TOWARD AN OPEN OLYMPICS
The Olympic movement is slowly but surely embracing professionalism. Last week International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch said he expected the IOC, which meets in Lausanne, Switzerland, next week, to approve proposals from the governing bodies of tennis and ice hockey that pros play in those sports at the '88 Games. Approvals would carry caveats to assuage Eastern bloc nations long opposed to opening up the Games. Admitting professional tennis players—yes, McEnroe, Lendl & Co. would be eligible—will be on an "experimental" basis, but observers agree that once pros enter the Olympics they won't be turned out again. "It's an experiment whose result is already known," says IOC executive board member Dick Pound of Canada.
A move to delegate all eligibility decisions to the individual federations has been stalled by the Eastern bloc, but support for it is growing. If it isn't approved before the Seoul Games, it should pass soon thereafter. When it is eventually ratified, several federations—soccer, track and equestrian among them—will certainly open their doors to pros. One surprise aspect of the drift toward professionalism is that the United States, home of so many big-money athletes, is not leading the way. On the contrary, the U.S. Olympic Committee remains firmly on the fence. "The USOC agrees with the option of the international federations determining their own eligibility rules, but we are not for an open Games," says USOC spokesman Mike Moran. "I know that sounds like a contradiction, but while we feel the federations should have that right, at the same time we'd feel stung if that led to an open Games." The reasons behind the stance are threefold, Moran explains candidly: "First, it would have a very direct adverse effect on our fundraising. If the public sees rich athletes in U.S. uniforms, that'll hurt us. Second, several sports think it would wreak havoc with their youth programs, because the good young athletes couldn't necessarily get to the Games. Third, we do still have adherents of the old school of amateurism within the USOC." Responding to the charge that the USOC simply doesn't want to deal with rich and independent athletes it won't be able to control, Moran says, "We don't control athletes, so that point is irrelevant. But, yes, you have a valid point if you're talking about the national governing bodies. How is ABA-USA going to produce a basketball team with a Larry Bird, who's under contract to some shoe company and has to answer to that company first?"
The USOC's middling position reflects the recent reality of the Olympics—where some pros are pros and some are not—but increasingly it seems archaic. Pound, who many believe will succeed Samaranch as IOC president in 1989, sounds more like the voice of Olympics future: "If the Games are going to be simon pure, fine. But they're not that way, and things have to change."
October 5, 1986
Rev. Harold Stoa of the Lutheran Bible Institute in Issaquah, Wash., recently scored two holes-in-one on consecutive days and thinks it may help business. "Maybe now people will go to church on Sunday first," he says, "and then go golfing."
I KNEW I FORGOT SOMETHING!
Last Dec. 8 at the Turfway Park Track in Florence, Ky., somebody invested $1,944 in Pick Six wagering. All six horses won, and the guy's gamble was worth $77,434.80. Get this: The money is still unclaimed; it's believed to be the largest unclaimed payoff in thoroughbred racing history. If the absentminded bettor doesn't speak up by Nov. 1, 1988, the cash goes to the state.
GOLF IN A BRAVE NEW WORLD
Some might argue that a sand trap is no place for government intervention, or that politicians should find more substantive issues to address. But remember: We're talking about Los Angeles here.
The latest from Ellay is the "Go Golf bill now before the city council. Designed to speed up play on the city's 13 public courses, the legislation would require a foursome to complete nine holes in two hours and 20 minutes or be forced to leave the course. Golfers would clock in at the first tee, and marshals on mopeds and bicycles would patrol the course and spur any dawdlers. If the report of a Go Golf study group is approved this month, a test of the plan will be staged at four courses during November.
The L.A. parks department says the impetus for Go Golf was a pile of complaint letters from some of the 30,000 golfers who play the municipal courses annually. "Slow play is without a doubt one of the major problems at our city courses," says Zev Yaroslavsky, the city councilman who proposed the measure and who knows what causes slow play. "You have people engaging in family gossip." No!
