ATLANTA IS IT
On Sept. 18 the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1996 Summer Games to Atlanta, prompting residents of that city to launch fireworks, hug strangers, dance in the subway aisles and, by day's end, lease $4.5 million worth of seats in the yet-to-be-completed Georgia Dome.
Atlanta won the right to stage the centennial Games over five other finalists, including sentimental favorite Athens, Greece, the host city of the first modern Olympics, in 1896, because its telephones work, its time zone suits U.S. television, its athletic facilities are superb, its coffers are primed and its economic future is dynamic. Led by its president, Billy Payne, and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, the city's Olympic organizing committee portrayed a racially harmonious metropolis in which Olympic profit is inevitable because failure is intolerable.
While Atlanta is not without the social problems that afflict many large U.S. cities, its civic leaders are to be commended for the decades of accomplishment that contributed to the victory over Athens and the other Olympic hopefuls.
Of course, staging a successful Atlanta Olympics will be far more difficult than charming the IOC was. In her 1936 novel, Gone with the Wind, Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell wrote, "The people who settled the town called successively Terminus, Marthasville and Atlanta...were proud of the place, proud of its growth, proud of themselves for making it grow." The hope here is that come July 1996, once again Atlanta will do itself proud.
Thirty-two years ago Bill Russell, then the center for the Boston Celtics, moved into a house in suburban Reading, Mass., making his the only black family in the neighborhood. Russell complained about persistent police harassment, which he deemed racially motivated, but he chose to stay in Reading.
A month ago the Celtics' top choice in last June's college draft, Jacksonville University guard Dee Brown, who is black, decided to purchase a house in the affluent, mostly white Boston suburb of Wellesley. Now he is having second thoughts. Last Friday, Brown was reading his mail outside the Wellesley Hills post office when he was confronted by a throng of Wellesley police officers with their guns drawn. Brown and his fiancèe, Jill Edmondson, who is white, say he was forced to kneel and then lie facedown on the pavement. Edmondson says it was 10 minutes before the officers concluded that the 21-year-old Brown was not the 25- to 30-year-old black armed robber the cameras in the Wellesley Hills branch of South Shore Bank had filmed making off with $1,691 three days before.
"I look nothing like that guy," Brown said of the robbery suspect. He added, "You look around and you see a gun barrel. You see things go past you, all the goals you set—there goes my career...." Brown also said he is considering filing a civil suit against the police, and that he plans to live elsewhere.
Russell wrote in his autobiography, Second Wind, that in many cases of police harassment his name saved him from protracted experiences. Perhaps Brown's mistake was in not establishing a bigger reputation for himself before venturing into Wellesley. As it is, it's only because he's a pro athlete that his distressing 10 minutes became publicized. Even more unsettling is what happens to less prominent blacks in similar situations.
THE JET'S DREAM
During a 13-year NBA career that ended in 1975, Chet (the Jet) Walker was a mainstay on a league championship team—the Philadelphia 76ers of '67—and appeared in seven All-Star Games. His 18,831 points for the Syracuse Nationals, the Sixers and the Chicago Bulls make him 19th on the NBA's alltime career scoring list. Yet Walker says that none of his basketball accomplishments can compare with the honor conferred on him at the Pasadena Civic Center on Sept. 14. That night, Walker, who now works as a film producer (SCORECARD, March 9, 1987), received an Emmy as coproducer of the outstanding children's program A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story. The two-hour NBC drama detailed the struggles that Detroit Piston star Isiah Thomas's mother endured in raising nine children in a poverty-stricken, drug-infested Chicago neighborhood.
"The story of Isiah's mother is so similar to my own life," says Walker, 50, referring to his childhood in Benton Harbor, Mich. "My family lived in poverty in the projects. I have many trophies now, but this is the best. Absolutely it is the most rewarding."
Five years ago wrestler Hulk Hogan appeared on comedian Richard Belzer's cable television show and, in the process of demonstrating a hold, rendered Belzer bloody and unconscious. Belzer sued Hogan, and the two settled out of court this year. So it didn't exactly come as a surprise when Belzer recently declined a role in the film Urban Commandos, thereby passing up an opportunity to act alongside the star of the movie, that noted thespian Hulk Hogan. "The reason I turned down the part," said Belzer, "had nothing to do with the fact that he tried to kill me."
Two incidents in Moscow last week involving touring NHL teams and their host opponents in the Soviet Union should put to rest notions that hockey players and fans in the U.S.S.R. are above the violent tactics we have come to expect—and revile—in North America. A forward for the Khimik Voskresensk club high-sticked Minnesota North Star center Dave Gagner in the mouth and demonstrated his remorse by giving his teammates high fives en route to the penalty box. Gagner needed 25 stitches on his face. Late in the game, won by Minnesota 3-2, two of the North Stars' surliest players, Basil McRae and Mark Tinordi, went after Gagner's aggressor and got a couple of licks in before they were pulled away by officials.
The following day the Montreal Canadiens' 3-2 overtime loss to Central Army was marred by two fights, five game-misconduct penalties and ugliness from the fans, who pelted the Canadiens with bottle caps, coins and vodka bottles, a barrage that prompted Montreal coach Pat Burns to pull his team off the ice for 10 minutes. Of the brawling, Sovietskii Sport columnist L. Trakhtenberg was moved to describe the way "the players, their faces distorted from fury and pain, beat on one another until it seemed as if from the arms of each of them hung two dumbbells and not gloves." Lovely.
MAN'S BEST FRIEND
When Bud Creal, a marketing executive and sometime hunter who lives in Duluth, Ga., bought his pointer, Beau, he knew he was getting himself a pretty good bird dog. Pointers are, after all, prized by hunters for their skill at locating feathered game, and Beau has three field champions within his family's past five generations. Still, Beau is not yet two years old, and Creal could not have anticipated that the dog would become such an adept tracker so soon. Beau, it seems, is older than his dog years.
On Sept. 10, Bud and Beau were dockside on Lake Lanier, taking cover from a scalding Georgia afternoon inside the air-conditioned houseboat of their friend Ken Baker. Suddenly Beau sprang to his feet, raced to the door and began barking. When the door was opened for him, Beau sprinted off down the pier. A flock of Canada geese rose to his left. Beau ignored them. Some mallard ducks appeared on the right. Beau ignored them. A stanchion from which dangled freshly caught large mouth bass? Beau ignored that, too. After 40 yards he froze, raised one foreleg, extended his tail and pointed his head rigidly at a boat just pulling up to the dock, its prow full of bikini-clad young women. "He's not that well trained yet," says Creal. "If he was trained, he could be worth as much as $5,000, but I'm not going to do that. I just got him for pleasure."
Clearly, Beau knows pleasure.
THEY SAID IT
•Jackie Berning, Denver Bronco team nutritionist, on the responses of players who were asked to name the four food groups: "They didn't hesitate: Wendy's, McDonald's, Pizza Hut and Burger King."
•Charles Grodin, actor and former Pittsburgh Pirate fan, writing in The New York Times on why he switched allegiances to the New York Mets: "I did a one-man show in Pittsburgh in 1983, and no one came."