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The urgency of the voice was the same, and the big, restless hands gestured as emphatically as ever, but as CBS opened its preseason NFL coverage last Saturday night, the usually weighty presence of expert commentator John Madden lacked something. Seventy-five pounds, to be precise. Madden's familiar 325-pound bulk has shrunk to 250 thanks to a summerlong diet high in salads and low in Big Macs. This fall, as he roams the inter-states in his custom-built Greyhound "Maddencruiser," America's least-frequent flier has vowed to resist the siren song of the golden arches. "We're going to go into small towns for restaurants, or I'll buy the food in grocery stores," he says.
Keeping Madden out of the fat lane will be the job of Jerry Knick, 38, a 15-year-veteran Greyhound driver who beat out nine other finalists last week in a contest for the privilege of chauffeuring Madden from one CBS assignment to another for the next six months. Knick passed a written test, a driving skills course, a highway driving course and an examination on Greyhound's computerized safety simulation equipment; his last hurdle was an interview with his new boss. "He asked me a lot of questions about my time requirements because it's a lot of miles, and he asked me about how my wife felt," said Knick, who has two children and whose usual run is from Washington, D.C., to Atlantic City. "He was very concerned about not damaging relationships."
Golfers at the Waterville Country Club just outside Waterville, Maine, are accustomed to the comings and goings, not to mention the droppings, of muskrats, snapping turtles, Canada geese, mallard ducks, even the occasional moose; but this summer things have gotten entirely out of hand. The animal kingdom, which appears to be reasserting its sovereignty over the Waterville turf, is making an ordinary, pleasant round of golf the subject of farce, a public humiliation along the lines of a Disney cartoon.
The furry element, it seems, has resorted to psychological warfare, it started in the bunkers. When the course opened for play this spring, red fox dens were discovered in three of them, and before long, vulpine cubs were frolicking in the sand or sunning themselves on the grassy banks. "It's a very common occurrence to have them stand five or six feet away," said Bob Timmins, who works in the pro shop. "When you tee up and notice a fox staring at you, chances are pretty good that you're going to slice or hook."
Not content merely to stare, the foxes have adopted the more contemptible, nay, squirrel-like, practice of hoarding golf balls. A three-player team was forced to withdraw from a recent Waterville night tournament when the creatures made off with their balls. The three had just hit their second shots and were walking down the fairway when they saw their glow-in-the-dark golf balls moving, as if through the air. The glowing balls were visible, of course, but the foxes carrying them in their teeth were not.
Considering the stressful conditions under which Waterville golfers have been forced to play this summer, morale remains high. True, attorney Bob Niehoff, a 19 handicapper, while searching for his partner's ball in the rough one day, nearly stepped on a fawn that bore a remarkable resemblance to Bambi, but Niehoff flatly denies recent rumors that the incident unnerved him or cost him an opportunity to break 100.