College basketball's rule makers have succumbed to the same AIDS hysteria that hounded Magic Johnson out of the NBA. Not content with a requirement that a bloodied player must leave a game and not return until the wound is treated, the NCAA men's and women's basketball rules committees have also decreed that an athlete with a blood-stained uniform may return only if he or she puts on a clean uniform or if the bloodied uniform is washed with a disinfectant.
In the face of this ruling, a review of the relevant facts about AIDS and sports seems in order. According to AIDS experts, the risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes the disease, through contact during sports is infinitesimal. Of the 10 million-plus adult HIV-positive cases reported in the dozen years since AIDS was identified, there has been perhaps one involving infection through sports, and that case—of an amateur soccer player who butted heads with an HIV-positive opponent during a game in Italy in 1989—is in dispute. One expert suggests that an athlete would run a greater risk of getting struck by lightning while standing in a field on a sunny day than of being infected by HIV during a game; transmission of the virus through a bloodied uniform, AIDS authorities say, is almost inconceivable.
The fear that athletes might contract HIV on the playing field is fueled by the several documented cases of health-care workers who have become infected by handling blood, but Dr. David Rogers, a professor of medicine at Cornell who is vice-chairman of the National Commission on AIDS, says, "In the health-care cases, the infection in virtually every instance was caused by the transmission of large amounts of blood through hollow-bore needles. With cuts or scratches, the risk is as close to zero as possible. When two people bleed, they bleed out, not in. It's hard to imagine an exchange of enough blood to cause infection."
November 30, 1992
An NCAA spokesman says that the organization would prefer to err on the side of caution, but the new rule is not as benign as that sounds. Making athletes cleanse or change their uniforms during games only reinforces the image of the HIV-afflicted as lepers to be shunned in the classroom and workplace as well as in sports. It also shifts the focus from the primary causes of AIDS: unprotected sex with infected partners or the sharing of intravenous needles. As Rogers says, "All the energy and attention being concentrated on what players do on the court or on the field, where the chance is virtually zero of contracting the disease, diverts attention from what they do off the field, where the risk is a billion times greater."
Whole Lot of W's
At season's start there were two Division III football teams with 500 or more wins—Wittenberg and Widener. Now there are three more. Washington and Jefferson is one of them, having joined the elite by beating Widener. Williams is another, thanks to a win over Wesleyan. The third is Franklin and Marshall, which wouldn't belong in this item except that its milestone W occurred at home on Williamson Field against Western Maryland.
Block That Schott
Some people might think of Cincinnati Red owner Marge Schott as a lovable buffoon, but there's nothing endearing about the evidence of bigotry on her part that emerged during a lawsuit brought against her by a former team employee who claimed he had been wrongly fired. The suit was dismissed last week, but not before the plaintiff and two other former Red employees alleged in depositions that Schott had made racist comments—for example, calling former Cincinnati outfielder Dave Parker "that dumb nigger"—and making cracks about "sneaky goddam Jews." In a deposition taken last December, Schott admitted using the word nigger and that it was "possible" she had referred to Martin Luther King Day as "Nigger Day." She also said she kept a swastika armband in her home and couldn't understand why a former employee of hers, who is Jewish, had taken offense. When asked whether she told that employee that "Hitler might have had the right idea," Schott answered, "I don't really know."
Schott's remarks were even more offensive than the statement made by then Los Angeles Dodger general manager Al Campanis on TV in 1987 that blacks lacked "the necessities" to be managers or general managers. Campanis lost his job over that comment, and Schott could—and should—be fined or suspended under the "best interests of baseball" clause by de facto commissioner Bud Selig (who is Jewish) or otherwise disciplined by National League president Bill White (who is black). At week's end a subdued Schott met with a group of black and Jewish leaders in Cincinnati, apologized for her remarks and even indicated that she might address the Reds' abysmal front-office minority-hiring record.
George S. vs. George S.
George Steinbrenner's name came up the other day, prompting thoughts of another George S.—Santayana. Steinbrenner is expected to return to active duty as owner of the New York Yankees, who are wooing free-agent pitcher David Cone. When Dave Winfield, a Toronto Blue Jay teammate last season, warned Cone about the perils of playing for the Boss, Cone, according to The New York Times, said he "respected Winfield's sentiments but believed that it could be different for him."
