It was a ridiculous rumor, but Lou Holtz was asked about it, anyway. Did the Pope really call him before Notre Dame opened the season against Michigan Saturday?
"Nope," said Holtz, "the Pope didn't call. The only time I've ever heard him speak was in Rome, where I was fortunate to be granted a personal audience. Just me and 280,000 other people."
Wrote Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post after Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg of Sweden protested when officials changed the time of their semifinal match in the U.S. Open to spotlight Jimmy Connors against Ivan Lendl in the other semifinal: "In case you hadn't noticed, this is professional tennis; we're dialing for dollars here. Which do you think is an easier sell--the same play with Marlon Brando or without him?
"TV isn't in the fairness business, it's in the star business. And let's be reasonable, in the American championship, doesn't the lone remaining American figure to move more microwave ovens and trade more stocks and bonds than two Swedes and a Czech expatriate? Thank you, Paine-Webber."
Trivia Time: Next to the Rose Bowl, what college bowl game draws the biggest crowds? (Answer below.)
From Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe: "St. Paul baseball scribe Gregg Wong is a distant cousin of Minnesota restaurant owner Howard Wong--the man who's always sitting next to Billy Martin when Billy has his punchouts. 'They get along so well because they can't understand each other,' says Gregg."
Calling an Audible: In April, Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste suggested that Interstate 71 be widened to prepare for World Series traffic between Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Said the governor at the last convention of road contractors in Cincinnati: "You can forget about that project until next year."
If you don't think football is specialized, here's a paragraph from the New York Times on the Giants' loss of defensive back Perry Williams to injury: "Williams will be missed more on third down than on first and second. When he was healthy, he, Elvis Patterson and Mark Collins covered the three wide receivers in the nickel defense. Now, the third, and sometimes fourth, wide receiver must be covered by a slower defensive back."
What would Chuck Bednarik, the 60-minute center and linebacker, say to that?
From Marty Noble of Newsday: "A primary topic of conversation among scouts is the collapse of the Los Angeles Dodgers' minor-league system. They say it has been more severe than what the Baltimore Orioles have experienced."
Add Forgettable Quotes: Said safety Rick Woods after being traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: "I smell stagnant water in Pittsburgh. There's a feeling of gloom. The players aren't happy. They don't like the system."
On Sunday, against San Francisco, the odor improved. Call it the sweet smell of success.
Trivia Answer: The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. Last year's game on Dec. 27 drew 80,104. Clemson defeated Stanford, 27-21.
Miami Dolphins personnel director Charley Winner, on why they refer to linebacker John Bosa, No. 1 draft from Boston College, as Skybox Bosa: "That's what it took to sign him--a couple of skyboxes."