Last week's massive oil spill in the Persian Gulf may prove to be of dubious military value, but it will almost certainly have tragic consequences for the environment of the region for years to come. U.S. authorities said the spill was caused when Iraq emptied oil into the gulf from a loading terminal and five tankers, and as of Monday of this week, five days after the flow was detected, an estimated 450 million gallons of oil had leaked into the gulf. That made it the largest oil spill in history, 40 times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska in 1989. Mark Whiteis-Helm, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, told The Washington Post, "We're talking about the kind of environmental disaster the world has never seen before."
Immediately at risk is the multimillion-dollar fishing industry in the gulf. This is spawning time for shrimp, and their spawning areas are in the predicted path of the slick. Grouper and Spanish mackerel are also plentiful, and the oil could suffocate them. Says Dr. Andrew Price, a marine ecologist and expert on the gulf, "Shrimp and fish have sustained the coastal society for centuries, perhaps millennia." According to Price, there are two endangered species of turtle in the gulf, the hawks-bill and the green, as well as 3,500 to 7,500 dugongs, a variety of sea cow. Among the wading birds that will die are oystercatchers, plovers and stilts.
"Immediate kills are obvious," says Dr. John Farrington, a specialist in oil pollution at the Woods Hole (Mass.) Oceanographic Institution. "But there will also be a lot of sublethal impacts on organisms, such as reduced reproduction." Farrington notes that in 1989, while studying marsh sediments near Woods Hole, he found oil compounds that he traced to a spill in 1969.
February 4, 1991
THEY'RE AMERICANS TOO
One of the early casualties of the gulf war has been a sense of fairness and tolerance here at home. Some Arab-Americans, through no fault of their own, have already been the victims of bias and ignorance.
The problem is of special concern in Dearborn, Mich., which has one of the largest Arab-American communities in the country'. Eleven of the 13 players on the basketball team at Dearborn's Ford-son High are Arab-Americans. All season long, the team has been the target of nasty taunts. Says junior point guard Haisam Abadi, "In one game [against Roosevelt High of Wyandotte] someone said, 'Go back to Saudi Arabia. You're not wanted here.' Every game something like that is said."
Never mind that Saudi Arabia is an ally of the U.S.—or, for that matter, that most of the Fordson players are of Lebanese descent. Bigotry hasn't time for such fine distinctions. Fordson athletic director John Spain told Mick McCabe of the Detroit Free Press of a phone call he got recently from a parent complaining that a Fordson wrestler had HUSSEIN written on his warmup. "She didn't think it was appropriate," Spain told McCabe. "Well, that's the kid's name."
PAR FOR THE CORPSE
People are dying to get into the Ahlgrim and Sons Funeral Home in suburban Chicago these days, but not all go in feet first. Some bring scorecards and putters. In the mortuary's basement, owner Roger Ahlgrim has built a nine-hole miniature golf course that capitalizes on its creepy location. The first hole features a skull with blinking red eyes. The fourth is a kind of pinball machine, with headstones for bumpers. "I have all my employees' names on them," says Ahlgrim, "including my own."
Ahlgrim, who has clearly done a rotten job of living up to his name, started building the course 26 years ago when he moved the family mortuary from Elmhurst, Ill., to its current location in Palatine. Originally he hoped merely to amuse his children and their friends. But word of Ahlgrim's macabre nine got around, and he was soon fielding inquiries from Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. "And we get a lot of 40th birthdays," he says. "They'll have us put out a casket, and they'll decorate the room with black balloons." There is no charge for playing the course, which Ahlgrim says is used twice in a typical week.
Ahlgrim has just one very strict rule: No golfing during wakes. "People ask to, but we can't let them," says Ahlgrim. "The noise from the basement goes right up the ducts."
