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YOU GOT TO HAVE A GIMMICK
Dan Levin
March 05, 1973
To boost the sales of oil filters and Florida homesites, 10 real Superstars valiantly competed in a not-so-real decathlon. The results were more ridiculous than sublime
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March 05, 1973

You Got To Have A Gimmick

To boost the sales of oil filters and Florida homesites, 10 real Superstars valiantly competed in a not-so-real decathlon. The results were more ridiculous than sublime

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The first day ended with Seagren's weight-lifting victory, and after five events he had 17 points to Revson's 20 and Bench's 21.

The second day began with baseball, in which each contestant got nine at bats. A hit beyond the infield was worth one point. Two, three and four points were awarded for drives over fences 250, 300 and 350 feet distant. Seagren had practiced for three days and that, together with his upper-body strength, helped him win with eight points. Stefanich and Gilbert tied for second.

Much of the interest in this event was created by the ABC-TV men. First they packed the crowd together to make it look larger, then they gave instructions about when to cheer. Once a child lifted a crayoned sign that read ABC WE LOVE YOU. A terrific groan went up. It was supposed to sound spontaneous. Apparently, it did not because it was not included on the TV show.

After Laver won the table tennis, Hayes took the 100 against a stiff wind in 11.5, with Killy second, Laver third, Revson fourth and Frazier last in 13.5. Seagren then won the half-mile run eased up by a huge margin, and the stage was set for the bicycle race.

The bikes were three-speed Columbias, and the Superstars looked like big children as they warmed up. Frazier went out fast in the first half-mile heat, with no thought of pace or tactics, and he won, getting a big hand.

Bench was in the second heat, but at the first turn his handlebars collapsed and he was unable to finish. He stomped off in a huff, but the officials let him ride another lap against the clock. Back he came, with little rest. He lost a few seconds when he started in the wrong gear and still only missed qualifying by eight-tenths of a second.

In the final Frazier started fast and confident again. He went way out front, but this was a mile, not a half. Seagren held back; he had planned his race. Just beyond the halfway point Frazier, wearing another of his puzzled expressions, began to fade. Seagren came on to win in 3:19.05. Laver was second, Killy third, and Frazier, in agony now from thigh cramps, had to be helped from the track.

The Superstars competition was over. Winner Seagren earned $39,700. Killy was second ($23,400), though he had taken no firsts. Laver and Revson tied for third, Bench was fifth and Frazier and Unitas tied for last ($3,600).

Before the bike race Killy had explained to Laver how to use the gears, and then Laver ungraciously beat him. "In bicycle racing there is a lot of technicity involved," Killy said. "I teach him how to shift, and then I can't catch him." But Killy was not angry. That was not the point of it all. It was how they played the games.

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