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Scorecard
February 02, 1998
February 2, 1998
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February 02, 1998

Scorecard

February 2, 1998

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When Matt Zelen, ace butterflyer at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., hit the water during an invitational meet on Jan. 17 and felt his swimsuit slip to his knees, then to his ankles, then off completely, his first thought was, What will my grandmother think? As it turned out, 74-year-old Jane Heimbach's first thought as she sat watching, along with 500 others, in the St. John's natatorium was, Why are my grandson's goggles floating in his lane? Then she realized those weren't goggles and that her grandson's bare bottom was popping repeatedly out of the water as he plowed forward in the 100-yard race. "She was a little surprised, I guess," says Zelen, who had forgotten to tie the drawstring, "but eventually she just started cheering like everybody else."

Zelen, a junior, finished the race in first place, and his life hasn't been the same since. He has been interviewed by newspapers across the U.S. and even took a call from the BBC. He has been deluged by E-mail, assaulted by catcalls and showered with nicknames, Naked Boy being the one that seems to have stuck among his teammates. On Tuesday or Wednesday he was scheduled to be on The Tonight Show.

"I'm astounded," says Zelen, whose first-place finish was expunged because losing the suit was ruled a uniform violation. "I figured the local newspaper might interview me or something, and that would be about it. I can't figure it out."

Zelen's exposure might not have been so widespread were it not for his sense of humor about the incident. His best postrace line, which made the AP wire, was "If it would've been the backstroke, I obviously would've stopped." Does he think anyone got an eyeful of him from a frontal perspective? "On the turns there aren't many waves," says Zelen, "and I have to think the people close to the pool, well...I was thinking about it during the race. I'm actually a very modest person, not the kind of guy who would enjoy this."

Considering that, one couldn't help but wonder if Zelen had ever seen the Seinfeld episode in which George has a problem with, well, shrinkage. "Didn't see it, but I heard about it," says Zelen. "And I can tell you, that pool water was pretty cold."

Super Day Down Under

The streets were quiet. The stores and banks and municipal buildings were closed. Families gathered, sometimes traveling long distances to be together. Concerts were held in the parks. Fireworks were planned for the night. I always thought that this was the way Super Bowl Sunday should be, a national holiday, everyone bonding, having fun.

I didn't know I would have to travel 10,500 miles, from Boston to Melbourne, to find it. I also didn't know that Super Sunday would be a Monday.

I watched the game at the All-Star Cafe, in the Crown Casino in Melbourne, the largest casino in the southern hemisphere. Kickoff was at 10:30 a.m., 19 time zones ahead of the start at Jack Murphy Stadium, or whatever the place is named now, in San Diego. The holiday was Australia Day, the Aussie version of the Fourth of July. It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet from England in 1788, the founding of the colony. The All-Star Cafe was packed with Super Bowl and holiday revelers.

"I'm rooting for the Broncos," I explained to the elderly couple next to me, who obviously knew nothing about American football. "I put a little wager on them because they're the underdogs and we're, heh-heh, Down Under."

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