SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
August 29, 1983
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August 29, 1983


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Senior Writer Pat Putnam reports from Caracas:

One of the best lines out of the IX Pan American Games (page 10) was uttered by an athlete up on his history. The fellow complained that while the rest of Latin America was commemorating the bicentennial of the birth of Simon Bolivar, officials at the athletes' village, 28 miles southeast of Caracas, appeared to be celebrating the centennial of the birth of Franz Kafka. Indeed, Kafkaesque snafus at times made life in the village rough going. When the contingent of 460 Cubans arrived, they were assigned to rooms that didn't yet have beds. The Colombians showed up and were given superfluous keys; their rooms had no doors. The plumbing was a disaster, electricity was a sometime thing and there wasn't much to do for kicks. Another good line came from U.S. basketball player Wayman Tisdale: "We don't have a curfew, and not having one is like punishment."

Still and all, athletes could while away the hours watching TV, and there were few complaints about the good and ample food. The graciousness of the Venezuelan people made the inconveniences more tolerable; in Caracas foreigners asking directions often were personally escorted to their destinations many blocks away. At competition sites, which were generally in better shape than the athletes' quarters, the crowds rooted against U.S. teams but seemed to do so out of pro-Latin and pro-underdog sentiment rather than any virulent anti-American fervor. "They're good fans," B.J. Surhoff, a catcher on the U.S. baseball team, said. "They weren't rooting for us as a team, but they applauded us when we made good plays." Recognizing that things could have been a lot worse, a U.S. coach said of conditions at the games, "What the hell, we're not here on vacation." That may have been the best line of all.

In the early 1950s Americans argued heatedly over the identity of the unspecified contents of a box that Phil Harris sang about in his hit song, The Thing. In the late '60s a mysterious object thrown over a bridge in Bobbie Gentry's hit, Ode to Billie Joe, caused similarly widespread conjecture. Now Indiana's first-year football coach, Sam Wyche, has come up with a teaser of his own. At his instructions, the artist who did the painting for the cover of the Hoosiers' 1983 media guide has depicted Wyche pointing toward something in the distance. What's the coach pointing at? No clue is given, but SI has extracted the answer from Wyche. Please turn to the next page for the solution to this mystery.


Kansas City Chiefs Coach John Mackovic has joined the chorus of people who say that pro athletes are different than they used to be. To show what he means, Mackovic cites the following changes in the way coaches have addressed their players over the years:

"Go over and stand in the corner."

"Please stand in the corner."

"How about if you went over and stood in the corner?"

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