Santayana, of course, was the philosopher famous for the dictum, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Temple of Doom
First came the rumors, then the newspaper stories, but as too often happens with end-of-the-season firings, Temple made football coach Jerry Berndt twist in the wind before sacking him last week. His dismissal came three days before the Owls ended a 1-10 season with a 35-10 loss to Rutgers and almost two weeks after Temple officials and old grad Bill Cosby reportedly flew to South Carolina in Cosby's plane to interview Clemson assistant Ron Dickerson for the job. If, as expected, the well-regarded Dickerson is hired this week, he'll be the only black football coach in Division I-A. Temple will deserve credit for that, but certainly not for its failure to play straight with Berndt.
In announcing Berndt's dismissal with a year left on his five-year contract, Temple president Peter Liacouras lauded him as "honorable and decent," and, indeed, Berndt had earned a reputation for running a clean program. Too bad Liacouras's school didn't exhibit the same class.
A recent help-wanted ad in The New York Times offered employment to two boxers who "must have 4 yrs prof'l or amateur exp.; must be capable of engaging in pro boxing matches of up to ten (10) rounds; must have excel amateur & prof'l win/loss record." The ad specified that one of the pugilists had to be a junior welterweight, the other a light heavyweight. Advertising for pugs in the good, gray Times—what in the name of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. is going on?
It seems that the ad was placed by promoter Dan Duva's outfit, Main Events, to comply with U.S. labor regulations holding that foreign job-seekers can obtain work permits only if qualified Americans aren't available. In sports, as in show business, the requirement doesn't apply to headliners, but it does to lesser lights like Nick Rupa and Egerton Marcus, two Canadians Duva had lined up to fight on a Dec. 1 card in Virginia Beach, Va. Duva chose the Times at the direction of John Fullmer, an official in the New Jersey Labor Department, and when no boxers responded, Rupa and Marcus got their work permits. Well, wouldn't an ad in The Ring magazine have brought better results? "Ring magazine?" says Fullmer. "I never knew it existed."
The Foot Locker athletic-shoe chain and Nike have helped bail out Chicago high school sports. Electronic Data Systems Inc. has rescued the U.S. Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Mich. New York Telephone has thrown a lifeline to the 1993 World University Games in Buffalo. Merrill Lynch is providing financial succor to the Heisman Trophy folks. Logos at center ice at NHL games promote the Starter Corp. (L.A. Kings), Champs Sports and Volvo (New Jersey Devils) and Boatmen's Bank (St. Louis Blues). And newly backed by 17 local Pontiac dealers, the former Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association are now the Capital Region Pontiacs.
And No Radio, Either
Unlike some of his drag-racing rivals, driver Jerry Caminito finances his own Funny Car on the National Hot Rod Association circuit. Hence the sign (above) on his 275-mph Oldsmobile.
Bracing for the Millennium
Last week this space contained a note on cities that want to host the Summer Olympics in 2000. Now comes news of a trade in which the Detroit Pistons have given the Minnesota Timberwolves a conditional second-round pick in 2000. This makes Steve Baker, a member of the San Francisco-based comedy troupe the Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre, wonder, "Any speculation on which eighth-grader they've got their eye on? Then again, a sixth-grader might come out early."
They Wrote It
•Paul Ladewski of Chicago's South-town Economist, on erratic Cleveland Cavalier guard Gerald Wilkins: "He has never taken a shot that he couldn't miss."
They Said It
•Jason Bossard, Michigan basketball guard, marveling over the generous size of the shrimp the Wolverines were served in Milan during a preseason European swing: "They brought us crayfish on steroids."
•Dennis Eckersley (left), Oakland A's closer, who was named the American League MVP last week, to objections that the award shouldn't go to somebody who doesn't play nine innings: "Well, I'm nervous for nine innings."
•Charles Barkley, Phoenix Sun star: "You can't compare preseason to regular season. Preseason is just a way to screw fans out of money."