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AN EXERCISE IN SURVIVAL
A University of Illinois psychologist named Douglas A. Bernstein offered an observation about the NFL strike that came as a big relief to us. Although conceding that the strike could make fans "uncomfortable" and oblige them to work out adjustments in their lives, Bernstein said that the loss of the NFL was "not in the same category as the loss of a loved one." In support of Bernstein's thesis, we were comforted to discover that, indeed, coming on the heels of last year's 50-day baseball strike, an in-season walkout in a major sport didn't seem quite so shocking the second time around. Besides, whereas the baseball strike had resulted in practically daily deprivation, NFL fans stood to suffer withdrawal symptoms only once a week. The pain of the shutdown was further eased by the knowledge that as the walkout ended its first full week, it had so far resulted in the cancellation of just [1/16] of the season; by contrast, the baseball strike wiped out one-third of a season. Obviously, the NFL owners and players still had a while to go before they could truthfully call their impasse calamitous.
This quasi-benign situation mocked the ringing words of Redskin Chairman Jack Kent Cooke, who had pleaded for a settlement to avert a strike, saying portentously, "In the national interest, let's play football." But, of course, it was merely the NFL and not football that was shut down. True, not all residents of Hawaii found it worthwhile to bestir themselves at daybreak on Sunday, as they would have had to do because of the time difference, to watch NBC's substitute telecast of two Canadian Football League games, an attraction that Honolulu disc jockey Ron Jacobs twitted as follows: "Get ready for a big weekend, football freaks. Wake up Sunday, watch a one-hour pregame show at 6:30 a.m., and then catch the big Canadian Football doubleheader and those funny guys in their striped suits with their long field and their three downs. And don't forget to bring your rouge."
But even if CFL action didn't quite do the trick for everybody (page 85), an abundance of high school and college football, not to mention baseball, helped fill the sporting void. And, if the strike goes on, the approaching basketball and hockey seasons figure to help even more. There were fewer such alternatives during the baseball walkout.
In short, surviving the NFL strike appeared to be less difficult than one might have imagined. It behooved the owners and players to work out a settlement before the fans realized as much.
HOLD THAT (PICKET) LINE
THE MUSHROOM SLAYER
It's a rule of golf that any effort to strike the ball, whether or not contact is made, must be counted as a stroke. So it was on a recent Sunday that after a 16 handicap-per named Al Safro attempted to play his second shot on the par-5 17th at Baltimore's Bonnie View Country Club, another member of his foursome argued—in vain—that Safro should be assessed a penalty stroke.
The dispute arose when the 62-year-old Safro, playing out of the rough, took a mighty swing with a five-wood at an object he thought was his ball. It turned out to be a mushroom of the Calvatia gigantea (giant puffball) variety, a species that can indeed look very much like a golf ball. The fungus splattered, and it was only then that Safro and his playing partners spotted his ball—the real one—15 feet away. The debate about whether Safro should have taken a penalty made the local newspapers, and there's probably not an official of the USGA who by now hasn't been asked his view of the matter.
The consensus seems to be that no penalty was called for. The reasoning used in reaching that conclusion has sometimes bordered on the metaphysical. "I'd say it wouldn't be a stroke," said Ed Johnston, a Baltimore lawyer and president of the Middle Atlantic Golf Association. "Even though he thought it was a golf ball, it wasn't a golf ball." After conferring with William J. Williams Jr., chairman of the USGA's Rules of Golf Committee, that organization's director of communications, John Morris, declared, "There are rules for striking a ball, but this wasn't a ball. There is nothing in the rules prohibiting a player from hitting a mushroom. Or an apple. Or a marshmallow." And what does Safro, who wound up with a bogey 6 on the hole and 84 for the round, have to say about his famous non-shot? "It was a practice swing," deadpans the mushroom slayer.