Powers is not just another ref. With 20 years in the NBA, he is the senior official in point of service. Many also consider him the best. Moreover, Powers says he has the backing of most of his fellow referees, and the coaches and players. The NBA banned the zone almost 30 years ago on the grounds that it slowed down the game and made it less exciting. But Powers says, "With the 24-second clock the zone doesn't make a difference. As it stands, the rule is easily circumvented. All it does is disturb the concentration of referees who are being constantly baited by coaches to look out for the zone."
Powers acted in the Nets-Hawks game because both teams regularly use zones. They are not alone, however. Powers says he has warned virtually every team and every coach at one time or another.
Powers was wrong in taking the law into his own hands, but if his insurrection brings about a change, the game may be the better for it. "This suspension is the most devastating thing to happen to my career," he says. "I'm not the revolutionary type. But under the same circumstances, I'd probably do it again."
GETTING THE JUMP
Ski jumping may never be the same. There is now an alternative to those costly towers used by skiers to launch themselves into space. Called the speed sling or catapult takeoff, it is the brainchild of Pertti Pasanen, a Finnish comedian and movie producer. For the last three years Pasanen has been urging his invention on the Federation Internationale de Ski; recently, meeting in Finland, the FIS approved the catapult for competition.
Inasmuch as the speed sling is said to offer all kinds of advantages, Gus Raaum of the FIS jumping committee was asked to describe the device. In a cable from Finland, Raaum said, "It needs a long and flat, or slightly inclined, area. The engine is an electric motor with variable speed adjustment, which drives a thin cable along pulleys (inside steel guides) with delayed slow start and then fast acceleration to a constant preset speed along a prepared track. Two short strong pieces of rope are attached to the cable, and the jumper hangs on to these, one in each hand. When the hill is ready, a green light appears next to his boots, where he then touches a small lever which starts the engine. At a certain point he has to let go, so he has time to get set for the takeoff. The rest of the hill, landing area and outrun, are as usual."
Quick, everyone, back to the towers!
QUESTIONS OF ABUSE
Last week's opening session of congressional hearings into the NCAA's enforcement operations produced enough sparks to make headlines and raised enough questions of abuse to make the hearings well worth monitoring in the weeks to come. The most lurid testimony came from Brent Clark, the defector from the NCAA enforcement staff who popped up on the staff of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations as its "star witness" just weeks before the hearings got under way (SI, Feb. 27). He testified that NCAA investigators used "bribery" to get information and that one investigator dropped a case when provided with a woman. His memory of these titillating events was vigorously discounted by those named, and by NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. Moreover, Clark's testimony on "selective enforcement," a term he has used to describe Byers' alleged protection of certain schools as "untouchable." was weak.
Not so easily dismissed, however, was testimony about Michigan State and Mississippi State, schools which had been recently penalized for NCAA violations. Witnesses condemned the manner by which the NCAA obtains evidence (by hook or crook, was the general theme) and the way evidence is evaluated and penalties rendered.