There's nothing wrong with good, clean, loud cheering, but something else has been in the air during this basketball season:
•Before a game on Feb. 27 between host Arizona State and Arizona, ASU students directed such taunts as "PLO! PLO!" and "Your father's history" at Wildcats guard Steve Kerr, whose father, Malcolm, was assassinated in Beirut in 1984 while serving as president of American University there.
•On Jan. 23, Missouri's notorious student cheering section so brutally heckled Iowa State's Jeff Grayer about his mother—she has acute arthritis—that Grayer and his teammates went over to the stands to shut the jeerers up.
•On Feb. 7, Duke's student mascot, Jeffrey Wilkinson, wore a headband marked BUCKWHEAT to make fun of Notre Dame's David Rivers. Wilkinson is white, Rivers black, as was Buckwheat, the character from the Our Gang comedies.
The First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech, and measures to muzzle even the most tasteless and cruel utterances should not be taken lightly. As public institutions, Arizona State and Missouri would have difficulty restricting fans whose taunts go beyond the bounds of decency. So what's the solution to what appears to be a spreading phenomenon? One answer lies with the fans sitting around the boors. Instead of giggling and encouraging unseemly behavior, these fans—even if they are fellow students—should tell the offensive parties what jerks they are. Also, the team backed by the obnoxious fans could walk off the court until their behavior stopped. Though the action might result in a technical, it would be an exercise of free expression, too.
A BOUNCE IN HIS STEP
Mark Harwell finished the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday in 4 hours, 29 minutes and 16 seconds, a fairly ordinary time until one considers that Harwell dribbled a basketball the entire 26.2 miles. No one in his right mind would try to figure out how many bounces that took. But then no one in his right mind would dribble up the steps of the Statue of Liberty on July 4, or dribble all the way up 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro, both of which Harwell is planning to do.
Harwell, 25, a part-time actor and songwriter, bounces for charity, particularly the West Texas Rehabilitation Center, a nonprofit general healthcare facility in Abilene, Texas, where he grew up. He also learned the finer points of basketball there, from the Abilene Christian team, which adopted him as its unofficial mascot when he was a boy. Later, from 1982 to '83, the 6'4" Harwell became the first student to play basketball for Prairie View A & M.
By the time Harwell finished the L.A. Marathon, his basketball, which had been brand-new at the start, was bald and black. "I don't think I could have done it without the basketball," he said. "It would have been too boring otherwise." Harwell, who is lefthanded, dribbled 40% of the time with his left hand, 20% with his right and 40% crossing over from left to right and vice versa.
Harwell has dribbled up tall buildings in many bounds, most notably the 30-story Century Plaza Hotel Tower in Los Angeles, which he ascended in 3 minutes, 59 seconds. According to Harwell, "Once you get the hang of it, dribbling up steps is pretty easy. The key is not to think about it. If you do, you'll be chasing the ball back down the stairs." He thinks the Statue of Liberty will be a piece of cake, but he's a little more apprehensive about tackling Mount Kilimanjaro, which he hopes to do in the fall. Why Kilimanjaro? "Because it's there," says Harwell, bouncily.
Larry Hendrickson, the conditioning coach of the Minnesota North Stars, tells about listening to his eight-year-old daughter, Julie, say her prayers one night.
"God bless Mommy and Daddy," said Julie.
"Haven't you forgotten something?" asked Hendrickson, expecting Julie to mention some other people.
"Oh, yeah," she said. "Thank you, God, for putting Toronto in the Norris Division."
Toronto, with the second-worst record in the NHL (48 points at the end of last week), is the one team within striking distance of the North Stars—who have the worst, 43 points.
