There's bad news on the fitness front. A study cosponsored by the AAU and Nabisco Brands Inc. has determined that of four million U.S. boys and girls aged six through 17 tested during the 1983-84 school year, only 36% met standards deemed achievable by the "average healthy youngster." That represents a decline from the 43% who met such standards from 1979 through 1982. Meanwhile, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey of students from the fifth through 12th grades indicates that body-fat measurements are "significantly higher" among today's youths than those in the 1960s. The study finds that only about half of today's young people are getting "appropriate physical activity."
The two studies bear out SI's conclusion in a Feb. 7, 1983 story that the so-called fitness boom tends to be an adult, upper-middle-class phenomenon that largely bypasses children and certain other segments of the population. Both reports blame cutbacks in school phys ed programs for the kids' sorry state. Citing data showing that the average 15-year-old girl can run a mile faster than the average 17-year-old girl, Dr. Wynn F. Up-dyke, an Indiana University phys ed professor who supervised the AAU-Nabisco study, said, "What this means is that Americans are entering their adult years with a declining fitness profile." James G. Ross, project director of the Health and Human Services study, enumerated some of the effects of financial cutbacks in the schools: "Fifty percent of pre-high school children have physical activity two days a week or less, the gyms are crowded, and it's difficult to keep young teachers on the payroll." Health and Human Services secretary Margaret Heckler bleakly summed up the situation by warning that U.S. schoolchildren "are not achieving the lifetime fitness skills required to promote good health."
NO RESPECT FOR THEIR ELDERS
Could this be an example of declining fitness profile?" There was Mountain Brook High School ranked third in USA Today's listing of Alabama's top 10 schoolgirl cross-country teams. And there was Mountain Brook Junior High ranked second. But no, talent appears to be as important as fitness here. Mountain Brook's junior high schoolers—seventh through ninth graders—are simply so much better than most 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders that high school coaches no longer invite them to their meets.
"We ran one meet this year against eight of the top 10 high schools in the state," says the junior high coach, Greg Echols. "We wound up second, four points behind the winning team. Our girls finished 1-2-3-19-23. The high school coaches don't want us running in the varsity division anymore. Their girls get a little frustrated at being beat by junior high girls."
The most accomplished of Echols's harriers is Loren Mooney, who won't turn 13 until Nov. 15. A 5'5½", 100-pound eighth-grader, Loren has run a hilly two-mile course in 12:15 and on the track is well under five minutes in the 1,500. "She's the best in the state [in cross-country] by 15 seconds," Echols says. "She's pretty tough." The team has two other prodigies, sisters Helen and Joy Bloom, a ninth- and an eighth-grader, respectively. All of which leaves folks at Mountain Brook High with mixed feelings. Although they don't relish being upstaged by the local junior high schoolers, there's comfort to be derived from the knowledge that Loren, Helen and Joy will wind up running at the senior high school soon enough.
A LONG DAY
After his team lost to Chattanooga (Tenn.) Central 35-34 in seven overtimes, the second-longest high school football game in history (the longest was Detroit Southeastern's eight-overtime 42-36 win over Detroit Northeastern in 1977), Knoxville West coach Bill Wilson tried to find a silver lining. Noting that the Rebels had a 1-9 record last season, Wilson said, "We're still losing, but it takes folks a hell of a lot longer to beat us." Alas, the silver lining had an unforeseen additional cloud. The game lasted so long—three hours and 19 minutes—that burglars had enough time to sneak into the West locker room and make off with money belonging to seven players.
TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE
An exchange overheard between two Manhattan media types on the subject of NBC-TV's plan to provide live nonstop coverage of the Breeders' Cup, a horse-racing extravaganza on Nov. 10 at Hollywood Park, in which $10 million in purses will be distributed over seven races:
"That'll only be about 14 minutes of actual racing. How can those guys possibly fill four hours of air time?"
"Easy. Super Duper Slo Mo."
It was Parents' Day at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and the Tiger football team was leading visiting Albion College 7-6 early in the fourth quarter. Despite the closeness of the score, some of the DePauw parents apparently were so confident that the home team would win—which, by the way, it did, 21-6—that they got up to leave. Taking offense, student announcer Dan Stevens asked the departing parents over the P.A., "Hey, where are you going? Wait a minute!" As the exodus continued, he added, "And you wonder why we bag classes!"
