At a press conference in Los Angeles last Wednesday, the Indiana Pacers announced the signing of four-time UCLA basketball All-America Ann Meyers to a one-year, no-cut contract, at a reported salary of $50,000. With that, Meyers became the first woman to sign as a player with an NBA team.
The 5'9", 140-pound Meyers starred at forward for the Bruins, averaging 17.4 points per game, and was a member of the silver medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 1976. Everyone who has watched her in action agrees that she is a player with unusual gifts and finely honed talents. These and all other considerations aside, however, she is simply too small to perform in a league in which the player average is 6'6" and 205 pounds.
At her press conference, Meyers said, "If I didn't think I could compete, I wouldn't be here. I don't want to embarrass anyone, including myself."
The signing prompted charges that Pacer owner Sam Nassi was staging a publicity stunt, which Nassi vehemently denied. But Coach Slick Leonard, who has never seen Meyers play, admitted that it was "unusual" to sign a free agent to a guaranteed contract before training camp opened.
At a time when the NBA's image has slipped, the signing of Meyers is the type of hokey move that will hardly add needed luster. As Red Auerbach, that sage of the Celtics, says, "I know Annie and she's a nice girl, but this is reminiscent of Bill Veeck signing that midget."
THE EYES HAVE IT
Results of eye tests done at July's National Sports Festival in Colorado Springs are in, and the findings are interesting, if not surprising. Ice-hockey goalies had the best eyesight, and synchronized swimmers the worst distance vision of the athletes tested.
Ten optometrists, all members of the Sports Vision Section of the American Optometric Association, analyzed the sight of performers in a variety of sports. According to Dr. William Harrison, a Laguna Beach, Calif. eye specialist who coordinated the project, many athletes, whether or not they are aware of it, gravitate to their sports according to the degree of their visual acuity. Swimming doesn't require acute vision, while a fast-paced game such as hockey demands sharp sight and quick hand-eye reflexes. Competition also filters out those whose sight is ill-suited to their sports. A myopic goalie is likely to be a mediocre goalie, too.
Not measured in this study was the sight of the judges, referees and umpires. Too bad. Such tests might have provided the most interesting results of all.