The high school in Jim Thorpe, Pa., of all places, is having a hard time fielding a football team. The town in which the legendary athlete is buried (SI, Oct. 25, 1982) doesn't seem to have enough boys willing to play for the Olympians, who finished 3-8 last year. Coach Art Guth says he needs 25 players; so far he has only 22. Part of the problem is that many of them have jobs. When Guth asked them why they weren't coming out, some said, "Car payments." Others are reluctant, they say, because they don't get along with the coach.
The town of Jim Thorpe (formerly named Mauch Chunk) may have the body of Jim Thorpe, but it seems to lack his spirit.
The ball girls for the Baltimore Orioles are now cleaning home plate with Dustbusters.
August 23, 1987
For the past two years, Canterbury Downs in Shakopee, Minn., has run a "Filly for a Fan" promotional drawing in which a lucky racetrack patron wins an actual racehorse. The track pays all of the horse's training fees, and the contest winner keeps the horse's earnings through the end of the racing season, at which time the winner has to decide whether to keep the horse or sell it back to Canterbury at market value.
Last year Betty Ward of St. Paul won All Decked Out, a 3-year-old filly who had won only one of her six starts. But after Ward became her owner. All Decked Out won three races and placed six times in her next 12 starts. When the filly was claimed for $16,000 at Bay Meadows near San Francisco on Dec. 5, Ward's total windfall came to $37,600.
This year, on June 14, the winner was Lynette (Punky) Nelson, co-owner with her husband of a J C Penney catalog store in tiny Moose Lake, Minn. The "filly" she was given was actually a 3-year-old gelding, Brigand's Ballad, who hadn't won any of his five starts.
Since the drawing, Brigand's Ballad has had two wins and two seconds in five starts, earning $6,565. Says Punky, "I like this horse-owning game."
THE PARTY'S OVER
This may be the end of tailgating as we know it. Two weeks ago Los Angeles Rams season-ticket holders were informed in a letter that "consumption of alcoholic beverages on the parking lot is prohibited by Anaheim City Ordinance," and that "Anaheim police shall actively enforce this ordinance." The ordinance has been on the books for years, but an increasing number of drunken incidents inside Anaheim Stadium and the threat of lawsuits as a result of alcohol-related accidents led the city to step up enforcement.
In the Long Beach Press-Telegram, an Anaheim police captain, Martin Mitchell, characterized tailgate participants as follows: "There are three kinds of tailgaters. First is the large organized groups. They cause some of the greatest problems. Second is what I call the party animal. This is the small group that has a cooler, parties, throws a football and runs around in the parking lot. They're pretty well plastered by the time the game starts. The third group is the man and woman who share a bottle of wine with sandwiches before the game." Mitchell said that for now his people won't bother with the third group, although in time they, too, will be affected.
Given the growing awareness of alcohol abuse, it is probably only a matter of time before Anaheim's policy is adopted nationwide. Some stadiums, though, will be more reluctant to follow suit than others. Asked what would happen if Tampa Stadium suddenly prohibited tailgating. Rick Nafe, the director of operations at the Tampa Sports Authority, said, "Did you see the original Frankenstein movie, when the angry mob gathered outside the castle? That's what it would be like."
BRAINS AND BRAWN
Congratulations to New England Patriot rookie offensive tackle Bruce Armstrong. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, of all the NFL first-round picks who took the Wonderlic Personnel Test this year, Armstrong, who attended Louisville, scored the highest—37 of a possible 50. The test, which is administered by the BLESTO scouting combine to help determine a player's mental capabilities, contains 50 questions involving logic, math, geometry and semantics. Sample: "Which two of these sayings have similar meanings: (a) A stitch in time saves nine; (b) A rolling stone gathers no moss; (c) A penny saved is a penny earned?"
The average test score for all occupations—doctors, lawyers and Redskin centers—is 22, two more points than the NFL's very first pick, Vinny Testaverde, received. Seattle's newest linebacker, Brian Bosworth, scored a relatively high 29. The lowest scores belonged to Green Bay and former Auburn running back Brent Fullwood (9) and Roger Vick (6), the New York Jets' running back from Texas A & M. But as Billy Wilson, a scout for the San Francisco 49ers, points out, the Wonderlic score is not the only measure of how a player will perform on the field. "Some guys have had trouble reading the playbook, but on the field, they've had no trouble at all." On the other hand, he adds, "the highest score I ever recorded was a 44 by a guy who didn't make it."
Jackie Sherrill, Roger Vick's coach at Texas A & M, recently let fly with this explanation as to why such measures as the Scholastic Aptitude Test is unfair to athletes: "The tests historically discriminate against those not in the mainland or streamlined."
JOHN MCENROE, PLEASE NOTE
The handbook distributed to each of the 37,000 volunteers working at the Pan American Games in Indianapolis (page 18) contained this interesting item in a list of protocol dos and don'ts:
"Realize that gestures can be significant. Hand motions which are innocent in one culture may be offensive in another. Keep your hands relatively still and refrain from pointing—instead use wide arm motions, turning your head in the desired direction. Avoid scratching your nose, indicating the number two by holding up two fingers, or making the thumbs up or the 'O.K.' sign."
TONGA: LONGBOAT CHAMPION IN SHORT ORDER
Once upon a time in the island kingdom of Tonga, the people were plump and prided themselves on their many chins. But His Majesty King Taufa 'ahau Tupou IV decided one day that he would have a longboat canoe racing team to challenge those of the neighboring islands. Taufa 'ahau selected and trained Tonga's strongest young men, and he found a boat designer from a land far, far away to build the fastest longboat. When the time at last came to race....
That fairy tale of the south pacific is absolutely true. Last year king Taufa'ahau of Tonga caught the fautasi racing bug. Fautasi boats are carved from the trunks of fau (giant hibiscus) trees, and they contain from 40 to 50 oarsmen and a skipper, who also beats time with a drum. Tonga's neighbors in Western Samoa and American Samoa have long been acknowledged as the masters of fautasi racing, but the king mounted a challenge by putting his team in full-time training for six months and hiring Robert J. Adair of Canada, who built two fautasis to computer specifications and devised a special bailing system.
The Tongans' first test came in April in Pago Pago, American Samoa, and their boat, Tu'i Vava'u, bested eight other canoes. To prove that was no fluke, they beat 11 other fautasis in June in Apia, Western Samoa. By then, a controversy similar to that in the '83 America's Cup had arisen: The losers accused the winners of having superior technology, not superior manpower.
The third big event was held in Tonga on July 4 to coincide with King Taufa'ahau's 69th birthday. Again, Tu'i Vava'u won easily, completing the five-mile race in a record time of 28 minutes, a full 400 meters ahead of the second boat. This time, though, the team from American Samoa challenged the Tongans to a special race—the Samoans would row in Tonga's boat, and the Tongans would row in American Samoa's boat. In a two-mile race the next day, the Tongans still easily won. A similar challenge was issued by the team from Western Samoa, and Tonga won yet again.
THEY SAID IT
•John Brodie, 52, former NFL quarterback and NBC broadcaster, on his new career on the PGA Senior Tour: "My wife said to me the other day, 'My god, you may get to 65 without ever working a day in your life.' "
•Rickey Henderson, New York Yankee outfielder, on a heart-to-heart talk with manager Lou Piniella: "We'll let bye-byes be bye-byes."