THE CHIMES OF FREEDOM
As expected, the Supreme Court ruling last June that ended NCAA control of college football telecasts has led to confusion and oversaturation, along with lower ratings and, with few exceptions, lower revenues. But Dr. William Banowsky, president of the University of Oklahoma, co-plaintiff with the University of Georgia in the suit that upset the NCAA applecart, says, "I have no regrets."
Banowsky concedes that the ruling has meant tougher times for many schools, but, he says, "Freedom is always ragged. It's always more challenging than an absolutely controlled state. I can understand the nostalgia of those who yearn for a return to the closed market under the NCAA, but that's regrettable because the old system was blatantly illegal."
The dire early effects of the ruling will ease eventually, according to Banowsky. "There's been confusion in 1984, but that won't be the case in years to come. The unfortunate thing was the separation of football schools into two groups [the 63-member College Football Association and the union of the 20 Pac-10 and Big Ten schools]. The only winners in that competiton were the networks. In essence, they divided and conquered. But over time the free market will provide a more vital environment for football."
Banowsky claims the Sooners' television revenues for '84 will top last year's $1.2 million. The school has even hired the William Morris Agency, handler of show-biz personalities and other celebrities, to conduct its TV negotiations. "We're in the TV business now," says Banowsky. "When we get to the table with the network pros, we'll need the toughest and most experienced professionals in the country representing us."
A REGRETTABLE CHOICE
It's possible that there have been worse cheers in the history of American sport, but until we hear one, the booby prize goes to a chant used this year by the North Carolina women's soccer team. The Lady Tar Heels capped a 24-0-1 season by winning the NCAA championship on Nov. 18, but that marvelous victory was tarnished by the bizarre rallying cry, "Napalm! Napalm! Napalm!" repeated frequently by North Carolina players and fans during the tournament final in Chapel Hill.
Tar Heel sophomore striker April Heinrichs was responsible for the chant. Two weeks earlier she had seen Apocalypse Now! Francis Ford Coppola's film about the Vietnam war. She was especially enamored of a line delivered by Robert Duvall, who plays a megalomaniacal officer. Looking across a river at a burning village, Duvall smiles grimly and says, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." A banner echoing that sentiment appeared at Fetzer Field during the NCAA title game.
"We're as intense as a bomb," said Heinrichs. "We're gonna crush our opponents. We're gonna intimidate them until they want to leave the field. That's our bomb. And after we win, that's the smell of napalm."
"The players are just attempting to say they're intensely trying to win soccer games," said North Carolina athletic director John Swofford. "I'd prefer they express that in a little healthier way, but I don't think there's any negative intent."
Intentions aside, the Lady Tar Heel players aren't children—all of them, for example, were old enough to have voted in the recent presidential election, and they all met the entrance requirements of one of the country's most prestigious colleges. They should have known that the chant would have evoked painful memories for many Americans.
But if the players weren't mature enough to see their own insensitivity, their elders, specifically Swofford and coach Anson Dorrance, who gave explicit endorsement of the "Napalm!" cheer by having it printed on tournament schedules, should have pointed it out to them in no uncertain terms. The best that can be said is that the Lady Tar Heels won't be using the chant next year.
BENOIT BY A BOTTLE
Olympic marathon champ Joan Benoit ran through the streets of Manhattan two weeks ago holding a bottle of French wine by the neck. Late for a BYOB party? Hardly. Benoit, who is of French descent, was competing for the Maurice restaurant in New York's Parker Meridien Hotel in a race to see which U.S. eatery would be the first to serve this year's nouveau-est Beaujolais Nouveau. "It sounded like a fun thing to do," said the world's fleetest wine steward.
Not to mention trés chic. For you non-enologists, nouveaus are best when they're, well, new, which inspires all sorts of bizarre competitions. Race car drivers and hot-air balloonists have been speeding bottles of Beaujolais to French and English bistros since the 1930s. Even Oxford gets in on the act—every year carloads of students invade vineyards in Southern France on the eve of the wine's release and race to be the first to bring it back to the university.
Which brings us to Benoit, whose only recompense for her run was an expense-paid trip to New York from her home in Freeport, Maine. She won. Her bottle was the first uncorked on these shores. Here's the race recap. At midnight on Nov. 14, Anne-Marie Quaranta, France's first female Sommeli√®re of the Year—sort of the MVP of wine stewards—picked up the bottle from the Georges Duboeuf vineyards in Romaneche-Thornis and drove it to Orly Airport in Paris. There it was tucked away in the cockpit of an Air France Concorde. The plane landed at New York's JFK Airport at 8:30 a.m. At 9:10 the wine cleared customs and was whisked off in a Rolls-Royce to United Nations Plaza. There, Benoit was waiting.
