All but forgotten in the greater contretemps of the Soviet withdrawal from the Los Angeles Olympics is the semantic nicety insisted upon by Marat Gramov, chairman of the U.S.S.R.'s National Olympic Committee, who said the Soviets weren't boycotting the Games. "We never use the word 'boycott,' " he said, "and we will never use it."
Gramov's dogmatic statement is interesting because the Russian "boikot" has the same meaning as its English counterpart. The Russians even borrowed the word from the English, or, more accurately, the Irish, since it came into being in Ireland around 1880 when protesting tenants in County Mayo refused to have anything more to do with Charles Boycott, agent for an offending landlord, the Earl of Erne. "To abstain from dealing with as a means of protest" is well within the word's definition in both English and Russian, according to sports editor Georg Meyers of The Seattle Times, and Gramov should be familiar with Soviet sporting behavior during the past couple of decades:
1966: Soviets "cancel" dual track meet with the U.S.
1967: Soviets "refuse to show up for" World Cup soccer eliminations in Chile.
1976: Soviets "turn their back on" Chess Olympiad in Israel.
1978: Soviets "snub" World Shooting Championships in South Korea.
1979: Soviets "do not participate in" World Women's Basketball Championship in South Korea.
You sure there's not a boikot in there somewhere, Marat?
Bobby Knight, head coach of the U.S. Olympic basketball team, has cut 56 of the original 72 players invited to try out for the team, but he attracted more critical attention for dropping one player, Charles Barkley, than he did for all the 55 others. Barkley, an Auburn junior headed for the NBA this fall, had been one of the stars of the group when it assembled a month ago.
Yet Barkley himself expresses no resentment toward Knight. "I just didn't play well," he told SI's Armen Keteyian. "Coach Knight told me it wasn't the fact that I didn't play good, it was that other guys were more what they were looking for. I didn't play defense. I'm not used to playing out on the floor. Coach wanted me to take the jump shot, and I kept trying to post up. It was hard to try to change my game in such a short time. I'm disappointed, but I'm not shocked. I just didn't play well."
Asked if he felt that Knight had been fair to him, Barkley said, "I think he was very fair. I have more respect now for coach Knight than when I got here."
BYRON JUTOVSKY'S OPINION
We don't mean to be spoilsports, but one of Los Angeles Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda's favorite comedy routines may have a flawed premise. The subject of this bit of business is the seemingly onesided 1974 minor league trade in which the Dodgers sent reliever Bruce Ellingsen to Cleveland for Pedro Guerrero, then an 18-year-old outfielder. Ellingsen lasted just half a season with the Indians and was out of baseball by 1976, while Guerrero is a two-time All-Star and, at least until suffering a slump this season, the Dodgers' batting star. Nevertheless, Lasorda likes to keep listeners off balance by questioning whether Guerrero really is more valuable than Ellingsen, "Ask Byron Jutovsky who he likes better, Guerrero or Ellingsen," he deadpans.
Byron Jutovsky? He's head of a Los Angeles liquor wholesale firm that employs Ellingsen as its sales manager, and since he's more interested in selling his company's wares than in winning baseball games, he does indeed prefer Ellingsen over Guerrero. But Lasorda seems to have forgotten something. During the off-season, Guerrero makes commercials in his native Dominican Republic for Presidente beer, so he may hold his own with Ellingsen even when it comes to selling alcoholic beverages.
BLOCK THAT PUN
Steve Kornacki of the Ann Arbor (Mich.) News looks forward to the day when Louis Lipps, a wide receiver from Southern Mississippi who was picked in the first round of this year's NFL draft by the Steelers, gets free and scores a game-winning touchdown to beat Jackie Shipp, an Oklahoma linebacker who was a first-round selection of the Dolphins. Then, says Kornacki, newspapers around the country can run the headline LOOSE LIPPS SINKS SHIPP.
It's kind of fun to note a fiduciary maneuver that occurred the other day in that most amateur of American college sports, rugby. Rugby isn't an NCAA sport, and teams representing various colleges are club teams, informal associations of interested athletes. There is a national championship; this year's was held early in May at Monterey, Calif., with the final four consisting of Colorado, Long Beach State, Miami University (Ohio) and Harvard. Yes, Harvard. And Harvard won, by gosh, reminding old (well, very old) Crimson alumni of the Can tabs' glory days on the football gridiron back in the early decades of the century.
But the money, yes. It seems that after the Harvards won the Eastern playoffs at Cambridge, Mass., they realized they needed about $10,000 to cover the expenses of the trip to Monterey, and they didn't have the cash. And there were no funds in Harvard's athletic budget for the unofficial rugby team. No problem. At a less sophisticated school, the $10,000 might have been raised by raffles, rallies, contributions, cake sales and so on. Not at Harvard. Club leaders—probably future kings of Wall Street—merely borrowed the 10 thou from the university, with team members signing personal notes for amounts up to $2,000. Simple matter of finance, old boy.
