AMUSING, BUT LOSING
It was vintage Bill Lee, a bon mot delivered by the Montreal Expos' pitcher and resident wit following a pep talk to the pennant-contending club by its president, John McHale. Deadpanned Lee: "He said we'd come a long way. We'd only come from St. Louis." Alas, Lee was on the disabled list and had a 3-6 record and a 5.51 ERA when he uttered those words, prompting Expo Manager Dick Williams to dust off one of his best lines: "Lee sounds a lot funnier when he's winning."
IN HIS OWN LEAGUE
In his 1970 book Out of Their League, ex-NFL Linebacker Dave Meggyesy reviled pro football as, among other things, dehumanizing, racist, militaristic and brutal. Meggyesy also dealt harshly with college football. And he had little good to say about high school football. All of which is essential background to the rather startling news that Dave Meggyesy, now 38, has become a football coach.
Meggyesy is coaching at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, Calif., an affluent community in Marin County, north of San Francisco. His new job is in addition to his regular work as a carpenter and as an instructor of two courses at Stanford, "Sports Consciousness" and "The Athlete and Society." The coaching position pays him $900 a season. He has six assistants and makes his debut on Sept. 13, when his Tamalpais High Indians take the field against El Molino High.
Meggyesy concedes today that he may have been overly critical of certain individuals in his book and he further allows that football is "a game of hitting," a fact he didn't seem fully prepared to accept during his days as an anti-Establishment firebrand. But Meggyesy doesn't intend to be just another football coach. During preseason practice he has been friendly with his players, more like a pal than a head coach, and full of encouragement. He says, "I want to coach with an openness, to make the athletic experience a joy in a positive atmosphere. Winning is important but it's not to be overemphasized. I will try to convey a certain enthusiasm and inspiration and respect for the opponent. I see football as an intense contest but in the positive sense."
The Tamalpais Indians and Meggyesy appear to be made for each other. A school of 1,700 students in the Marin County Athletic League, Tamalpais High is traditionally strong in track and field but not in football. In recent years soccer, swimming and tennis have all gained in popularity at football's expense. Last year's football team had a 1-9 record, and school officials were surprised at the large number of students—more than 50—who turned out for Meggyesy's first practice. James Hanretty, the school principal, has reason to believe the enthusiasm will last. "I like his philosophy," he says of his school's new coach. "Football should be enjoyed. Kids shouldn't play for a coach out of fear."
THE CLOSED OPEN
By definition, an "open" tournament is one in which anybody who's good enough can play. Naturally, there has to be some sort of elimination system to hold down the number of entrants. Yet when the U.S. Tennis Association staged its qualifying tournament to fill the last 16 spots in the field of 128 for the men's division of the U.S. Open, it did so in a manner that makes a mockery of that hallowed event's very name.
In filling berths for the qualifying tournament, which has a 128-man draw, too, the USTA gave priority to players with the most points under the computer-ranking system maintained by the Association of Tennis Professionals, the union to which most of the male touring pros belong. Fair enough. But only 92 players who had points to their credit entered the qualifying event, which presumably left 36 spots for the unranked players—most of them college boys and local tournament types—who had gathered at Flushing Meadow in hopes of filling such berths. The USTA then dropped a bombshell, ruling that the 36 spots would be left vacant in order "to preserve the quality of play in a Grand Slam event."
What the USTA overlooked was that it's the U.S. Open, not the qualifying tournament, that is the Grand Slam event. Any chaff in the qualifying tournament would have been quickly separated from the wheat. And, in fact, as the USTA was well aware, some of the unranked players were better than some of those with points. The upshot is that this year's U.S. Open is virtually limited to tournament pros only. Call it the U.S. Closed.