SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
January 18, 1982
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January 18, 1982


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Speaking of Clemson, remember how everybody at that school was up in arms over ABC-TV's Nov. 28 report about alleged transgressions by Tiger recruiters? Clemson fans protested that the network, which would telecast the Pitt-Georgia Sugar Bowl game on New Year's Day, had aired the report in hopes of somehow undermining the Clemson-Nebraska Orange Bowl game scheduled on NBC at the same hour (SCORECARD, Dec. 14). Well, if that was ABC's motive, it didn't work. NBC's telecast of Clemson's 22-15 win over the Cornhuskers wound up clobbering the ABC offering (Pitt beat Georgia 24-20) in the Nielsen ratings 18.0 to 11.8.

It might be argued, of course, that ABC would have fared even worse but for the damage its report inflicted on Clemson's reputation. However, that seems most unlikely. Despite its No. 1 ranking, Clemson was a little-known team with nobody on its roster to rival the two big names in the ABC game, Herschel Walker of Georgia and Dan Marino of Pitt. In view of that, Clemson's TV appeal probably was heightened by the notoriety it received from the ABC report—and, not incidentally, from the loud and angry reaction to it by Tiger rooters.

But forget the ABC- NBC showdown. The big Jan. 1 winner was CBS, which opposed the two bowls with its regular Friday-night lineup. In most of the country this consisted of Dukes of Hazard, Dallas and Falcon Crest (SCORECARD, Dec. 28-Jan. 4). CBS's ratings for those three shows averaged 26.1, more than eight points better than NBC and more than 14 up on ABC.


It was founded as a journal of baseball, horse racing and the theater. It soon became a straight baseball paper, the game's so-called bible. In recent times it has expanded to embrace a variety of sports. But one thing that has remained constant about The Sporting News , the venerable St. Louis-based weekly, is its association with the family of Alfred H. Spink, a North Dakota homesteader's son who started the publication in 1886 and was succeeded at the top of the masthead in 1897 by his brother Charles, who in turn yielded control to his son J.G. Taylor Spink, the editor from 1914 until his death in 1962, at which time his son, C.C. Johnson Spink, took over.

Now, for the first time in its history, The Sporting News is Spinkless. This week C.C. Johnson, 65, is retiring as the publication's chairman, leaving the paper in the hands of the Times Mirror Company, which bought it in 1977.

Spink has been preparing for this fateful moment ever since he sold The Sporting News , on which occasion he wore the suit in which he'd been married, his father's watch and his grandfather's tie tack. Spink, who is childless, concedes that he wouldn't have unloaded the paper "if I had had a son, and if I had felt confident he could carry on." Of his half century with The Sporting News as stock boy, ad salesman, proofreader, advertising director, vice-president, president, editor, publisher and, finally, chairman, he says, "I'm inclined to remember only the good things in sports, like the time Stan Musial hit five homers in one day. With today's violence, drugs and all the problems with college athletics, it's sometimes hard. But I'm sure if I lived another 20 years, I'd look back and say I wish it were 1982 again, when things weren't so troubled. We've had bad and good, and we'll have bad and good. It will ever be thus."

The Athletics Congress has come out with the latest edition of Cross Country Handbook, a compendium of records, rules, clockings and scoring analyses pertaining to that sport. The publication ends with a joke, which is herewith reprinted, quirky capitalization and all: "If Ayatollah once, Ayatollah a hundred times, Iran is not a Cross Country." Coming as it does at the conclusion of an otherwise sobersided 48-page romp over statistical hill and dale, that line strongly suggests there's such a thing as the editor's equivalent of runner's high.

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