It used to be that young athletes were urged to emulate sports heroes. At Arizona State, men's tennis coach Lou Belken is suggesting just the opposite. He's trying to curb the obstreperous on-court behavior that's becoming increasingly fashionable among impressionable young players, a symptom that could be medically described as McEnroe's Complaint.
He proposes a system of fines that would be deducted from scholarship allotments for the following year (he still needs authorization from the university, the Pac-10 and the NCAA). There would be penalties for obscenities, off-color gestures and what is euphemistically described as equipment abuse (flinging rackets, whacking nets, gouging court surfaces). For example, using a particularly choice expletive during a practice session would cost an offender $10. Blurting it out during a tournament would boost the ante to $ 100.
Belken concedes that such behavior is not yet a major issue at Arizona State but, as he told Phoenix Gazette columnist Tim Tyers, "It's a problem the sport has from juniors through professionals. We want to put people in the stands, and we want to present a product that doesn't offend anyone."
February 10, 1986
We've written in the past (SCORECARD, Feb. 25, 1985) about the shabby way that Pulitzer Prize selections for outstanding newspaper journalism treat the working stiffs on the sports pages. Despite the important and popular role that sports sections play in newspapers in every part of this country, sportswriters are seldom cited for the Pulitzer awards.
Columbia University, which administers the Pulitzers, has just announced the journalism jury that will present its candidates for this year's awards to the Pulitzer Prize board. The jury of 65 men and women includes editors and publishers, managing editors, executive editors, editorial page editors, photographers, correspondents, a curator, a fellowship director and a journalism professor. The 18-person Pulitzer board also includes an eclectic mix of journalists. But neither jury nor board has anyone from sports. Why? Why do the Pulitzers treat newspaper sports journalists as second-class citizens and continue to pretend that the sports pages are not a vital part of the daily press?
In Holland, Mich., early in the second half of a women's basketball game between Albion College and Hope College, everyone and everything in Hope's Dow Center gymnasium began to quaver as the nightly Chicago-to-Grand Rapids freight train rumbled past. "It comes through every night right at 6:45," said Hope sports information director Tom Renner. "The tracks are only 25 yards from the gym. You can feel the whole place shake."
A moment later, with Albion leading 40-28, the gym suddenly blacked out. The 84-car train had derailed two blocks from the Dow Center, slamming down telephone poles and power lines. The game was suspended.
When play resumed two nights later, Hope's women went on a scoring surge that trimmed Albion's lead. Eerily, at precisely 6:45 p.m., with the train once again rattling past, Hope sank the game-tying basket. The Flying Dutch went on to derail Albion 83-78 in overtime, ending a game that had taken some 49 hours to complete. Noted Renner, "There's no truth to the rumor that we put timbers across the tracks on Tuesday so we could get an extra day of practice. But there is talk of changing the school athletic symbol from a wooden shoe to a caboose."
RESTRAINT OF RAGE
A "seat belt" rule, which requires high school basketball coaches to remain seated during play (except in special instances), has been adopted by the National Federation of State High School Associations, and it has caused some coaches mental, even physical, distress. C.J. Howard of Santa Teresa (Calif.) High is an emotional sort who, like many coaches, tends to jump up, shout, point and emote. "I've been coaching for 12 years," he told Dave Payne of the San Jose Mercury-News, "and it's very difficult to suddenly not be able to jump from my seat." Therefore, Howard now ties himself down with a rope. "It's saved me a few times," he says.
A neighboring coach, Ray Snyder of Monta Vista High, is also an emoter who needs restraint, but instead of a rope, Snyder has two human seat belts. They are Monta Vista High students Stacey Fernandez and Denese Cheatham, who keep statistics for the team and have taken on an added duty. During games, they sit behind Snyder, and when he starts to rise, they push him back down. "Thanks to them," Snyder says, "I've been pretty good about obeying the rule."
ANOTHER CRISIS FOR THE FERRET
Several years ago (SI, Oct. 13, 1980), Bil Gilbert reported that the endangered black-footed ferret was "missing and presumed dead." Happily, a small colony of ferrets was discovered the next year in northeast Wyoming. But that colony, which had grown to an estimated 130 ferrets by 1984, is now threatened with extinction.
It was learned last fall that the colony had been infected by canine distemper, a disease routinely fatal to ferrets. "We predicted distemper would kill most of those left in the wild," says Dr. Tom Thorne, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's staff wildlife veterinarian. "We didn't even know how many were left at that point. We determined to get some out before they were exposed."
