SI Vault
Edited by Craig Neff
December 08, 1986
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December 08, 1986


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"I don't have to," said Payton. "All I have to outrun is you."


It's too bad John McEnroe didn't qualify for this week's Nabisco Masters in New York, because the tournament's five umpires have taken one of Mac's long-standing recommendations to heart: They're having their eyes examined. Before the first ball is served the officials will have been fully tested and advised by former tennis-pro-turned-eye-specialist Harvey Ratner of Silver Spring, Md.

Ratner is a self-described "sports-vision fitness trainer" who holds no degree in the field. He picked up his knowledge of eyesight by studying under two optometrists and has been in this business for a couple of years. "I basically move around doing sports-vision seminars and clinics," he says. "After we do a visual evaluation of a person we have exercises and drills that can help them improve their vision and performance."

Ratner says his on-court training session at the Masters is designed to improve the linesmen's "dynamic vision." He places vertical plastic targets on the court and has each official watch as balls are fired toward the targets. "When the ball passes the target at different angles you can predict where it's going to land," he says. "The official will get used to knowing if he has to turn his brain on for a close call, or if it's just going to be a routine call."

Ratner was first retained to work with officials at this year's U.S. Open, where he examined 274 umpires and linesmen. "Overall they were pretty sharp," he says. "Sixty percent met the standard requirement for good visual skills. About thirty-seven percent needed buffing up." As for the bottom 3%, Ratner diplomatically says, "We have not been asked to do any weeding out."

"It's extraordinary that the U.S. Tennis Association never tested a lines-person for depth perception or vision before this year," says Masters tournament director Gene Scott. "Someday perhaps there will be 10 testing grounds around the world for lines officials. Everyone officiating big matches will have been trained and approved." Then, of course, John McEnroe will have nothing to complain about.


The University of Miami created a task force on athletics earlier this fall after a large number of players on the school's No.1-ranked football team had been linked to campus rule violations or criminal incidents. Last Wednesday the task force returned with a positive-sounding report that included 19 recommendations for improving the way Hurricane football players are supervised in their dorms, academically tutored, handled by campus police and presented to the media. The report noted that task force members were "generally pleased with the overall achievement of the student-athletes" and had found "no pattern of lawlessness or misconduct."

However, even as Miami president Edward T. Foote II was assuring a Wednesday press conference that "there have been no reported incidents the last couple of months," two more Hurricane football players were facing possible legal trouble. Two days earlier, star receiver Michael Irvin had allegedly run over the toes of two Miami students with his car following a confrontation with them, and reserve tight end Brian Smith was a suspect in the burglary of a campus apartment. Neither Irvin nor Smith was formally charged, although that possibility remains. Within hours after Foote had said there had been no reported incidents involving Hurricane football players. Smith was dismissed from the team by coach Jimmy Johnson for undisclosed disciplinary reasons.

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