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On the next plane, Ryan to Stamps: "Can we get Martina into the retirement party?"
Stamps to Ryan: "Sure. Can you ask her to bring her dog?"
At Norfolk's Scope Arena, Borg whipped Tanner in straight sets before a packed house of 8,200. But, alas, at the retirement party after the match in the presidential ballroom of the Hotel Madison, neither Navratilova nor K.D. was anywhere to be found. Nor were any stars. Where were the stars? "We got some big-cheese NATO commander coming later on," said Bleeck. That's no star. "Hey, if there's a war, he'll be a star."
At his only retirement party, Borg sat in a corner, far away from the smoke, the noise, the chaos and the revolting 125-pound yellow tennis-ball cake. He signed his name approximately 48,000 times on items Stamps handed him. "I hate like hell to make this a cattle call," yelled Stamps at the crowd through the haze. "But look, you got Bill Stamps, hard hat, or"—he took off his Panama—"convertible." A quick attendance check disclosed not one Mr. or Mrs. Rogers.
Following one of his numerous pastings by Borg at Wimbledon, Connors said, "I'll follow the sonofabitch to the ends of the earth." One of the ends apparently was to be Baton Rouge on Saturday night, and among Connors' demands of promoter Billy McGehee Jr. was that the match be only two of three sets and that immediately afterward Connors be furnished a private jet from Baton Rouge to Providence. McGehee is the publisher of a Louisiana sports tabloid, even though, he says, "I've never enjoyed reading in my life." But he can read bottom lines, and he had sold more than 9,000 seats at the Centroplex arena.
Unbeknownst to Connors, however, Ryan changed the private flight to Sunday morning because he wanted to "party" in Baton Rouge. On the trip to Louisiana, Borg and his gang whiled away the hours betting on which question would be asked first in each city's press conference and how quickly recently resigned Philadelphia Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil's name would come up. "I know this Vermeil," said Borg on Eastern Flight 519. "Was he really burnt out? I am not burnt out." Passengers filed by Borg, recreating the art of the double-take. A blonde in a red sweater returned, pencil poised. "O.K., which one are you?" she said. Obviously a Dick Vermeil fan.
Upon arriving in Baton Rouge, everyone headed for the Sheraton, where Connors, who had checked in the day before, was furious about the plane change and was threatening to take a hike. He was heard to announce, "Ryan doesn't run the show. I run the show." Voil�. A compromise. Connors will take the private plane on Saturday night; Borg and Ryan will go commercial to Providence on Sunday morning.
In the dressing room before that night's match, Borg slumped into a soft armchair while Connors small-talked with his brother, John, and some local friends. Borg asked Connors who was playing in the finals at Philadelphia. Connors asked Borg what his plans were and how Tanner was hitting. Then it was game time.
The opening set was a revelation for whoever questions the motivation of two sturdy champions when they toil against each other, be it in exos or dominoes. Connors took a 5-3 lead, but Borg rallied after a wondrous backhand. "And you're going to retire after that——," roared Connors across the net.