BLUE LAWS & RED TAPE
You don't often hear of a world championship fight being held in Erie, Pa., but that's where Roberto Duran of Panama defended his lightweight title a couple of weeks ago against a local boy named Lou Bizzarro. The reason the fight was held in Erie—the reason it was held at all, since the courageous Bizzarro is really not in Duran's class—was because Bizzarro's manager, a local Datsun dealer named Lou Porreco, had a hunch his fighter could upset Duran. Porreco worked out an arrangement with big-time promoter Don King ( King made some money on the fight, Porreco lost a bundle), got Duran and scheduled the bout for Sunday, May 23.
Then a complication developed. Two days before the bout a state athletic commissioner, Joseph L. Cimino, wired Erie that he had been advised that the state athletic code (part of Pennsylvania's antiquated blue laws) prohibited boxing matches on Sunday. Therefore, Cimino said, "I have no recourse but to stop the world championship fight scheduled on Sunday, May 23."
But no one in Erie wanted the fight stopped, especially Porreco, who felt it would be unfair to Bizzarro, and preparations for the bout continued. However, Duran and his retinue were waiting for a state commissioner to appear in order to sanction the fight and settle attendant details—the referee, the rules governing knockdowns and so on. Porreco stalled as long as he could. Finally an invented commissioner appeared on the scene. He was Porreco's ace salesman, Bill Stafford. "I figured it was a role that a used-car salesman could play," he explained.
Lest people in the Duran camp recognize him, Stafford doffed the toupee he usually wears and, using his outgoing personality and a smattering of double-talk, carried things off perfectly. The Duran side was happy—Luis Henriquez, Duran's U.S. representative, intimated later that he knew all along who Stafford was, saying, "It was unnecessary intrigue." Porreco was happy. And Bizzarro was happy—until the 14th round, when Duran knocked him out.
Basketball fans have been fuming, kind of, because of the way CBS-TV set the time of games in the Boston-Phoenix NBA finals to suit its broadcast schedules. Relax, friends, you can't fight city hall or the networks. Give in, as Lola suggests in Damn Yankees. TV can do anything. Franklin D. Roosevelt brought the wrath of the nation on his head back in 1939, when he switched Thanksgiving away from the last Thursday in November. TV could have done it and not lost a vote. You don't think so? Well, do you know that TV has switched Thanksgiving to Friday this year? In a press release announcing next autumn's college football schedule, ABC-TV says clearly that the Oklahoma-Nebraska and Penn State-Pittsburgh games will both be telecast on "Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 26." Hold the turkey, Ma.
DROPPING LIKE FLIES
Have you noticed what a difficult year this has been for defending champions? Jack Nicklaus never really had a shot at retaining his Masters title at Augusta during Ray Floyd's runaway victory. In college and pro basketball the 1975 winners—UCLA, Golden State and Kentucky—didn't even make it to the finals this year. In hockey the 1974-75 titleholders in the NHL and WHA, Philadelphia and Houston, were both routed in four straight. In baseball none of last year's divisional champions except Cincinnati, which was expected to run away with the pennant, is close to first place; Boston, Pittsburgh and Oakland are all well behind and look now as though they'll be watching on TV come October.
One exception to this trend was the Pittsburgh Steeler victory in the Super Bowl. But that was last January and really was part of the 1975 football season. Better keep an eye on them this fall. Muhammad Ali still has his crown, but it is distinctly tarnished. And he has that Japanese wrestler ahead of him.