In early January the Golden Bay Earthquakes of the Major Indoor Soccer League came up with what seemed at the time like a swell promotional idea. The Quakes announced a "guaranteed victories" scheme in which, for the next two months, every fan attending a home game that Golden Bay lost would, by producing his ticket stub from that game, receive a free ticket to any other home game of his choice.
The Quakes got more than they bargained for—and so did the fans. After the plan went into effect, Golden Bay lost its next seven home games. That meant that a fan who bought a ticket for the first game—at prices ranging from $4 to $9—could have, assuming he continued to redeem tickets after each loss, attended the next six games at no extra charge. Despite the home team's sorry showing—or, more accurately, because of it—the average crowd at the Oakland Coliseum increased over the course of the seven games from 3,700 to 4,300; by Game No. 7, freebies were accounting for 30% of attendance.
The offer expired two weeks ago, but not before the Golden Bay management decided to take a more conventional approach to attracting fans. It fired Coach Roger Thompson, under whom the Quakes had a 9-21 record this season. Led by new Coach Don Popovic, they beat the Kansas City Comets 7-5 in their next game for their first home victory, guaranteed or otherwise, in more than two months.
Senior Writer Frank Deford offers this postscript to his recent report on Argentina's Davis Cup victory over the U.S. in Buenos Aires (SI, March 14): "I've been covering Davis Cups for almost 20 years, and I continue to be appalled at the way the order of competition is determined. The two captains decide which singles players will be used, and then a couple of politicians pull the names out of a hat—or, usually, a silver bowl, to be fancy. So it was in Argentina that Gene Mayer and Guillermo Vilas came to be chosen for the opening match, and it was the luck of that draw that continued to decide the matter thereafter. This makes about as much sense as having the two World Series managers put the names of their starting pitchers in a hat and then letting a mayor or local Congressman determine the pitching rotation by lot.
"It would be far better if the captains settled their own fate. The visiting captain would be given the first choice. For example, in Argentina, Arthur Ashe could have said that he wanted John McEnroe in the opening match. Or maybe he would have wanted McEnroe in the last of the four singles matches. He also would have been allowed to pass, which would have thrown the pressure on the Argentine captain.
"Under such an arrangement, the captains, not chance, would be in command of the situation. They would be put more on the spot, and speculation about their decisions would create a great deal more interest. So would the second-guessing, which is a proper part of sport. There's something else. Right now, the home-court advantage in the Davis Cup can be considerable. Giving the visiting captain either first choice, which would enable him to lead with his strongest suit, or the right to pass, which would force the home team to show its hand, might even out the competition a little."
SEXUAL EQUALITY AT AUBURN
Who says women's sports aren't catching up to, or in some cases even surpassing, men's sports? Certainly not anybody at Auburn, whose women's basketball team began NCAA tournament play last week—the Lady Tigers beat Missouri 89-76 in first-round action—with a reserve center, 6'7" freshman Pascale Van Roy, who's an inch taller than the center on the men's team, Charles Barkley.
LLONG LLIVE LLOYD
As the NBA regular season winds down, it's looking more and more like the end of the line for the Scott Lloyd Fan Club. That's because it also appears to be the end of the line for Lloyd, a journeyman center who had a 4.6-points-per-game average to show for his six years in the league before being released by the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 21. The obvious question concerning the Scott Lloyd Fan Club, of course, is why Scott Lloyd? "It was a kind of social statement," the club president, Steve Simmons, a senior at the University of Texas, wistfully explains.