Many of the greatest athletes seem to have eyes in the back of their heads. They notice tacklers coming in from nowhere, or pick up teammates to pass to on the other side of the court, or get a fix on the passing sideline shot in a way that is almost miraculous. Such highly developed peripheral vision, suggests a psycho-biologist in California, makes sports stars closer than ordinary men to the snakes and birds.
Dr. Colwyn Trevarthen of the California Institute of Technology reports that his studies on brain-surgery patients have revealed peripheral vision to be controlled by a second sight system in the human brain. This system, he says, very likely evolved from the primitive form of visual awareness enjoyed by reptiles, birds and other lower animal forms.
Trevarthen postulates that this "so-called unconscious" sight travels through different nerve channels to the cortex before it interacts with the primary visual system to form the full picture. "The primitive optic system allows you to respond automatically to what's going on in the space around you as a whole," Trevarthen explains. "If something unexpected moves outside the central field of attention, it registers first through this second, more primitive system before the classical visual system becomes aware of it."
Trevarthen, whose own athletic endeavors are limited to mountain climbing and hiking, says, "We are only at the beginning of a true understanding of how this second sight works—perhaps we should ask athletes more about it."
And when we ask them, perhaps we should address them as "Snake Eyes."
PANNED IN BOSTON
In Boston, where the battles of Bunker Hill and Ted Williams were fought in days gone by, the sports pages are locked in a titanic struggle with Clive Rush, in his first year as head coach of the Boston Patriots. Rush has reacted to stories he dislikes by banning various scribes from practice and dressing room.
When the Pats opened their season in Denver with a 35-7 loss, he insisted that writers should have said the team had been "edged." Rush's postgame press conferences, charge the Boston writers, consist largely of grunts, one-word replies or "No comment." When someone asked about the draft status of rookie Running Back Carl Garrett, Rush did go so far as to say, "Why make a federal case of a federal case?"
One way or another, Rush has given the press something to chew on. Most recently he insulted Boston College, which is rather reluctantly sharing its stadium with the Patriots this year. When several inebriated fans paraded down the devastated field through the rain at half-time of the Boston- Miami game Sunday before last. Rush took offense. " Boston College may permit that sort of thing," he said, "but it's beneath the dignity of professional football."
Since no one can recall such a procession at a BC game, that school's hierarchy may well be in sympathy with the standard gag among Beantown writers lately: "It's spelled 'Clive' Rush, but it's pronounced 'Cleave'—as in 'leave.' "