THE PROPER WAY TO MIX SPORTS AND POLITICS IN '84
In early 1980, SI endorsed as "the right course" President Jimmy Carter's threat—one that the U.S. ultimately carried out in concert with 61 other countries—to boycott that year's Summer Olympics in Moscow unless the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from Afghanistan. Today, in the aftermath of the U.S.S.R.'s shooting down of a Korean airliner on Aug. 31, we believe that any action by the Reagan Administration to block the U.S.S.R. from participating in the '84 Games in Los Angeles, as urged in some quarters, would be the wrong course. Whatever may have been the virtues of the 1980 boycott—and now they must be regarded as having been dubious at best—present circumstances are dramatically different from those in '80:
•Whatever it may say about the character of the Soviet regime, the downing of the Korean plane, as horrific as it was, apparently wasn't, as in the case of Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, the result of a considered policy on the part of the Kremlin that the U.S. could hope to reverse with sports-related sanctions.
•Whereas Carter felt the need to further focus world attention on the situation in Afghanistan, full attention has already been riveted on the Korean airliner tragedy—and could actually be diverted by a controversial "lockout" of Soviet athletes.
•Although the '80 boycott was a flop in one sense—Soviet troops are still in Afghanistan—it did succeed in dampening the spirit of an Olympics that, Carter felt, the Soviet regime was hoping to use to "legitimatize" itself in the eyes of the world. There would be no similar advantage to be gained in barring the Soviets from L.A.
Disclaiming any interest in dragging the Olympics into the Korean-plane case, a White House spokesman last week told SI that "the Administration feels that sports should rise above politics." Alas, international sport is almost always intertwined with politics. The real point to be made is that barring the Soviets from L.A. would be bad politics. Such an action would violate commitments to the International Olympic Committee by the city of Los Angeles, the L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee and Presidents Carter and Reagan that athletes of all countries would be welcome to compete in L.A. The IOC would likely respond to a lockout of Soviet athletes by moving or calling off the Games. The U.S. would thus bear the onus of having wrecked a second straight Olympics.
Also worrisome is the possibility that Moscow might stay away from L.A. of its own volition—and influence its socialist-bloc allies to do the same. On the heels of the cancellation by seven U.S. universities of basketball games they were to have played against the Soviet national team next month (SCORECARD, Sept. 26), the U.S.S.R. last week called off a December tour of the U.S. by its national hockey team because of "serious fears" for its athletes' safety. It's not difficult to imagine the U.S.S.R. bowing out of L.A. for the same reason.
The hope is that Soviet athletes will compete in Los Angeles. The Soviets had warned well before the latest heightening of world tensions that they might stay away from L.A., but there had been signs that they actually intended to be there—if for no other reason than that they could expect to clean up in the competition. In August the Soviets agreed to pay $3 million for domestic TV rights to the Games, and they have also signed a joint communiqué with the LAOOC pledging to strengthen the Olympic movement and promote peaceful ideals through sport. The current state of U.S.-Soviet relations makes the pursuit of those goals seem more worthwhile than ever—and, in this case anyway, good politics as well.
TRAMPOLINE COURTESY OF RCA
Sausalito South Bar & Grill in Manhattan Beach, Calif. gives its patrons a special treat during Monday night NFL telecasts. When his team isn't one of the Monday contestants, Los Angeles Raider Defensive End Lyle Alzado is regularly on hand at Sausalito South to comment on the game and provide an insider's view of pro football. Here's one of Alzado's recent insights: "Let me tell you how the Raider defense works.... We're a very tight and intense unit. Like, for instance, [Linebacker] Matt Millen is probably our quietest player off the field, but the night before a game, he gets so wound up that he jumps off the television set in his hotel room into his bed because he thinks that will bring him good luck."
A FUTURE ON ICE?
After winning three Division II national hockey titles in five years and going 5-1 last season against Division I competition, the University of Lowell (Mass.) could no longer be ignored by the big guys. Or so it seemed in January when the Chiefs got the go-ahead to move into Division I starting with the 1983-84 season. The idea was that after one year as an independent, Lowell would become the 18th Division I hockey team in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Imagine Lowell's surprise when the ECAC promptly arranged to break into two separate conferences, neither of which wants any part of the Chiefs.
Nine of the ECAC's Division I schools—six Ivy League schools plus Vermont, RPI and Colgate—decided to split off and form a conference that will debut in the 1984-85 season. The ECAC's eight other Division I hockey-playing teams—Boston University, Boston College, Clarkson, St. Lawrence, Providence, Northeastern, New Hampshire and Maine—joined forces to establish what was immediately called the Super Eight, which also will begin play in 1984-85. With 17 of the 18 ECAC Division I schools thus aligned in new conference groupings, BU Athletic Director John Simpson says blithely, "It would appear right now that Lowell doesn't have a place."
