CLEAR GOALS IN MIND
While would-be reformers of college sports fret about whether student-athletes are getting the academic grounding they need for life, a couple of University of Texas football players deadpan that there's no need to worry about them. Longhorns kicker Jeff Ward said in an interview that he would like to grow up to be a game-show host, explaining, "That's the ultimate profession where you don't need a degree." In the same vein, tailback Edwin Simmons said of his long-range goals, "I'm going to go pro, get rich, sit down and get fat—be a slob."
HE'S A ONE-MAN TEAM
There was a new wrinkle at the recent national triathlon championship on South Carolina's Hilton Head Island. In addition to the 1,000 or so individual entrants, the field included 26 three-person relay teams, one of them an all-star team assembled by the promoters. First Paul Asmuth, who set the men's English Channel record in August, churned through the 1.5K swimming leg. Next John Howard, who four months ago set the cycling land-speed record of 152 mph, pedaled 40K. Howard then handed off to Rod Dixon, the 1983 New York City Marathon champion, who ran the 10K anchor leg.
As might be expected, the all-star team turned in a terrific time—1:50:23. But the trio was only seven minutes faster than the individual champion, Scott Molina of Del Mar Beach, Calif., who did all three events by his lonesome and whose 1:57:16 clocking beat Djan Madiuga of Brazil by 25 seconds. Most impressive of all: Molina, Madiuga and eight other triathletes finished ahead of the remaining 25 relay teams.
YOUR BASIC EIGHT
In a 7-2 loss to Boston on Oct. 13, Montreal right wing Chris Nilan, suddenly and without provocation, shoved the butt end of his stick into the mouth of Bruins wing Rick Middleton. Nilan got a match penalty for deliberately injuring a player. Middleton got his bridgework broken and needed three stitches.
The NHL, after reviewing films of the incident, suspended Nilan for eight games. "It's your basic eight," Middleton said to The Boston Globe, referring to what has become a standard NHL penalty for such violations. "If the league wants to cut down on sticking and cheap shots, the deterrent has to be higher. The league will wait around until something worse happens—until somebody loses an eye—and then set a new rule." Bruins GM Harry Sinden, who had called for a one-year suspension, asked rhetorically, "Will this prevent Nilan from doing it again?"
Of course it won't, and the league knows it. The NHL continues to treat violent players with kid gloves, arguing that hockey is a fast-paced game in which spontaneous outbursts naturally occur. This is nonsense. Consider the two principals in this incident. Nilan is a chronic fighter who last season led the league with 358 penalty minutes and had 81 more in the playoffs. In 1981, he threw a puck at then Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Baxter while sitting in the penalty box, drawing a three-game suspension. In his six-plus NHL seasons, Nilan has spent 1,449 minutes in the penalty box. Middleton, on the other hand, is a talented scorer who had all of six minutes in penalties last season and has accumulated only 130 penalty minutes in 11 NHL seasons. Is Nilan so much more spontaneous than Middleton? Obviously not; his role is to goon it up, and the NHL goes easy on such tactics in the belief that this is what hockey fans want. If the league really wished to minimize violence, it could do so immediately. Just give the next guy who pulls a Nilan a meaningful punishment instead of your basic eight.
THE NBA'S WAY
For the right way to deal with violence the NHL should look to the NBA, which experienced a rough-and-tumble preseason. Last week NBA commissioner David Stern handed down fines totaling $12,750 against 20 players who participated in two separate fights during exhibition games. New York Knicks rookie Patrick Ewing drew the largest fine, $1,500, for wrestling on the Madison Square Garden court with Indiana center Steve Stipanovich, who was fined $1,000. Los Angeles Lakers forward Maurice Lucas was fined $1,000 and the man he fought, Boston Celtics center Robert Parish, was docked $750. Other players drew lesser fines for leaving their benches and cursing at officials.