In preparing its press kit for the college basketball season, the NCAA asked a number of players what their superstitions were. The responses were fairly predictable—one player said he wears lucky socks, another cowers at the sight of broken mirrors, that sort of thing—until it came to Mike Waclawski, a forward for Virginia's Christopher Newport College, a Division III school that had a 19-8 record last season. Waclawski, a sub who scored 1.2 points per game, said: "A superstition I have is that I prefer to shoot on baskets facing east-west as opposed to a north-south direction.... I believe it's harder to shoot on a north-south basket, because the Coriolis effect reduces the probability of the ball going in."
According to The International Dictionary of Physics and Electronics, the Coriolis effect, which was discovered by the 19th-century French mathematician Gaspard Gustave de Coriolis, is an inertial force caused by the earth's rotation that results in any object moving above the earth at a constant speed being deflected to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. It's a factor that must be taken into account when firing long-range ballistic missiles, but it has a negligible effect on small-arms fire at ground level, in which category basketball shotmaking presumably falls. Nevertheless, in preferring baskets aligned on an east-west axis, Waclawski may have stumbled onto a hitherto unknown physical phenomenon. Missouri, which set an NCAA Division I field-goal shooting percentage record of .572 last season, plays its home games in Hearnes Arena, which is indeed laid out along east-west lines. Conversely, Waclawski's own anemic stats may just have something to do with the fact that the baskets in his school's Ratcliffe Gym run northeast-southwest—and how's anybody supposed to shoot well on a court as confusing as that?
DIPPING INTO THE POOL
The NFL Players Association released a study last week documenting the paucity of black coaches in the NFL. The study, which was prepared by Dr. Jo-mills Henry Braddock II, a black sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, notes not only that there are no black head coaches in the NFL, but also that the percentage of black assistant coaches declined between 1973 and 1979 from 7% to less than 6%—while the proportion of black players in the league increased from 36% to 50%. What's more, while the NFL has drawn 68 head coaches and 261 assistants from the ranks of former NFL players over the past two decades, only 20 of those coaches, all assistants, have been black.
There are a couple of points worth making about the study. First, the NFL says it would like to hire more black coaches and undoubtedly means it, a fact underscored last year when Commissioner Pete Rozelle directed the league's scouts to be on the lookout not only for black players but also for black coaches. Having said that, it must be added that NFL clubs could do more to find, develop and hire black coaches. It's a cop-out for the league to try to defend its hiring policies, as it did last week in responding to the study, by pointing out that black head football coaches are rare at major colleges, the implication being that this is the pool from which the NFL draws its head coaches. In fact, only seven of the 28 current NFL head coaches ever were college head coaches. But 15 of them are ex-NFL players and as Braddock's study reminds us, there is no shortage of blacks to choose from in that pool.
A FARCE IN THREE ACTS
Time: Thursday night. Place: The Philadelphia Spectrum.
ACT I: Bobby Clarke of the Philadelphia Flyers collides with New York Ranger rookie Mike Allison and is nicked on the face by Allison's stick. A moment or so later Clarke raises his stick, hooks the blade around Allison's neck and pole-axes him to the ice. Allison is removed on a stretcher. Clarke tells reporters, "I just wanted to flip him because I was teed off. He got me near the eye.... I figure anybody hits you, you should hit him back. Isn't that the way the game's supposed to be played?"
ACT II: Flyer Paul Holmgren crosschecks New York's Eddie Johnstone from behind, precipitating a melee. Holmgren is banished from the game, his third such game-misconduct penalty of the season, which is only 11 games old.
ACT III: With six seconds to play, Flyer Behn Wilson stops along the boards and for no apparent reason roughs up Anders Hedberg of the Rangers. Wilson is given 14 minutes in penalties, a meaningless punishment at this stage of game.