EXERCISES IN PROFLIGACY
Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire recently gave his Golden Fleece of the Month Award to the Defense Department for spending at least $100,000 in public funds, and maybe considerably more, to fly cadets and midshipmen to California for last year's Army-Navy football game. In announcing the award, which recognizes the "most wasteful, ridiculous or ironic use of the taxpayers' money," Proxmire noted that the decision to switch the 1983 game from Philadelphia to the Rose Bowl had been accompanied by promises that the cadets and midshipmen would be "moved, housed and fed at no cost to the government." But foul weather and other factors cut into attendance at the game and related fund-raising events, resulting in a $2.5 million deficit for the non-profit Pasadena civic organization that promoted the game. The Defense Department will probably have to absorb some of that debt. As for the service academies, each took in some $700,000 less than it had from Philadelphia in 1982.
In his press release on the award, however, Proxmire was guilty of some profligacy of his own in the overuse of that old favorite of politicians: the sports metaphor. Complaining that costs associated with the game "broke away and ran," Proxmire described the '83 Army-Navy game as a "financial fumble" and said that the service academies had "got their bell rung" and had been "sacked for this big loss." He also said, "As soon as I tackled this issue, it became clear that the Army and the Navy should be penalized for clipping the taxpayers. In addition to watching a handoff, they ended up paying for a handout."
After chewing awhile on all this—and being gluttons for punishment—we asked Proxmire if he had any other comments to make on the situation. The man's playbook runneth over. Last year's game, he replied, "has become the financial equivalent of a flea-flicker play which ends up in an interception."
Senator Proxmire might also be interested in certain expenditures related to the football rivalry between the Air Force Academy and Army. The two will play Saturday night at West Point, and according to sources who live in the vicinity. Air Force jet fighters and other craft traditionally buzz the hell out of Army the day before the annual showdown between those academies. One informant, whose house is on a hill overlooking West Point and the Hudson River, says he was once startled to look down on a huge bomber as it came roaring up the river straight at West Point. SI's Denver correspondent, Frank Haraway, queried the Air Force Academy about the buzzings and who paid for them, and after three days of don't-call-us-we'll-call-you sparring, he was treated to a verbal excursion into the wild blue yonder by Captain Doug Draper, the Air Force Academy's chief of community affairs.
"It's hard for me to believe Air Force planes have been seen and heard buzzing the Army campus on the week of the Air Force-Army game," Captain Draper said. "It's hard to believe that there would be Air Force airplanes. If there are some planes flying low over the West Point Academy they're either private pilots or somebody that's risking something like that. The Air Force doesn't look very lightly on people pulling practical jokes or pranks in expensive jet aircraft. It would be a very expensive mission. I don't know who would pay for it. Private pilots, or somebody like that? I don't know who'd do such a thing."
How many private pilots own bombers or jet fighters?
HUSTLING A NEW CUE
The pool player in the photograph is Glenn Reynolds, 40, a meat department manager in a Middletown, Ohio supermarket who has been racking 'em up "just for fun" since the age of 12. His cue, you'll observe, is just a mite unconventional. Reynolds calls it the Shot-Gun Cue, and he got the idea for it after shooting with an arthritic friend whose hand kept slipping down the shaft of his cue because he had trouble keeping his fingers together. Reynolds developed the bifurcated grip and was happy to discover that it improved his own control, too. Now all Reynolds needs to do is come up with somebody willing to put the prototype into production. A spokesman for Dufferin, Inc. of Skokie, Ill., one of the world's largest manufacturers of pool cues, said, "If there's a demand for it, we'll produce it." A spokesman for the Billiard Congress of America says that there are no rules governing the size or shape of cues, so the Shot-Gun is perfectly legal.
THEY SAID IT
•Don Maloney, New York Ranger forward, after his brother Dave was switched from defense to forward: "Up front, you don't have to think as much. That should help Dave."
•John Lowenstein, Baltimore Orioles outfielder and designated flake: "If you act like you know what you're doing, you can do anything you want—except maybe neurosurgery."
•James Maness, TCU wide receiver, after scoring a touchdown on an NCAA-record 99-yard pass reception: "This record is going to be hard to break."
•Marlon Ferguson, University of Pittsburgh basketball player, on what happened after he and teammates on a touring Big East All-Star squad came across a nude beach in Yugoslavia: "We sure did a lot of sightseeing."
•Pat Haden, CBS-TV college football commentator, late in Ohio State's 45-38 win over Illinois: "The defenses have played like the Stanford band."