Gerry Cooney's trainer expressed hope last week that something good may come of his fighter's sore left shoulder, the condition that forced postponement of Cooney's WBC heavyweight championship fight against Larry Holmes from March 15 to June 11. Noting that Cooney's bread-and-butter punch is his left hook, the trainer, Vic Valle, said that Cooney would rest the injured shoulder and train solely with the right hand, and he went so far as to suggest that this regimen—and Cooney's injury—could turn out to be "a blessing." "Sometimes these things work out that way," Valle said. "We're going to work on the right hand, make it better, and maybe the right hand will do the job instead of the left."
The annals of medicine do contain examples of athletic injuries having silver linings. Tracy Caulkins, the swimmer, broke an ankle in a fall in 1977 and was forced to train while wearing a waterproof cast that restricted the mobility of her leg, causing her to rely more on arm pull. Caulkins' upper-body strength increased as a result, and less than a year later she won five gold medals at the world championships in West Berlin. In the case of injuries involving the arm, some athletes have been able to compensate by developing their uninjured arms—as Valle hopes Cooney will do. There's the extreme example of baseball player Ed Head, who was a lefthanded pitcher until his left arm was crushed in a school bus accident as a teen-ager. He made it to the majors as a righthander, pitching a no-hitter for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Boston Braves in 1946. Tennis player George Richey also switched arms—from right to left. After falling out of a car and shattering his right elbow when he was 13, he became a lefty, and in 1952 was the eighth-ranked U.S. professional.
But these cases are somewhat different from Cooney's. Caulkins was able to continue heavy training without endangering her fractured ankle, which was encased in fiber glass. Cooney's injury isn't a broken bone but a partial muscle tear in the back of his left shoulder, a malady that conceivably could be aggravated by movement of any kind. One boxing medic, Dr. Edwin Campbell, chief physician of the New York State Athletic Commission, questioned the treatment prescribed by Cooney's doctors and implied that Cooney shouldn't be using his right or left hand in training or, for that matter, doing roadwork. "What he's got is right in the middle of the back more than it is in the shoulder," Campbell said. "It needs absolute rest." Head and Richey developed their uninjured arms not while waiting for the injuries in their other arms to mend but because those injuries were permanent. And as remarkable as their conversions were, it shouldn't be assumed that Head and Richey were better off than they would have been had they avoided injury; for example, Richey always believed his serve and overhead shot would have been stronger had he been able to play righthanded.
If Cooney can take advantage of his convalescence by developing a right hand, more power to him—literally. But in order to beat Holmes he'll still need to have the undiminished use of his vaunted left hook. Whether he will recover fully from his injury and whether his course of treatment is the proper one are by no means certain. Admirable though Valle's positive thinking may be, his suggestion that Cooney's right hand could do the job "instead of the left" has an ominous ring to it.
A MUST FOR DIED-IN-THE-WOOL FANS
In their unceasing efforts to raise funds, some college athletic departments encourage boosters to name old Siwash the beneficiary of their life insurance policies; the University of North Dakota is currently holding 16 such policies bearing a potential value of more than $800,000. Recently, a newspaper in Louisiana, the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, ran a letter from a reader suggesting a different sort of fund-raising scheme, by which LSU boosters could continue to make a conspicuous contribution to the school after they're gone. The reader, James Whitten, urged that fans be allowed to arrange to be buried beneath the stands of Tiger Stadium—for a price, of course.
Such a plan, Whitten explained, "would go far toward satisfying the ultimate longings of loyal Tiger fans everywhere while simultaneously filling the void in athletic department coffers. The most obvious plan would call for the construction of burial vaults in the open space beneath the seats. Cost to the prospective interee would vary according to location, with crypts nearer the 50-yard line commanding higher prices."
It's hard to imagine a better place to try out Whitten's idea than LSU. Because of the storied inhospitality of the school's rooters to visiting teams, Tiger Stadium has long been known as Death Valley. Further, the school's intercollegiate sports program is beset by deficits, which hastened the firing last month of Athletic Director Paul Dietzel. He had kept himself in the public eye in Baton Rouge by doing TV commercials on a local station for a burial insurance plan.
OLDER AND STILL WISE