THE CIRCUS ON LONG ISLAND
The mob's on trial in Manhattan and half of Mayor Edward Koch's administration is on trial in New Haven, but the court case that's generating real heat in the New York area is the one on Long Island. The not-so-civil countersuits by Martina Navratilova and photographer Art Seitz are being heard before Judge Lester E. Gerard and a jury of nine. SI's Joy Duckett Cain reports from the courthouse:
When Navratilova and Seitz tussled shortly after she was upset in the quarter-finals of the 1982 U.S. Open, Navratilova opened Seitz's camera and exposed his film. That much, and that much only, is beyond dispute. Seitz filed a $2 million lawsuit claiming he received injuries and developed tennis elbow because of the encounter; Navratilova countersued for $4 million, charging invasion of privacy.
As riveting a personality as Navratilova is, the stars of the trial-cum-circus in Riverhead are two flamboyant lawyers. Seitz is represented by Marvin Mitchelson, the Southern Californian famous for those palimony suits. Navratilova's attorney is Edward Hart, who seems to have little love for Mitchelson and is given to jokes about L.A. At one point Hart objected to Mitchelson "laughing at the witness," who was, at that time, Navratilova herself. Mitchelson explained to the judge that he wasn't laughing at the witness; then he pointed at Hart and added, "I'm laughing at him."
During the trial Navratilova is often in the gallery, shaking her head scornfully. She was doing this last Tuesday when another photographer, Ron Lopez, took the stand. "Martina was in the middle of the pack, surrounded by her entourage," Lopez testified, claiming he was an eyewitness to the 1982 scrap. "All of a sudden she broke out of the pack.... There was a struggle that looked like a tug-of-war—he [Seitz] pulling, she pulling on what turned out to be a camera." Lopez said the whole thing took 12 to 15 seconds.
It could prove to be a costly few seconds for someone, but not until the jury listens to hours of sometimes tedious and often confusing testimony. At one point, Navratilova was ordered to explain how a tennis match is scored. At another, she was asked to describe her weight-training regimen. Of what relevance is all this? It's not yet clear. Maybe Navratilova herself found a clue in that mystery novel she was reading during a break. Its title: Smokescreen.
OF PIGSKIN AND PARCHMENT
Some of the fiercest grid battles these days are being fought on the best-seller lists. On Sunday three books about football debuted in The New York Times' nonfiction Top 15. Jim McMahon's autobiography is 4th in the rankings, Ken Stabler's is 10th, and TV commentator John Madden's second volume of pigskin punditry is 15th. In Chicago four of the Bears are elbowing each other on the lists. McMahon! is the city's hottest book, outselling even Bill Cosby's Fatherhood. Now what would Papa Bear George Halas say about that? Mike Singletary's book is No. 3 on the Chicago Tribune's list; Coach Mike Ditka's is No. 5; and the Refrigerator's, released earlier in the year, has slid off the chart. Another printing from the well-read Ditka is also prized in Chicago. Some 750 posters of the coach promoting U.S. News & World Report magazine have been swiped from the walls of El stations.
SAY HEY! THIS CATCH REALLY IS A WORK OF ART
It happened 32 years ago last week: The score stood 2-2 in the eighth inning of the first game of the World Series between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians. There were no outs and men on first and second when the Indians' Vic Wertz came to the plate. He swung mightily and connected. As the legend has it, Willie Mays turned and started racing for the Polo Grounds fence the second he saw the swing. Four hundred sixty feet from home, Mays made the catch—which quickly became known as The Catch, the most famous in Series history. The Indians didn't score in the 8th but the Giants did in the 10th and then went on to sweep the Series in four straight.
Mays's play has long been immortalized in baseball lore and, since 1984, it has been memorialized in a piece of environmental art called "Willie Mays—The Catch." First displayed in California, Thorn Ross's five-panel sculpture popped up again this summer on a grassy hill in Jackson Hole, Wyo. That's a suitable setting, for only something as grand as the Tetons could match the magnificence of Mays's catch.
THEY SAID IT
•Bob Knight, Indiana basketball coach, on the detention of U.S. journalist Nicholas Daniloff: "I'm going to write a letter to the President. If the Soviets want a journalist, I've got about a hundred of the s.o.b.'s I'd like to give 'em."
•Harry Neale, former Detroit Red Wings coach, on his team's sorry record both at home and on the road last season: "My failure as a coach was that I couldn't think of anyplace else to play."