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Let the banquet begin. Let it be long, as in 30-foot leaps, seven-game Series, five-lateral kickoff returns and eight-week strike negotiations. And let it be lavish, for this has been no forage-and-porridge year.
How else might our banquet resemble the past year's feast? The tablecloth would start off white and end up soiled, the way Rickey Henderson's uniform looks different on third than on first. At the head table we'd seat Joe Paterno and Dean Smith for the very first time and serve them New Orleans-style gumbo. Guess who's also coming to dinner? Dennis Green and Calvin Peete. There'd be Miller in the bottle and Bud on tap, to honor the Suds Series cities. The consomm� madril�ne would quiver like a Yankee manager after two straight losses. Whatever we'd put before Larry Holmes, he'd cut down to size. Our choice of salad would include Stanley Cup with Thousand Islanders and World Cup Italian, we'll pass on the cheesecake, thanks, in light of Chris Evert Lloyd's more just dessert, her sixth U.S. Open title.
And, as at many banquets, there'd be occasion for postprandial kudos:
Fireman of the Year Award: To Astros Relief Pitcher Frank LaCorte, who burned his jersey in the clubhouse after walking the bases full, giving up four runs and thereby blowing what had been a scoreless game with the Expos. LaCorte said that he suspected the jersey, No. 31, was responsible for his tendency to run the count to 3 and 1.
Leadfoot of the Year Award: To Formula I racing champ Keke Rosberg, who drove with a steel sole on his throttle foot, ostensibly to prevent cramps.
The Anything You Say, Coach, Award: To Gerald Johnson, a reserve on the Oral Roberts basketball team, who was reprimanded in practice by an assistant coach for throwing up wild shots and told to shoot only from where he'd find himself in a game. Johnson ran to a bench, sat down and shot from there.
Official of the Year Award: To the functionary at the New Hampshire state high school track and field chamionships who disqualified a shotputter when the athlete's soaked jersey number flew off in mid-toss during a driving rainstorm. He cited a rule that forbids any part of the body or uniform touching the ground outside the circle.
The David stockman Award, for playing hardball with your budget: To Pembroke ( N.C.) State Baseball Coach Harold Ellen, who asked that an 8-8 game with UNC Charlotte be called after nine innings on account of hunger. Ellen said that the dining hall was about to close and that he couldn't afford to buy his players substitute meals.
The What, Me Hurry? Award: To the City of Rochester, N.Y., whose Amerks lost the longest game in American Hockey League history, 3-2 to New Haven in four overtimes. Teams from Rochester have also been involved in this country's longest games ever in pro baseball, pro basketball and pro soccer.