Will You Accept?
If it's trying to rid the sport of beach-bum stereotypes, the Association of Volleyball Professionals didn't help matters with its choice of a title sponsor for last weekend's event in San Diego. The benefactor: 1-800-COLLECT.
With his announcement last week that he was declaring himself eligible for the NBA Draft, 6'11" center Kevin Garnett of Chicago's Farragut High will probably become the fourth schoolboy star to bypass college and go directly to the pros. Although there are questions about whether Garnett is ready for the physical and mental rigors of the NBA, history suggests that he won't rue his decision. Moses Malone lit out for the ABA directly from high school in 1974 and went on to a superb career that isn't over yet; even Darryl Dawkins and Bill (Poodles) Willoughby, who both joined the NBA in 1975 without going to college, turned into decent enough pros to vindicate their decisions.
Garnett, whom pro basketball soothsayers expect to be a mid-to-late first-round pick in the June 28 draft, will have a 30-day grace period after the draft to change his mind. Keeping his options open, he'll take one last crack at the ACT on June 10, in the hope of making a grade that would allow him to play as a freshman. But with so many collegians going pro after their sophomore seasons—Garnett's announcement came the same week North Carolina's Jerry Stackhouse, Wisconsin's Rashard Griffith and Alabama's Antonio McDyess joined 10 other underclassmen in coming out for the draft—there's a basic honesty at the root of Garnett's choice. If Garnett is as NBA-ready as most draftniks say he is, and if a rookie salary cap really will be included in the next collective-bargaining agreement, more power to him.
Churchill (Not) Downs
Television ratings for the Kentucky Derby were down 20%, from a Nielsen score of 7.5 in 1994 to 6.0 two weeks ago. Lest anyone get the erroneous impression that the public thinks less of "the most exciting two minutes in sports," it's worth noting that the Nielsens don't take into account a form of TV unique to horse racing—simulcasting, whereby bettors can go to their local track or off-track betting parlor and not only watch a big stakes race but also get down a bet. This year the Derby was simulcast to 844 venues, 187 of them outside the U.S., and the pari-mutuel handle on the race at those sites totaled a record $38.3 million.
Help, Can't Stop
It looks as if we've opened a Texarkana Worms with our item about the soon-to-be real-life Macon (Ga.) Whoopees of the Southern Hockey League and other groan-inducing expunsion teams (SCORECARD, May 1). Reader Michael McConnell of Fort Worth writes to nominate the Worms—along with the Altoona Fish, the Schenectady Dots, the Tucumcari Okies, the Olympia Zadoras, the Helena Handbaskets and a pair of potential farm clubs for the Minnesota Twins, the Bemidji Whiz and the Mankato Kaelins. Another correspondent, James P. Finnegan of Chappaqua, N.Y., evinces a more international bent. He suggests the Ankara Ways, the Sofia Lorens, the Bonn Vivants, the Riga Mortis, the Manila Folders, the Taiwan Ons and the New Delhi Catessans.
Dangerously, McConnell's flights of fancy extend beyond sports franchises. He suggests that someone open a racetrack in Alabama and call it Eufaula Downs.
Forgive us for beating a dead horsehide, but the Arena Football League outdrew major league baseball in the two markets where those sports went head-to-head last Friday night. In Milwaukee the Arena league game between the hometown Mustangs and the Iowa Barnstormers drew 13,207, surpassing the turnout for the Brewer-Toronto Blue Jay game by more than 300 fans. In San Jose, 15,105 showed for the SaberCat-Arizona Rattler matchup, easily topping the 9,867 turning out for the Giant-Pittsburgh Pirate game 30 miles up the road at Candlestick Park. Lest he ascribe baseball's poor showing to the low cost of tickets for AFL games, acting commissioner and Brewer owner Bud Selig would do well to note that Mustang and SaberCat ducats average more than $15 each, a figure that exceeds the typical price of a baseball seat in both Milwaukee and San Francisco.
The Lost Innocent