ON CHANGING THE ENDING
Muhammad Ali is talking, apparently seriously, about coming out of retirement to challenge John Tate next summer for the World Boxing Association heavyweight title. If Ali were to dethrone Tate, it would be the fourth time he would have worn the crown, a prospect that pleases him almost as much as the envisioned $6 million payday, which he could use to support his free-spending ways. But at 38 and with his once-splendid skills doubtlessly further eroded by his 18-month layoff, Ali would be courting danger by returning to the ring.
Ali absorbed heavy punishment in each of his three bouts with Joe Frazier, as well as in his fights with Ken Norton in 1976 and with Earnie Shavers in 1977. Friends detect a slight slur in his speech and a raspiness that might have been caused by blows to the throat. "I don't want to end up like Joe Louis," Ali himself said last year—regrettably, to a Las Vegas audience that included Louis, who has suffered a stroke—and much the same thought occurs to Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, Ali's former physician, who urged him to retire as far back as 1976. "With any older fighter, the strain and trauma of the ring will accelerate the deterioration of the kidneys, liver, heart and brain," Pacheco told SI's Paula Phelps last week. " Ali should never, never, never fight again. If he keeps putting new endings on his story, one of them is going to be tragic."
THEY KNOW YOU, AL
The Oakland Raiders have signed an agreement to play next season in the Los Angeles Coliseum, greatly distressing fans in Oakland, where the team has sold out regularly for the past 11 years. Al Davis, the Raiders' managing general partner, says he decided to move his club because the commission that runs the Oakland Coliseum was slow to give him the luxury boxes and other improvements the L.A. Coliseum has offered. Davis says these improvements include creature comforts that the modern fan demands. "I believe professional football in the '80s must have a stadium that's comfortable," he argues.
But Oakland fans gave every evidence of supporting their team without some of those supposedly essential creature comforts. And whatever its negotiating posture earlier, the Oakland commission had considerably sweetened its offer lately. Davis' decision to move anyway heightens suspicions that what he really has in mind are the pay-television riches that could very well await him in L.A.
The Raiders' move southward is being resisted in the courts by 1) the NFL, which is upset that Davis didn't bother to get the approval of 21 clubs as required by the league constitution in the case of franchise shifts, 2) a Los Angeles taxpayer who considers the L.A. Coliseum's $17 million offer a misappropriation of public funds, and 3) the city of Oakland, which has started eminent domain proceedings calculated to block any move by the team that local bumper stickers refer to, with justification, as the Oakland Traitors.
THE UBIQUITOUS DIGIT
Uncle Sam uses his index finger to let it be known that he wants you, and others employ the same digit to scold their kids and issue directions. But the finger that Anglo-Saxons called "towcher" and schoolchildren refer to as "pointer" is proving to be especially valuable these days to athletes who insist on holding it aloft after victories. How else can they tell the world they're No. 1?
Well, maybe they could let the world decide for itself. It's probably forgivable that members of the U.S. Olympic hockey team flashed the No. 1 sign after receiving their gold medals at Lake Placid—at least they are No. 1—but many an athlete who thrusts his index finger skyward is being presumptuous. Take the USC and Houston football players who gave the No. 1 sign following their Rose and Cotton Bowl victories, respectively. Inasmuch as Alabama won the national championship, what those Trojan and Cougar players actually were doing was some not-very-discreet—and notably unsuccessful—lobbying.