PUTTING LOGIC ON ICE
NHL president John Ziegler admitted last week that on-ice violence is a problem in his league. Ziegler, who had long taken a boys-will-be-boys view of the sort of brawling the NHL is famous for, said that fighting penalties were up 15% this season, and that 2% of the players accounted for 20% of all penalty minutes. He called the situation "alarming and disturbing" and promised to address it.
Unfortunately, Ziegler promptly blew a grand opportunity to do just that. The next evening, at the end of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals between Montreal and Calgary, a vicious brawl broke out on the ice. Ziegler called it "appalling" and levied $42,000 in fines. But because the fines are likely to be paid by the teams rather than the players, they don't figure to be much of a deterrent. If Ziegler really meant business, he would have suspended the combatants for Game 5.
Also last week Ziegler joined with NHL Players Association executive director Alan Eagleson to announce plans for mandatory drug testing of NHL players. Ziegler and Eagleson said they were responding to reports—including stories on the Edmonton Oilers in SI and The Hockey News—about drug use in the NHL. Ziegler said that the NHL has little or no drug problem and that testing will prove it and help "make sure that the innocent are protected."
June 1, 1986
The call by Ziegler and Eagleson for mandatory testing appeared to be in keeping with the NHL's hard-line public stance on drugs. The NHL is the only major pro sports league without a drug rehabilitation program, and any hockey player caught using drugs faces suspension. Ziegler suspended the Rangers' Don Murdoch in 1978 and the Canadiens' Ric Nattress in 1983 after they were convicted of drug-related offenses, and he said three weeks ago he would investigate the case of Maple Leaf defense-man Borje Salming. Salming was quoted by The Toronto Star as admitting he used cocaine five years ago. Reiterating his position last week, Ziegler said, "We don't want to say, 'Go ahead and try [drugs], and if you have a problem, come to us, we'll help you and give you another chance.' We want to say, 'Stay away from drugs. If you want to do [drugs], go work somewhere else.' "
The flip side of Ziegler's tough talk is, paradoxically, a see-no-evil approach to drugs. Ziegler seems inclined to act only if somebody is convicted of drug offenses or admits to drug use. He appears eager to sweep other evidence of drug involvement under the rug. For example, he has refused to look into the reports of use among Edmonton players, and he said last week that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had "found no reliable information to conduct an investigation." In fact, the RCMP told SI that it had received information about cocaine use by Oiler players. An RCMP drug official said the department didn't vigorously pursue such matters because it's primarily interested in drug sellers, not users.
All this makes the Ziegler-Eagleson advocacy of mandatory testing unsettling. Such testing raises questions of civil liberties and cannot be justified merely as a public relations move—one taken to try to prove that media stories about drug use are wrong. Yet there appears to be no other purpose to their proposal; unlike the situation in other sports, the proposed NHL testing isn't aimed at eliminating a drug problem, because Ziegler insists there isn't one. Also, as is not the case in other sports, testing wouldn't be undertaken with an eye toward rehabilitating users, an objective in which Ziegler says he isn't interested.
In other words, in an area that he concedes is a problem—violence—Ziegler chose last week to do next to nothing. In an area that he insists isn't a problem—drugs—he did something, but for the wrong reasons.
RIGHT YOU ARE
Middle Georgia College was the top-ranked junior college baseball team in the country when it faced unranked Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in the national JC tournament. With ABAC leading 9-7 with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Middle Georgia pinch hitter Rusty Brown belted what appeared to be the game-winning homer. Unfortunately, Brown was so exuberant in circling the bases that he accidentally passed teammate John Driver, who had been on base, just five feet from home plate. Brown was called out, and ABAC won 9-8, eliminating Middle Georgia from the tournament. Said stunned Warriors coach Robert Sapp afterward, "This is the kind of thing you read about in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED."
FEED TO FIDEL
Cuba is a baseball-mad country and President Fidel Castro, a former pitcher, is a rabid fan. He even has a satellite dish to pick up the line scores of major league games from American TV news reports. Does this mean the Cable News Network risks an international incident by scrambling its signal starting July 1? Not a chance, said CNN owner Ted Turner, a hunting companion of Castro's. Turner promised to send a decoder to Havana. But now the U.S. State Department has declared that, because of the trade embargo with Cuba, the gift can't be delivered. Stay tuned.
BOOSTING FAN INTEREST
Personal investing took a sporting turn in January when Skokie (Ill.) Federal Savings introduced the Super Bowl CD, a one-year certificate of deposit whose interest rate was tied to the Bears' performance on Super Sunday. The bank promised to raise the guaranteed 8.25% interest rate by .01% for every point by which Chicago outscored the Patriots, with no reduction in the basic rate if the Bears lost. The offer attracted a whopping $13.8 million in investments, and it was money well spent: Chicago's 46-10 trouncing of New England raised the rate of return to 8.61%.
Since then, sports CDs have become a hot item among financial institutions. In February a Louisville bank offered a six-month NCAA-basketball-tournament CD tied to an investor's choice of either Louisville or Kentucky. Most investors went for the Wildcats, but the Cardinals, eventual national champions, returned half a point more in interest.
