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JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
Johnny Unitas was always known as a brilliant quarterback on the field, but off it the old Baltimore Colt has been pushed out of the pocket—as much by bad timing (which he almost never displayed on a football field) as anything else. Unitas is making waves because of a football tip sheet he's putting out this season in association with a Maryland sports handicapper named Mike Warren. To the edgy NFL, currently looking into Houston Quarterback Kenny Stabler's association with New Jersey gambling figure Nicholas Dudich, and constantly fighting efforts to legalize betting on the game, Unitas' venture is anathema. John is paid a nominal fee each year by the Colts for acting as a "special consultant" and is, therefore, technically a part of the Baltimore organization and, by extension, of the NFL.
"We're both surprised and bitterly disappointed," says NFL Director of Public Relations Jim Heffernan, adding that the Colts would be questioned about the situation. Heffernan conceded that at least two other former players, Kyle Rote and Virgil Carter, have lent their names and expertise to tip sheets, but because neither is now affiliated with an NFL team, there's nothing the league can do about it.
Unitas, defending his action, says, "I don't bet, but I follow games and enjoy making picks. As long as I'm doing that, I may as well get paid for it. I'll just be giving out information, not telling people what to do with it. If they want to bet, it's up to them."
Nothing much wrong with that, is there? Except that Unitas' participation goes a little beyond that. In the tip sheet's sales pitch, he tells prospective subscribers, "When you're Johnny Unitas, people don't let you get out of touch. I'm invited everywhere. I get to see teams and players and game films other people don't see...getting information you never read in the papers." And he says, "I'll be right often enough for all of us to make a decent living during the season...." Of course, as John says, the subscribers don't have to bet.
As best as can be determined, nine people have been attacked by sharks off Florida this year, three others in the Bahamas. A 19-year-old woman was killed by a shark three miles off Daytona Beach after her catamaran capsized and she tried to swim to shore. In the Bahamas, north of Bimini, what was apparently a mako shark knocked professional diver Bob Marx up out of the water, pushed him backward and grabbed his right arm. Marx, who's been diving for 25 years, pounded the shark's head with his free hand, pulled his arm free and curled up into a ball. The shark swam off, as inexplicably as it attacked. Marx's wound required 150 stitches.
Ordinarily, an average of two or three shark attacks are reported in Florida each year, and two in the Bahamas. What has caused the increase? Marx says that for a week or two before he was attacked, he and fellow divers noticed sharks and barracuda acting oddly. The divers had to poke sticks at sharks to keep them away, and felt obliged to kill a menacing five-foot barracuda, a frightening-looking but almost invariably harmless fish. "I thought all the fish had gone nuts," Marx said. "I'd never seen anything like it."
Marx's comments and the increased attacks led some people to wonder if something aberrant was happening to sharks. Dr. Samuel H. Gruber, associate professor of marine science at the University of Miami, doesn't think so. "I'm out there all the time with sharks," he says. "We track them and put transmitters on them. We've tagged more than 175 this summer. I haven't seen anything I'd consider a conspiracy among the sharks. I'm being facetious, but that's what somebody is trying to say: that something has changed out there to radically alter shark behavior.
"I think what we're seeing is a statistical fluctuation. It's like airplane crashes or beestings or anything like that. There are periods when a lot of them happen, and they don't seem correlated to anything else. It's like if you go to a dice table and throw craps three or four times in a row. That's a statistical fluctuation. It happens, but it isn't considered significant. As a trained observer of sharks, I can't see it as anything more than that."