SI Vault
Edited by Myra Gelband
December 17, 1979
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December 17, 1979


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According to Windsor Olson, president of the International Table Tennis League, the match had been set for Dec. 17 at the Seattle Center Play House, and a sellout crowd of 800 had been expected. Although no one in the U.S. knows much about the PLO team, it had been selected—there are no elimination rounds in professional table tennis—by the league's international referee, Seattle businessman Lee Phelps, in the hope of fostering a diplomatic breakthrough, as the early matches with the People's Republic of China had done.

Olson, who's also the manager of the Seattle Sockeye professional table-tennis team, had been corresponding with aides to PLO leader Yasser Arafat for the past few months, but except for one name, B. Nassar, Olson had received no information about team members. His final contact with the PLO was on Nov. 12.

That was eight days after Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and took 62 Americans hostage. At that time, Arafat stepped forward with an offer to negotiate with the Iranian government on behalf of the U.S. Someone in the Middle East apparently thought better of having a PLO table-tennis team in the U.S. while the situation in Iran was so volatile, and contacts with Seattle were abruptly cut off. Olson reluctantly canceled the match and told the Haitians, who beat the U.S. in 1977 and Thailand in 1978, that they could keep their title without defending it. But he and Phelps were disappointed. "It would have been interesting to see the PLO's style of play," Phelps said.


It took very nearly five games during which Pete Maravich sat at the end of the bench for the worst team in the NBA before any but the most loyal followers of the Jazz to realize that the Pistol's career in Utah—and perhaps in pro basketball—is for all practical purposes shot. For five seasons he had been the franchise for the Jazz. As recently as 1976-77 he led the league in scoring. But when the team was moved to Salt Lake City last summer, Maravich discovered that his Bourbon Street act wouldn't play on the shores of the Great Salt Lake.

Pistol Pete, 31, missed the Jazz' Nov. 30 game at Golden State because of illness, and when Utah won 112-104 that night to end a 14-game losing streak, it confirmed what Jazz Coach Tom Nissalke had suspected for some time: that Maravich's 17 points a game weren't worth the disruption the Pistol created by dominating the ball. When Utah beat Seattle at home the next evening, Maravich was healthy again but still on the bench. That was where he remained for six straight games through the end of last week, a period in which the Jazz raised eyebrows around the NBA by winning four games.

Utah General Manager Frank Layden, whose shrewd deals have made the Jazz respectable in quick order, admits Utah wants to trade Maravich. "I'm going to get rid of the losers," Layden says. "There's no future for Pete here, and it's better to move the guy this year before he's established an identity in Utah. There are several owners who would love to have a gate attraction like Pete, but the coaches are afraid of him. I wouldn't be surprised if he just packed it in if he can't get on with a contending team in the next few weeks."

Utah is evidently willing to pay Maravich's $500,000-a-year contract for the next two-and-a-half seasons to any team that would take him, but as one Jazz official noted glumly, "We would take any player in the league for Pete, but nobody else wants him."

Maravich has been largely silent throughout his ordeal, but he did tell Dave Blackwell of the Deseret News, "It's like being in an airplane, you don't have any control. Maybe I've overstayed my welcome. I doubt whether I'll finish the season here, yet I really don't believe another team would pick me up. My salary is just too large, so I guess you could say I am a victim of my own circumstances."


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