BORSCHT BELT HUMOR
The Moscow Olympics have been beset by boycotters, victory-ceremony demonstrations, criticism by dissidents, a gay-rights protest, complaints about censorship, allegations of police brutality, empty hotel rooms, judging controversies, reports of food poisoning, lousy weather and threatened defections of Afghan athletes. All this may be taking its toll on Soviet authorities. According to John Argue, a Los Angeles lawyer who was in Moscow in connection with his city's preparations for hosting the 1984 Games, the following joke was making the rounds of weary U.S.S.R. officials:
First Comrade: Did you hear what President Carter told Brezhnev?
Second Comrade: No, what?
First Comrade: If we don't get our troops out of Afghanistan, he'll make us host the '84 Games, too.
Given the way things were going in Moscow, it was tempting to blame the Soviets for all sorts of awful things. Take, for instance, the brouhaha in the men's three-meter diving competition, in which the gold-medal hopes of Mexico's Carlos Giron soared when the host country's Aleksandr Portnov blew a 2� reverse pike. But Portnov claimed he had been distracted by a burst of cheering from the adjoining swimming pool and was allowed to repeat the dive. He executed it smartly and went on to win the gold. That touched off a furor among Giron's countrymen back in Mexico, where police had to protect the U.S.S.R. embassy (page 42) and some outraged citizens called for the country to quit the Games to protest what was seen as a Soviet fix.
But in this case the Soviets were being unfairly blamed. The referee who gave Portnov a second chance was Swedish and, in fact, diving rules allow the granting of re-dives under such circumstances. When American diver Jennifer Chandler blew a backward 2� tuck because she was bothered by the booing and whistling of a savagely anti-U.S. crowd during the three-meter competition at the 1975 Pan-American Games, officials allowed her to repeat the dive. She did a better job on the re-dive and narrowly won the gold medal but not before being reduced to tears by the crowd's taunts. Those memorable Pan-Ams were held in Mexico City.
CHANGE IN ATTITUDE
Under major league rules, a pitcher suspected of deliberately throwing at a batter ordinarily is warned after the first infraction, thrown out of the game after the second one. This protracted procedure is defended on the grounds that it's often difficult to divine whether a pitcher is throwing at a batter on purpose. But is it necessarily any easier to judge the pitcher's intent on a second knockdown pitch than on the first? By refusing to put teeth in its code, baseball's rulesmakers seem to be subscribing to the old notion that such pitches are simply "part of the game."