MAN AGAINST HIMSELF
There is an uneasy feeling about the fate of Leon Spinks. The new heavyweight champion seems to be on the verge of playing a role in some kind of tragedy. His advisers bicker; he has had differences with his brother Michael; bills are unpaid; the WBC strips him of his title; and then last week there was an AP photograph of Spinks handcuffed, in a St. Louis police station, where he was booked for driving without a license and driving the wrong way on a one-way street. It is scandalous that police would handcuff someone arrested for a driving violation, but somehow—and sadly so—for Spinks it seems to be part of a pattern.
Few know Spinks as well as Rolly Schwartz, the driving force behind the 1976 Olympic boxing team. "Leon was difficult," says Schwartz, "but let's put it in perspective. He was always a little bit suspicious of everyone. Leon's life-style was different. What Leon really lacked was personal discipline. He lost to Pedrozo, the Cuban, for the gold medal in the Pan Am Games because he wasn't in condition. I analyzed Leon and realized that he needed that extra kick in the butt. Once you got Leon in the gym, no one worked harder.
"For the Olympics we had to run a Spartan camp, and we couldn't have one man running off because it would destroy the discipline, the closeness, the family feeling we wanted. His own brother Michael would come to me and say, 'Coach, Leon's getting edgy. You better talk to him and keep an eye on him.' I'd say, 'Leon, you're not going to die on yourself like you did in the Pan Am Games. Leon, we're going to make you a champion in spite of yourself, not because of yourself.' I once worked at the Menninger Clinic, and Karl Menninger wrote a book called Man Against Himself, and I always felt that Leon was a man against himself.
"There are certain types of young men who come out of the slums and who really don't think they're as good as they are. I was an orphan who came out of the slums in Chicago, and I can understand the deep insecurities.
"At one time Leon took off and didn't make bed check. We just told him that if this happened again, he was going home. In all fairness to Leon, he put his act together.
"I have said prayers for this young man. People have taken him left and right. Everybody in the business knows it. I hope there is one person in this world who has a love for this young man, who will take over and be a strong father figure. Leon badly needs handling. His talent is there, but emotionally there's a lot to be desired."
Two months ago Will Grimsley, a sports columnist for the Associated Press, wrote a story reporting that 10 million Americans had stopped playing tennis. His piece was based on a report from the Sports Training Institute in Chicago, which called the enormous decline "very tragic news for the tennis industry." Grimsley's story got huge play across the country. Indeed, he received more letters about it than any he has ever done, and he has covered seven Olympics and heavyweight championship fights since 1949.
That 10 million figure was fantasy. The most recent survey, which was done just this year, by Jack Aldworth of the National Indoor Tennis Association shows that although the growth of tennis has slowed, participation is still increasing. The figure of 10 million ex-players was made up out of thin air by Laurence Korwin, who runs the so-called Sports Training Institute as a one-man band with an answering service. When SI Correspondent Ray Sons caught up with Korwin in his office and got a copy of the report, he was surprised to find no supporting data. Most odd, the number 10 million had been cut from the heading of the report and was mentioned nowhere else. Asked why, Korwin said the figure had caused him trouble and that he would rather not have it used. Asked how he had arrived at 10 million in the first place, Korwin said, "If you're looking for a statistical study, you've come to the wrong place. Everyone knows tennis play is down. This is an estimate." Pressed further, Korwin admitted he did not have any solid figures and said, "If I hadn't used a figure like that, no one would have paid any attention to the report."