The best and the brightest, worst and slightest . . .
Most inauspicious debut: The NFL's new beeper-buzz er-tingler, the device used to signal to an official on the field that an official upstairs has reversed a decision based on a look at instant replay.
The device is actually a battery-powered gizmo that is worn inside the field referee's pants. When activated from upstairs, the gizmo vibrates, alerting the referee to phone the press box. In the Raiders-Cowboys game last Saturday, the gizmo didn't giz, and two bad calls stayed bad.
Still, it's a great new idea, and it will work just fine after a little tinkering by its inventor--Dr. Ruth.
Hottest young L.A. basketball star: Derek Smith, Clipper guard. He was approaching the status of major NBA star when he was injured last season. What say? Smith was traded to the Sacramento Kings, after vowing never to play for the Clippers?
When a team can't hold onto a kid like Derek Smith, either something is wrong with the kid or with the team.
Classiest sports rivalry: Chris Evert Lloyd vs. Martina Navratilova.
No whining, pouting, cursing or holding breath and turning blue. Just great, classic tennis, week after week. If you're bored with the weekly installments of Chris vs. Martina, you probably yawned through Ali-Frazier, Russell-Chamberlain and Drysdale-McCovey.
Toughest tuneup bout after a long layoff: Marvelous Marvin Hagler will provide the opposition for Masochistic Ray Leonard in his comeback bout. After this one, Sugar Ray might change his nickname to Powdered Sugar Ray.
Strangest reason to reject a Heisman quarterback: Ram Coach John Robinson explained that the Rams aren't interested in Doug Flutie this season because if Doug hit town right now, his arrival would result in a huge media circus.
That certainly would be new to Flutie, who wouldn't have any idea how to handle media hysteria.
Robinson also noted that it's too late in preseason preparation to be breaking in a new quarterback.
Luckily the Rams have a couple of very durable quarterbacks and the team probably won't be scrambling desperately for quarterback help in September or October. Maybe scrambling is the wrong word here.
Best role model for the Dodgers: Whitey Wietelmann, the San Diego Padres' veteran clubhouse assistant.
The Dodgers have been accusing one another of malingering. Here's an inspiring--and true --story about Whitey:
He was the shortstop for Casey Stengel's 1941 Boston Braves. Whitey was pitching batting practice one day when a wicked line drive shattered the little finger on his left hand. In the clubhouse, while four doctors deliberated about what do do, Whitey picked up a pair of scissors and cut off the top two joints of the finger.
The doctors broke their huddle and said to Whitey, "Look, we've figured out what we can do with the finger . . . "
Whitey interrupted, saying, "Here it is. Do what you want with it."
He was back in the lineup a week later, at third base. Playing short-handed, you might say.
Most legit beef: Tony Dorsett.
He popped off and sounded like a spoiled kid when the Cowboys signed Herschel Walker, but Dorsett was right. He shouldn't have to play second fiddle to the new kid, in salary or playing time. Tony came off as arrogant and cocky, but try being a 5-11, 190-pound star running back in the NFL for 10 seasons without those attributes.
Dorsett, according to rumors, is changing the pronunciation of his name once again, to Dor- mat .
Worst excuse for 4 1/2 lousy seasons: George Foster, signed by the Chicago White Sox, explained: "I just need to straighten out my mechanics. My mechanics have been off for the last 4 1/2 years."
And those mechanics promised George they'd be back right after lunch.
Most typically overblown preseason NFL hoopla: The Rams, elated with quarterback Steve Bartkowski after a fine performance against the San Francisco 49ers.
By that same logic, Eric Dickerson should clear out his locker because Charles White has proven himself the league's hot new runing back.
Seriously, the Rams have to feel good about White's running. He can be a valuable guy to have in reserve. Wonder why the Rams didn't send him to the 49ers to replace the last guy they sent up there, Wendell Tyler.
Sharpest new wheels: Benoit Benjamin, the Clippers' 21-year-old center, has been motoring about town in a new, white Rolls-Royce, equipped with a telephone, of course.
The kid has come a long way. Last year he was clunking around in a modest Mercedes-Benz.
Smartest postfight evaluation: After Mike Tyson knocked out Jose Ribalta, Ribalta said of Tyson, "He's just a strong fighter. I don't think he's a smart fighter."
This is how smart a fighter Ribalta is: Last September Jose was hammered by not-so-marvelous Marvis Frazier. The following July, that very same Marvis Frazier was pounded to pudding by Tyson. Naturally, Ribalta then signed to fight Tyson.
Jose, baby, your Phi Beta Kappa key is in the mail.
Finest officiating in recent memory: Antonio Marquez.
Marquez, a soccer referee, was working the last game of his career last week in Mexico City. The game got out of hand, so Marquez ejected all 22 players.
If he can be lured out of retirement, Marquez would be a welcome addition to the NHL.