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CATCHER'S MITTS AND BOWL GAMES
What do seekers of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and White House correspondents have in common? Only this: Both have been the subject of hoaxes peripherally involving sports. But there all similarity ends. While Bob Reitman and Gene Mueller, co-hosts of a morning music-and-talk show on Milwaukee radio station WKTI-FM, sought to take advantage of the desire of Cabbage Patch Kids fanciers to acquire this year's hottest toy, White House spokesman Larry Speakes was trying to exploit the eagerness of the presidential press corps to get the news. And while Reitman and Mueller pulled off their little stunt, Speakes, as far as we're concerned, laid an egg with his.
Both hoaxes were widely reported, but in case you missed them, here's a recap. Reitman and Mueller kiddingly announced on their show one morning that at three o'clock that afternoon an unidentified person would fly over Milwaukee County Stadium in a B-29 bomber and drop between 1,500 and 2,000 Cabbage Patch Kids on the stadium parking lot. They said that anybody who wanted a doll should show up with a catcher's mitt and hold his American Express Card aloft so that an aerial photograph of his account number could be taken. The radio station was swamped by calls from listeners who took all this seriously. Even though the station later aired disclaimers, some two dozen people braved a biting wind to come out to the stadium in hopes of getting dolls.
Now for Speakes's caper. Upset by what he felt was excessive snooping around by reporters at the desks of White House press officials, Speakes planted two bogus internal memos on the desks of his aides. One memo proposed moving the press corps out of the White House and into the Old Executive Office Building. The other suggested that President Reagan announce his candidacy for reelection at halftime of an upcoming college football bowl game. Speakes later boasted with lip-smacking satisfaction that two unnamed reporters had "bit like snakes" and had called "all over this White House" to try to pin down the story about relocating the press. But they hadn't really bitten as much as Speakes indicated; unlike the folks who showed up at the stadium in Milwaukee, the reporters had at least taken the trouble to check things out, and none of the false information was printed or broadcast.
Whether or not it explains why they fared better in the hoax department than Speakes did, Reitman and Mueller certainly exhibited a better grasp of sports. They demonstrated a sure instinct in focusing on owners of catcher's mitts, which, after all, are tools of ignorance. Speakes's business about the bowl game was less artful. As everybody knows, halftime is when TV football viewers go to the bathroom and the kitchen; they aren't about to spend that valuable time listening to a political speech. What Speakes should have done is planted a memo saying that Reagan was going to put the announcement of his candidacy in writing and drop it out of a B-29 over RFK Stadium. Who knows how many White House correspondents would have shown up with catcher's mitts?
Speaking of the White House, those were some mighty impressive photos that Parade and TIME ran earlier this week of Ronald Reagan pumping iron to develop the presidential pecs and abs. And those were useful tips that Reagan dispensed in his Parade article on how he stays fit. The President said he chops wood and rides horses on his ranch in California, swims at Camp David and gets in a half-hour daily workout—bench presses, leg lifts and the like—in the White House. He also said he eats moderately and told of having followed a doctor's advice and "cured myself of the salt habit." And he suggested that his countrymen heed his example and pay more attention to matters of exercise and diet.
In divulging his fitness secrets, Reagan said playfully, "Move over, Jane Fonda, here comes the Ronald Reagan workout plan." White House aides hope that by projecting an image of robustness, Reagan's fitness article will also help push aside potential campaign rivals like Walter Mondale and John Glenn. But in politics, it seems, every silver lining has a cloud. The President's article quickly drew fire from the $650 million-a-year salt industry. Objecting to Reagan's putdown, William Dickinson, the president of the Salt Institute, which represents 16 major salt producers, said, "The fact of the matter is that only 5% of the people in this country need to reduce their salt intake. If you're a normal, healthy person, there's no benefit to cutting back on salt. The President is taking a doctor's advice, which most people should do, but cutting out salt isn't good for everyone."
Whatever the political implications, the fact is that the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association and other authoritative health organizations maintain that the reduction of salt consumption will help even the normal, healthy people mentioned by Dickinson prevent hypertension associated with strokes. Score this one for that fitness guru, Ronald Reagan.
DO YOU KNOW ME? I'M KEVIN....