SOVIET PRO-AM DEBATE
Officially, there is no such thing as a pro athlete in the Soviet Union. The Soviet government has branded professionalism immoral and un-Communist and described Western sports pros as so many "slaves" and "gladiators." But it is no secret that, in fact, Soviet world-class athletes—for instance, the hockey players who skated against the NHL All-Stars last week in Quebec City (page 12)—have long received money and fringe benefits under the table.
Now, in the new atmosphere of glasnost—the "openness" allowed by General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev—commentators within the U.S.S.R. have become increasingly critical of their government's antiprofessional posturing. In a recent issue of Eko, a business magazine, journalist Fyodor Tatarsky took a close look at professionalism in Soviet soccer. He railed against "the persistent belief that professional sport is incompatible with socialism," and called the current system, under which players hold nominal jobs while practicing or competing 11 months a year, a sham.
"Some tactless comrades ask mean questions," wrote Tatarsky. " 'What metal is handled by players for the Metalist club? How do the backs of the Baku Oilers dig for oil?' "
February 23, 1987
Beyond decrying the hypocrisy of this "amateurism," Tatarsky argued that the Soviet sports system is anticompetitive and hampers performance by Soviet athletes. He noted that a club's payment to its players depends not on whether the players excel and improve, but on whether the club has any money. "Payment for [a player's] difficult and highly qualified work today depends on the financial capabilities of the organization or enterprise where he is formally assigned," wrote Tatarsky, "or on the mood of a highly placed benefactor who delivers cars, apartment bonuses and other perks not from his own pocket but from the state."
The reform Tatarsky urged has a surprisingly free-market ring to it. He advocated a system under which salaries would be tied to the number of tickets sold. "If reformed, soccer clubs could be turned into sporting enterprises organized like any other enterprise in this country on the well-known principles of self-financing," he wrote. "Most clubs will be highly profitable. Financial difficulties will arise only if the team is of a very low level or is not popular with the fans."
ZONK'S ALL STARS
Larry Csonka, the bruising fullback who was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last month, took a lot of hits from opposing brutes during his 12-year professional career. These days he's paying for each and every one of them. "I have a little cabin in Stow, Ohio, and in the winter it's cold in that cabin," Csonka recently told Edwin Pope, the sports editor of The Miami Herald. "The first thing I do when I get out of bed and feel the jolt in my knees is think of Roy Winston. On the second step, my calcified Adam's apple starts bobbing, and I think of Carl Eller. A few more steps in the dark and it's Willie Lanier. By the time I get to the bathroom, I'm flashing back to Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke. And when the light finally comes on, I just hope that somewhere in the darkness they're thinking of me, too."
Starting on page 62, you can learn how ex-jocks Jim Bunning and Tom McMillen succeeded in politics. Also in this issue (page 34) you can read about one of the outstanding basketball players produced by Baltimore's Dunbar High School, Reggie Williams. Now here's the improbable story of an ex-Dunbar sports figure who, like Bunning and McMillen, has ascended to high public office. He's Clarence Burns, 68, the first black mayor of Baltimore, whose athletic involvement was scarcely the stuff of sports-page headlines: Burns played baseball and basketball at Dunbar, but is best remembered for having been the locker room attendant from 1948 to 1970.
How did a man who for many years picked up towels and washed uniforms become the mayor of the nation's 11th-largest city? As a teenager Burns helped his father get out the vote in the predominantly black districts of East Baltimore, and when he turned 21 he inherited his dad's political organization. He continued to be a force in East Baltimore politics even after going to work at Dunbar.
In 1970, Burns quit his Dunbar job, and the next year he ran successfully for the city council. When the council president was forced out by scandal in 1982, Burns succeeded him. And when Baltimore's mayor, William Donald Schaefer, was elected governor last November, Burns moved up to mayor.
"I'll tell you something, he was respected," remembers police sergeant Everett Fullwood, a three-sport athlete at Dunbar from 1959 to '62 and now Burns's bodyguard. "He was the guy everybody went to if they had a problem."