FITTING TROPHIES FROM A PIONEER MARATHONER
After they finished one-two-three in the Women's Olympic Marathon Trial and qualified for the first women's Olympic marathon (SI, May 21), Joan Benoit, Julie Brown and Julie Isphording were each presented with a 12-inch bronze figurine of a woman running, an award of special significance to women marathoners because it was sculpted by Roberta Gibb. In 1966 Gibb, now 41 and a Rockport, Mass. lawyer, became the first woman to run in, and to complete, the Boston Marathon—six years before women were officially allowed in the race.
She had begun distance running in 1960, when she was a 17-year-old Massachusetts schoolgirl in love with a Tufts cross-country runner named Bill Bingay, whom she later married (they have since divorced). "I didn't want anyone to see me run," she says now, "so we ran in the woods. It made me feel wild...free." There were no women's running shoes on the market then, so she wore white-leather Red Cross nurses' shoes. In the summer of 1965, after running 40 miles one day and 25 the next, chasing after a three-day, 100-mile equestrian event in Vermont, Gibb decided she would tackle Boston. She had been studying sculpture in Boston but was in California the following winter about to begin classes in philosophy, math and pre-med at the University of California in San Diego when she mailed in her entry application. It was returned with a note saying that women were not only ineligible for the marathon, but that they were also physiologically incapable of running the distance.
"I decided then I had to run," Gibb says, "with or without an official number."
She hopped on a bus and spent four days crossing the country, reading essays by Albert Einstein and subsisting mostly on apples. Eighteen hours after arriving in Boston she was crouched behind a bush near the starting line, wearing a new pair of boys' size-6 Adidas shoes, cutoff khakis over a tank-style bathing suit and a hooded sweat shirt.
When the gun went off she jumped into the stream of competitors and ran a respectable 3:21.25, without incident—although race official Jock Semple referred to her irritably as "that Gibb woman." A year later Semple ran onto the course to tear the number off the back of another woman runner, Kathy Switzer, who had gained entry (and the number) by giving her name as "K. Switzer." The widely publicized incident made Switzer famous. Gibb, meanwhile, was running her second Boston without fanfare—or number—and finished 59 minutes ahead of Switzer. She ran Boston once again, in 1968, and then gave up the California-Boston commute for solitary runs along the Pacific beaches.
In 1974 Gibb returned to Boston, went to the New England School of Law and eventually settled in Rockport, where she lives in a 210-year-old house with her mother, her 8-year-old son, Leif, and two goats. She runs 50 miles a week and is on the advisory board of the Club of Rome, an international body concerned with problems related to the world's growing population. Her law office is in her home—her practice is mainly property and environmental law—and she sculpts there, too, although in summer she uses a small cabin she built herself.
When reporter Lisa Twyman visited her this spring, Gibb was finishing the clay model from which the bronze figures were cast. "There is clay under her fingernails," Twyman writes, "classical music on the radio, the smell of nutmeg coming from the kitchen. She is 41, but only a few lines around her steel-blue eyes give this away. Her hair is a tousled mane of streaked blonde, and she usually wears sweat pants and a bulky sweater. Her home is a comfortably cluttered place with yellow legal pads lying amid books, road-weary running shoes, busts of Einstein and Jimmy Carter that she did and the nearly completed clay figure of the woman runner.
"The classical music stops. The disc jockey says he's going to lunch, and the station transmits only dead air. 'Rockport is full of eccentrics,' Gibb says, her smile indicating that she includes herself among them.
"She turns her attention again to the clay figure. She modeled it partly after New Zealand marathoner Allison Roe, whose running form Gibb considers nearly perfect. But the figure has something in common with its creator, too: It seems to be having fun. One imagines Roberta Gibb running through the woods, wild and free."
THEY SAID IT
•Don Smith, Atlanta Falcons defensive end, on the expected return of fellow defensive end Jeff Yeates for a 13th NFL season: "The thing that's kept Jeff around is his longevity."
•Dan Quisenberry, Kansas City Royals relief pitcher, on what the recently inept Royals have to do to win: "Our fielders have to catch a lot of balls—or at least deflect them to someone who can."
•Brent Ziegler, Syracuse fullback, hearing that he was the 265th pick in the NFL draft: "I think they drafted in alphabetical order."
•Bob Henko, Tampa Bay Buccaneer reserve quarterback, lampooning the playboy image of former University of Florida teammate Cris Collinsworth, now with the Cincinnati Bengals: "We call him Don Juan. The girls Don Juan him."
•Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles Kings center, who's still going strong after 13 NHL seasons: "I think I understand why I've been able to maintain my scoring pace while guys like Guy Lafleur have tailed off. I always get an extra two months of rest because we never make the playoffs."
•Bill Russell, discussing onetime Boston Celtics teammate Gene Conley, who also pitched for the Boston Red Sox: "After the season with the Celtics, he said he couldn't pitch for the Red Sox for four weeks because it took him that long to get out of shape."