SO LONG, BIG SERVE
Last summer Tournament Director Bill Talbert introduced the nine-point sudden-death system at Forest Hills, the Jimmy Van Alen scoring method that puts an abrupt end to potential marathon sets of tennis. Now Talbert, running the U.S. Open show again this year as chairman and director, wants to go one step farther. To create longer rallies, "so rare in modern tennis," Talbert hopes to install a rule forcing the server to let his opponent's return bounce before coming to the net. In other words, no more "boom, boom, boom. Big serve, volley, end of point. Ho hum."
Tennis should be the most thrilling of all sports, Talbert believes, but under its present structure the service has become too potent a weapon. "Server bangs one in and rushes to the net. If opponent returns it, the server is right there, poised for the killing volley. This means opponent must go for a winner on his return, an all-or-nothing shot that the net-rusher cannot handle. In either case the action is restricted to two or three strokes, and meanwhile the audience is dying of boredom."
Experiments show his plan will work, says Talbert. "There will be some strident cries of opposition, but I feel it is my obligation to instill more excitement in the game. After all, tennis needs crowds if it is to become a big-time spectator sport. The only time a crowd is brought to life is when there is a rally. If this is what the crowds want, why not give it to them?"
Question: Who is the only goalie ever to score a goal in professional hockey? Answer: This is a brand-new entry in the trivia category, suitable for winning bar bets with hockey buffs. It turns out to be rookie Michel Plasse of the Central Hockey League's Kansas City Blues, whose goal came in the last 44 seconds of a recent encounter with the Oklahoma City Blazers. The Blazers, behind 2-1, chose to leave their goal untended and come out in a six-man attack. Zap! In came an Oklahoma shot. Goalie Plasse blocked it, then flipped the puck high toward the Oklahoma net. "It was not the time to play with the puck," he says. "I was just trying to ice it." He iced it right into the enemy goal, 3-1. End of game. Set 'em up, bartender.
GORILLA MY DREAMS
Sport fans will find some statistical comfort in the latest news from Germany: the big apes in the Frankfurt Zoo have stopped tearing out their hair by the handfuls. And what does that have to do with sport statistics? We are getting to that part: zoo keepers determined that the reason the apes tore out their hair was that they were bored. Television sets were installed in the cages and, sure enough, the apes calmed down. The most popular programs were love scenes, weight lifting and auto racing. And that's two out of three. At least.
HOODOO? WELL, HE DO
The practice is frowned upon officially by the Kenya Football Association, but there is no formal law against it, so that's why Shariff Abubakar has just bought a Peugeot 403 and made a down payment on a house. Abubakar fixes soccer games, he explained last week, and since there are 200 clubs in Kenya, the practice pays off handsomely.
Well, fix might not be just the right word. Abubakar is a witch doctor, one of several in the country who specialize in soccer hexing for hire, and everybody knows it. In fact, just about everybody does it. According to Job Omino, the association secretary, 95% of the teams hire witch doctors, and one leading team's account books show that it spent �1,276 ($3,062.40) witch-doctoring games last season.
The doctors use all sorts of stuff. Often herbal mixtures, tree sap and a touch of pig fat are smeared on the players and spells are put on the game ball. One key game in Tanzania was delayed for an hour while a new ball was sought out after one side claimed that the first ball was bewitched. Further, Abubakar revealed, he incants a few key prayers where they count and he sometimes sacrifices a live goat or a chicken.