The Cleveland Cavaliers, who won only 15 of 82 games last season for the worst record in the NBA, have come up with an innovative ticket-sales scheme for 1982-83. In a letter to prospective customers, Cavs President Ted Stepien has promised to give season-ticket holders refunds if Cleveland fails to win 30 games. The refund would be 5% if the Cavs win 29 games, 10% if they win 28, 15% if they win 27, and so on. The maximum would be 50%, which would be granted in the event that Cleveland wins 20 or fewer games.
Stepien's well-intentioned offer conforms to the belief, one embodied in American jurisprudence, that victims of negligence should be compensated for their suffering. And Cavalier fans have certainly been so victimized. Still, we'd have to question the wisdom of any ticket-selling scheme that under certain easily foreseeable circumstances—imagine, for example, the Cavs being out of playoff contention and having 19 victories with two home games to play—would give the local fans a financial incentive to root for the other team.
NORTHWESTERN, EASTERN, NORTHERN
While Northwestern was ending its record 34-game losing streak Saturday with a 31-6 win over Northern Illinois (page 75), Eastern Michigan was getting shellacked 35-0 by Miami of Ohio for its 22nd straight loss. Eastern Michigan now has the longest current major-college losing streak. Its best chance for ending that streak—at 24—figures to come on Oct. 16, in its homecoming game against Ohio University. Failing that, the Hurons could conceivably end the streak the following week when Coach Mike Stock, an alumnus, as it happens, of Northwestern, sends his team up against an opponent that may or may not be ripe for the taking: Northern Illinois.
Wallace Bryant, the 7-foot, 265-pound center from the University of San Francisco who was a Chicago Bulls' second-round draft pick last spring, has gone off to play basketball in Italy, where the season began last week. He's just one more in a long line of U.S. players who have made that decision; at least 50 other Americans will be playing in Italy's 28-team league this year. Bryant decided to accept a $90,000, one-year deal with an Italian club when the Bulls wouldn't give him the guaranteed contract he wanted. Oddly enough, Chicago looks kindly on Bryant's decision. General Manager Rod Thorn says, "Our feeling is that he's not quite ready for the NBA. We still retain rights to him, and if he works hard, the experience will help him."
Though players on the fringe of the NBA have long regarded Italy as a place to sharpen their game, going there to play has never been merely a matter of flying to Milan and saying, "Here I am" (or "Eccomi!" if the player has taken the trouble to learn a little Italian). Despite the high salaries and perks players can pull down, basketball in Italy is considered amateur; Bryant, for example, is technically a highly paid employee of Ford Motor Co.'s Italian subsidiary who just happens to spend a lot of time playing hoops for the company-sponsored team. An American who has played pro ball and wants to suit up in Italy traditionally had to be over 30, or been out of pro ball at least a year or met certain other conditions. But on Aug. 27 the international basketball federation, FIBA, streamlined the rules so that any former professional player can be reinstated one time. That means Oscar Robertson could play in Italy. But such reinstatements don't apply to national teams, so an aging Big O couldn't play in the 1984 Olympics, even if he wanted to.
Bryant has been an amateur all along, so he still has his one allotted reinstatement coming. After finishing up in Italy, he could play in the NBA and then, reinstated as an amateur, return to Italy. There would, incidentally, be nothing to prevent him from playing in the NBA again—for a neat triple reverse.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER?
There won't be a Subway Series (Yankees-Mets) this year, and the first-ever Air Canada Series (Expos-Blue Jays) must await another day. But baseball beat writers have come up with names for several World Series showdowns that could still come off. These include a Freeway Series (Dodgers-Angels), a Sluggers Series (Brewers-Braves) and an Ozark Airlines Series (Royals-Cardinals), not to mention an Audubon Series. Audubon Series? Why, Cardinals-Orioles, of course.
HAVE SNEAKERS, WILL TRAVEL
During his first 11 years in professional basketball, Tom Owens played for the Memphis Tarns, Carolina Cougars, Spirits of St. Louis, Memphis (again), Kentucky Colonels, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, all in the ABA, and the Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana (again) in the NBA. When the Pacers traded Owens, a 33-year-old center, to the Detroit Pistons last week for a second-round draft choice in 1984, it was Owens' 10th change of uniforms, breaking the unofficial pro record for peripateticism jointly held by himself and Mack Calvin. Among traveling men generally, Owens now ranks somewhere behind the late Louis (Bobo) Newsom, who changed uniforms 17 times during a 20-year major league baseball career, and just ahead of Ulysses.