Six uncontaminated ferrets, including four females, were captured and are now being kept in quarantine near Laramie. Because the group is not of optimum age (the males are still too young) or sex ratio (there should be at least as many males as females) for breeding this winter, Thorne is "not optimistic" that they will mate during their season in February and March. He does, however, hope to catch additional healthy ferrets after the deep snow melts in the spring. "With only the six animals we have, it's a fairly long shot" at reestablishing the population, Thorne says. "But if we add a few more animals to the captive population, and if we are successful either this year or next in breeding, then in the long run the chances would be pretty good. We hope we can build a captive population, then feed the wild populations from it."
He says the animals contracted distemper in the wild, possibly from raccoons, coyotes, dogs or skunks. He adds that other ferret colonies—if there are any—could also be threatened by the disease. "And we don't have enough ferrets to do distemper research on them," Thorne says. "If we're successful with captive breeding, that will be one of our highest-priority research programs."
LIKE, WOW, I CAN'T MISS
USC's basketball team is attributing its improved free-throw shooting this season to an oh-so-Southern-Californian self-help technique called "psychofeedback." The players stand in a dark room and listen to a tape recording that asks them to imagine a ball, envision the basket and then sink perfect make-believe foul shots. As the ball goes swish, the voice on the tape cheers "Beautiful!"
"I really believe it helps," says USC coach Stan Morrison. The stats back him up: Last year the team shot .679 from the line, and this year it is .707 overall and .771 in Pac-10 games, second in the league. Morrison was sold on the idea last summer by psychologist Paul G. Thomas, author of Advanced Psycho Cybernetics and Psychofeedback, and he preaches with the fervor of the converted. "For everything you do in life you have a neuron chain in your brain, whether it's brushing your teeth or shooting a foul shot," says Morrison. "We want the kids in tune with what's being said on the tape because that's refortifying a positive neuron chain." The boys from La La Land had better keep at those neurons because Thomas's book warns of "the great and irrefutable truth that it is impossible to achieve any goal without psychofeedback.... Psychofeedback is not only the breakfast of champions, it is the lunch and dinner as well!"
BUT THEN AGAIN...
USC is shooting better from the line, but it's still not the best. As of last weekend, the Michigan State men's team was tops in the country with an .812 percentage, and the women's team was shooting .744. Has psychofeedback reached East Lansing? "Nah, we don't do any of that ——," says men's assistant coach Mike Deane. "We just have good shooters." And women's coach Karen Langeland might be on to the next great movement in performance enhancement when she adds: "We shoot a lot of free throws in practice."
BILL AND BOB RUDDY
Last week in FACES IN THE CROWD we saluted Bill and, Bob Ruddy, football playing twins from Dunmore, Pa., who played both defense and offense and who between them gained 2,815 yards rushing and scored 37 touchdowns as they led Dunmore High School to 13 consecutive victories and the Pennsylvania state Class A Eastern Conference championship.
This week we have the sad duty of reporting that on Jan. 29 Bill Ruddy was killed and Bob Ruddy badly injured when the car in which they were riding skidded on an icy highway in Sullivan Township, Pa. and crashed into a coal-carrying tractor-trailer truck. Also, the driver of the car, Frank Butsko, 25—a family friend and onetime teammate of the twins' older brother, Pat, at Drake University in Iowa—was killed. Butsko was an assistant football coach at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, which is about 100 miles northwest of Dunmore, and he was driving the twins from their home to the Mansfield campus for a recruiting visit.
Tragedy had visited the Ruddy family last May when Jim Ruddy, father of 12, died unexpectedly several days after he had accompanied his twin sons on an inspection tour of Penn State University. Bill and Bob later planted a tree in their father's honor at the edge of the Dunmore football field and dedicated their senior season to his memory.
Last week's accident left Dunmore and much of northeastern Pennsylvania in a state of shock. We share that grief.
THEY SAID IT
•Alex English, Denver Nuggets forward, on the standing ovation he received after scoring 54 points against the Houston Rockets at McNichols Arena: "Hearing the crowd was great. It made what little hair I have stand on end."
•Ed Bilik, Springfield College basketball coach, after forward Ivan Olivares scored 24 points on his 24th birthday in a 55-45 win over Union: "Too bad he wasn't 40 today."
•Ron Wooten, New England guard, reflecting on the Patriots' 46-10 loss to the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl: "Before the end, it kind of felt like we were the team that the Globetrotters play all the time."