That's quite a tug-of-war going on over the Olympic torch relay that will precede the Summer Games in Los Angeles. On one side are certain Greek politicians and residents of the Greek village of Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympics and the home of the Olympic flame, who are offended that the L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee has invited businesses and individuals to pay $3,000 a kilometer to sponsor the carrying of the torch across the U.S. to Los Angeles. They argue that the flame belongs to the ages and shouldn't be commercialized. On the other side is the LAOOC, which points out that money raised would be donated to youth organizations and denies that its sponsorship scheme commercializes the flame. That view is supported by the International Olympic Committee, which has approved the L.A. plan. Asserting that it "owns" the Olympic flame and that the Greeks are only the flame's "guardians," the IOC has warned that if the Greeks don't back off, the traditional torch-lighting ceremony will be moved from Olympia to IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.
It's hard to sympathize with anybody in this overblown but surprisingly emotional dispute. Contrary to what the Greeks imply, the torch relay doesn't go back to antiquity but was introduced for the 1936 Olympics. To be sure, a flame was used as part of the religious rituals connected with the ancient Games, and present-day Greeks appear to be sincere when they refer to it with some reverence. On the other hand, that doesn't prevent them from engaging in a bit of commercialization themselves. They promote Olympia as a tourist destination, and once there, visitors are welcome to stay at, yes, the Olympic Flame Hotel. Besides, there are indications that anti-American elements in Greece may be fanning the torch issue for the distinct political purpose of embarrassing the U.S.
For all that, the Greek complaints put the LAOOC and IOC in an awkward position. Worthy though the beneficiaries of the LAOOC sponsorship program appear to be, the fact is that the selling of the relay is, by definition, commercialization. And whatever the legalities, the IOC comes off as somewhat nervy in loftily dismissing the inhabitants of Olympia—the only people on earth who are Olympians all their lives—as merely the "guardians" of the flame. The IOC is certainly free to hold a torch-lighting ceremony in Lausanne, but in that case we'd no longer be talking about the Olympic flame. We'd be talking about the Lausanne flame, which somehow doesn't have the same ring.
February 27, 1984
THE NBA'S PAC-10 PIPELINE
A No. 16 ranking for Oregon State is the best the Pac-10 can do in SI's Top 20 this week, indicating that this proud conference has, for the moment anyway, slipped as much in basketball as it has in football (SI, Nov. 21, 1983). For a reminder of how strong Pac-10 hoops has been, consider the research that Harvey Pollack, the Philadelphia 76ers' demon statistician, has done at SI's behest into the question of which colleges have the most alumni starting in the NBA. On the day that Pollack looked into the matter, the Pac-10 had 18 players in NBA starting lineups, while the ACC and Big Ten were tied for second with 15 each; the Southeastern Conference was a distant fourth with eight starters.
The school that had produced the most current NBA starters was UCLA with six (Marques Johnson, Milwaukee; David Greenwood, Chicago; Mark Eaton, Utah; Kiki Vandeweghe, Denver; and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes, both Los Angeles), followed by North Carolina, Notre Dame and Indiana with four each. (Maryland had six alums starting in the NBA at one point this season, but three of them were merely filling in for injured regulars.)
Besides UCLA, other Pac-10 schools with NBA starters were Oregon State and Arizona State (three each), Washington and USC (two each) and Washington State and Oregon (one each). Sixty-five different colleges in 32 states were represented in NBA starting lineups, with schools in California and Indiana leading the way with 11 starters each and those in North Carolina with 10. Twenty-one of the NBA's 115 starters were products of independents such as Notre Dame, DePaul and Marquette.
Aren't you glad you asked?
For 47 minutes last week a three-member Massachusetts Appeals Court panel listened to lawyers' arguments during the latest hearing in the battle for control of the Red Sox between a faction headed by Buddy LeRoux and another led by Jean Yawkey and Haywood Sullivan. Then, as the court prepared to adjourn, one of the judges, John Greaney, offered these parting words: "It may take into the baseball season before a decision is rendered, so I leave you with this thought. I urge all of the disputing parties in the meantime to at least get together to do something about the pitching."
The minor league Continental Basketball Association is doing a bit of foot shuffling over a deal it struck in December with Pro-Specs, an upstart line of basketball shoes manufactured by New Specs Inc. of Avon, Mass. Anxious to establish a toehold in the athletic-shoe market, Pro-Specs agreed to give the CBA $60,000 and 900 pairs of shoes. In return, the CBA put a clause in its standard player's contract specifying that CBAers must wear Pro-Specs. For doing so, a player would receive all of $50. The contract further held that if a member of a CBA team was called up to the NBA, he would continue to wear Pro-Specs for the rest of that season for no additional compensation, and that Pro-Specs would have the first option on signing him to an exclusive shoe contract for the next season. The fee then would be $3,000, still considerably less than the amount NBA players usually get for shoe contracts.
