Counsilman would also like to "help clarify some of the phony-baloney that's been going on with some swimmers, including Diana Nyad and her recent attempt to swim from Cuba to the U.S. Nyad's a very mediocre swimmer with a very good publicist, that's all. Promoters have gotten into marathon swimming and it has become a big problem. We've got to put in rules that are uniform throughout the world."
Counsilman's proposals: "You can't swim with the current. You can't hang onto the boat. You can't swim in a shark cage because it pulls you along. You can't swim in back of a big boat because that sucks you along. You can't get out of the water. And you can't use artificial aids such as flippers, snorkels or hand paddles."
As for his own attempt to better the feat of William E. Barnie, who crossed the Channel in 1951 at age 55, Counsilman says, "The swimming team thinks it's a great idea, but my wife Marge doesn't like it because she thinks the water is too cold. But if the conditions are ideal, I know I can swim that far." For a possible try in August, when the average water temperature in the Channel rises to a nippy 61°, he plans to train in Lake Monroe through the fall and early winter and "just hope I don't freeze."
Meanwhile, Counsilman is warmed by a remark made by Jay Hersey, one of his former sprinters, after the intrepid coach completed his eight-mile swim. "Jay told me, 'Doc, you're a tough son of a bitch.' And you know, maybe I am. At least I feel that way."
Leave it to Las Vegas to turn one of America's most quaint and cherished institutions, the office betting pool, into a high-roller's spectacular. "Vegas is supposed to harbor some of the best sports handicappers in the world," says Sonny Reizner, the sports book director for the Castaways hotel, "and we decided to find out once and for all who really is the world champion."
The result is the Castaways First Annual Pro Football Handicapper's Championship Contest. Anyone with the $1,000 ante could enter, and ultimately 56 plungers, one-third of them from out of state, decided to risk both funds and face. The Castaways kicked in an additional $4,000 to round off the total pool at $60,000.
The rules are simple enough. Each Tuesday during the regular NFL season the Castaways posts its official opening line for that week's games. The entrants then have 48 hours to make their picks for all 14 games, and each week the results are compiled, updated and posted for all to see. First prize for the contestant with the best won-lost record against the line at season's end is $42,000, or 70% of the total pool. Second prize is $9,000, third $6,000 and fourth $3,000. As a bonus, anyone picking 14 of 14 in a given week is awarded $10,000 by the Castaways; anyone picking 13 of 14 gets $5,000.
Though many noted handicappers have entered the contest, including columnists Larry Merchant and Lem Banker, no one has yet cashed in on the bonuses. In the third week of the season, Dick Sheridan, a casino pit boss, picked 12 winners out of 13 on Sunday only to miss out on the $5,000 prize when the New England Patriots, favored by 17 points, were upset by the Baltimore Colts 34-27 on Monday night.
Reizner, who expects the pool to overflow with 300 or more entrants next season, says, "We're separating the men from the boys." Well, not exactly. After three weeks, the co-leader with a sterling 28-11-3 record was Ruth Bridges, a Las Vegas housewife and one of only two women contestants.