But Button, for one, will mourn the passing of the compulsories. "I think it was inevitable, but sad," he said. "The skating of figures is an art form in itself—it has nothing to do with free skating. It is, in a sense, a folk art, like the old penmanship. The quality of figures has deteriorated rapidly. The quality at the Olympics was third rate, not even second rate. There was no enthusiasm, no joie de vivre. But then nobody writes handwritten letters anymore, either."
There's also something bemusing about the elimination of compulsories. After all, the sport will still be called "figure" skating, not free skating.
WELCOME TO THE MAJORS
A few hours after he was called up from Triple A Tacoma a couple of weeks ago, Todd Burns found himself toeing the rubber at Oakland Coliseum, about to make his first major league pitch with the A's. Burns watched nervously as catcher Ron Hassey walked toward the mound to talk to him, perhaps to lend him some encouragement.
"Who," said Hassey, "are you?"
Burns pitched 1? innings in relief, allowing a run and two hits while striking out four. He was sent back to Tacoma the next day.
On June 28 Jonathan Smucker turns four years old. That will be a big day not only for Jonathan but for Mary Bea Porter as well. Porter is the LPGA pro who, during a tournament round last March, jumped a fence to give Jonathan CPR after he had been pulled from a swimming pool. Last week Porter, the mother of a five-year-old boy, was given the first Mary Bea Porter Award for heroism or humanitarianism at a dinner sponsored by the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association. She took the occasion to urge everyone in the banquet audience to learn how to use CPR.
The second recipient of the Mary Bea Porter Award was also honored: Greg Norman, who was cited for hosting Jamie Hutton, a 17-year-old boy seriously ill with leukemia, during the last two rounds of the Heritage Classic in April. Hutton had written Norman a fan letter and then let it be known that his dream was to meet Greg and see him play. After walking the third round with Norman, Jamie said on national TV that he would really love it if " Mr. Norman" were to win the tournament. Obligingly, the White Shark did exactly that. It was his first victory in this country in nearly two years.
Since then, the two have become close friends. They keep in touch by phone, and Norman has invited Jamie to go back home with him to Australia at the end of the year. At one point, talking about a painful bone-marrow transplant Jamie had just undergone, Norman lost his composure and struggled, through tears, to describe his young friend's bravery.