SI Vault
Edited by Jack McCallum
January 22, 1996
By Stove Rushing
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January 22, 1996


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Wright is in the first year of a four-year contract, and CBS has said it will continue to pay him, leaving open a slim possibility that he will return to the air. Wright did apologize to Helmbreck on his way out, but it was too late. The issue had evolved from one of boorishness, which Wright possibly could have survived, to one of credibility, which he could not.

Small Steps for a Big Problem

From time to time the tragic consequences of an eating disorder catch the public's attention. One such case was the death of anorexic U.S. gymnast Christy Henrich, who died weighing 61 pounds on July 26, 1994 (SI, Aug. 8, 1994). But many athletes remain at high risk of this insidious but rarely discussed malady. Indeed, some of the qualities that make athletes competitors—determination, ability to withstand pain, self-discipline—also explain how they can continue to compete at a high level while essentially starving themselves.

The International Olympic Committee and the NCAA, two of the world's most powerful sporting bodies, hope to do something about the problem. The IOC has formed a task force with WomenSport International to bring to the fore issues connected with eating disorders, the first time an international sports governing body has addressed the topic. One of the goals is to educate coaches, whose recognition of disorders such as anorexia and bulimia could head off tragedies.

The NCAA, meanwhile, has announced its support of the National Eating Disorders Screening Program, to be held at 625 colleges and universities during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Feb. 5-11. There's no doubt that the level of awareness is distressingly low, judging by the results of a recent anonymous survey of Division I athletes (883 males, 562 females). In that study, conducted by the NCAA and the Laureate Research Foundation, 58% of the women and 38% of the men were considered to be at risk of developing an eating disorder. Even more alarming was the finding that 45% of the women in the survey thought that their ideal body fat would be less than 12%. In fact, there is no optimum body-fat percentage—the figure varies greatly among healthy women—and striving for an arbitrary figure can be dangerous.

The study also revealed that 9% of female athletes had symptoms serious enough to warrant clinical attention. Only 1% of the males were similarly at risk. Yet Mimi Johnson, a team physician at the University of Washington, has seen several male athletes with eating disorders, particularly among coxswains in crew. Johnson charts the projected growth and weight gain of prospective coxswains, who should be small and light; if she feels the athlete will become too big as he matures, she discourages him from becoming a coxswain. That sort of foresight is essential in helping to prevent eating-disorder crises. And the support of such organizations as the IOC and the NCAA is just as crucial.

He Always Kept 'Em Loose

If the passing of former big leaguer Joe Schultz jogged a few memories, they probably weren't of his 328-at-bat career as a reserve catcher and pinch hitter with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Browns from 1939 through '48. Schultz, 77, who died of heart failure on Jan. 10, was the often zany, always easygoing manager of the 1969 Seattle Pilots and was chronicled as such in Jim Bouton's Ball Four.

Bouton credits Schultz with originating the maxim, "It's a round ball and a round bat, and you got to hit it square," and with saying things like, "Well, it's back to the old salt mine, boys," on the eve of Opening Day. Schultz was beloved for prescribing cookies as pregame fare and for recommending that his troops "pound some Budweiser" after a win. He also once offered eyeglasses to an umpire who he felt blew a call. The gesture got him ejected but, like many others, it forever endeared him to his team.

Routine Changes

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