COMING UP EMPTY
Last week the NCAA announced that it could prove no serious wrongdoing on the part of the Kentucky basketball program despite allegations to the contrary in a 1985 Pulitzer Prizewinning series on Wildcat basketball in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader. While the NCAA slapped Kentucky on the wrist for not cooperating with its investigation, it also swiped at the newspaper for not releasing its tapes of interviews with athletes who had told of receiving improper payments from the school. David Berst, the NCAA director of enforcement, said that his operatives had interviewed 17 of the newspaper's 33 sources and that only one said he'd been accurately quoted. Moreover, Berst said, the violations that the one source spoke of did not occur within the four-year statute of limitations established by the NCAA.
"There are two ways to view it," said Berst. "If the newspaper article was correct, there were forces at work to keep us from getting the full story. That would be an embarrassment to us. If the newspaper story was incorrect, that would be an embarrassment to the paper and to the Pulitzer award. Which of us should be embarrassed? I'll leave that up to people to decide for themselves."
But Berst obviously felt it was the paper that should be embarrassed. Said Berst, "Once it printed a story which would lead people to believe that the school was guilty of violations, it retreated from any responsibility for determining whether the facts that it stated were correct. I object to that personally."
Objection overruled. The Herald-Leader had, in fact, determined to its satisfaction that its stories were correct, and it continued to stand by its reporting even after the NCAA came up empty. What the Herald-Leader retreated from was the NCAA's demand to see the newspaper's background documents. Berst failed to understand that newspapers conduct investigations not for the benefit of the NCAA or any other governing bodies, public or private, but for the benefit of their readers.
The NCAA's handling of the Kentucky case is only the latest evidence that its investigative techniques are ineffective. Said John Carroll, managing editor of the Herald-Leader, "My impression is that both the NCAA and the university approached this investigation without enthusiasm. I know there are sincere people who still can't believe that UK would violate the rules."
The New England Sports Network, which will telecast 83 Red Sox games this season, has signed former second baseman Jerry Remy to be longtime announcer Ned Martin's new—and natural—partner in the booth. Yes, on many a night, Red Sox fans will enjoy a snifter of Remy Martin.
JACK PLAYS SOME HEAVY METAL AT DORAL
At last week's Doral Open in Miami, Ben Crenshaw won with his old-fashioned boyhood putter and some obsolescent implements—wooden woods. In fact, Crenshaw used his time-tested putter to complete a 14-under-par 274 performance with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole. It gave him the stroke he needed to beat Mark McCumber and Chip Beck.
But while Crenshaw was leaning on an old standard, New Wave technocrat Jack Nicklaus was playing heavy metal. That's right, golf's archtraditionalist came to Doral with the scourge of classic-club collectors—a metal-headed driver. But Nicklaus is pragmatic, above all else, and he used his new war club to good effect. Indeed, until his final-round 75, he had powered his way around Doral's Blue Monster course like the Golden—not Olden—Bear.
"All I know is, this driver makes my [persimmon] three-wood feel terrible," said Nicklaus, whose metal club was produced by the MacGregor golf equipment company he co-owns. "Very simply I hit the blasted thing straight."
Still it didn't seem right to see the man whose wood shots cracked like no one else's switching to the dull clink of metal. "It's like Eric Heiden wearing roller skates," said Lee Trevino.
Actually the new driver is an appropriate symbol of Nicklaus's apparently revived game. During 11 PGA tournament appearances last year and one this, during which his best finish was a tie for seventh, Nicklaus seemed resigned to playing less than his best, to being a ceremonial golfer. This winter, however, he has undergone a new conditioning program designed to alleviate the aches from 26 years of pro golf. And he went back to his old hunched-over style of putting after he saw a replay of a 1963 match between him and Sam Snead.
"I still love golf, but only when I play like Jack Nicklaus, not this guy I've seen the last few years," he said. "I don't know him."
THEY SAID IT
•Willie Hernandez, Detroit Tigers reliever, "apologizing" for dumping a bucket of ice water on Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom: "A lot of people make mistakes. I believe I made a good mistake."
•Mike Gottfried, Pitt football coach, on his referring to sports agents as "vultures": "I would like to apologize to the bird species for connecting these two."