Robinson could be required to serve his time in a "restricted line" capacity—in land-based supply, intelligence or public affairs. Or he could be a recruiter. How much effort did it take Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis past the pickup scene to recruit a few prospective fly boys? The time and travel demands of a pro basketball season, however, would not enable him to do what McCallum does, even though Washington Bullets G.M. Bob Ferry has defined Robinson as being "so good I'd take him if only for weekends."
Bottom line: Robinson or the Navy, take your pick, is in a bind. Says Captain Albert Konetzni, the cigar-chomping Deputy Commandant at Annapolis: "If he wasn't a basketball player, I'd say to David, 'You have a pituitary problem. You've grown five inches since you've been here. You're not being commissioned. Here's your diploma. Bye-bye.' That would be the cleanest loop. But I'm so emotionally involved with this case. I want David to serve and I'm certain he wants that, too."
(Cleanest loop? Make that loophole, Mister.)
(Emotionally involved? When the Middie basketball team returned to a boisterous rally in the Yard after its NCAA tournament appearance in '85, Konetzni bellowed out to the corps: "You men are the greatest. With men like you we'll kick the hell out of the Russians." And he didn't mean Sabonis.)
(Certain? "I don't know now," says Robinson. "I haven't thought much of that option. But I see Napoleon's schedule, him trying to do both jobs. I
don't want to be up 24 hours a day. Maybe my best situation is to get out as a civilian.")
Was that Old Glory that just fell to half-staff? Were those the teeth of Jimmy Carter, Annapolis '46, that just fell out? Join the Navy and see the World B. Free? Damn the torpedoes, full speed to the Boston Garden? Roger Staubach, Navy's 1963 Heisman Trophy winner, who missed four seasons and cost the Dallas Cowboys who-knows-how-many last-two-minute victories following his graduation from Annapolis, believes times have changed. "Let these guys play," Staubach says.
"Let's face it," says Ambrose Robinson, a 20-year Navy sonar technician who retired a little more than a year before his son enrolled at Annapolis and who now drives up to games with the family (Mrs. Robinson; sister Kim, 23, a senior at Howard; and brother Chuckie, 15, a high school sophomore) in a white Bonneville with the Virginia license plate NA50VY "Mids go to the Academy to be officers and gentlemen. David went there precisely to become that. He stayed for the same reasons he entered. He just happened to turn into a terrific basketball player and to give the Navy national recognition. Shouldn't there be some consideration for that?"
There should be and probably already has been. None of the parties will admit to it, but when Robinson was contemplating a transfer before last year, there were several hurried meetings between family representatives and Navy brass. These were followed by speculation that Robinson had been promised an accommodation. "They [the Navy] said they'd be fair, that's all," Robinson says. "They said, 'Don't expect any Christmas present,' but not to forsake my dreams of pro ball. You can assume that if they had showed inflexibility or heartlessness, I would have walked the other way."
Deals? Says Tom Bates, sports information director at Annapolis: "Everybody in the military has been making deals since the Athenians fought the Spartans."
With Robinson the Navy is now able to make network TV deals and could possibly play the Spartans. In addition to traveling to the Michigan State and Las Vegas tournaments this season, the Middies will be all over national TV—in the Tip-off Classic against N.C. State; on Super Bowl Sunday at Kentucky; against the Miami Hurricanes and the peripatetic Horford: Sultan of Smooth meets Maestro of Move?