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SCOTT OSTLER

Some Who Throw Caution to Wind Are Blown Away

April 22, 1985|SCOTT OSTLER

When Admiral Farragut was steaming through Mobile Bay in 1864, he cried out in defiance, "Damn the torpedoes! Capt. Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!"

That was the right strategy for those times. But if Farragut was making that same crossing today, in light of recent sports events, he would probably grab the command pipe and thunder:

"Doggone those torpedoes! Run the cocktail flag up the yardarm and drop a couple water skiers off the stern. Maybe the bad guys will think we're from Club Med and let us sneak through. Say, is anyone else here seasick?"

The last week in the world of sports was a bad one for the chargers, the bold and the defiant.

If things keep going this way, the meek won't have to inherit the earth. They made enough money last week for a down payment on a couple of major continents.

Let's review:

The Masters. This is a finish that will be discussed and debated for years. Curtis Strange is leading the tournament until he bogeys a pair of par-fives by trying to reach the greens a stroke early, instead of safely laying up short of water hazards.

Strange not only loses the tournament, but is roasted from coast to coast for his foolish brashness.

This is unfortunate.

Curtis was defending golf's honor. The sport is getting a reputation for being too civilized. Players wear cute, gimmicky clothes. Their idea of attacking a course is to stick acupuncture needles in their ears.

Let's face it, golfers need all the help they can get in the macho image department. They never spit tobacco or scratch themselves like real athletes.

Then here comes Curtis Strange, trying to give the game an injection of manly dash and vigor. Damn the creek, son, unwrap that fairway wood!

I say it was the right strategy. For one thing, you never know when a member of the Congressional Medal of Honor nominating committee might be in the gallery.

For another, you can never please the media. Curtis lays up at 13 and 15 and wins, the headlines scream: "Strange Tiptoes Through the Azaleas."

So who needs a green sports coat, anyway? At least Strange could go home and look himself in the mirror. . . . What was left of it after he smacked it with a 3-wood.

Lasorda vs. Bevacqua.

Bottom of the 10th, two out, runner on second, hot-hitting Kurt Bevacqua at bat, non-hitting Alan Wiggins on deck. Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda elects to have his pitcher pitch to Bevacqua. Base hit.

Bad strategy? Sure, but it was good Tommyball, even if it backfired.

To pitch around Bevacqua, Lasorda's sworn enemy and tormentor, would have been a galling admission of respect for the man's bat.

If that's the kind of guy Lasorda was, he wouldn't be manager of the Dodgers today, he would be maitre d' at the family's Italian restaurant in Norristown, Pa.

Hearns vs. Hagler.

Hit Man Hearns lived up to his nickname Monday night in Las Vegas. He got hit, man.

And in the aftermath, Hearns came under criticism for abandoning a more strategic game plan of boxing, rather than brawling.

Wading in against Hagler was about as smart as trying to punch out a parking meter. The critics agreed. Hearns should have been more scientific.

The truth is, however, when two guys like this get together, boxing is as much a science as painting lines on the highway is an art.

Shoot, they don't call Hearns "Flitman." This wasn't the prom. He came to fight.

Sullivan vs. the Gas Gauge.

At the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Danny Sullivan is winning until he runs out of gas on the last lap.

Mario Andretti wins the race by hanging back, letting Sullivan pass him and run out of gas. Andretti wins by conserving fuel.

Conserving fuel!

This goes against everything I ever learned about life in high school. No girl ever said to a guy, "Ohhhhh, I hear you get 30 miles to the gallon in the city. Will you take me for a ride and teach me about fuel economy?"

Auto racing is the most macho of sports, except for bullfighting, if you're the bull.

But in a death-defying test of courage and reflexes through the narrow streets of Long Beach, Mario Andretti wins by getting out of the way of the faster cars.

I don't know if there are any lessons to be learned from these recent examples of unrewarded bravery, or any long-range trend that might be developing.

Will we be seeing jockeys giving turn signals before moving their mounts into openings? Tennis players agreeing with linespersons. Linebackers inspired by Gandhi?

Or was it just a bad week?

A bad week for swashbuckling and a good week for torpedoes.

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