People, guys who get paid to be reporters, keep asking Ralph Doubell the darndest questions. Win one lousy gold medal and right away you go from obscurity to a fish bowl where even the color of your undershorts is no longer sacred. Like the guy in New York a few weeks ago who demanded to know why Doubell drank French champagne instead of Kentucky bourbon? Or another who wanted to know what the swinging Aussie bachelor thought of U.S. girls as compared to, say, the ones in Belgium? And what else could Doubell do but say that if anyone happened to have any bourbon he'd be happy to swallow some, say a fifth. And as to that probing question on the qualities of the various young ladies around the world, well, so far the tests are incomplete, but, yes, going well. And now, gentlemen, are there any questions about, uh, track? To which, last week in Los Angeles, a TV man responded, "Now that you mention it, Ralphie baby, who do you think is the best man in your 600-yard race Friday night?" Splat!
"Now just who did he think I thought was the best man?" Doubell said a few days before last Friday's Los Angeles Times meet. " Martin McGrady? Lee Evans? If I didn't think I was the best, I wouldn't be running in it." Then he had to grin. "And I'm sure going to find out if I'm the best or not, aren't I?"
For Doubell, it would be his first 600 indoors. Sure, the program offered an 880 and a 1,000. Doubell holds the indoor world record in both. He couldn't lose either race if they made him compete on his hands and knees. Ah, but the challenge of the 600, which has become the glamour race of this indoor season, stirred him. Some men are content to climb no higher than the steps on their front porch; others must go up the sides of Everest. And so Doubell chose Everest, the 600, where he'd have to face Martin McGrady and Lee Evans.
It was the same challenge that lured Evans back to the 600, although twice before this season he had gone against McGrady and lost. It's not his distance. His Olympic gold medal and his world record are in the 400 meters, and if he wanted to run nothing but 440s indoors every promoter in the country would be happy to shuck tradition and oblige. "And I guess I could find a couple of guys to run against," said Evans, at the same time dismissing any such thought. To him, winning 440s against stiffs would be as unrewarding as Lindbergh having taken a boat to France. Indoors you seek out the giants—even if you have to take them on at their game. And the 600 is McGrady's game.
"A little blackjack?" said McGrady.
"Why not," said Evans and Doubell.
"My deck," said McGrady.
"Fine," said Evans.
"I'll deal," said McGrady.
Doubell shrugged. "Hit me, baby."