The ostracism of Lowell means that the Chiefs will have to scratch for games with Division I teams—probably mostly road games at that—and will have to play more Division II opponents than it would like. "It stinks," Lowell Coach Billy Riley says of the situation. "They [the Super Eight] are afraid that if Lowell is accepted in the league and wins, it will attract a lot of the prize recruits. They're afraid Lowell could become the Minnesota of the East."
Nonsense, says Simpson. He claims he and his Super Eight confreres simply decided that eight teams were more manageable than nine. "Maybe Lowell ought to apply to the other league," he says. But there really is no other league for the Chiefs. Lowell's high-powered hockey program reflects a philosophy the Ivies reject. Lowell recruits heavily, the Ivies don't; the Ivies hold their schedules to 26 games, Lowell plays more than 30 games. The Chiefs' program is more in line with that of the Super Eight members. "They know what's going on," says Riley. "They know where we belong." Last season, in fact, Lowell beat New Hampshire (twice, in exhibitions), BC (10-0 in an exhibition) and Providence (then ranked No. 2 in the country).
With no league to play in, Lowell will find it difficult to experience such glory again. The circumstances would seem to justify a Super Nine, but Simpson remains unmoved. "Compassion has nothing to do with this," he says.
As an ordained Baptist minister, Seattle Seahawk Tight End Charle Young is well acquainted with the Biblical passage about the necessity of turning the other cheek. So onlookers found it slightly surprising when, in the Seahawks' 34-31 victory over San Diego on Sept. 18, Young kicked Charger Linebacker Linden King during a fracas that resulted in both players being penalized for personal fouls.
Young's explanation: "In Ecclesiastes III, it says there is a time for everything. There's a time for war, there's a time for peace. There's a time not to fight and there's a time to fight, and that was definitely a time to fight. First of all, he slugged me. And I said, 'That's O.K., I'll let that go.' Then he kicked me, and I was going to let him get away with that. Then he gouged me in the eye. Then he kicked me again, and enough was enough."
COACH ON THE RUN
As Nevada-Reno Running Back Otto Kelly raced 89 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown and a momentary 22-21 lead over Fresno State on Sept. 17—Nevada-Reno ultimately lost 24-22—Wolf Pack Coach Chris Ault got a mite too caught up in the excitement and began running down the sideline alongside Kelly. When Ault reached the Fresno State 20, as he sheepishly explained it later, he realized that he risked being penalized for having strayed too far from the bench. His solution: He kept on running—past the end zone and up a ramp in Fresno State's Bulldog Stadium, where he was found hiding behind a vehicle by a fan, who asked, "Say, aren't you the coach for Reno?" Ault eventually made it back to the bench, and his team was penalized 15 yards on the subsequent kickoff because of his peregrinations.
Folks in Fresno are still marveling about the presence of mind that Ault exhibited after the fan espied him crouching behind the vehicle. "I'm just looking for a hot dog stand," he breezily explained.
BUTLER REIGNS SUPREME
After Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana lost their Sept. 17 football games by a combined total of 61 points—to Michigan State (28-23), Miami (35-0) and Kentucky (24-13), respectively—The Indianapolis News invited readers to name "the best college football team in Indiana." The winner of the poll was Butler University, a Division II school in Indianapolis that had beaten Wayne State 19-6 and Dayton 20-3 in its first two games but isn't exactly considered a big-time football power. Residents of the Hoosier State may find some comfort in the fact that college basketball practice starts on Oct. 15.
THEY SAID IT
•Gaylord Perry, Royals pitcher, 314-game career winner and reputed spitballer, on announcing his retirement at age 45: "The league will be a little drier now, folks."
•Terry Bradshaw, Steeler quarterback, asked at a sports luncheon if he was still involved in any way with estranged wife Jo Jo Starbuck: "Just financially."
•Frank Robinson, manager of the fifth-place Giants, when asked last week how he viewed the race in the National League West: "By looking up."
•Bo Jackson, Auburn running back, on his summer job as a bank teller: "The first day I was $8,000 short. Just a rookie mistake."
•Don Matthews, coach of the Canadian Football League's B.C. Lions, asked whether his team would try any quick kicks in an upcoming game in Vancouver's domed stadium: "Only when we have the air conditioning at our backs."
•Jim Hanifan, St. Louis Cardinal coach, inviting reporters to serve as tackling dummies for his football team, which lost its first three games: "It could give you some extra pay, and you've got a good chance of not getting hit."