A CERTAIN INEVITABILITY
On July 17 the New York Yankees' Reggie Jackson bunted against Manager Billy Martin's orders in a 9-7, 11-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals. That defiant act touched off a tumultuous week during which Jackson was suspended and Martin ousted—and during which the Yankees fell 14 games out of first place. Also on July 17, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, fearful of a Montreal-style financial bath, announced that his city was withdrawing its bid to host the 1984 Olympics. July 17 was a black-letter day for sports fans in the nation's first and third cities.
Last week both the Yankees and Los Angeles completed stunning comebacks. While the Yankees were celebrating their World Series victory (over a team from Los Angeles), Bradley was formally agreeing to host the '84 Games (a prize that New York had vainly sought) at a contract-signing ceremony in the White House with Lord Killanin, the International Olympic Committee president. Hard-fought though they were, both turnarounds, once achieved, had a certain air of inevitability about them. For the Yankees, it was, ho-hum, their 22nd World Series triumph. And the City of Angels had finally consented to stage the Games only after receiving a pledge of unspecified financial assistance from President Carter, the sort of federal rescue mission that seems essential these days to such ambitious undertakings. Although Bradley promised a "spartan" Olympics, he also said he expected the amount of federal assistance to be "substantial."
SEE AND SKI
It is too early to call him the Sporting Pope, but John Paul II does have an athletic background. For one thing, he has been an avid skier. According to a story making the rounds last week (and there were enough of those, certainly), as a cardinal the future pope once accidentally crossed the Czechoslovak border while skiing in Poland's Tatra Mountains and was held by guards until church authorities confirmed his identity.
Another story has Cardinal Wojtyla slyly asking a group of listeners, "What is the difference between the Italian cardinals and the Polish cardinals?" Met with silence, he said, "Half of the Polish cardinals can ski." At the time, there were two Polish cardinals.
And it pleased sports fans that John Paul II's inauguration was held at 10 a.m. Sunday instead of the traditional late-afternoon hour, when it would have conflicted with Italian soccer and NFL games. Reports to the contrary, though, this was not the reason for the early start. The Vatican merely wanted to avoid afternoon lighting problems and to enable cardinals to head for home by nightfall.
Winless Northwestern University has already clinched its seventh straight losing season (page 92) but it has not been the country's worst college football team during that period. The distinction goes to the University of Texas at El Paso. So says Steve Harvey, the Los Angeles newspaperman whose weekly rankings of the gridiron hapless, the Bottom Ten, is syndicated in 137 papers. The feature's popularity helps console Harvey when Arizona Coach Tony Mason calls the reverse poll "sick" and O.J. Simpson calls Harvey "a jerk."
Harvey does not deny that Northwestern has been consistently inept in recent years. In fact, he ranked NU "No. 1" in the Bottom Ten for three straight weeks last season until the "Mildcats," as he calls them, blew their chances for the top spot by upsetting Illinois 21-7 in what he styled a "must lose game." Year in and year out, though, UTEP has it all under NU. In the last five seasons the Miners have finished No. 1 once and No. 2 twice in the Bottom Ten and they ranked fourth going into Saturday's 44-0 shellacking by Brigham Young, a loss that left them 1-6 this season and 8-55 going back to 1973 (vs. NU's 12-49-1). Another Bottom Ten perennial is Kansas State, whose excessive generosity with scholarships has prompted the NCAA to ban the school from bowl games for two years. Harvey finds this a curious punishment for a team that has won just four of its last 26 games.