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People who hate computers will gnash their teeth over this one. Going into Wimbledon, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl were one-two in the weekly computer rankings of the Association of Tennis Professionals. The fact that McEnroe won Wimbledon while Lendl lost in the semis naturally strengthened Mac's position atop the rankings, right? Wrong. In the next ATP rankings, the positions of the two were reversed. Lendl was No. 1 and McEnroe, widely recognized as the best player in the world, was No. 2.
As you might expect, there's an explanation. As you might also expect, the explanation gets complicated. It has to do with the fact that the computer rankings take into account not only how somebody plays, but also how often, thereby rewarding the fellow who plays every week. For example, winning Wimbledon doesn't count for that much more than winning other events. Also, before Wimbledon, Lendl had appeared in 14 tournaments to McEnroe's 12. When a player competes in his 15th tournament of the year, he gets what amounts to bonus points. It was that windfall that pushed Lendl ahead of McEnroe.
ATP officials point out that the rankings are used to determine who should be given berths in tournaments. The purpose isn't to distinguish between the likes of McEnroe and Lendl, whose lofty positions qualify them for any tournament they choose to enter, but to sort out the Mario Martinezes (No. 78 last week) from the Rolf Gehrings (No. 81) when it comes to filling out the bottom of a tournament draw. But Dewey Blanton, the tour's media director, admits that the rankings have "a major credibility problem" with the public. "A guy looks at the agate type and says, 'Geez, what's Lendl doing at Number One?' " Blanton says. He hastens to add that when McEnroe plays in his 15th tournament sometime in the next three or four weeks, he will almost certainly move ahead of Lendl and regain the No. 1 spot.
AN ANNOUNCER WHO'S AS SHARP AS A HAWK
In 1967, when he was a first baseman with the Kansas City A's, Ken Harrelson, a.k.a. the Hawk, was released after publicly declaring that owner Charlie Finley was "detrimental to baseball." Three years ago Harrelson, then the Boston Red Sox' TV color man, earned headlines with a speech in which he described the club as being "in disarray, confused and chaotic...almost the laughingstock of the American League." Though broadcasters don't usually criticize the teams they cover in such strong language, Harrelson wasn't fired, but he eventually quit his Boston job and is now the color man for the Chicago White Sox. He also does occasional NBC telecasts and has spurned the advances of ABC, which approached him about possibly doing Monday night telecasts.
"It just didn't appeal to me," Harrelson told the Los Angeles Times. "I just hate to leave the team [the Sox] that long on weekends. Besides, I don't particularly like the way ABC puts on a game. They always make it an event rather than just a game—baseball is secondary to network promos.
"With them, it's almost formatted as to what you're going to say, and that's crazy. The game will tell you what to say—when to shut up, when to be a little funny. Actually, the game demands some dead air; it's that kind of a game."
As you can see, Harrelson is as outspoken as ever. He also makes a lot of sense, so let's have him continue. "Over the years you develop your own style, your own philosophy. I still believe that one of these days—and I hope I'm the one that does it—we'll learn how to use silence as the biggest communicator.... It's not what somebody is saying, it's what they're not saying. At that point, the viewer's imagination comes into play, his mind works. I don't want to be in the booth telling people what they see—that's like kindergarten, telling a child about the abc's. Who needs that?"