Navratilova was so shaky she committed eight double faults and 36 unforced errors. Connors, too, was uncharacteristically nervous. There was a rumor, which he would neither confirm nor deny, that he had placed a considerable sum of cash on himself at 4-1 odds the day of the match.
Only about 100,000 households, less than half the total that was hoped for, bought the pay-per-view package, at an average price of $24.95. That ought to discourage this sort of thing in the future but probably won't. The promoters of last week's event have been trying for a year to match the top-ranked woman, Monica Seles, who is 19, against Connors. Maybe they could get Riggs, who is now 74, and the 48-year-old King to play again. Winner, or whoever is still waddling around at the end, takes all.
The Crudest Mouth
When Seneca ( S.C.) High football coach Tom Bass learned that upcoming rival Chamblee (Ga.) High had a split end named Sarah Price, he struck what appeared to be a blow for egalitarianism by recruiting a female defensive back and receiver named April Smith. When Sarah and April came face-to-face in the second quarter of a game between the two schools last week, it was the first time, as far as anyone knew, that two girls had played against each other in the same high school varsity game. Sarah, a 5'9", 155-pound sophomore, wasn't exactly thrilled to hear about April, a 5'3", 135-pound senior, and before the game, confidently predicted, "I'm probably going to kick her little rear."
But April prevented her trash-talking rival from catching a pass in seven plays and caught one of her own for five yards in Seneca's 48-0 victory. "She was telling me, 'You can't hit, you can't hit,' " April said later. "But I can hit." Bass awarded her the game ball—and then threw her off the team. "I don't think the girls are capable of playing football," he said, suddenly not sounding quite so progressive. "They have the heart, but they don't have the physical tools. April played as well as she could play tonight, but now she's history." Chamblee coach Scott Doss said, "It was a ploy that totally took away from what Sarah's accomplished. I was disappointed he would try to upstage everything like that."
A Mister and a Miss
The Mighty Ducks and Mr. Baseball have much in common besides the fact that both are sports movies that open at a theater near you this week. Both rely on The Big Game for a big finish—as almost all sports movies do. Both use the old newspaper-headline device and, for some reason, both feature an actor named Steven Brill in a supporting role. There is, however, a big difference between these two new movies: One of them is original.
The one that isn't, The Mighty Ducks, was written by Brill, but it is so derivative it could have been written by a computer. This is The Bad News Bears Play Hockey. The rip-offs from that better 1976 movie include the reluctant coach who finds redemption (Emilio Estevez instead of Walter Matthau), the villainous coach of the dirty team (Lane Smith in the Vic Morrow role), the girl player, the scary player, the fat player, the Jewish player, the black player and the wisecracking player with glasses. Ducks might have been more charming if it weren't quite so familiar.
Mr. Baseball is the story of Jack Elliot—played by Tom Selleck—an aging first baseman for the New York Yankees who gets shipped off to Japan, despite this eloquent argument in his own defense: "But I led the team in ninth-inning doubles in the month of August!" Upon joining the Chunichi Dragons, Elliot does his best to insult his teammates and challenge the manager's authority. When asked to lead the other players in exercises, he teaches them the hokey-pokey.
There are some funny mix-ups, both cultural and linguistic. At one point Elliot tries to encourage the Dragons by telling them, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings," which his puzzled interpreter translates as "When the game is over, a fat lady will sing to us." But Mr. Baseball also has some thoughtful things to say about the lack of respect Japan and the U.S. have for each other's cultures. There were reports that the script was changed after the studio, Universal, was bought by Matsushita two years ago, but this is by no means a Japanese propaganda film.