AN ACT OF WAR AGAINST GREENPEACE
A small fleet rendezvoused in New Zealand last week preparing to sail for the South Pacific to protest French nuclear testing on the Polynesian atoll of Mururoa, southeast of Tahiti. The flagship was to be the Rainbow Warrior, a converted 160-foot trawler manned by members of the environmental group Greenpeace. But as the ship lay dockside in Auckland late Wednesday night, two explosions blew a gaping hole in its hull below the water-line. The Rainbow Warrior sank in four minutes. The ship's photographer. Fernando Pereira, 33, who was to accompany the fleet to Mururoa, drowned, apparently when he tried to reach his cameras after the first blast. Thirteen others on board got ashore safely.
Greenpeace is an international organization whose members serve as the seagoing commandos of the environmental movement. Called the "hippie navy" by detractors, it dispatches parties of volunteers in inflatable rafts from mother ships like the Rainbow Warrior to harass whalers, seal hunters and companies that dump toxic waste into rivers, lakes and oceans. Founded in 1971 by Canadians and now headquartered in England, Greenpeace has branches in 15 countries and operates on a $16 million budget, with funds coming mostly from small donations by concerned citizens in many lands.
Greenpeace's leader is David McTaggart, 54, a Canadian-born former building contractor who in 1972 sailed his 47-foot ketch, Vega, to Mururoa to prevent French testing of nuclear weapons. McTaggart penetrated a French naval cordon and delayed the tests until a French seagoing tug rammed his boat. In another protest there a year later French military personnel, he claims, beat him so severely with rubber billy clubs that he lost almost all sight in his right eye. The French eventually stopped testing in the atmosphere but continued underground explosions on Mururoa. Hence last week's planned sortie.
New Zealand prime minister David Lange, who opposes nuclear proliferation in the South Pacific, called the sabotage of the Rainbow Warrior "a major criminal act with terrorist overtones" and said he would consider sending a New Zealand naval vessel to Mururoa in place of the Rainbow Warrior.
TOWARD THE DEADLINE
On Monday the executive board of the Major League Players Association met in Chicago and voted to set a strike deadline of Aug. 6. For the second time in four years, baseball may come to a midseason halt. Both sides are pessimistic. Asked on Sunday about the odds of a strike, commissioner Peter Ueberroth said, "There's a fairly good chance."
Ueberroth also said, "A strike is a failure. They [the players] are not setting a strike date. They'll be setting a failure date." But whose failure, the players' or the owners'? The major issue this time around is the players' percentage of national television revenue. They want to maintain their traditional one-third of the new six-year, $1.1 billion package, and the owners, pleading financial hardship, are asking them to take a smaller slice of the bigger pie.
The two sides have been arguing about the financial state of the game since the old collective-bargaining agreement expired on Dec. 31. Ueberroth thought he was helping matters when he asked the owners to open their books, but time dragged on as baseball's greatest rivals—the union and management's Player Relations Committee—trotted out their accountants. "You've got an industry that's losing money," says Oriole owner Edward Bennett Williams. "I'm not talking about accounting losses. I'm talking about plain Ma-and-Pa-at-the-country-store accounting." Says Don Baylor of the Yankees, the American League player representative, "This team [the Yankees] was supposed to have lost $9 million. A lot of people who know the revenues here find that hard to believe." In the players' favor, while their salaries have risen 48% since the last strike, the owners' operating revenues, swollen by the new TV contract, are up 52%.
For now. the accountants have been benched, and both sides appear ready to negotiate. The owners also want to raise the time of service before players can submit salary demands to arbitration from two to three years and put a salary cap of, say, $10 million on a club's payroll. In other words, they are asking the players to save them from their profligate ways. And the players are adamant about not giving up what they've already won. Pragmatically, the strike date is very effective pressure on the owners. The players would have gotten most of their paychecks by then, while the clubs would lose out on the big revenues of August and September.
So, both sides are racing against the deadline. If there is a strike, it could last through the rest of the season, wiping out the pennant races, the World Series, Pete Rose's pursuit of Ty Cobb, Vince Coleman's pursuit of Rickey Henderson and other future memories.
The owners and the union might heed the call of 40-year-old Don Sutton, the Oakland player rep, who is just 11 wins shy of 300 victories. "To me, the main issue is we don't believe their numbers and they don't believe our numbers. The specifics will rectify themselves as soon as we can all sit down and say, 'We're through lying, you're through lying, now let's move forward.' That's the only way to do it. We could solve the whole thing in 30 minutes."
WAY OFF COURSE
In golf even the pros are occasionally visited with the woes of the weekend hacker: a slice here, a hook there, the odd voyage to the bottom of the duck pond. But at the recent French Open, pros Kent Kluba of the U.S. and Raphael Alarcon of Mexico experienced a duffer's nightmare: They got lost.
Instead of heading for the 3rd tee after completing the second hole, Kluba and Alarcon went in the wrong direction and teed off on the 13th. They discovered their mistake when Kluba, perplexed by the distance from his drive to the green, paced off the yardage and realized he was on the 465-yard 13th rather than the 440-yard 3rd. The detour cost both golfers a two-stroke penalty.
But Kluba and Alarcon were less disoriented than the two Americans in a story making the rounds in Scotland. It seems the pair returned to the parking lot after a day on the links, only to find their car missing. They reported the theft to the strangely unsympathetic club pro, who accused them of not having paid a greens fee. Apparently the Yanks had made a wrong turn, blithely finishing their round on the wrong course. Their car, unmolested, was in the parking lot of the other course, waiting to be driven—straight, we should hope—home.
THE MYSTERY OF JOHN BRISKER
John Brisker's journey to his personal heart of darkness has officially ended. The intractable former pro basketball player was declared legally dead by a Seattle court seven years after he disappeared in Africa at the age of 30.
The order declaring Brisker's presumed death was issued in order to administer his estate, which is entitled to as much as $38,669 NBA pension benefits as well as undetermined social security payments. Brisker's ex-wife, old girl friend and two children have put in claims totaling more than $400,000.
As a rookie with the Pittsburgh Condors in the ABA's 1969-70 season. Brisker averaged 21 points a game and about one duke-out a week. "I had maybe 10 or 15 fights," he later said. "And I won 10 or 15." Teammates complained about the revolver he carried to practice. After Brisker jumped to the NBA Seattle SuperSonics in '72, he made a lasting impression on teammate Joby Wright, slugging him at practice and knocking out several of his teeth.
Cut in 1975 after three seasons with the Sonics, Brisker made a couple of bad investments and took off for Liberia in March 1978. He planned to start an import-export business. The last anyone heard from him was a phone call from Uganda a month later.
Since then, not even a dribble. One rumor had it that Brisker died in the Jonestown massacre in November 1978. Another had him shot and killed in Uganda during the bloody 1979 invasion that deposed military dictator Idi Amin, a great hoops fan who staged weekly games in which he was routinely the leading scorer and who, by one account, had invited Brisker to Uganda as his guest.
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Valvano, North Carolina State basketball coach, describing how cheap Villanova coach Rollie Massimino was on a trip to Italy: "He kept saying what a great hotel we were in. Then on the last day, he complained the towels were so thick he couldn't close his suitcase."
•Pat Williams, Philadelphia 76ers G.M., on Valvano: "At N.C. State they had a big scandal—three of their players were found in the library."