With his field strengthened by the magic draw of the Kenyans, Al Franken, who promoted the Sunkist Invitational, had hoped to set up a meeting between Keino and Marty Liquori, America's top miler, but Franken ran afoul of the NCAA, which banned him. As a result, no college athlete can run in a Franken meet. The AAU is also mad at him and has been since 1956, but it still sanctions his meets and takes its cut of the profits.
"The NCAA has a vendetta against me but nobody will say why," says Franken, who is more bewildered than embittered. "At least they won't say anything that can be used against them legally. They are smart and they have money and resources. Sure, I give color TV sets to the top athletes, and I give them rented cars to use, but who doesn't? There is talk of under-the-table payoffs, but let somebody come out and prove something, not just talk about it. What the hell, the same athletes who run for me run everyplace else—for the same things—and nobody squawks about those places. We all know what went on in Mexico City but not one damn thing has been done to anybody.
"One thing that started all this was a meet in Philadelphia that ran at the same time as one of ours. And we got all the top athletes because we gave the top prizes. And all under the $100 limit. Can I help it if our prizes are TV sets and cameras and the guy in Philly wants to give nothing but a lousy watch? Let him upgrade his prizes. But no, he runs to the NCAA. They scream about us giving rented cars to the athletes. The L.A. Times gives cars to the athletes in their meet. Some firm donates them. But you can be sure the NCAA isn't about to take on the L.A. Times. The NCAA and the AAU would rather kill the sport than give an inch. The guys in the NCAA and the AAU are the same types. Save face no matter what the cost. Little people and little thinkers. Well, at least the NCAA didn't hurt us too much this year. Almost all the really good athletes are out of school."
As it turned out, the Sunkist was an electric meet with some remarkable individual performances. The meet opened explosively enough with Gary Power of the Southern California Striders running the 60-yard hurdles in seven seconds, one-tenth of a second faster than Willie Davenport, the Olympic gold medalist. It was Davenport's first defeat indoors since 1968. Earlier in the week Davenport had been complaining that he had never been chosen as the outstanding athlete of any meet, even when he had set or tied a world record. (He was exaggerating; he got the award at one meet.) "They run the hurdles first, then everybody forgets," he said sadly.
After his upset, someone asked Davenport wouldn't it be funny if Power was named the top athlete. "If he is," said Davenport, "you'll hear some screaming from me." But the honor went to Lawson for his 4:00.6 mile; Keino did 4:00.7. "I knew Kip was going to lose with two rounds to go," moaned Jeneby. "I could see that he couldn't even lift his legs." Keino, who is considered an unhappy loser, merely smiled and intimated that that's the way the boards bounce.
Bob Seagren vaulted to a meet-record 17'1�" and was named the top field athlete, although Otis Burrell high-jumped 7'1" in a mild upset of Reynaldo Brown. Dick Fosbury, of the Flop, was supposed to be on hand, but when he did no better than 6'6" in Washington the week before he said to heck with it, and, not having enrolled for the winter quarter, went off to see the Mardi Gras.
When Keino was done in by Lawson it was up to Bon to save the night for Kenya. And he tried. He got away quickly, a Kenyan trait, with Kenth Andersson second and Doubell and Luzins a few yards back. Then Andersson faded, and it was Bon and Luzins, closely followed by Doubell. "Going into the fourth lap," said Doubell, "I knew I wouldn't have much of a problem. They were running my race. I was in the correct position, and I haven't found anybody who can outkick me."
Doubell discovered, too, that Bon was having more than his share of problems with the boards. He was slowing up for the turns, forcing Luzins and Doubell to decelerate to keep from running over him. Then, on the gun lap, Doubell turned it on, running past everyone and winning with ease. "I am afraid Bon got scared," said Jeneby. "Did you see him when he got behind? He was running through people—through them. I have to admit that they were a nice bunch of chaps in that race. If not, he could have been bounced about quite a bit, you know."
When the 1,000 was over, Lee Evans, who had won the 600, comforted the Kenyans. "You got to forget about those records, man," he said to Keino, who had run a blistering third quarter, apparently upon the urging of the public-address announcer, and then had blown a 30-yard lead on the last lap. "You just got to go out and run your own race. You start thinking about getting a record and it'll kill you." Then he turned to Bon, who was staring moodily at the floor, and said, "Forget about it. The first time on the boards will make anybody look bad. My first time I was really lousy. In fact, I was lousy my whole first year. Just terrible." Bon smiled, then he walked away—and disappeared. Keino, Jeneby and Doubell, who was going to drive the Kenyans back to their hotel, searched for him for an hour before giving up and leaving.
"Someone will find him and bring him home," said Jeneby, who was right.