No sooner was the deal concluded than grumblings were heard from players and coaches who felt that Pro-Specs were of poorer quality than some other shoes on the market. Besides, some of the naysayers asked, what right did the CBA have to require its players to wear a particular shoe—and worse, to continue wearing it even after joining the NBA?
Asked about these complaints, the CBA's go-getting commissioner, Jim Drucker, replies that players could have struck the shoe clause from the standard contract. But Drucker admits they were never informed of that fact. "I assume people know they don't have to sign anything if they don't want to," he says. Apparently betraying doubts of his own about the clause's legality, Drucker recently visited locker rooms and had players additionally sign individual Pro-Spec contracts. But Drucker admits that he didn't inform the players that signing these new contracts was also optional. SI talked to officials of five CBA clubs, all of whom were still under the impression that league policy required players to wear Pro-Specs. It's no wonder they believed this to be the case. Earlier this season CBA refs banished to the locker room players who failed to wear Pro-Specs, and at least one team was fined because its players committed that sin. Although Drucker says refs are no longer making players change into Pro-Specs, team officials say they haven't been alerted to this change, either.
Pro-Specs officials appear to be embarrassed by any intimation that a player would have to be forced to wear their product. Trying to put the best possible face on Drucker's failure to inform players that they're free to use any shoes they wish, Pro-Specs senior vice-president Dick Meier says, "Communication is sometimes a problem in the CBA."
ALL IN THE FAMILY
How's this for coincidence? Arkansas beat unbeaten, top-ranked North Carolina in basketball (66-65 on Feb. 12) on the same weekend that Oklahoma State downed unbeaten, top-ranked Iowa in wrestling (24-6 two days earlier). It also happens that the masterminds who pulled off those big wins, Arkansas basketball coach Eddie Sutton and Oklahoma State wrestling coach Tom Chesbro, both attended Oklahoma State in the late '50s. It further happens that Sutton and Chesbro are brothers-in-law, having married Patsy and Shirley Wright, sisters who also went to Oklahoma State.
"I grew up in Stillwater, and Shirley and I were high school sweethearts," says Chesbro. "I wrestled at Oklahoma State, and Eddie was a forward on the basketball team. We were only there at the same time for two years and didn't meet until after he began dating Patsy."
One more coincidence: The Chesbros and the Suttons both have 15-year-old sons who are starring in their dads' sports. Sean Sutton is a high-scoring guard on an unbeaten junior high team in Fayetteville. Todd Chesbro wrestles in the 130-pound class and, though only a freshman, has a 27-1 record in varsity competition.
KALDOV THE GREAT
American TV viewers were numbed by the many strong performances turned in at the Winter Olympics by athletes from the Soviet Union. Or so The Providence Journal's Ed Duckworth concluded after one revealing incident. As Duckworth tells it, the phone rang in the sports department last Wednesday and he answered.
"Who won the men's downhill?" asked a voice at the other end.
"It was called off."
"O.K., who finished second and third?"
Duckworth, who swears the story is true, figures the caller simply assumed that the event had been won by a skier named Kaldov.
SEE YOU AT THE '85 GAMES
Displaying a lot of compassion if not much of a grasp of how the Olympics work, a disc jockey for a radio station in Westport, Conn. summed up the U.S. hockey team's disappointing showing at Sarajevo this way: "Oh, well, there's always next year."
HOLD THAT TIGER
The word out of Baton Rouge was that LSU had slapped a three-game suspension on the guy who cavorts on the sidelines as the school's Tiger mascot at basketball games. It seems that this rambunctious fellow, LSU senior Mark Jeffers, had been a naughty tabby during a 61-59 overtime defeat of Tennessee on Feb. 6. During a time-out he had gotten into a shoving match with a Tennessee player after encroaching a bit too closely on the Vols' bench. After the incident was reported in a Knoxville paper, LSU, in what appeared to be a conciliatory gesture toward Tennessee, suspended Jeffers for games at Ole Miss, Alabama and Mississippi State. But that was before Jeffers let the cat out of the bag. "It's just a formality," he said of the punishment. "They gave me a three-game suspension for the road trip I wouldn't have made anyway. But Tennessee doesn't know that." It does now, Mark.
THEY SAID IT
•Doug Dieken, Cleveland Browns offensive tackle, asked how he expects to be remembered after he retires: "Holding...No. 73."
•Daryl F. Gates, Los Angeles police chief, explaining why he doesn't think ticket scalping will be a problem at the Summer Olympics: "Tickets are too damned expensive in the first place."
•Lou Holtz, the new football coach at Minnesota, which was much scored upon last season: "Any time your defense gives up more points than the basketball team, you're in trouble."