STEROIDS AND THE YOUNG
The reasons for concern about performance-enhancing drugs increased as 1988, the Year of Steroids, neared its end. An article published in last week's Journal of the American Medical Association found that 6.6% of male high school seniors—as many as 500,000 nationwide—use or have used anabolic steroids and that more than two-thirds of them first tried steroids when they were 16 or younger. "We're not talking about casual use of anabolic steroids," says the primary author of the study, William E. Buckley, an assistant professor of health education at Penn State. The young athletes are "stacking the drugs [taking more than one type simultaneously to increase the muscle-building effect], and 30-some percent are using needles," says Buckley. "That's fairly hard-core behavior."
Anecdotal evidence had suggested steroid use among male adolescents, but no comprehensive national work had ever measured the extent of that use. The Buckley study, which was based on a sampling of 3,403 male 12th-graders from 46 U.S. high schools, indicated that 47.1% of the users took the drugs to enhance athletic performance, 26.7% did so to improve appearance and 10.7% used steroids for injury prevention or treatment—even though, as Buckley and his coauthors point out, using steroids for prevention and treatment of sports injuries is "not accepted medical practice "in this country."
The effects of steroids on adolescents haven't been thoroughly researched, but it's feared that the drugs may cause liver damage, overly aggressive behavior and premature sealing off of the growth plates in the knees, elbows and other joints. In light of those worries, it's ironic that the youthful users tend to believe they are stronger and healthier than their peers. Disturbingly, 21% of them said they had been given steroids by a physician, pharmacist or veterinarian; the others obtained theirs from friends or elsewhere on the black market. The study also revealed that 35.2% of the steroid users weren't involved in school sports.
"It's not just an athletic problem," says Buckley. "You can't just hold a team meeting and tell the players not to use anabolic steroids, because you'll miss a third of the users." Buckley suggests that steroid-education programs are needed at the high school level or lower; a third of the users who participated in the study said they had first tried the drugs by the age of 15.
YOUR CHEATIN' HEART
To lampoon the payoffs and other violations allegedly committed by coach Eddie Sutton and others connected with the Kentucky basketball program, some Louisville musicians have recorded a ditty called The Ballad of Coach Eddie, using the tune of the old Beverly Hillbillies theme. The song's final stanza: "You're all invited back next year to see the boys play/If they survive the ruling from the NCAA." The group bills itself as The Fifty-Dollar Handshakes.
THE WON'T-CALL WINDOW
Everyone got a chuckle last August when Houston Oiler coach Jerry Glanville, on a whim, left a sidelines pass for Elvis Presley at the will-call window before an Oilers-Patriots preseason game in Memphis. Glanville, an Elvis buff, so enjoyed the reaction to his gesture that he continued leaving tickets for local celebrities—some dead, some alive, some not exactly celebrities, some...well, you get the picture—at away games all season.
Glanville left passes for James Dean in Indianapolis, Buddy Holly in Dallas, Loni Anderson in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh Zoo director Charles Wickenhauser in that city (an act of atonement: Glanville created a furor in the Steel City last year by remarking that the town didn't even have a decent zoo to visit), and the Phantom of the Opera at New Jersey's Meadowlands. Glanville planned to leave tickets in Philadelphia for W.C. Fields or Ed McMahon—"I'm not too sure they're not the same person," he explained—but didn't leave any because Houston was coming off a big loss.
None of the celebrities appeared to claim his free ducats, but an Elvis impersonator did show up at one Oiler practice.
HAPPY HOLLY DAY
In the spirit of Christmas, we extend birthday greetings to LPGA tour rookie Holly Vaughn, who was born on Dec. 25, 1961, in the not-so-little town of Bethlehem, Pa.
CHANGE OF SIGNALS?
Last week Randall Cunningham of the Philadelphia Eagles became the first black quarterback ever selected to start in an NFL Pro Bowl. Cunningham, who was chosen in a conference-wide vote by players and coaches, will represent the NFC in Honolulu on Jan. 29, while another black quarterback, Warren Moon of the Houston Oilers, will be a backup for the AFC.
The selection of Cunningham and Moon is further evidence of the shattering of the longstanding taboo against black quarterbacks. A black quarterback, Doug Williams, led the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl victory last January, and of the 34 teams playing in this season's college bowl games, at least 15 will start blacks at the position. But racial stereotypes in sports haven't died out. One reason black quarterbacks were virtually nonexistent in the colleges and pros until recently was that too many coaches believed that blacks lacked the intelligence and leadership necessary for the job. Most coaches have since changed their thinking—but in many cases the principal change hasn't been in the coaches' racial attitude but in their perception of what a quarterback is supposed to do. Asked to explain why blacks are finally being employed at quarterback, some coaches explain that the position nowadays requires all-around athletic abilty. Implicit in this response is that if intelligence were still what mattered, blacks wouldn't be getting the call. The media are culpable, too; sportscasters and sportswriters almost invariably describe black quarterbacks as great natural athletes, not as brainy field generals.
As for the racial stereotyping that goes on in other sports, consider a recent study by the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University. The study found that 78% of the black players in major league baseball (not including pitchers) play first base or the outfield. Managers who were surveyed said that the positions requiring the least ability to think, make decisions and serve as team leaders were first base and the outfield.
FAREWELLS: FOND AND OTHERWISE
Two of College Football's most prominent coaches, Georgia's Vince Dooley and Texas A & M's Jackie Sherrill, stepped down last week under markedly different circumstances. Dooley, 56, whose 200-77-10 record in 25 years of guiding the Bulldogs makes him the 10th-winningest Division I coach ever, resigned to pursue business and political opportunities that may include a run for the Georgia governorship as a conservative Democrat in 1990. The hard-driving Sherrill, 45, coached the Aggies to three Southwest Conference titles in seven years but left under a cloud: A & M's football program was put on two years' NCAA probation last September for 25 recruiting and other violations, and is being investigated by the university and the NCAA following an allegation by former Aggie running back George Smith (who has recanted his charges) that Sherrill paid him to keep silent about additional violations. If the investigation finds that Sherrill did give hush money to Smith or that other wrongdoing occurred, the NCAA could apply its "death penalty" and shut down A & M's football program.
Dooley had a few embarrassing incidents in his career, too—the worst of them, the 1986 Jan Kemp case, revealed that few of the Bulldogs' numerous black players had earned degrees—but he generally handled them with reason and composure. An unknown Auburn assistant when Georgia hired him in 1964, he revived a lagging program; the Bulldogs won the '80 national title and will have played in 20 bowl games (Dooley won't step down officially until after Georgia plays Michigan State Jan. 1 in the Gator Bowl) during his tenure. Dooley holds a master's degree in history and has long shown an interest in politics; his popularity in Georgia would make him a strong candidate for office.
Sherrill, who is close to Houston Oiler owner Bud Adams and Dallas Cowboy owner Bum Bright, may be headed for the NFL. His legacy at A & M is a clause the school inserted in the contracts of new coach R.C. Slocum and his assistants: If any of the coaches violates NCAA rules, he can be fired immediately.
THEY SAID IT
•Bob Reinhart, Georgia State basketball coach, after hearing his team criticized by Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs: "He's what's known as a contact coach—all con and no tact."
•Kevin Bannon, Trenton (N.J.) State basketball coach, on his star guard, Greg Grant, who works in a seafood store during the summer: "My cholesterol level went down 30 percent while I recruited him."
•Tommy Lasorda, Los Angeles Dodger manager, downplaying the news that his South Pasadena, Calif., restaurant was closed down for several days in October because of 43 health code violations, including a rat infestation: "I've eaten there, and I ain't dead."