FOR PETE'S SAKE
One of the best pacers currently racing at the Meadowlands is a 4-year-old named Sayitain'tsopete. Part-owner Darrell Griswold, a police lieutenant from Clinton, Md., named the horse with Pete Rose and the legendary line about Shoeless Joe Jackson, "Say it ain't so, Joe," in mind. Since Jan. 7, when Rose was released from the federal prison camp in Marion, Ill., after serving a five-month sentence for income-tax evasion, Sayitain'tsopete has been particularly impressive, winning two stakes races and finishing second in another.
Sayitain'tsopete shares several attributes with Rose, according to trainer Dan Murray. "He's kind of small, but he's put together real well," says Murray. "He has a great motor." And like Rose, Sayitain'tsopete is an Ohio-bred.
GETTING THE STORY
There are 780 members of the press covering the Persian Gulf war. There were 2,200 on hand at Super Bowl XXV.
A GIANT EMBARRASSMENT
Champions for Life, a 10-minute-long piece of antiabortion propaganda that first appeared 14 months ago, became the subject of controversy last week when the New York Giants made it to the Super Bowl. Underwritten by Giants co-owner Wellington Mara, the video, which has been sent to hundreds of organizations, uses footage from New York's win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI, statements by six members of that Giants team and closeup shots of spectators, none of whom were asked how they felt about the issue.
No matter how one feels about abortion, it's hard not to be repulsed by the video's inflammatory language. At one point, one of the Giants, Mark Bavaro, says, "Now, with abortion death squads allowed to run rampant through our country, I wonder how many future champions will be killed before they see the light of day?" Elsewhere, Jimmy Burt Jr., the nine-year-old son of Jim Burt, a former Giant now with the 49ers, looks into the camera from atop his father's shoulders and says, "It's great to be alive."
Apart from questions of taste, there's one further objection that should be raised. As columnist Anna Quindlen noted in The New York Times, no women are heard from in the video. In fact, women aren't even mentioned.
RED GRANGE (1903-91)
Harold (Red) Grange, football's fabled galloping ghost, died early this week in a Lake Wales, Fla., hospital at the age of 87. Grange was the last surviving giant of the Golden Age of Sport, that storied decade, the '20s, in which he, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Bobby Jones and Bill Tilden pushed sports to the center of American consciousness.
Grange played halfback for Illinois from 1923 to '25, and in each season was voted to the All-America team. To Damon Runyon, he was "three or four men and a horse rolled into one." In 1924, against Michigan, Grange ran back the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and followed that with scoring runs of 67, 56 and 45 yards—all in the first 12 minutes of play. A year later, he led the Illini to a 24-2 win over heavily favored Pennsylvania, rushing for 363 yards and three TDs in ankle-deep mud.
Two days after his last college game, Grange signed with the Chicago Bears, thus entering the then dirty world of professional football. When Grange's coach, Bob Zuppke, tried to dissuade him, Grange said, "Zup, you coach for money. Why isn't it O.K. to play for money?"
Though he was always too modest to take credit for it, Grange gave pro football legitimacy. In his first 66 days with George Halas's Bears, Grange played 19 games in 17 cities, from Miami to Seattle. The Bears drew NFL-record crowds of 73,000 in New York and 75,000 in Los Angeles, with Grange getting 30 percent of the gate. "Make me feel good," an exhausted Grange told C.C. Pyle, the tour's promoter. "Tell me how much I'm up to now."
Grange and Pyle started their own league in 1926, and when it failed, Grange and the team for which he played, the New York Yankees, joined the NFL. In the third game of the '27 season, he suffered a knee injury that limited his lateral mobility. Grange returned to the Bears for six more seasons, but he was never the same. He retired from the game in '35 and went on to hold, with considerable success, a series of jobs in insurance and other businesses.
The image of the Galloping Ghost endured. As Grantland Rice, who is generally credited with giving Grange his spectral sobriquet, wrote:
A streak of fire, a breath of flame,
Eluding all who reach and clutch;
A gray ghost thrown into the game
That rival hands may rarely touch.
THEY SAID IT
•Eric Dickerson, Indianapolis Colts running back, on his apparently fading ability: "If I've lost a step, it's a step a lot of other guys never had."