Burns will serve out the last 11 months of Schaefer's term and plans to stand for election. At his inauguration last month. Burns quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: "Judge not a man for the heights he has attained but the depths from which he has come." He also said, "There are those who hold the opinion that my beginnings are too humble to be mayor. There are those who believe that my academic credentials are inadequate. There are those who believe that I am not eloquent enough to speak as mayor. But you know about my feelings? They are entitled to their opinion. This is America."
LUCK OF THE IRISH
Last Wednesday was the first day high school seniors could sign college-football letters of intent, and rabid recruiting watchers rushed to compile their Top 10 lists. USA Today said Notre Dame got the best freshman class, signing 11 of the country's top 100 players. The National High School Football Scouting Service in Houston, which rates 3,400 high school seniors, said Pitt and Texas A & M tied for first.
Joe Terranova, an executive at Ford, who has assayed each year's signings since 1971, offered this opinion: "[Notre Dame coach] Lou Holtz recruited a whole team—all the positions. He had 30 scholarships to give and he got 30 players. Holtz could have gotten 32 or 33. He actually had to turn kids away." The Irish signed two blue-chip running backs, Tony Brooks of Tulsa and Ricky Watters of Harrisburg, Pa., plus the country's most highly regarded tight end, Frank Jacobs of Newport, Ky.
Following Notre Dame in Terranova's Top 10 are Texas A & M, Florida, Clemson, UCLA, Nebraska, Pitt, Oklahoma, Miami and Michigan.
Auburn coach Pat Dye's controversial decision to play All-America tailback Brent Fullwood in the Citrus Bowl even though Fullwood hadn't attended class in more than two months (SCORECARD, Jan. 5 et seq.) may have cost him the most sought-after player in the country. Emmitt Smith, who set the national schoolboy record for career touchdowns (109) while leading Escambia (Fla.) High to two straight state championships, announced that he would attend Florida. Smith, who has a 2.9 grade-point average, was also considering Auburn and Nebraska, but his mother, concerned that her son get the best possible education, reportedly cited Dye's handling of the Fullwood matter in arguing against Auburn.
THE CANINE CROWD PUTS ON THE DOG
The field at last week's westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in Madison Square Garden was a strong one. Sixty percent of the 2,674 entrants had already won titles. Three of seven 1986 group winners returned, and all three—a German shepherd named Tucker Hill's Manhattan, a bichon frise named Puff and Stuff, and a boxer named Turo's Cachet—made it to the final round. To no one's surprise. Tucker Hill's Manhattan, the second winningest pooch in U.S. dog show history, won his first Westminster and his 199th Best of Show award.
But the superstars weren't the only attractions. Lesser dogs commanded attention in the rotunda. That's where the entrants were "benched" before they competed. The 111-year-old Westminster is one of only seven major U.S. dog shows that still mandate a benching period during which dog lovers can meet the canines up close and personal. This is when you match up bulldogs with their jowly owners and assess the similarities in coiffures of the poodles and their handlers.
It's also when you can catch up on the catty...ummm, canine gossip. Over at the bullterrier bench the hot news was that the terrier in the Bud Light ads, Spuds MacKenzie, isn't such a smooth guy. In fact, he's a she—a bitch! The eavesdropping is good, too. A boxer owner bragged, "Mine never starts fights, but he always finishes them." Overheard at the Lhasa apso bench: "The damn Chihuahuas get all the attention."
The master of ceremonies for the competition was animal expert Roger Caras, who briefly described each of the 139 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds that were present at the Westminster. To hear Caras tell it, a preponderance of them had long ago been "tremendous, ferocious killers" but had evolved into "fine, loyal, family-companion dogs." But it was clearly Tucker Hill's Manhattan that had evolved the most agreeably. "The finest class I've ever judged—quality was everywhere," said Louis Auslander, who chose Manhattan. "The German shepherd is a great showman, under control at all times. Everything I wanted, he showed me."
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Pollio, Virginia Commonwealth basketball coach, who uses cue cards to call plays from the bench: "Nobody can say our players can't read."
•Ron Krayl, basketball coach of Monmouth College in New Jersey, after losing to Marist, which has seven foreign players and only one U.S. starter: "Not only did we lose, but we were dunked on in five different languages."