She took the hand-off at approximately 9:35 a.m. and began her 22-block anchor leg. She had to contend with the city's usual midtown headaches—red lights, construction, taxis—but two off-duty cops who ran with Benoit looked the other way the few times she jay-ran.
Benoit's time: 15 minutes for roughly a mile and a half. That's almost five minutes off her Olympic marathon pace, not that she even tried to come close to those 5:20 mile splits. "It's still a personal best running with a bottle of wine," she said. More important, the Parker Meridien edged out the St. Regis-Sheraton Hotel by 45 minutes. The St. Regis airport limo got stuck in midtown traffic.
SURF 'N' TURF
If you were among those who watched the Boston College-Miami game last Friday (page 22), it's possible that, what with all the excitement of the game, you didn't notice the condition of the field. It rained in Miami on Friday, rained hard. Yet there was none of the wild skidding you so often see on wet artificial turf when a player going full speed falls or is knocked off his feet. Nor were there any of the gooey swamps so common to grass fields during a heavy downpour. The Orange Bowl field surface seemed to remain in almost perfect condition, from the opening kickoff all the way to Gerard Phelan's catch of Doug Flutie's miracle pass at the final gun.
Miami's secret is Prescription Athletic Turf, or PAT, developed in 1972 at Purdue (SI, July 22, 1974, et seq.). That same year the city of Miami, following the vogue, put in artificial turf. That surface turned out to be so unsatisfactory that in '76 the Orange Bowl dug it out and had PAT installed in its place. Lest you've forgotten, PAT is real grass, but it's more than just a matter of seed, fertilizer and water. Under the grass surface PAT has a complex subbasement, so to speak, of pipes woven through a base of sand. The pipes deliver water to the grass roots to keep the surface grass thick and strong, even under the pounding of a football game. They also drain away any extra water (as happened Friday), leaving the dirt base in which the grass grows relatively dry and stable.
PAT isn't cheap. Installing it costs at least $750,000, and the annual maintenance fee can run to more than $150,000. But with complaints, primarily from players, against artificial turf growing year by year, it's astonishing that more football and baseball fields aren't equipped with PAT.
HE'S NOT A CHIP OFF THE SPLENDID OLD SPLINTER
Ted Williams was a rotten baseball player. No, not that Ted Williams. The other Ted, the one pictured here.
Edward French (Ted) Williams, 38, of Grafton, Mass., whose baseball career fizzled out after junior high, isn't to be confused with Theodore Samuel (Ted) Williams, 66, formerly of the Boston Red Sox, who batted .406 in 1941 and is now in baseball's Hall of Fame. But he is confused with him, because Ted S. is known to be an avid fisherman and Ted F., a contributing editor of Gray's Sporting Journal, is a widely published fishing writer. When people read something on fishing by Ted Williams, all too often they think it's by baseball Ted. Even writer Ted's editors have made that mistake. When an article of his appeared in The Atlantic Salmon Journal, the contents entry said, "Writer and ballplayer, Ted exposes the folly of coho introduction." A story by John Rybovich in Boating referred to an Audubon magazine piece by writer Ted as having been done "by baseball-great/ sportsman Ted Williams" and was accompanied by a photo of baseball Ted posing with a tuna.
"I don't get upset by it," says writer Ted. "It happens all the time." When writer Ted was born, in 1946, baseball Ted was batting .342. Under the circumstances, the new father didn't want the boy to be called Ted, but his mother-in-law persuaded him that the ballplayer would be washed-up and forgotten by the time the youngster was five. So much for an in-law's advice.
Happily for the writer, the confusion works both ways. Once he received a splendid fishing rod from The Orvis Company, along with a letter asking for only an autograph in exchange. "That rod was beautiful," he says. "It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I sent it back. Orvis did send me some nice glasses, though."
Writer Ted has never met baseball Ted, although they've talked on the phone. "He told me he's taken heat for some of the stuff I've written," he says. And once, when baseball Ted was bonefishing in the Bahamas, his native guide kept raving about his articles in Gray's Sporting Journal.
"No, no," said the Splendid Splinter. "You've got me confused with the writer. I'm the baseball player."
"Oh," said the guide blankly, "I don't follow baseball."
THEY SAID IT
•Cedric Maxwell, Boston Celtics forward, asked if he'd heard of New York Knicks rookie forward Ken Bannister: "The only Bannister I ever knew was the Star-Spangled Bannister."
•Bud Selig, owner of the last-place Milwaukee Brewers, who said he hoped to have audiences with both the pope and the chief rabbi of Jerusalem during a vacation trip abroad: "After the kind of year we had, I've got to touch all the bases."