For the baseball season, Skokie Federal came up with a one-year Grand Slam CD, linked to the success of the Cubs or White Sox. Through April 30, investors of $500 or more were guaranteed an interest rate of 7.375%, to be increased .01 for each game their team is over .500 at the All-Star break; another .01 at season's end for each game over .500 and better than their team's All-Star break record; and .25 if the team wins the World Series. It's a good thing Chicago baseball fans, who poured $10,861,000 into Grand Slam CDs, are eternal optimists: As of Sunday the Cubs and White Sox were a combined 34-47.
NO CONFUSING THESE PROGRAMS
While the Los Angeles Lakers were being eliminated from the NBA playoffs by the Houston Rockets 114-112 last Wednesday, to become the 17th consecutive NBA champion to fail to repeat, one of the competing shows in the L.A. TV market was Dynasty.
ANOTHER GOLDEN OLDIE
Jack Nicklaus and Bill Shoemaker aren't the only athletes defying Father Time. Pedro A. Bacallao, 50, is also experiencing a grand spring in the twilight of his sports career. Bacallao, of Miami, is a squash-tennis player, which is different from being a squash and tennis player. Squash tennis is played on a squash court with a tennis ball and a junior-sized tennis racket. Several hundred people play this grueling game in the U.S., most of them in the New York City area. Bacallao traveled to the Big Apple recently and won his 13th national championship, his first since 1980. In the finals he upset defending champ Gary Squires, a youthful 29, in straight sets: 15-13, 15-4, 15-12. "If Gary had won the third game," said a tired Bacallao after the match, "I would have had to give him the fourth, while resting up for the fifth."
Bacallao says there's no great secret to senior-citizen success. "The problem is, people give up after a certain age," he says. "Never give up."
IN HIS PRIME AT LAST
If Bacallao is happy to be playing so well at age 50, Gary Clark is downright thrilled to be competing in minitriathlons at 47. Clark, a former Phoenix insurance executive, was hospitalized last autumn with viral cardiomyopathy, and on Nov. 30 he received a heart transplant. The change of heart triggered a change of life-style for the 6-foot, 210-pound Clark. "Before the operation, I couldn't wait to get to happy hour somewhere," he says, "but no more." His therapy consisted first of slow walking, then pedaling on a stationary bike. After being released from the hospital in January, he began more strenuous exercising under strict supervision. On Feb. 15 he entered the cardiac division of the University of Arizona Fitness Run, briskly walking five kilometers to the finish line. "Then I saw an entry form for the Old Pueblo Triathlon," says Clark. "I looked it over and wondered if I could do it."
He went back to his surgeon, Dr. Jack Copeland of University Medical Center in Tucson, and took a series of stress tests. In late April, Clark, down to a solid 180 pounds and closely watched by medical personnel, finished the 1.5-km swim, 40-km bike race and 10-km run in 4:36:59, placing 200th in the field of 335. "I felt so good I couldn't believe it," he says. "I was surprised I finished so high, because I stopped a lot."
Nothing stops Clark for long. He hopes to compete in a minitriathlon in Phoenix this Saturday, another in Los Angeles on June 15th and one in Denver in July. Asked whether he'll ever enter a full triathlon, Clark answers, "The seed is there."
AN OMINOUS SIGN
The license plate on Houston Astros catcher Alan Ashby's Pontiac reads E-2.
RETURN OF THE UNLUCKY SHAMROCK
"I canna win, I canna win," said Irishman Sir Thomas Lipton when his America's Cup challenger, the 119-foot J boat Shamrock V, was beaten in 1930 by Enterprise. The loss was Lipton's fifth in five stouthearted attempts to win the Cup, and it prompted Will Rogers to call him "the world's most cheerful loser."
Lipton's unlucky Shamrock returned to the United States last week, ghosting silently through New York Harbor on her way from Bermuda to Newport. Thomas J. Lipton Inc.—yes, Sir Thomas is the fellow on the tea bag—has donated the noble runner-up to the Museum of Yachting.
The arrival of Shamrock marks the first time a J boat has visited America in a half century. The J's were among the largest and fastest racing boats ever built. Their 15-story masts held enough sail to cover two basketball courts; raising the 1.5-ton mainsail required 20 of the 33 crewmen to heave on the halyard. Twice the length of the 12-meter America's Cup racers that replaced them in 1958, J boats were abandoned because they proved too expensive for even the wealthiest owner to maintain. The J's are now looked upon as the dinosaurs of yachting: Only 10 were ever built—Shamrock V was the first—and just three still exist.
Staging five futile Cup campaigns endeared Lipton to the American public. A bona fide folk hero, he was respected for his heart rather than his fortune. "America's Cup hunting has been my principal recreation for over 30 years," he said shortly before he died in 1931 at age 81. "I can truthfully say that in the quest of it I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life."
THEY SAID IT
•John Lloyd, husband of Chris Evert Lloyd, explaining why his right hand was taped during a recent tournament: "My hands are very soft because of all the dishes I have to wash."
•Mickey Mantle, asked if he had any comment on being passed by Reggie Jackson on the alltime home run list: "He passed me on the alltime strikeout list a couple of years ago and nobody asked me about that."
•Spud Webb, the Atlanta Hawks' 5'7" guard, admitting that he uses his elbows on opponents: "You just keep throwing them, and by the third quarter their shins are so sore that you can run right by them."