The only thing zanier than college basketball fans and officials are college coaches and the writers who cover this delirious, out-of-control sport. Take last weekend, for instance.
Stan Morrison, this year's local hero, finally lost a close one in conference play, and, predictably, sulked his way through the postgame interview. Here's a guy who has won at least a piece of a championship, which his school does regularly once every quarter-century or so, whose team could have just as easily finished fifth in the Pac-10 as first, and he's "embarrassed." It's not bad enough that USC's players have to perform in the dark and empty Sports Arena, they've also got a coach who is "embarrassed" for them in their last home game of a once-in-a-generation championship season.
The following day we're treated to a scene right out of "Noises Off" when poor Al McGuire has to try and keep a straight face on camera while Dean Smith is forced to read an extraordinary message to the effect that Chris Mullin has won the Wooden Award over Patrick Ewing. This is roughly equivalent to saying that Gary Coleman is a better actor than Robert DeNiro. It's as if an army of Scott Ostlers has somehow infiltrated the august body of "basketball experts" who perpetrated this farce, and, in the name of some kind of awful, empty whimsy, made a practical joke of the whole thing.
Then, a little later, we're graced with one last bit of cabaret when the network breathlessly announces that the NCAA selection committee has included Fairleigh Dickinson and Lehigh in its tournament. Seems as if things are getting to the point where only (counter-culture author) Dr. Hunter S. Thompson can adequately describe the weird, twisted goings-on of this bizarre sport.
Amateur Athletes Lost a Good Friend in Kelly
The death of John B. Kelly Jr. is a loss too great to comprehend.
Jack, or Kell as he was known to thousands of amateur athletes, was not the opportunist who played the game of "sports politics" to gain national office. Jack was an Olympic medalist and Sullivan Award winner. He knew far better than those who administered amateur sports what was best for the competitor. He fought against the bureaucracy to see that athletes' needs came first.
When elected president of the Amateur Athletic Union in 1971 and 1972, he said on assuming office, "The rules of amateurism need updating and modernizing." He was ahead of his time as he diligently fought to remove the antiquated shackles placed on amateur sports.
He threw the weight of his office behind an attempt to bring the NCAA back into the U. S. Olympic Committee. Though not successful, his efforts and dialogue did ease the tensions and restrictions that the NCAA imposed on the student-athlete competing in open and international competition.
He was passed over several times as president of the USOC because he wasn't part of the Olympic hierarchy. But he never failed to advocate that athletes must serve on national committees and their problems must remain the highest priority. Kelly was more than an administrator in the field of athletics. He understood the athlete and represented the heart and soul of every competitor, regardless of sex, color or ethnic origin.
We have lost more than a U.S. Olympic Committee president. We have lost a far-sighted, courageous, honest man whose devotion to amateurs was unparalleled.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Bell Left a Legacy to Inspire Us All
Thank you for publishing the article on Ricky Bell. In my estimation, Ricky Bell is an honor to the whole human race. He has shown us what success really is: being who you are. He is an example of a person who gave his full measure of devotion to life. The individuals who knew him personally are especially honored.
You can't blame God for wanting Ricky Bell with him. He knew what He was doing.
WILLIAM J. REGAN
How Many Autographs for a Plugged Nickel, Al?
I really had to laugh when new Dodger and self-proclaimed superstar Al Oliver was quoted as saying, "I've never one time cheated the fans," and "being unselfish turned out to be my weakness in the big leagues."
Isn't this the same Al Oliver who, while at Montreal, refused to sign autographs for kids, telling them if they wanted his autograph they would have to send money to the Al Oliver Fan Club, and then they would be sent an autographed picture?
Who is this guy kidding? Certainly not this "cheated" fan who would never send Oliver a plugged nickel for his autograph, and who will never pay to see his "unselfish" act embarrassingly displayed in Dodger Blue!
Little has been written about the return of Jay Johnstone to the Dodgers, but I think it may play an important role in the team's return to dominance in the National League West. Keeping a team loose can make a big difference, and Jay's rejoining Jerry Reuss and Steve Yeager might make Tommy Lasorda's job hairy but enjoyable.
EARL S. DRAIMIN