ROLE MODELS AND RESPONSIBILITY
What do child psychologist Leonard Reich and World Series MVP Darrell Porter have in common? Just this: Both object to the see-no-evil glorification of star athletes. Addressing himself to the question of how publicity about misdeeds by sports stars—cocaine abuse, barroom scuffles, academic deficiencies and the like—might affect young people, Reich, who practices in New York, rejects the notion that the media should play down the news of such behavior because it supposedly sets a poor example for children.
Reich notes that the press has a "responsibility to report what is," and he maintains that such information won't necessarily hurt youngsters. "There's value in children idealizing heroes, but there's also value in portraying heroes as more 'human,' " Reich says. "It helps kids make their expectations more realistic. They see that when one reaches a high level of achievement, it isn't all a bed of roses."
Porter, whose life certainly hasn't been all roses, also thinks it's a bad idea to sweep wrongdoing by athletes under the rug, reasoning that such a practice ill serves the athletes themselves. By now most baseball fans know the story of how Porter attained his World Series success after courageously admitting two years ago that he had a drug and alcohol problem and voluntarily entering a rehabilitation clinic. What hasn't been widely reported is the fact that Porter places some of the blame for his past troubles on the public's unquestioning adoration of athletes, which, he implies, encourages the ultimately destructive illusion that they lead charmed lives and can misbehave with impunity. "One time in Kansas City I was blown away on Quaaludes and beer and my car ran into another car," Porter says. "They [the police] all knew who I was. They gave the other guy a ticket, and all I had to do was sign autographs for the policemen's kids at the station. I could have had 30 tickets, probably. They never made me responsible for my actions."
The conclusion is inescapable that while sports stars can and should be appreciated for their athletic feats, they should otherwise be treated as the normal human beings that, for better or worse, they are. Pretending that they're paragons of virtue when they're not is a delusion that can hurt everybody.
Bill Roth, a Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) High School student who serves as public-address announcer at his school's home football games, has probably done as good a job as anyone of summing up the fans' view of the NFL strike. At halftime of a game two weeks ago against Butler High, Roth was announcing scores of games played elsewhere when he slipped in this mock result: NFL Players 0, Owners 0. The crowd cheered when he elaborated: "Neither side has a point."
YAWN FROM THE HEAD TABLE
Get-well wishes are in order for Jim Crowley, 80, who is recuperating at home in Scranton, Pa. after suffering a heart attack last month. Sleepy Jim, as he's known, is linked to two of college football's most famous aggregations: He's the last surviving member of the celebrated Four Horsemen of Notre Dame, and he was head coach at Fordham when it had that storied line, the Seven Blocks of Granite. Crowley later became a successful businessman and after-dinner speaker much in demand because of his wit. For example, Crowley, who acquired his nickname because of his sometimes drowsy manner, often claimed that he suffered from insomnia. His description of his problem is a banquet-circuit classic: "I sleep all right at night and in the morning, but in the afternoon I toss and turn something awful."
NYET TO NEW HAVEN
New Haven, Conn., the home of Yale, the Long Wharf Theatre and other bastions of civilization, has suffered a blow to its civic pride from which it won't easily recover. The indignity was inflicted by Victor Nechaev, 27, a onetime member of the Leningrad Army Club hockey team who moved to the U.S. earlier this year after marrying an American visitor to the U.S.S.R. Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, Nechaev started this season with the minor league New Haven Nighthawks but was called up by the Kings on Oct. 16, thus becoming the second Russian-born NHL player; the other was Odessa-born Johnny (The Mad Russian) Gottselig, who played for the Chicago Black Hawks from 1928 to 1945. But on Oct. 22 the Kings dropped Nechaev after he balked at their efforts to return him to New Haven. Even the most rabid New Haven boosters will have trouble explaining that one away. You see, the man who refused banishment to their city is a native of Siberia.
As a boy Mike Ferraro's idols included Frank Crosetti, the Yankee infielder and longtime third-base coach. When Ferraro, after flings as a big league infielder and minor league manager in the Yankee organization, himself became the Yankees' third-base coach in 1979, he naturally measured himself against his hero. If a Yankee got gunned down at the plate, Ferraro would ask fellow Coach Yogi Berra, "Did Crosetti ever have guys thrown out?" Berra would reply reassuringly, "Sure, good third-base coaches always do." Then came the fateful 1980 American League championship playoff loss to the Royals, during which Ferraro waved Willie Randolph home at a critical juncture. Randolph was out, and so was Ferraro; the following season, owner George Steinbrenner demoted him to the first-base coaching box, where he has languished ever since.