in the NFL draft in recent years to graduate on time with his class. The other milestone was romantic. A couple of days earlier Elway became engaged to Stanford classmate Janet Buchan. The two have been dating since they were freshmen—"It seems like 100 years," Buchan says—and plan to marry soon after Elway completes his rookie season with the Denver Broncos, who acquired him in a trade on May 2 after he refused to sign with the Baltimore Colts, the NFL team that had drafted him.
Until shoulder ailments forced her to retire during her sophomore season at Stanford, Buchan was a swimmer of some note. In 1978, when she was still a high school junior in Tacoma, Wash., she set an American record of 4:52.95 for the 400-meter individual medley in a 25-meter pool. The next year, just as she Was about to enter Stanford, she set a World University Games record in the 400 IM, this time in a 50-meter pool, of 5:06.65. In her freshman year, she was high-point scorer for champion Stanford at the 1980 AIAW meet; she won the 400-yard IM and placed in four other events.
After Elway signed with the Broncos, a writer for The Denver Post quoted him as saying that Buchan had once held a "world record." Since she has held American and World Games records but no world marks, somebody obviously didn't have things quite right, but Buchan isn't one to cast blame. Absolving the writer, she says, "When people hear I had a World Games record, they just hear the word 'world' and think it was a world record." As for the possibility that the one responsible for the error could have been her husband-to-be, she's lovingly unconcerned. "You've got to realize that even I have a hard time remembering dates, times and records," she says, adding, "John has always been very interested in my swimming."
THEIR EXPERIENCE IS AGELESS
For half a century a private organization in Great Britain called the Company of Veteran Motorists has dedicated itself to promoting driving etiquette and road safety. But now, according to The Times, the group's leadership, concerned that the word "veteran" in its title connotes "old" rather than the intended meaning of "sagacious," has changed its name, thereby striking a blow for semantic clarity. The organization will henceforth be known as the Guild of Experienced Motorists.
THEY SAID IT
•Harold Katz, Philadelphia 76ers owner, on meeting President Reagan during a visit by the defense-minded NBA champions to the White House: "They tell me you're very strong on defense, so maybe you'd fit in with our team."
•Skip Caray, Atlanta sportscaster, explaining his negative attitude toward both horse racing and dog racing: "It's always been my philosophy that any sport where you can't interview the winner is not for me."
•John Robertson, The Toronto Sun baseball writer, on the straight-arrow image of the Blue Jays: "This is the cleanest-cut bunch of ballplayers I've ever seen, even in Little League."