When NFL beat writer Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was invited recently to speak to third-graders at the Redmond (Wash.) Elementary School, he expected to field questions about the Seahawks. Instead, the students asked first about his salary and then about his benefits package.
"Benefits package?" repeated Farnsworth in astonishment.
"Yeah," said one girl. "You know, pension plan, retirement, stuff like that."
Since the fall last December of Romania's Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, former tennis star Ion Tiriac, a Romanian who has long lived in Monte Carlo, has been quietly working to help his devastated homeland get back on its feet. Tiriac, best known nowadays as Boris Becker's manager, persuaded West German officials to provide free electricity to Bucharest for two months earlier this year when the city was facing a severe power shortage. (It didn't hurt that a West German power company, Nokia, happens to be the sponsor of a women's tournament Tiriac runs.) To alleviate a shortage of medical supplies, Tiriac bought with his own money large quantities of drugs and other health-related items in West Germany and had employees of a Munich sports-marketing company he works with bring the supplies into Romania. Most recently, Tiriac is said to have paid to fix up, for last week's Davis Cup match between Great Britain and Romania, a Bucharest tennis club that had been badly damaged in street fighting during Ceausescu's final days; he also arranged for proceeds from concession sales at the match to be donated to Romanian orphans. Tiriac has set up housing complexes for the nation's orphans and is soliciting funds from European businesses to help support the complexes.
In all, Tiriac has spent an estimated $200,000 on these assistance projects. "Whatever, it's a drop in the ocean to what is needed," he says. "I don't expect the people to build me a monument for what I've done."
Speaking of Eastern Europe, Notre Dame now has an alumni club in the Soviet Union. The founding members are three Soviet graduates of the school's Institute for International Peace Studies—Roman Setov, Vitaly Rassolov and Oleg Vasilyev, all of whom can sing the Notre Dame Victory March in Russian—as well as honorary Notre Dame graduate Yevgeny Velikov, vice-president of the U.S.S.R.'s Academy of Sciences. At the Soviet club's inaugural dinner in Moscow three weeks ago, Velikov got down to business quickly, asking guest John Gilligan, director of the Peace Institute, "Tell me, what are chances for team next year?"
THE MYSTERY MAN
Bobby Fischer has a scruffy beard these days, wears an unpressed suit, has a good appetite and still obsessively plays over in his mind his victory over Soviet Boris Spassky in the 1972 world chess championship in Iceland. All that came to light last week in Brussels after the 47-year-old Fischer, who has lived as a recluse somewhere in California for the last 15 years (SI, July 29, 1985), turned up for an unpublicized four-day visit with millionaire communications executive Bessel Kok, who heads an organization of international grandmasters.
Fischer arranged to see Kok with the help of his old acquaintance Spassky, who now lives in Paris. On April 27, Fischer checked into a Brussels hotel room paid for by Kok, and he spent most of the next four days at Kok's suburban mansion with Kok, Spassky, Spassky's wife, Marina, and Kok's wife, Pierrette Broodthaers, an attorney. Broodthaers, who discussed the visit with SI's Brussels correspondent, Paul Montgomery, said Fischer was "very friendly" and "very normal" but sported the beard of "a person who has not shaved for two weeks." She said that he wore a baggy suit with a sweater during the day and changed the sweater for a shirt and tie in the evenings. Broodthaers said that when she asked Fischer if she could take his picture, he declined. Fischer and Kok played the Spasskys in doubles tennis on one occasion, and on another Fischer, Spassky, Kok and Jan Timman of the Netherlands, the world's No. 3-ranked chess player, went off to what Broodthaers described as a raunchy nightclub.